Abortion 3 Essay, Research Paper
There are few more devisive issues in this country today than abortion. Combine a society that is partially governed by religion with a scientifically uneducated community and the ferver of catchy slogans on both sides and this devisiveness is almost expectable. Given the current advances in science, this is only likely to get worse.
All of the rhetoric around abortion has confused the real issue. In essence, abortion is a medical procedure with ethical implications. Any argument on the legality of abortion that is based on different ethical values is doomed to come to a standstill.
The key issue of debate involves the meaning of what it is to be alive. This is a question that politicians and pseudo-scientists have tried to answer often, but one that can easily be answered by scientists. Life does not begin at birth, conception, or anytime in between. Life is a perpetual process that has evolved since the first humans appeared on earth. It is meaningless to say that a fertilized egg is any more alive and conscious than an unfertilized one.
The real issue is the expendibility of human life. It would be difficult for one to argue that an unfertilized egg should be preserved as precious life. It would be equally difficult for someone to say that it is perfectly acceptable to kill an unborn baby that is fully developed and deliverable. The ethics debate lies somewhere in between. So when does an egg becomes something more. Scientifically speaking, even after a baby is born, it is not as knowledgable as a full-grown animal like a cow, which is considered to be fully expendable to humans. If we apply the same standards, therefore, are we not bound to make killing even newborns perfectly legal? Well, that is where the science ends and ethics begin.
Killing some other living thing, under almost any ethical system is considered to be wrong. Generally, the more aware and intelligent we consider the living thing to be, the more wrong that killing may be. So when is killing justified? Commonly, when the needs of humans are in question, that killing is justified. Often, when the desire of humans are expressed, killing is also justified. We can see various examples of this in everything from our diets to our clothes, perfumes to medicines. Humans are, in fact, breeding species of animals, plants, microbes, and almost all other living things in order to kill them.
So the question then becomes, are our purposes enough justification for our actions? Well, again, what are our purposes, what are our actions, and what are our options? In the cases of rape and incest, only the most fervant opponents of abortion will say that it is unethical. Where a mother’s mere whim is at stake and a partially developed child on hand, only the most fervant supporters of abortion agree that it is ethical. From that we can see that the majority of people are in an abortion middle-ground (yes, it does exist). How to define it is the next step.
Human life is considered to be precious for various reasons. It is because we are intelligent, bi-pedal, civilized, agricultural, and several other attributes that we are different from animals in a scientific way. Some point to the use of communication as a key. Others say it is because we use tools. Regardless of your definition, there are nonetheless exceptional humans as well as exceptional monkees that blur these distinctions. Is a human who is paralized less valuable? Is someone who cannot communicate but can nonetheless think not, in fact, human? Is a monkey who has learned to use tools and sign language anything more than a monkey? If cows could do math, would we no longer slaughter them for food? If plants screamed as we killed them, would vegetarianism be seen as somehow more evil? Considering all of these issues, when is a human life more or less valuable?
Humans seem to have an inconsistent ethic to the killing of “inferior” beings. We are, in fact, just as willing to destroy our environment, ruin whole ecosystems, and kill each other in large numbers for the sake of progress or the rightousness of a people. Ethics have also changed over time and place. In what is now considered “civilized” society, it is unethical to kill others for religious sacrifice, to kill those who are in severe pain, or to kill for the good of a majority. The key issue seems to revolve around the rights of the murdered. When do people, therefore, attain a state where they are sufficiently people in order to be protected by the doctrine that killing them infringes rights that they have? Cows certainly do not achieve this. Unfertilized eggs do not achieve this either. Premature babies, however, do achieve it, according to today’s standard? So where is the middle line? Or, in fact, is that really the issue?