Abortion Essay, Research Paper
Philosophy – AbortionRectitude There comes a time in the lives of most women when an ovum,fertilized with sperm, will implant itself into her uterinewall. This is nature’s first step in its attempt tocontinue the human race. Currently, when this implantationoccurs, the impregnated woman has the right to allow theembryo to nourish itself into existence or to eliminate allchances of that embryo attaining life through abortion. Every species of plant and animal on earth reproduce in oneway or another. How could something as ancient andfundamental as reproduction turn into one of the most hotlycontested moral debates in history? The question can onlybe answered if we first examine the intellectual psyche ofthe human animal. Since we are currently the most intelligent beings onearth, we use our critical thinking capabilities toselectively choose what should be morally acceptable andwhat should be deemed unacceptable. To the best of ourknowledge, we as humans are the only species in existencethat wrestle with moral dilemmas. Absolute morality thatwill be agreed upon by the majority of a society isextremely difficult to determine since each individual hasthe ability to decide for themselves what is morallyacceptable. It is because of this decision that ourAmerican culture intensely debates issues of morality suchas abortion. The debate over abortion pits the rights tolife of an unborn fetus against the rights of rational womenwho want to control what happens to their own body. Doesthe termination of a pregnancy deprive a human of theirright to life? Should our government be allowed the powerto regulate what a woman can and cannot do with her ownbody? These are two of the questions which will bedeliberated over throughout the course of this paper. In his article “Abortion and Infanticide”, Michael Tooleytackles two important questions about abortion. The firstis “what properties must someone have in order to beconsidered a person, i.e., to have a serious right to life?” Tooley answers that anything which completely lacksconsciousness, like ordinary machines, cannot have rights. If a being does not desire something such as consciousness,it is impossible to deprive that being of his right to it. In other words, Tooley argues that since a fetus does notshow outward desires to have life, it is morally permissibleto abort that fetus. There are three exceptions to thisrule that need to be clarified. First, if the being is in atemporary emotionally unbalanced state, such as a deepdepression, he should still be allowed rights to life. Secondly, if the being is unconscious due to sleep or somesort of trauma, he should not be deprived of his rights tolife. Finally, if the person has been brainwashed by areligious cult or any similar institution into wantingdeath, he should still be given a right to life. The second question addressed by Tooley is “at what pointin the development of a member of the species Homo Sapiensdoes the organism possess the properties that make it aperson?” The law in America currently implies that thefetus possesses the properties that make it a person when itreaches the third trimester or the sixth month of itsgermination inside the uterus. Is this a reasonableassessment of when a fetus has a right to life? Tooley says”No”. An organism does not have a right to life unless itpossesses the concept of a self as a continuous being ofmental states. This definition of possessing a right tolife can be applied to newborn babies that do not yet have aconcept of a self as a continuous being. Therefore, it ismorally acceptable to deprive them of their right to life,for they don’t show desire for life. According to Tooley,the fetus does not have a right to life at any timetherefore, the mother of that fetus should have the right toterminate her pregnancy as she so chooses. Tooley impliesthat until the fetus reaches the age of about three weeksoutside the uterus, it does not show signs of wanting life. Only when the child shows signs of desiring life should thechild be given a right to life. These arguments arecontroversial to say the least. However, they contain arational opinion of when an organism should be given a rightto life. Mary Anne Warren also examines the morality of abortion inher article titled “On the Moral and Legal Status ofAbortion”. She attempts to address the question “how are weto define the moral community, the set of beings with fulland equal moral rights, such that we can decide whether ahuman fetus is a member of this community or not?” Toaccomplish this definition, Warren lists five major criteriashe believes are most central to the concept of personhood. They are: 1. consciousness so that the being is capable of feelingpain 2. reasoning in order to solve relatively complex problems 3. self-motivated activity independent of genetic orexternal control 4. the capacity to communicate 5. the presence of self-awarenessThese criteria could be used to decide whether or not analien person from another realm of existence should beconsidered a person, and therefore given human rights. However, a being does not need to hold all five of theseattributes in order to be considered a human being. Warrensays possessing only criterion (1) and (2) would besufficient for personhood. If these criteria are