The Morality of Abortion

The Morality of Abortion

Presently, people are never interested in discussing the moral implications of abortion owing to their claims that it is exclusively a matter for one’s conscience. But the existential fact and the fundamental evil of abortion lie on the intent to destroy the innocent fetus. “Therefore there is no justification for direct abortion, no matter the motive; hence every direct abortion is always an grace objective evil’’[1] in this chapter, the intent is to explore various arguments concerning abortion either for or against.

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Furthermore, in this reflection, every argument hinges directly or indirectly on morality or legality of abortion. In other words, arguments for abortion are put up either to establish the fact that abortion should be legally permissible or that it is morally justifiable. On the other hand, arguments against abortion seek to prove the moral or legal impermissibility of abortion. But we must not fail to observe that there is a dichotomy between the views that abortion is immoral and that abortion is moral or that it is legal. However, the grounds for or against the legality of abortion are most often established on the grounds for or against its morality.

  • ARGUMENT FOR ABORTION

Many attempt have been made by a lot of people to justify the morality of abortion. Arguments have also been put forward to support the legality of abortion. Very pertinent to observe is the fact that some of these arguments in support of abortion have moderation per say, in the sense that for some abortion is not morally permissible after the third trimester [at about seven- eight months]

Nevertheless, owing to the limitedness of this discourse, I wish to limit myself to the three arguments, which form the mainstay of the major proponents of the pro abortionists. They are women’s right, Humanists and population control arguments. Other arguments are minor ones, which seeks to support or refute the arguments therein.

INDIVIDUAL’S RIGHT AND FREEDOM

Argument like this in support of abortion is based on freedom and rights especially that of women. The right is dependent on three main aspects of women’s lives, the women’s privacy, autonomy and mental health against any legal restrictions of abortion.

In the defense of right to privacy and autonomy the proponents of this arguments hold that it is exclusively the right of the mother to choose whatever she considers fit for her body without constraint or coercion. Thus C. Ekwutosi states:

It is claimed that the continued presence of the foetus within the womb is completely dependent on the discretion of the pregnant women, for the woman has right to determine her own life. The feotus has no rights. And even if it has, the right of the mother takes precedence[2]

In addition the contenders hold equally that women have right to mental health as a means of life sustenance. From their point of view, abortion is a therapy for mental health support and rejuvenation especially when the pregnancy is unwanted.

Furthering this position, women have right to terminate pregnancies for any purpose since such a right lies in the confinement of right over one’s body and health. The advocates of abortion hold that direct abortion is not only reasonable but also necessary when the mother is very ill and her life is in serious danger because of the pregnancy. In this situation, the offspring becomes unwanted as such is considered as a disease to be diagnosed, the preborn becomes an unjust aggressor and is therefore morally justifiable that the mother should in self- defense have the pregnancy diagnosed. And the diagnosis is abortion. Consequently, Warren Hern observed;

‘It appears that ‘unwantedness’ may be regarded as a major complications of pregnancy, with surgical intervention in the form of abortion as the indicated treatment…in fact a woman seeking an abortion is making a circumstantial self definition of pregnancy as an illness for which she considers the appropriate treatment to be abortion’’[3]

But is it right to think that the womb and all it contains belong to the woman as part and parcel of her body as such she has the right to deal with it any how? I think it will be monstrous to say that because foetus is not like any other cell organ or tissue in the body

it is not a living organism. But it is a human organism biologically separate from the mother composite of a 50 percent from the mother and a 50 percent from the father. Therefore, it holds no sway to maintain that fetus is a being part of the mother alone.

ECONOMIC ARGUMENTS

For the humanists, abortion is the right option if the preborn is going to be a handicap or a liability to the family. So abortion becomes a way out, a means of eradicating economic problem if a child (fetus) were to create an economic burden to the family and society at large. “ Humanists regard abortion as better than bringing unwanted babies to the world”[4] Thus if an unborn is going to be severely handicapped, the parents are permitted to make a choice, either to abort or allow the baby to live. Hence for the humanists, “an individual has a right to a sound physical and mental constitution and thus … the failure to prevent the birth of a child known to be defective is a violation of that child’s rights.”[5]

For them, this is a good means of checking abortion; but does this argument hold water? Anyway we shall talk on that later.

More so, the humanists believe that abortion is a means of fostering human dignity by preventing human suffering that will result from a preborn that that is physically, mentally etc deformed. For them, it is therefore morally right and should be legally permissible to terminate the life of a disfigured preborn (deformed) than allowing him/her to a life full of misery and uncomfortably. Another serious argument in a way is based on social aspect of the parents. For instance, if a child is conceived through incest or rape, the child, which is unwanted, cannot but create unwanted social image, therefore the best option is to terminate the baby and save the parents form embarrassments.

