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Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion: an argument for abortion rights featuring the rev. carlton veazey.
Since the Supreme Court’s historic 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade , the issue of a woman’s right to an abortion has fostered one of the most contentious moral and political debates in America. Opponents of abortion rights argue that life begins at conception – making abortion tantamount to homicide. Abortion rights advocates, in contrast, maintain that women have a right to decide what happens to their bodies – sometimes without any restrictions.
To explore the case for abortion rights, the Pew Forum turns to the Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, who for more than a decade has been president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Based in Washington, D.C., the coalition advocates for reproductive choice and religious freedom on behalf of about 40 religious groups and organizations. Prior to joining the coalition, Veazey spent 33 years as a pastor at Zion Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
A counterargument explaining the case against abortion rights is made by the Rev. J. Daniel Mindling, professor of moral theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary.
Featuring: The Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, President, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Interviewer: David Masci, Senior Research Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Question & Answer
Can you explain how your Christian faith informs your views in support of abortion rights?
I grew up in a Christian home. My father was a Baptist minister for many years in Memphis, Tenn. One of the things that he instilled in me – I used to hear it so much – was free will, free will, free will. It was ingrained in me that you have the ability to make choices. You have the ability to decide what you want to do. You are responsible for your decisions, but God has given you that responsibility, that option to make decisions.
I had firsthand experience of seeing black women and poor women being disproportionately impacted by the fact that they had no choices about an unintended pregnancy, even if it would damage their health or cause great hardship in their family. And I remember some of them being maimed in back-alley abortions; some of them died. There was no legal choice before Roe v. Wade .
But in this day and time, we have a clearer understanding that men and women are moral agents and equipped to make decisions about even the most difficult and complex matters. We must ensure a woman can determine when and whether to have children according to her own conscience and religious beliefs and without governmental interference or coercion. We must also ensure that women have the resources to have a healthy, safe pregnancy, if that is their decision, and that women and families have the resources to raise a child with security.
The right to choose has changed and expanded over the years since Roe v. Wade . We now speak of reproductive justice – and that includes comprehensive sex education, family planning and contraception, adequate medical care, a safe environment, the ability to continue a pregnancy and the resources that make that choice possible. That is my moral framework.
You talk about free will, and as a Christian you believe in free will. But you also said that God gave us free will and gave us the opportunity to make right and wrong choices. Why do you believe that abortion can, at least in some instances, be the right choice?
Dan Maguire, a former Jesuit priest and professor of moral theology and ethics at Marquette University, says that to have a child can be a sacred choice, but to not have a child can also be a sacred choice.
And these choices revolve around circumstances and issues – like whether a person is old enough to care for a child or whether a woman already has more children than she can care for. Also, remember that medical circumstances are the reason many women have an abortion – for example, if they are having chemotherapy for cancer or have a life-threatening chronic illness – and most later-term abortions occur because of fetal abnormalities that will result in stillbirth or the death of the child. These are difficult decisions; they’re moral decisions, sometimes requiring a woman to decide if she will risk her life for a pregnancy.
Abortion is a very serious decision and each decision depends on circumstances. That’s why I tell people: I am not pro-abortion, I am pro-choice. And that’s an important distinction.
You’ve talked about the right of a woman to make a choice. Does the fetus have any rights?
First, let me say that the religious, pro-choice position is based on respect for human life, including potential life and existing life.
But I do not believe that life as we know it starts at conception. I am troubled by the implications of a fetus having legal rights because that could pit the fetus against the woman carrying the fetus; for example, if the woman needed a medical procedure, the law could require the fetus to be considered separately and equally.
From a religious perspective, it’s more important to consider the moral issues involved in making a decision about abortion. Also, it’s important to remember that religious traditions have very different ideas about the status of the fetus. Roman Catholic doctrine regards a fertilized egg as a human being. Judaism holds that life begins with the first breath.
What about at the very end of a woman’s pregnancy? Does a fetus acquire rights after the point of viability, when it can survive outside the womb? Or let me ask it another way: Assuming a woman is healthy and her fetus is healthy, should the woman be able to terminate her pregnancy until the end of her pregnancy?
There’s an assumption that a woman would end a viable pregnancy carelessly or without a reason. The facts don’t bear this out. Most abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Late abortions are virtually always performed for the most serious medical and health reasons, including saving the woman’s life.
But what if such a case came before you? If you were that woman’s pastor, what would you say?
I would talk to her in a helpful, positive, respectful way and help her discuss what was troubling her. I would suggest alternatives such as adoption.
Let me shift gears a little bit. Many Americans have said they favor a compromise, or reaching a middle-ground policy, on abortion. Do you sympathize with this desire and do you think that both sides should compromise to end this rancorous debate?
I have been to more middle-ground and common-ground meetings than I can remember and I’ve never been to one where we walked out with any decision.
That being said, I think that we all should agree that abortion should be rare. How do we do that? We do that by providing comprehensive sex education in schools and in religious congregations and by ensuring that there is accurate information about contraception and that contraception is available. Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress has not been willing to pass a bill to fund comprehensive sex education, but they are willing to put a lot of money into failed and harmful abstinence-only programs that often rely on scare tactics and inaccurate information.