acceptablerequirements for a being to be considered human, then afetus is definitely not human since it possesses none ofthese characteristics. Warren says the one exception to anentity being given human status even though they do not meetthe above five criterion is someone whose “consciousness hasbeen obliterated”, through trauma, stroke, etc… Warrenclassifies such a being as a defective human, not a person. These people may gain consciousness again so their right tolife should not be taken away. Richard Werner argues for the fetuses right to life in hisarticle titled “Abortion: The Ontological and Moral Statusof the Unborn”. He uses the continuum argument that states”if you and I are human beings, then there is every reasonto believe and no good reason to deny that the unborn arealso human beings.” Werner believes that one is a humanbeing from the moment of conception onward and that allpreviously proposed cut-off points for determining when oneis a human are unacceptable. Werner says these “cut-off”points are unacceptable because there is no clear line thatcan be drawn in the human’s development from conception toadulthood that can be used to ’say a being does not have aright to life before that point.’ According to Werner,since there is this hazy period in the embryologicaldevelopment of a fetus where it gradually becomes a human,the fetus should be considered a human from the moment ofconception onward. Since the fetus will eventually reachhumanhood if it is allowed sufficient time to develop, itshould not be denied its opportunity for life. To strengthen his position, Werner uses the comparison ofan acorn to a fetus. He states that “admittedly an acorn isnot an oak, nor is an ovum or sperm cell a human, but anacorn germinating in the soil is indeed an oak and so is theimpregnated ovum a human.” He uses this comparison toillustrate when he believes life begins, both for an oaktree and a human being. After the sperm and egg unite, ahuman is formed, just as an oak tree is formed as soon asthe acorn begins to germinate. This analogy poses adifficult problem for the intelligent critic. The acorn didnot require any thought or planning to fall onto the groundand begin germination. Ideally (not always), when a womanhas unprotected intercourse, she is aware that she may beplanting a seed in her uterus which might turn into a fetus.
The woman has the choice to not get pregnant throughabstinence whereas the acorn lacks all abilities to make adecision about whether or not to germinate. Because of thisfact, the woman should be held responsible for her actions,nor should she be compared to an acorn. In the essay titled “A Defense of Abortion”, Judith JarvisThomson uses her violinist argument to show why abortionshould be legal. The argument follows: you wake up onemorning and find yourself hooked up intravenously to afamous violinist who is unconscious. You discover theviolinist has a fatal kidney ailment and your blood type andkidneys alone are the only things that can save his life. If you choose to unplug yourself from the violinist, he willmost certainly die. You were connected to this personagainst your will and had you known this was going tohappen, you would have never given consent. If you chooseto stay hooked to the violinist, he will recover form hisailment in nine months and then go on to live a healthy andproductive life. The question of “does this person’s rightto life supersede your right to decide what happens to yourown body” comes into play at this point. Thomson equateschoosing to unattach yourself from the violinist to decidingto have an abortion. She then goes on to state that youractions would most certainly be justified if you chose todisconnect yourself. According to Thomson, regardless ofthe fact that the violinist will die if you unplug yourself,your right to decide what happens to your own body outweighshis rights to life. There are a few problems that arise when Thomson’s argumentis closely examined. First of all, the fetus is never olderthan its mother whereas the violinist may be. The “right tolife abortionists” focus on the premise that you are takingthe life of a child who has its whole life ahead of it. Theviolinist may have already lived a fulfilling life. Secondly, the woman was involuntarily hooked to theviolinist whereas (in this example) a pregnant womangenerally gets pregnant because she chooses to do so. Thepregnant woman does not directly give the fetus permissionto implant itself in her uterine wall however, she does giveit the means necessary to attach itself. If this premise isfollowed, the pregnant woman chose to impregnate herself,voluntarily. There are exceptions to this premise such as,rape or molestation, which may result in pregnancy thatrequire special attention. However, for the sake of brevity,the ideal case where the woman chooses to have intercoursein order to give a fetus the necessary means to implantitself will be followed for this argument. Finally, theviolinist is not the woman’s child whereas the fetus is. Awoman has no biological ties to the famous violinist. Halfof her fetuses genetic makeup comes from her chromosomes. This biological link can be a strong bond for the mother toher fetus. The woman connected to the violinist has nopersonal ties to this person therefore, she may feel