  • METHOD OF CHECKING POPULATION

Abortion is seen as a good method of checking population growth. Due to increase in the global population, many country have suffered hunger, overcrowding and environmental pollution; thus making abortion illegal would contribute to the eradication of the above problems. Hence the difficulties experienced by parents and children as a result of over-population will definitely lead to an increase in the social ills, immorality, lack of basic needs, lack of sufficient education etc. as such abortion can serve as a means of moderation. To further strengthen this argument, they uphold that the lower birth rates brought about by abortion result in fewer people competing for the jobs that are available, hence reducing unemployment, many get educated, creating labour shortage that drew up the wages especially for the low earn workers. Therefore, for them abortion is less vulnerable than these social ills, as such abortion for them becomes a veritable instrument for checking population and should be allowed legally.

  •  OTHER ARGUMENTS AGAINST ABORTION

Abortions being a human act with an intent to kill an unblemished life; is condemned by many people especially by the prolifers. Therefore for them, they uphold two main tenets; that fetus has the right to live and that abortion is a threat to this right. Thus, the need to expose the loopholes that are evident in their arguments.

  •  ARGUMENT ON THE RIGHT OF THE FETUS

This argument is based on the fact that the fetus is a living organism. Right from the moment the ovum is fertilized, the life begins neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new living human organism with his own growth. For some proponents human life begins when an embryo is no longer capable of forming twins, that is about 10 to 12 days after fertilization. Hence, the amount of right ascribed to the fetus at any stage of its development depends on the view held about the inception of human life in the course of pregnancy. Nevertheless, the conventional stand of this argument holds:

As a human being…it (the fetus) possesses an unalienable right to life. The age or condition of this human being does not militate against its right[6].

The argument here is that life begins at conception. And according to Dr. Le Jeune the very first cell of the fertilized egg is “the most specialized cell under the sun. No other cell will ever again have the same instructions in the life of the individual being created. Hence, the right to life at any stage of its parental development should not be played with. Otherwise the agent becomes guilty of an immortal act, if the action is directly done as an end in itself.

[1] C.Ekwutosi, Op. cit, P. 3.

[2] ibid P.3.

[3] W. Hern, Abortion Practice, (Quoted in B. Clowes, Facts of life. An Authoritative Guide to life and family Issues Virginia. HLI 2001). P. 185.

[4] J. Benshoof, Reasserting Women’s Right (Quoted in B. Cloves, Op cit.) P. 78

[5] G.M.Atkinson …et al (eds), Genetic Counseling, the church and law, (St Louis, The Pope John (xxiii) medical – moral Research and education center, 1980), P.102.

[6] J.P. Kenny, Principles of Medical Ethics (2nd Edition) England (England: Newman Press 1962), P.197.

 

Presently, people are never interested in discussing the moral implications of abortion owing to their claims that it is exclusively a matter for one’s conscience. But the existential fact and the fundamental evil of abortion lie on the intent to destroy the innocent fetus. “Therefore there is no justification for direct abortion, no matter the motive; hence every direct abortion is always an grace objective evil’’[1] in this chapter, the intent is to explore various arguments concerning abortion either for or against.

Furthermore, in this reflection, every argument hinges directly or indirectly on morality or legality of abortion. In other words, arguments for abortion are put up either to establish the fact that abortion should be legally permissible or that it is morally justifiable. On the other hand, arguments against abortion seek to prove the moral or legal impermissibility of abortion. But we must not fail to observe that there is a dichotomy between the views that abortion is immoral and that abortion is moral or that it is legal. However, the grounds for or against the legality of abortion are most often established on the grounds for or against its morality.

  • ARGUMENT FOR ABORTION

Many attempt have been made by a lot of people to justify the morality of abortion. Arguments have also been put forward to support the legality of abortion. Very pertinent to observe is the fact that some of these arguments in support of abortion have moderation per say, in the sense that for some abortion is not morally permissible after the third trimester [at about seven- eight months]

Nevertheless, owing to the limitedness of this discourse, I wish to limit myself to the three arguments, which form the mainstay of the major proponents of the pro abortionists. They are women’s right, Humanists and population control arguments. Other arguments are minor ones, which seeks to support or refute the arguments therein.

2.1.1 INDIVIDUAL’S RIGHT AND FREEDOM

Argument like this in support of abortion is based on freedom and rights especially that of women. The right is dependent on three main aspects of women’s lives, the women’s privacy, autonomy and mental health against any legal restrictions of abortion.

In the defense of right to privacy and autonomy the proponents of this arguments hold that it is exclusively the right of the mother to choose whatever she considers fit for her body without constraint or coercion. Thus C. Ekwutosi states:

It is claimed that the continued presence of the fetus within the womb is completely dependent on the discretion of the pregnant women, for the woman has right to determine her own life. The feotus has no rights. And even if it has, the right of the mother takes precedence[2]

In addition the contenders hold equally that women have right to mental health as a means of life sustenance. From their point of view, abortion is a therapy for mental health support and rejuvenation especially when the pregnancy is unwanted.