Former Surgeon General David Satcher has shown that abstinence-only programs do not work and that we should provide young people with the information to protect themselves. Education that stresses abstinence and provides accurate information about contraception will reduce the abortion rate. That is the ground that I stand on. I would say that here is a way we can work together to reduce the need for abortions.
Abortion has become central to what many people call the “culture wars.” Some consider it to be the most contentious moral issue in America today. Why do many Catholics, evangelical Christians and other people of faith disagree with you?
I was raised to respect differing views so the rigid views against abortion are hard for me to understand. I will often tell someone on the other side, “I respect you. I may disagree with your theological perspective, but I respect your views. But I think it’s totally arrogant for you to tell me that I need to believe what you believe.” It’s not that I think we should not try to win each other over. But we have to respect people’s different religious beliefs.
But what about people who believe that life begins at conception and that terminating a pregnancy is murder? For them, it may not just be about respecting or tolerating each other’s viewpoints; they believe this is an issue of life or death. What do you say to people who make that kind of argument?
I would say that they have a right to their beliefs, as do I. I would try to explain that my views are grounded in my religion, as are theirs. I believe that we must ensure that women are treated with dignity and respect and that women are able to follow the dictates of their conscience – and that includes their reproductive decisions. Ultimately, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that women have the ability to make decisions of conscience and have access to reproductive health services.
Some in the anti-abortion camp contend that the existence of legalized abortion is a sign of the self-centeredness and selfishness of our age. Is there any validity to this view?
Although abortion is a very difficult decision, it can be the most responsible decision a person can make when faced with an unintended pregnancy or a pregnancy that will have serious health consequences.
Depending on the circumstances, it might be selfish to bring a child into the world. You know, a lot of people say, “You must bring this child into the world.” They are 100 percent supportive while the child is in the womb. As soon as the child is born, they abort the child in other ways. They abort a child through lack of health care, lack of education, lack of housing, and through poverty, which can drive a child into drugs or the criminal justice system.
So is it selfish to bring children into the world and not care for them? I think the other side can be very selfish by neglecting the children we have already. For all practical purposes, children whom we are neglecting are being aborted.
This transcript has been edited for clarity, spelling and grammar.
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Table of Contents
Key facts about the abortion debate in america, public opinion on abortion, three-in-ten or more democrats and republicans don’t agree with their party on abortion, partisanship a bigger factor than geography in views of abortion access locally, do state laws on abortion reflect public opinion, most popular.
About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .
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Comparison/Contrast Essays: Two Patterns
First Pattern: Block-by-Block
By Rory H. Osbrink
Abortion is an example of a very controversial issue. The two opposing viewpoints surrounding abortion are like two sides of a coin. On one side, there is the pro-choice activist and on the other is the pro-life activist.
The argument is a balanced one; for every point supporting abortion there is a counter-point condemning abortion. This essay will delineate the controversy in one type of comparison/contrast essay form: the “”Argument versus Argument,”” or, “”Block-by-Block”” format. In this style of writing, first you present all the arguments surrounding one side of the issue, then you present all the arguments surrounding the other side of the issue. You are generally not expected to reach a conclusion, but simply to present the opposing sides of the argument.
Introduction: (the thesis is underlined) Explains the argument
The Abortion Issue: Compare and Contrast Block-by-Block Format
One of the most divisive issues in America is the controversy surrounding abortion. Currently, abortion is legal in America, and many people believe that it should remain legal. These people, pro-choice activists, believe that it is the women’s right to chose whether or not to give birth. However, there are many groups who are lobbying Congress to pass laws that would make abortion illegal. These people are called the pro-life activists.
Abortion is a choice that should be decided by each individual, argues the pro-choice activist. Abortion is not murder since the fetus is not yet fully human, therefore, it is not in defiance against God. Regardless of the reason for the abortion, it should be the woman’s choice because it is her body. While adoption is an option some women chose, many women do not want to suffer the physical and emotional trauma of pregnancy and labor only to give up a child. Therefore, laws should remain in effect that protect a woman’s right to chose.
Abortion is an abomination, argues the pro-life activist. It makes no sense for a woman to murder a human being not even born. The bible says, “”Thou shalt not kill,”” and it does not discriminate between different stages of life. A fetus is the beginning of life. Therefore, abortion is murder, and is in direct defiance of God’s will. Regardless of the mother’s life situation (many women who abort are poor, young, or drug users), the value of a human life cannot be measured. Therefore, laws should be passed to outlaw abortion. After all, there are plenty of couples who are willing to adopt an unwanted child.
If we take away the woman’s right to chose, will we begin limiting her other rights also? Or, if we keep abortion legal, are we devaluing human life? There is no easy answer to these questions. Both sides present strong, logical arguments. Though it is a very personal decision, t he fate of abortion rights will have to be left for the Supreme Court to decide.
Second Pattern: Point-by-Point
This second example is also an essay about abortion. We have used the same information and line of reasoning in this essay, however, this one will be presented in the “”Point-by-Point”” style argument. The Point-by-Point style argument presents both sides of the argument at the same time. First, you would present one point on a specific topic, then you would follow that up with the opposing point on the same topic. Again, you are generally not expected to draw any conclusions, simply to fairly present both sides of the argument.