noobligation to sacrifice part of her own life in order tosave a strangers. When the issue of contraceptives is brought up, a whole newargument arises. For instance, most devoutanti-abortionists agree that the use of the birth controlpill is an acceptable form of contraception. These peopleare ignorant hypocrites. They are either unaware of thefact that the pill works by not allowing the fertilized eggto implant into the uterine wall or else they just choose toignore it. Therefore, every time a woman has intercoursewhile she is on the pill, there is a chance she may becausing the death of a ‘child”. If the right-wingedanti-abortionists were educated in the physiology of thebirth control pill, they would have to declare its useimmoral. The I.U.D. is a birth control method comparable tothe pill. It is a small, Y-shaped piece of plastic that isinserted into the uterus. Whenever a fertilized eggattempts to attach itself to the nutrient-rich uterine wall,the harsh plastic of the I.U.D. scrapes it off. This methodalso ends a potential life but you don’t hear theanti-abortion extremists protesting its use. Woman who usethe I.U.D., could be convicted of mass murder if the SupremeCourt were to outlaw abortion. If “right-to-lifers are tobe consistent in their beliefs, people who strongly believein a fetuses right to life should only use birth controlmethods which do not allow implantation of the embryo. Theinclude the male/female condom, diaphragm with foam, therhythm method, or abstinence. These types of childprevention are not supposed to allow sperm and egg to unite. Other forms of birth control actually end the germinationprocess of an embryo which should be labeled morallyunacceptable by anti-abortionists if they are not to bedeclared hypocrites. A justification for the woman’s right to have an abortioncomes from the potentiality argument. The argument goes: “Jon once was a fetus. Now Jon is a human. It does notfollow from this that Jon is now a fetus.” Jon will neveragain be a fetus therefore, human rights given to Jon shouldnot be given to the fetus simply because Jon was once afetus and is now a human. If fetuses were to be given humanrights simply because they will one day be a human then weas logical beings would have to alter our entire way ofthinking. We could never drop a piece of fabric, for it mayone day be sewn into an American flag. We must not scratcha piece of metal, for it may one day be the fender of aRolls Royce. The list could go on and on and as it did, itwould get more and more ridiculous. The fact that the fetuswill one day be a human should not be given considerationwhen debating abortion because of the potentiality argument. Abortion is an issue that the majority of Americans have adefinite opinion about. It can usually be broken down intoreligious groups. Those who believe strongly in “the wordof God” are the ones who admonish abortion and all whopractice it. Some of these extremists would deny a womanthe chance for an abortion even in the case where she hasbeen impregnated because of a rape or incest. They site oneof the Ten Commandments which states “Thou shalt not kill”as their guiding light. This is ironic since these verypeople have been known to murder Doctors who performabortions. Most anti-abortionists are not so drastic. Theywould allow abortions to be legal under certaincircumstances such as pregnancies that occurred because ofrape, molestation, or incest. Are these moderates beinghypocritical by taking this view? Regardless of who thefather is or how the mother got pregnant, half the geneticmake-up of the child still belongs to her. If you are goingto take an anti-abortion stance, you should not allow thesevictimized women to have an abortion. On the other hand,people who support the woman’s right to choose whether ornot to have an abortion are typically liberals who don’taffiliate strongly with any one religion. They generallydon’t deny that a potential human is being destroyed when anabortion takes place. However, they believe the life anddesires of the already living woman outweigh any rights thefetus may have. Since I am an Epicureanist, I believe each woman should begiven the means by which they can get a safe, legal abortionif they so choose. Whatever promotes the greatest amount ofhappiness for the greatest number of already living womanshould be promoted by the government. The State should notplace restrictions on the woman’s right to govern what shedoes with her own body. Women who are desperate enough toseek out an abortion are not going to abandon the ideasimply because the government has declared it illegal. Theywill search out back alley abortions which would beunsanitary, dangerous, and possibly lethal. The health ofwomen cannot be put in jeopardy simply because a fewbureaucrats have a moral dilemma with abortion. Becausehaving an abortion is legal, does not mean anyone is forcedinto aborting their fetus. If you choose to carry yourchild to term, more power to you. However, don’t enforceyour morality onto others. Allow people the right to beindividuals and establish their own morality. If thegovernment were to step in and attempt to regulate moralityin this case, it could create an avalanche of lawsconcerning moral issues. This country is based on thepremise of freedom, let’s keep it that way.