Furthering this position, women have right to terminate pregnancies for any purpose since such a right lies in the confinement of right over one’s body and health. The advocates of abortion hold that direct abortion is not only reasonable but also necessary when the mother is very ill and her life is in serious danger because of the pregnancy. In this situation, the offspring becomes unwanted as such is considered as a disease to be diagnosed, the preborn becomes an unjust aggressor and is therefore morally justifiable that the mother should in self- defense have the pregnancy diagnosed. And the diagnosis is abortion. Consequently, Warren Hern observed;

‘It appears that ‘unwantedness’ may be regarded as a major complications of pregnancy, with surgical intervention in the form of abortion as the indicated treatment…in fact a woman seeking an abortion is making a circumstantial self definition of pregnancy as an illness for which she considers the appropriate treatment to be abortion’’[3]

But is it right to think that the womb and all it contains belong to the woman as part and parcel of her body as such she has the right to deal with it any how? I think it will be monstrous to say that because fetus is not like any other cell organ or tissue in the body

it is not a living organism. But it is a human organism biologically separate from the mother composite of a 50 percent from the mother and a 50 percent from the father. Therefore, it holds no sway to maintain that fetus is a being part of the mother alone.

2.1.2 ECONOMIC ARGUMENTS

For the humanists, abortion is the right option if the preborn is going to be a handicap or a liability to the family. So abortion becomes a way out, a means of eradicating economic problem if a child (fetus) were to create an economic burden to the family and society at large. “ Humanists regard abortion as better than bringing unwanted babies to the world”[4] Thus if an unborn is going to be severely handicapped, the parents are permitted to make a choice, either to abort or allow the baby to live. Hence for the humanists, “an individual has a right to a sound physical and mental constitution and thus … the failure to prevent the birth of a child known to be defective is a violation of that child’s rights.”[5]

For them, this is a good means of checking abortion; but does this argument hold water? Anyway we shall talk on that later.

More so, the humanists believe that abortion is a means of fostering human dignity by preventing human suffering that will result from a preborn that that is physically, mentally etc deformed. For them, it is therefore morally right and should be legally permissible to terminate the life of a disfigured preborn (deformed) than allowing him/her to a life full of misery and uncomfortably. Another serious argument in a way is based on social aspect of the parents. For instance, if a child is conceived through incest or rape, the child, which is unwanted, cannot but create unwanted social image, therefore the best option is to terminate the baby and save the parents form embarrassments.

  • METHOD OF CHECKING POPULATION

Abortion is seen as a good method of checking population growth. Due to increase in the global population, many country have suffered hunger, overcrowding and environmental pollution; thus making abortion illegal would contribute to the eradication of the above problems. Hence the difficulties experienced by parents and children as a result of over-population will definitely lead to an increase in the social ills, immorality, lack of basic needs, lack of sufficient education etc. as such abortion can serve as a means of moderation. To further strengthen this argument, they uphold that the lower birth rates brought about by abortion result in fewer people competing for the jobs that are available, hence reducing unemployment, many get educated, creating labour shortage that drew up the wages especially for the low earn workers. Therefore, for them abortion is less vulnerable than these social ills, as such abortion for them becomes a veritable instrument for checking population and should be allowed legally.

  • OTHER ARGUMENTS AGAINST ABORTION

Abortions being a human act with an intent to kill an unblemished life; is condemned by many people especially by the prolifers. Therefore for them, they uphold two main tenets; that fetus has the right to live and that abortion is a threat to this right. Thus, the need to expose the loopholes that are evident in their arguments.

  • ARGUMENT ON THE RIGHT OF THE FETUS

This argument is based on the fact that the fetus is a living organism. Right from the moment the ovum is fertilized, the life begins neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new living human organism with his own growth. For some proponents human life begins when an embryo is no longer capable of forming twins, that is about 10 to 12 days after fertilization. Hence, the amount of right ascribed to the fetus at any stage of its development depends on the view held about the inception of human life in the course of pregnancy. Nevertheless, the conventional stand of this argument holds:

As a human being…it (the fetus) possesses an unalienable right to life. The age or condition of this human being does not militate against its right[6].

The argument here is that life begins at conception. And according to Dr. Le Jeune the very first cell of the fertilized egg is “the most specialized cell under the sun. No other cell will ever again have the same instructions in the life of the individual being created. Hence, the right to life at any stage of its parental development should not be played with. Otherwise the agent becomes guilty of an immortal act, if the action is directly done as an end in itself.

[1] C.Ekwutosi, Op. cit, P. 3.

[2] ibid P.3.

[3] W. Hern, Abortion Practice, (Quoted in B. Clowes, Facts of life. An Authoritative Guide to life and family Issues Virginia. HLI 2001). P. 185.

[4] J. Benshoof, Reasserting Women’s Right (Quoted in B. Cloves, Op cit.) P. 78

[5] G.M.Atkinson …et al (eds), Genetic Counseling, the church and law, (St Louis, The Pope John (xxiii) medical – moral Research and education center, 1980), P.102.

[6] J.P. Kenny, Principles of Medical Ethics (2nd Edition) England (England: Newman Press 1962), P.197.

—This article is not complete———–This article is not complete————
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ABORTION AND DIGNITY OF HUMAN LIFE: A MORAL CONSIDERATION.

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