Introduction: (the thesis is underlined)
Explains the argument
The Abortion Issue: Compare and Contrast Point-by-Point Format
Point One: Pro-life and Pro-choice
Supporters of both pro-life and pro-choice refer to religion as support for their side of the argument. Pro-life supporters claim that abortion is murder, and is therefore against God’s will. However, pro-choice defenders argue that abortion is not murder since the fetus is not yet a fully formed human. Therefore, abortion would not be a defiance against God.
Point Two: Pro-life and Pro-choice
Another main point of the argument is over the woman’s personal rights, versus the rights of the unborn child. Pro-choice activists maintain that regardless of the individual circumstances, women should have the right to chose whether or not to abort. The pregnancy and labor will affect only the woman’s body, therefore it should be the woman’s decision. Pro-life supporters, on the other hand, believe that the unborn child has the right to life, and that abortion unlawfully takes away that right.
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Pro Choice Pros And Cons
The debate about pro-life and pro-choice between abortions will always be around, but finding informative information will educate and help anyone trying to research this topic. “American Choose “Pro-Choice” for First Time in Seven Years” by Lydia Saad reports how pro-choice is increasing throughout the past couple years as well as providing details about where United States citizens stand on the abortion issue. “The Politics of Abortions Will Get More Complicated in 2017” by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig
Term Paper The article that I chose is called "What choice?", and was published by TIME magazine on January 14, 2013. The author briefly discusses the various arguments made in favor of supporting abortion in the United States, as well as some reasons why the Pro-choice movement isn't fully implemented after the U.S Supreme court ruling Roe v. Wade was enacted. The article continuously draws back to the Red River Woman's clinic in North Dakota to emphasize some issues faced by the patients, physicians
Pro Choice And Pro Life
abortion is; “The termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to being capable of normal growth”. Abortion is one of the most controversial topics today. Although there are two sides of the debate pro-choice and pro life, arguments are mainly centered around the Roe v. Wade decision, women’s rights and state restrictive laws. Women faced many difficulties before Roe V. Wade case. After the case the court made abortions available to women in the United States
Pro Choice Of Abortion
October 2017 Marissa recently found out she was pregnant, she was taking birth control pills as contraceptives to avoid a pregnancy, but she knew she needed to take an emergency contraceptive. Marissa was a pro-life activist, meaning she opposed abortions. She, along with all the other pro-life supporters, never did accept that people had abortions. People felt the same on the topic as her, they were all completely against abortions and shamed woman who had took part in the practice. She did not
Why Pro-Choice Is The Right Choice
Why Pro-Choice is the Right Choice With the evolving moral standards of society, abortions are becoming more and more justified. Abortions, the practice of removing a fertilized egg from a mother, has become a controversial issue in American society, but should be generally supported because women should have the choice on how they choose their eggs to go on, whether it be to end further growth of the fetus or not. Women have a right to control what happens in and with their body. Being a pro-choice
What Is Pro Choice?
Pro Choice In the article “Defending Choice, Yet Again: An Unapologetic Defense of Abortion Rights-- and About Time,” written by Lindsay Beyerstein in The American Prospect, abortion and the reason chose to be Pro Choice are addressed. Many people throughout life can overcome the question, is abortion right? The only problem is no one can never give the reason for yes or no. The information provided in this article shows of ways that people should look back and reevaluate their decision on thinking
Abortion : Pro Choice And Pro-Life
ongoing fight; Pro-Choice and Pro-Life. To determine which group suits you, you can ask yourself do you think abortion should be banned or accepted? I choose to accept abortion and therefore identify as a person who is Pro-Choice. Abortion is not a black and white issue. It can be complicated and personal. My groups position on the issue on abortion is that we believe that abortions are a woman’s choice and shouldn’t be limited by the government or any religious authorities. Pro-Choice does not necessarily
Abortion, Pro Choice, And Pro Life
today. People’s different perspectives and opinion on whether or not abortion is immoral continue to divide America into two groups: “Pro-choice” and “Pro-life”. However, pro-life advocates tend to focus more on the fetus rather than how abortion and programs have actually benefited the mother and families. There is hypocrisy in people who identify themselves as “pro-life” and the word itself can be misleading as it does not align with the true values of protecting a life. Over the years, technology
Abortion: Pro Life Or Pro Choice?
should have the option to chose, and others think that it is still not an excuse. There are many valid arguments for both views, pro life and pro choice. Pro life is a group who thinks women should not have the right to an abortion, and abortion is murder. Pro choice is a group that believes women should have the right to their own bodies and should be able to make the choice of whether or not to go through with their pregnancy and should
Pro Life Vs Pro Choice
been a topic talked about for several years and I strongly believe that abortion should be the mothers choice. The definition of abortion is “The termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to being capable of normal growth.” Pro-life people are against abortion and consider it to be murder whereas pro-choice people believe it is the mothers choice whether she wants to abort the baby or not. Women have many reasons to abort their babies such as religion
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An Argument That Abortion Is Wrong by DON MARQUIS
Don Marquis is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas. He defends the view that, except in unusual circumstances, abortion is seriously wrong.
