Abortion: One Moral Issue Essay, Research Paper
Some have argued abortion is morally wrong because a fetus has a right to life.
Yet, some of these people would make an exception in the case of rape. This stance is contradictory if there is a strict deontological position on “right to life” if it assumes that a fetus is a living person. It is unreasonable to change this criterion in cases of rape if we are to live by a strict interpretation of right to life, assuming the fetus is living.
But why does rape cause some to change their position on right to life? It is because they have perhaps now excused abortion with powerful consequential arguments as a result of having a baby who was born out of rape. There are also concerns of the rights of a woman. It may not be in the best interest of society, or the individuals involved to have a baby who was born out of rape. Although it may seem more beneficial to society to abort a fetus because of rape, it is contradictory to abort a pregnancy if we are to live by a right to life mantra. Thus, one must argue from one moral position. If it is argued from society?s point of view, or the consequences of an abortion, the act could be excused for rape and possibly many other reasons. If the argument is a matter of principle, however, and clearly states that abortion is wrong because of the rights given to life, consequential or utilitarian arguments should be moot, if there is an assumption that the fetus is living.
First the status of the fetus should be examined. If the fetus has a right to life, there is a tactic assumption that it is in fact living. Some, such a philosopher Mary Anne Warren believe that because the fetus has not reached personhood therefore not guaranteed the right to life. Warren and others would argue that a person must have the capacity for rational thought to be considered a person. Clearly a fetus is not a rational thinker. However, this definition of personhood may not be clear. For example, individuals that are mentally handicap or in a comma may not have the capacity for rational thought, however, they are still considered a person with legal rights that are guaranteed. They may not be able to think rationally, give proper consent or depend on others for their existence; they are still given the same legal right regardless. They may not be given personhood in some philosophic reasons, but their existence as humans is unquestionable.
Viability is an another argument against the personhood of a fetus, and thus its right to life. The fetus is not viable, that is, it cannot be removed from the mother?s womb and live apart from her. To that extent, the life of the fetus is absolutely dependent on the life of the mother. This dependence is made the basis of denying the recognition to it s humanity and its “right to life”. However, how could one make this analysis? Although it is true that a fetus is absolutely dependent on someone?s care in order to continue existence, one could argue that a child of one or three or even five years of age is absolutely dependent on another?s care for existence. Thus, the viability argument is a distinction that makes no difference, unless we are to take away right to life for small children. The line between independence and dependence does not create personhood as a young child who is a person is totally dependant on another and guaranteed the right to life. How can a fetus be argued different in this situation. Therefore, a fetus?s moral status, by extension, cannot be characterized by its status as a rational person but certaintly can be considered a human, with the same rights as other humans.
Noonan, for example argues that since human parents conceive a fetus, then it must be human, as an individual genetic code is evident by fact. A fetus may not be a person, but is a human with the potentiality of personhood (see Noonan). It is noted that all human beings are and should be guaranteed to the right to life. Assuming that we accept the argument that because the fetus has its own genetic code, it is a human separate from the mother, and therefore it must receive the same guarantees to right of life. Some deontologists have accepted this as fact and believe the fetus must be protected as other humans are with the “right to life” mantra. Curiously, some believe there is no contradiction if these same deontologists make an exception is cases of rape. Upon further examination below, this simply cannot be considered consistent.
Assuming a fetus is a human that has the right to life, why are special circumstances considered in the case or rape to excuse abortion? This is because of reasons that are mostly consequential but some deotological. These arguments include the concerns for the mother and society. A mother would have to live with the horrid memory of a child who was brought on by rape if there was no access to abortion in her case. The child would also grow up, with this burden, perhaps functioning as a deviant person because of the lack of love and respect without caring parents. For feminists like Christine Overall, the life that a fetus may have does not have the right to infringe on the right of the mother. Obviously, this pregnancy was unwanted and forced on the woman, and as a consequence must live with the oppression of the man who raped her by suffering from the physical pain of the pregnancy, and the emotional pain of raising a child who is unwanted. Clearly, this pregnancy was forced because of a violation of a woman?s right not to be raped.
Although the woman?s right was clearly violated in the case of rape, does that give her the right to take away the fetus?s right to life, assuming it is living? The fetus is as innocent as the raped woman, forced into a situation it did not ask for. If it is indeed living, it must be protected from being aborted if we are to live by the “right to life” mantra. If there is opposition to abortion because it takes away the life of the fetus, rape cases cannot be exempted on consequential grounds. By doing this, we are opening the door to many other arguments besides rape that would excuse abortion. For example, if the rights of the women override the fetus on consequential grounds a pregnant mother may argue that she is unable to afford to care for a child and thus conflicting not only her self-interest but also society?s as well. This would eventually turn our moral reasoning from the rights of the fetus, to the utilitarian doctrine of the greatest good for the greatest number. The rights of the fetus become irrelevant compared to the interests of society. This may be tolerable moral reasoning, but is inconsistent with deontological arguments. Thus, rape cannot be excused if abortion is opposed originally on deontological grounds of the right to life.
In conclusion, one must argue a position from one moral standpoint and not be inconsistent with moral reasoning. In the case of abortion due to the circumstance of rape, one cannot argue then that a fetus as has a “right to life” but allow it in circumstances such as rape or as this is undoubtedly inconsistent. A deontologist may not use consquentialist arguments to support the claim of this situation, however one cannot support a fetus as human or guaranteed the right to life. It is obviously contradictory for one to say that abortion is morally wrong but may be permissable as in such cases as rape , thus, giving and incosistant argument for the “right to life”.
Marquis, Don, “Why Abortion is Immoral” in Applied Ethics 2nd Edition pg: 549-556. Simon and Shuster, New Jersey, 1998.
Noonan, John T, “An Almost Absolute Value in History” in Applied Ethics 2nd Edition pg: 535-548. Simon and Shuster, New Jersey, 1998.
Overall, Christine “Selective Termination of Pregnancy and Women?s Reproductive Autonomy” in Applied Ethics 2nd Edition pg: 557-556 Simon and Shuster, New Jersey, 1998.
Warren, Mary Anne, “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion” ” in Applied Ethics 2nd Edition pg: 541-548. Simon and Shuster, New Jersey, 1998.