The Morality of Abortion
Abortion is morally correct under certain circumstances if the situation obtaining demands it. Under some circumstances a woman can seek an abortion and instances of these are accidental pregnancy, rape, birth defects and danger to her life or health. In cases where a woman acts maliciously or whimsically she should be granted sanctions on moral grounds and she should not be treated as a murderess. Child rearing requires the expenditure of a considerable amount of time, effort, thought and money. The first three years of a child require the complete attention of the parents and after that the child requires the parent to be its caretaker, mentor, educator and financial supporter. This is a tiring job and an unseen imprisonment for a woman who detests such an environment. As such abortion should be permitted in instances of unwanted pregnancies, fetal health problems and risk to the mother’s life.
Some people claim that the fetus is a person and others argue that it is a bit of tissue that was attached to the body of a woman. In a broader sense, abortion is an act that terminates a pregnancy before birth, which results in the death of the fetus. In some cases abortions occur naturally as the fetus fails to develop. Intentional abortions are induced by doctors in order to save the mother from untoward situations that could affect the health of the mother, because a pregnancy is unwanted or if there is no significant growth in the fetus, which could result in serious physical or mental problems to the new born child (McGee and Merz).
Clinical abortion has been the subject matter of wide spread debates that concern ethical issues. Pro – choice supporters argue that abortion could be one of the natural reproductive rights of a woman who should have the right to choose to have an abortion. Pro – life activists claim that abortion should be accepted under extreme circumstances, for example if the life of the mother was threatened by carrying a pregnancy till the full term (McGee and Merz).
Social acceptance of abortion as a means of population control has differed from country to country. Abortion had been a social method of population control during the Greco – Roman era. Under Christianity it was prohibited, although in Europe abortion had been accepted in the middle ages. In the early nineteenth century there were several criminal restrictions to discourage abortion. By twentieth century, those restrictions had been modified in most nations. In the United States, the court decision in the case Roe v Wade in the year 1973 legalized abortion during the first three months of pregnancy (ROE v. WADE).
In the Roe v Wade case the US Supreme Court held that the laws that prohibited abortions were unconstitutional since they breached a right to privacy as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Constitutional Amendment. By its ruling the court restricted the ambit of this right by holding that abortion was subject to state regulation as the state had a legitimate responsibility in protecting the health of the mother and the potentiality of human life (ROE v. WADE). The Court further held that the state could not regulate abortion during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. However, it stated that the state could impose restrictions on abortions during the next twelve weeks and that in the last twelve weeks, it could prohibit abortions. Nevertheless, the state could not restrict abortions during the last weeks of pregnancy if there was risk to the life of the mother. Subsequent to the decision in that case, there was wide spread uproar and debate with regard to the issue of abortion between the proponents and opponents of a legalized abortion policy (Abortion).
until the late 1880s abortion was not a crime in the United States. The various States had recognized the legal policy of the common law, which permitted abortion till the sixteenth week of pregnancy. Subsequently the States began to treat abortion in several different ways. They made abortion a crime during the period when the medical profession demanded to enhance its status and power. In order to suppress the outbreak of the medical profession’s demands, the American Medical Association staged protests to prohibit abortions and to make it a crime in the eyes of the law. This anti – abortion campaign was successful and emerged victorious in criminalizing abortion. Subsequently, all the states outlawed abortion. Despite the outcry and criminalization of abortion and the state imposed prohibition on abortion, there was no way to prevent women from obtaining illegal abortions. Many women undergoing such illegal abortions developed dangerous medical complications (Abortion).
In the 1960s, women’s rights organizations began to campaign against the laws that prohibited abortions. Several medical practitioners and lawyers participated in these campaigns. The movement calling for reforms to abortion contended that women should be given the choice to control their pregnancies and thereby secure an equal position in American society. Some of the states acceded to these demands and suitably changed their laws in respect of abortions in the late 1960s (Abortion).
Since abortions are conducted in private, taking decisions that create life – long consequences could become a painful task. Opponents of abortion ignore the life and compulsion of the parents. They accord great importance to the embryo, while ignoring the distress and compulsions that make people opt in favour of an abortion. The role of a parent demands responsibility, which has diversified aspects like financial support, physical strain, psychological syndromes and moral and ethical support to the child (Peikoff).
Since, the mother is primarily responsible for the upbringing of the child, she should be allowed to decide whether to continue with or terminate pregnancy. Moreover, insistence upon continuing pregnancies that are unwanted could prove to be unjust to the mother; therefore, it would be incorrect to state that abortion is immoral under all conditions.
Abortion. 2003. 29 June 2007 <http://www.credoreference.com/entry/>.
Abortion. 2002. 29 June 2007 <http://www.credoreference.com/entry/>.
McGee, Glenn and Jon F Merz. “Abortion.” Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD] . Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005 .
Peikoff, Leonard. Abortion Rights are Pro-Life. 23 January 2003. 29 June 2007 <http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=2404>.
ROE v. WADE. No. 410 U.S. 113. U.S. Supreme Court. 22 January 1973.