The purpose of this essay is to set out an argument the claim that abortion, except perhaps in instances, is seriously wrong. One reason for these exceptions is to eliminate from consideration cases whose ethical analysis should be controversial detailed for clear-headed opponents of abortion. Such cases include abortion after rape and abortion during the first fourteen days after conception when there is an argument that the fetus is not definitely an individual. Another reason for making these exceptions allow for those cases in which the permissibility of abortion is compatible with the argument of this essay. Such cases include abortion when continuation of a pregnancy endangers a woman's life and when the fetus is anencephalic. When I wrongness of abortion in this essay, a reader she presume the above qualifications. I mean by an abort ion an action intended to bring about the death of a fetus for the sake of the woman who carries it. (Thus, as is standard on the literature on this subject, I eliminanate spontaneous abortions from consideration.) I mean by a fetus a developing human being from
time of conception to the time of birth. (Thus, as is standard, I call embryos and zygotes, fetuses.)
The argument of this essay will establish that abortion is wrong for the same reason as killing a reader of this essay is wrong. I shall just assume, rather than establish, that killing you is seriously wrong. I shall make no attempt to offer a complete ethics of killing. Finally, I shall make no attempt to resolve some very fundamental and difficult general philosophical issues into which this analysis of the ethics of abortion might lead.
WHY THE DEBATE OVER ABORTION SEEMS INTRACTABLE
Symmetries that emerge from the analysis of the major arguments on either side of the abortion debate may explain why the abortion debate seems intractable. Consider the following standard anti-abortion argument: Fetuses are both human and alive. Humans have the right to life. Therefore, fetuses have the right to life. Of course, women have the right to control their own bodies, but the right to life overrides the right of a woman to control her own body. Therefore, abortion is wrong.
Judith Thomson (1971) has argued that even if one grants (for the sake of argument only) that fetuses have the right to life, this argument fails. Thomson invites you to imagine that you have been connected while sleeping, bloodstream to bloodstream, to a famous violinist. The violinist, who suffers from a rare blood disease, will die if disconnected. Thomson argues that you surely have the right to disconnect yourself. She appeals to our intuition that having to lie in bed with a violinist for an indefinite period is too much for morality to demand. She supports this claim by noting that the body being used is your body, not the violinist's body. She distinguishes the right to life, which the violinist clearly has, from the right to use someone else's body when necessary to preserve one's life, which it is not at all obvious the violinist has. Because the case of pregnancy is like the case of the violinist, one is no more morally obligated to remain attached to a fetus than to remain attached to the violinist.
It is widely conceded that one can generate from Thomson's vivid case the conclusion that abortion is morally permissible when a pregnancy is due to rape (Warren, 1973, p. 49; and Steinbock, 1992, p. 79). But this is hardly a general right to abortion. Do Thomson's more general theses generate a more general right to an abortion? Thomson draws our attention to the fact that in a pregnancy, although a fetus uses a woman's body as a life-support system, a pregnant woman does not use a fetus's body as a life-support system. However, an opponent of abortion might draw our attention to the fact that in an abortion the life that is lost is the fetus's, not the woman's. This symmetry seems to leave us with a stand-off.
Thomson points out that a fetus's right to life does not entail its right to use someone else's body to preserve its life. However, an opponent of abortion might point out that a woman's right to use her own body does not entail her right to end someone else's life in order to do what she wants with her body. In reply, one might argue that a pregnant woman's right to control her own body doesn't come to much if it is wrong for her to take any action that ends the life of the fetus within her. However, an opponent of abortion can argue that the fetus's right to life doesn't come to much if a pregnant woman can end it when she chooses. The consequence of all of these symmetries seems to be a stand-off. But if we have the stand-off, then one might argue that we are left with a conflict of rights: a fetal right to life versus the right of a woman to control her own body. One might then argue that the right to life seems to be a stronger right than the right to control one's own body in the case of abortion because the loss of one's life is a greater loss than the loss of the right to control one's own body in one respect for nine months. Therefore, the right to life overrides the right to control one's own body and abortion is wrong. Considerations like these have suggested to both opponents of abortion and supporters of choice that a Thomsonian strategy for de-
fending a general right to abortion will not succeed (Tooley, 1972; Warren, 1973; and Steinbock, 1992). In fairness, one must note that Thomson did not intend her strategy to generate a general moral permissibility of abortion.
Do Fetuses Have the Right to Life?
The above considerations suggest that whether abortion is morally permissible boils down to the question of whether fetuses have the right to life. An argument that fetuses either have or lack the right to life must be based upon some general criterion for having or lacking the right to life. Opponents of abortion, on the one hand, look around for the broadest possible plausible criterion, so that fetuses will fall under it. This explains why classic arguments against abortion appeal to the criterion of being human (Noonan, 1970; Beckwith, 1993). This criterion appears plausible: The claim that all humans, whatever their race, gender, religion or age, have the right to life seems evident enough. In addition, because the fetuses we are concerned with do not, after all, belong to another species, they are clearly human. Thus, the syllogism that generates the conclusion that fetuses have the right to life is apparently sound.
On the other hand, those who believe abortion is morally permissible wish to find a narrow, but plausible, criterion for possession of the right to life so that fetuses will fall outside of it. This explains, in part, why the standard pro-choice arguments in the philosophical literature appeal to the criterion of being a person (Feinberg, 1986; Tooley, 1972; Warren, 1973; Benn, 1973; Engelhardt, 1986). This criterion appears plausible: The claim that only persons have the right to life seems evident enough. Furthermore, because fetuses neither are rational nor possess the capacity to communicate in complex ways nor,possess a concept of self that continues through time, no fetus is a person. Thus, the syllogism needed to generate the conclusion that no fetus possesses the right to life is apparently sound. Given that no fetus possesses the right to life, a woman's right to control her own body easily generates the general right to abortion. The existence of two apparently defensible syllogisms which support contrary conclusions helps to explain why partisans on both sides of the abortion dispute often regard their opponents as either morally depraved or mentally deficient.
Which syllogism should we reject? The anti-abortion syllogism is usually attacked by attacking its major premise: the claim that whatever is biologically human has the right to life. This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of the biologically human includes too much: human cancer-cell cultures are biologically human, but they do not have the right to life. Moreover, this premise also is subject to moral-relevance problems: the connection between the biological and the moral is merely assumed. It is hard to think of a good argument for such a connection. If one wishes to consider the category of "human" a moral category, as some people find it plausible to do in other contexts, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is fully human without begging the question. Thus, the classic anti-abortion argument appears subject to fatal difficulties.
These difficulties with the classic anti-abortion argument are well known and thought by many to be conclusive. The symmetrical difficulties with the classic pro-choice syllogism are not as well recognized. The pro-choice syllogism can be attacked by attacking its major premise: Only persons have the right to life. This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of persons includes too little: infants, the severely retarded, and some of the mentally ill seem to fall outside the class of persons as the supporter of choice understands the concept. The premise is also subject to moral-relevance problems:
Being a person is understood by the pro-choicer as having certain psychological attributes. If the prochoicer questions the connection between the biological and the moral, the opponent of abortion can question the connection between the psychological and the moral. If one wishes to consider "person" a moral category, as is often done, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is not a person without begging the question.
Pro-choicers appear to have resources for dealing with their difficulties that opponents of abortion lack. Consider their moral-relevance problem. A pro-
choicer might argue that morality rests on contractual foundations and that only those who have the psychological attributes of persons are capable of entering into the moral contract and, as a consequence, being a member of the moral community. (This is essentially Engelhardt's  view.) The great advantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it seems far more plausible than any approach the anti-abortionist can provide. The great disadvantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it adds to our earlier scope problems by leaving it unclear how we can have the duty not to inflict pain and suffering on animals.
Contractarians have tried to deal with their scope problems by arguing that duties to some individuals who are not persons can be justified even though those individuals are not contracting members of the moral community. For example, Kant argued that, although we do not have direct duties to animals, we "must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men" (Kant, 1963, p. 240). Feinberg argues that infanticide is wrong, not because infants have the right to life, but because our society's protection of infants has social utility. If we do not treat infants with tenderness and consideration, then when they are persons they will be worse off and we will be worse off also (Feinberg, 1986, p. 271).
These moves only stave off the difficulties with the pro-choice view; they do not resolve them. Consider Kant's account of our obligations to animals. Kantians certainly know the difference between persons and animals. Therefore, no true Kantian would treat persons as she would treat animals. Thus, Kant's defense of our duties to animals fails to show that Kantians have a duty not to be cruel to animals. Consider Feinberg's attempt to show that infanticide is wrong even though no infant is a person. All Feinerg really shows is that it is a good idea to treat with care and consideration the infants we intend to keep. That is quite compatible with killing the infants we intend to discard. This point can be supported by an analogy with which any pro-choicer will agree. There are plainly good reasons to treat with care and consideration the fetuses we intend to keep. This is quite compatible with aborting those fetuses we intend to discard. Thus, Feinberg's account of the wrongness of infanticide is inadequate.
Accordingly, we can see that a contractarian defense of the pro-choice personhood syllogism fails. The problem arises because the contractarian cannot account for our duties to individuals who are not persons, whether these individuals are animals or infants. Because the pro-choicer wishes to adopt a narrow criterion for the right to life so that fetuses will not be included, the scope of her major premise is too narrow. Her problem is the opposite of the problem the classic opponent of abortion faces.
The argument of this section has attempted to establish, albeit briefly, that the classic anti-abortion argument and the pro-choice argument favored by most philosophers both face problems that are mirror images of one another. A stand-off results. The abortion debate requires a different strategy.
THE "FUTURE LIKE OURS" ACCOUNT OF THE WRONGNESS OF KILLING
Why do the standard arguments in the abortion debate fail to resolve the issue? The general principles to which partisans in the debate appeal are either truisms most persons would affirm in the absence of much reflection, or very general moral theories. All are subject to major problems. A different approach is needed.
Opponents of abortion claim that abortion is wrong because abortion involves killing someone like us, a human being who just happens to be very young. Supporters of choice claim that ending the life of a fetus is not in the same moral category as ending the life of an adult human being. Surely this controversy cannot be resolved in the absence of an account of what it is about killing us that makes killing us wrong. On the one hand, if we know what property we possess that makes killing us wrong, then we can ask whether fetuses have the same property. On the other hand, suppose that we do not know what it is about us that makes killing us wrong. If this
is so, we do not understand even easy cases in which killing is wrong. Surely, we will not understand the ethics of killing fetuses, for if we do not understand easy cases, then we will not understand hard cases. Both pro-choicer and anti-abortionist agree that it is obvious that it is wrong to kill us. Thus, a discussion of what it is about us that makes killing us not only wrong, but seriously wrong, seems to be the right place to begin a discussion of the abortion issue.
Who is primarily wronged by a killing? The wrong of killing is not primarily explained in terms of the loss to the family and friends of the victim. Perhaps the victim is a hermit. Perhaps one's friends find it easy to make new friends. The wrong of killing is not primarily explained in terms of the brutalization of the killer. The great wrong to the victim explains the brutalization, not the other way around. The wrongness of killing us is understood in terms of what killing does to us. Killing us imposes on us the misfortune of premature death. That misfortune underlies the wrongness.
Premature death is a misfortune because when one is dead, one has been deprived of life. This misfortune can be more precisely specified. Premature death cannot deprive me of my past life. That part of my life is already gone. If I die tomorrow or if I live thirty more years my past life will be no different. It has occurred on either alternative. Rather than my past, my death deprives me of my future, of the life that I would have lived if I had lived out my natural life span.
The loss of a future biological life does not explain the misfortune of death. Compare two scenarios: In the former I now fall into a coma from which I do not recover until my death in thirty years. In the latter I die now. The latter scenario does not seem to describe a greater misfortune than the former.
The loss of our future conscious life is what underlies the misfortune of premature death. Not any future conscious life qualifies, however. Suppose that I am terminally ill with cancer. Suppose also that pain and suffering would dominate my future conscious life. If so, then death would not be a misortune for me.
Thus, the misfortune of premature death consists of the loss to us of the future goods of consciousness.
What are these goods? Much can be said about this issue, but a simple answer will do for the purposes of this essay. The goods of life are whatever we get out of life. The goods of life are those items toward which we take a "pro" attitude. They are completed projects of which we are proud, the pursuit of our goals, aesthetic enjoyments, friendships, intellectual pursuits, and physical pleasures of various sorts. The goods of life are what makes life worth living. In general, what makes life worth living for one person will not be the same as what makes life worth living for another. Nevertheless, the list of goods in each of our lives will overlap. The lists are usually different in different stages of our lives.
What makes the goods of my future good for me? One possible, but wrong, answer is my desire for those goods now. This answer does not account for those aspects of my future life that I now believe I will later value, but about which I am wrong. Neither does it account for those aspects of my future that I will come to value, but which I don't value now. What is valuable to the young may not be valuable to the middle-aged. What is valuable to the middle-aged may not be valuable to the old. Some of life's values for the elderly are best appreciated by the elderly. Thus it is wrong to say that the value of my future to me is just what I value now. What makes my future valuable to me are those aspects of my future that I will (or would) value when I will (or would) experience them, whether I value them now or not.
It follows that a person can believe that she will have a valuable future and be wrong. Furthermore, a person can believe that he will not have a valuable future and also be wrong. This is confirmed by our attitude toward many of the suicidal. We attempt to save the lives of the suicidal and to convince them that they have made an error in judgment. This does not mean that the future of an individual obtains value from the value that others confer on it. It means that, in some cases, others can make a clearer judgment of the value of a person's future to that person than the person herself. This often happens when one's judgment concerning the value of one's own future is clouded by personal tragedy. (Compare the views of McInerney, 1990, and Shirley, 1995.)
Thus, what is sufficient to make killing us wrong,
in general, is that it causes premature death. Premature death is a misfortune. Premature death is a misfortune, in general, because it deprives an individual of a future of value. An individual's future will be valuable to that individual if that individual will come, or would come, to value it. We know that killing us is wrong. What makes killing us wrong, in general, is that it deprives us of a future of value. Thus, killing someone is wrong, in general, when it deprives her of a future like ours. I shall call this "an FLO."
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF THE FLO THEORY
At least four arguments support this FLO account of the wrongness of killing.
The Considered Judgment Argument
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing is correct because it fits with our considered judgment concerning the nature of the misfortune of death. The analysis of the previous section is an exposition of the nature of this considered judgment. This judgment can be confirmed. If one were to ask individuals with AIDS or with incurable cancer about the nature of their misfortune, I believe that they would say or imply that their impending loss of an FLO makes their premature death a misfortune. If they would not, then the FLO account would plainly be wrong.
The Worst of Crimes Argument
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing is correct because it explains why we believe that killing is one of the worst of crimes. My being killed deprives me of more than does my being robbed or beaten or harmed in some other way because my being killed deprives me of all of the value of my future, not merely part of it. This explains why we make the penalty for murder greater than the penalty for other crimes.
As a corollary the FLO account of the wrongness of killing also explains why killing an adult human being is justified only in the most extreme circumstances, only in circumstances in which the loss of life to an individual is outweighed by a worse outcome if that life is not taken. Thus, we are willing to justify killing in self-defense, killing in order to save one's own life, because one's loss if one does not kill in that situation is so very great. We justify killing in a just war for similar reasons. We believe that capital punishment would be justified if, by having such an institution, fewer premature deaths would occur. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not entail that killing is always wrong. Nevertheless, the FLO account explains both why killing is one of the worst of crimes and, as a corollary, why the exceptions to the wrongness of killing are so very rare. A correct theory of the wrongness of killing should have these features.
The Appeal to Cases Argument
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing is correct because it yields the correct answers in many life-any-death cases that arise in medicine and have interested philosophers.
Consider medicine first. Most people believe that it is not wrong deliberately to end the life of a person who is permanently unconscious. Thus we believe that it is not wrong to remove a feeding tube or a ventilator from a permanently comatose patient, knowing that such a removal will cause death. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing explains why this is so. A patient who is permanently unconscious cannot have a future that she would come to value, whatever her values. Therefore, according to the FLO theory of the wrongness of killing, death could not, ceteris paribus, be a misfortune to her. Therefore, removing the feeding tube or ventilator does not wrong her.
By contrast, almost all people believe that it is wrong, ceteris paribus, to withdraw medical treatment from patients who are temporarily unconscious. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing also explains why this is so. Furthermore, these two unconsciousness cases explain why the FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not include present consciousness as a necessary condition for the wrongness of killing.
Consider now the issue of the morality of legalizing active euthanasia. Proponents of active euthanasia argue that if a patient faces a future of intractable pain and wants to die, then, ceteris paribus, it would not be wrong for a physician to give him medicine that she knows would result in his death. This view is so universally accepted that even the strongest opponents of active euthanasia hold it. The official Vatican view (Sacred Congregation, 1980) is that it is permissible for a physician to administer to a patient morphine sufficient (although no more than sufficient) to control his pain even if she foresees that the morphine will result in his death. Notice how nicely the FLO account of the wrongness of killing explains this unanimity of opinion. A patient known to be in severe intractable pain is presumed to have a future without positive value. Accordingly, death would not be a misfortune for him and an action that would (foreseeably) end his life would not be wrong.
Contrast this with the standard emergency medical treatment of the suicidal. Even though the suicidal have indicated that they want to die, medical personneI will act to save their lives. This supports the view that it is not the mere desire to enjoy an FLO which is crucial to our understanding of the wrongness of killing. Having an FLO is what is crucial to the account, although one would, of course, want to make an exception in the case of fully autonomous people who refuse life-saving medical treatment. Opponents of abortion can, of course, be willing to make an exception for fully autonomous fetuses who refuse life support.
The FLO theory of the wrongness of killing also deals correctly with issues that have concerned philosophers. It implies that it would be wrong to kill (peaceful) persons from outer space who come to visit our planet even though they are biologically utterly unlike us. Presumably, if they are persons, then they will have futures that are sufficiently like ours so that it would be wrong to kill them. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing shares this feature with the personhood views of the supporters of choice. Classical opponents of abortion who locate the wrongness of abortion somehow in the biological humanity of a fetus cannot explain this.
The FLO account does not entail that there is another species of animals whose members ought not to be killed. Neither does it entail that it is permissible to kill any non-human animal. On the one hand, a supporter of animals' rights might argue that since some non-human animals have a future of value, it is wrong to kill them also, or at least it is wrong to kill them without a far better reason than we usually have for killing non-human animals. On the other hand, one might argue that the futures of non-human animals are not sufficiently like ours for the FLO account to entail that it is wrong to kill them. Since the FLO account does not specify which properties a future of another individual must possess so that killing that individual is wrong, the FLO account is indeterminate with respect to this issue. The fact that the FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not give a determinate answer to this question is not a flaw in the theory. A sound ethical account should yield the right answers in the obvious cases; it should not be required to resolve every disputed question.
A major respect in which the FLO account is superior to accounts that appeal to the concept of person is the explanation the FLO account provides of the wrongness of killing infants. There was a class of infants who had futures that included a class of events that were identical to the futures of the readers of this essay. Thus, reader, the FLO account explains why it was as wrong to kill you when you were an infant as it is to kill you now. This account can be generalized to almost all infants. Notice that the wrongness of killing infants can be explained in the absence of an account of what makes the future of an individual sufficiently valuable so that it is wrong to kill that individual. The absence of such an account explains why the FLO account is indeterminate with respect to the wrongness of killing nonhuman animals.
If the FLO account is the correct theory of the wrongness of killing, then because abortion involves killing fetuses and fetuses have FLOs for exactly the same reasons that infants have FLOs, abortion is presumptively seriously immoral. This inference lays the necessary groundwork for a fourth argument
in favor of the FLO account that shows that abortion IS wrong.
The Analogy with Animals Argument
Why do we believe it is wrong to cause animals suffering? We believe that, in our own case and in the case of other adults and children, suffering is a misfortune. It would be as morally arbitrary to refuse to acknowledge that animal suffering is wrong as it would be to refuse to acknowledge that the suffering of persons of another race is wrong. It is, on reflection, suffering that is a misfortune, not the suffering of white males or the suffering of humans. Therefore, infliction of suffering is presumptively wrong no matter on whom it is inflicted and whether it is inflicted on persons or nonpersons. Arbitrary restrictions on the wrongness of suffering count as racism or speciesism. Not only is this argument convincing on its own, but it is the only way of justifying the wrongness of animal cruelty. Cruelty toward animals is clearly wrong. (This famous argument is due to Singer, 1979.)
The FLO account of the wrongness of abortion is analogous. We believe that, in our own case and the cases of other adults and children, the loss of a future of value is a misfortune. It would be as morally arbitrary to refuse to acknowledge that the loss of a future of value to a fetus is wrong as to refuse to acknowledge that the loss of a future of value to Jews (to take a relevant twentieth-century example) is wrong. It is, on reflection, the loss of a future of value that is a misfortune; not the loss of a future of value to adults or Joss of a future of value to nonJews. To deprive someone of a future of value is wrong no matter on whom the deprivation is inflicted and no matter whether the deprivation is inflicted on persons or nonpersons. Arbitrary restrictions on the wrongness of this deprivation count as racism, genocide or ageism. Therefore, abortion is wrong. This argument that abortion is wrong should be convincing because it has the same form as the argument for the claim that causing pain and suffering to non-human animals is wrong. Since the latter argument is convincing, the former argument should be also. Thus, an analogy with animals supports the thesis that abortion is wrong.
REPLIES TO OBJECTIONS
The four arguments in the previous section establish that abortion is, except in rare cases, seriously immoral. Not surprisingly, there are objections to this view. There are replies to the four most important objections to the FLO argument for the immorality of abortion.
The Potentiality Objection
The FLO account of the wrongness of abortion is a potentiality argument. To claim that a fetus has an FLO is to claim that a fetus now has the potential to be in a state of a certain kind in the future. It is not to claim that all ordinary fetuses will have FLOs. Fetuses who are aborted, of course, will not. To say that a standard fetus has an FLO is to say that a standard fetus either will have or would have a life it will or would value. To say that a standard fetus would have a life it would value is to say that it will have a life it will value if it does not die prematurely. The truth of this conditional is based upon the nature of fetuses (including the fact that they naturally age) and this nature concerns their potential.
Some appeals to potentiality in the abortion debate rest on unsound inferences. For example, one may try to generate an argument against abortion by arguing that because persons have the right to life, potential persons also have the right to life. Such an argument is plainly invalid as it stands. The premise one needs to add to make it valid would have to be something like: "If Xs have the right to Y, then potential Xs have the right to Y." This premise is plainly false. Potential presidents don't have the rights of the presidency; potential voters don't have the right to vote.
In the FLO argument potentiality is not used in order to bridge the gap between adults and fetuses as is done in the argument in the above paragraph. The FLO theory of the wrongness of killing adults is
based upon the adult's potentiality to have a future of value. Potentiality is in the argument from the very beginning. Thus, the plainly false premise is not required. Accordingly, the use of potentiality in the FLO theory is not a sign of an illegitimate inference.
The Argument from Interests
A second objection to the FLO account of the immorality of abortion involves arguing that even though fetuses have FLOs, non sentient fetuses do not meet the minimum conditions for having any moral standing at all because they lack interests. Steinbock (1992, p. 5) has presented this argument clearly:
Beings that have moral status must be capable of caring about what is done to them. They must be capable of being made, if only in a rudimentary sense, happy or miserable, comfortable or distressed. Whatever reasons we may have for preserving or protecting non sentient beings, these reasons do not refer to their own interests. For without conscious awareness, beings cannot have interests. Without interests, they cannot have a welfare of their own. Without a welfare of their own, nothing can be done for their sake. Hence, they lack moral standing or status.
Medical researchers have argued that fetuses do not become sentient until after 22 weeks of gestation (Steinbock, 1992, p. 50). If they are correct, and if Steinbock's argument is sound, then we have both an objection to the FLO account of the wrongness of abortion and a basis for a view on abortion minimally acceptable to most supporters of choice.
Steinbock's conclusion conflicts with our settled moral beliefs. Temporarily unconscious human beings are nonsentient, yet no one believes that they lack either interests or moral standing. Accordingly, neither conscious awareness nor the capacity for conscious awareness is a necessary condition for having interests.
The counter-example of the temporarily unconscious human being shows that there is something internally wrong with Steinbock's argument. The difficulty stems from an ambiguity. One cannot take an interest in something without being capable of caring about what is done to it. However, something can be in someone's interest without that individual being capable of caring about it, or about anything. Thus, life support can be in the interests of a temporarily unconscious patient even though the temporarily unconscious patient is incapable of taking an interest in that life support. If this can be so for the temporarily unconscious patient, then it is hard to see why it cannot be so for the temporarily unconscious (that is, non sentient) fetus who requires placental life support. Thus the objection based on interests fails.
The Problem of Equality
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing seems to imply that the degree of wrongness associated with each killing varies inversely with the victim's age. Thus, the FLO account of the wrongness of killing seems to suggest that it is far worse to kill a five-yearold than an 89-year-old because the former is deprived of far more than the latter. However, we believe that all persons have an equal right to life. Thus, it appears that the FLO account of the wrongness of killing entails an obviously false view (Paske, 1994).
However, the FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not, strictly speaking, imply that it is worse to kill younger people than older people. The FLO account provides an explanation of the wrongness of killing that is sufficient to account for the serious presumptive wrongness of killing. It does not follow that killings cannot be wrong in other ways. For example, one might hold, as does Feldman (1992, p. 184), that in addition to the wrongness of killing that has its basis in the future life of which the victim is deprived, killing an individual is also made wrong by the admirability of an individual's past behavior. Now the amount of admirability will presumably vary directly with age, whereas the amount of deprivation will vary inversely with age. This tends to equalize the wrongness of murder.
However, even if, ceteris paribus , it is worse to kill younger persons than older persons, there are
good reasons for adopting a doctrine of the equality of murder. Suppose that we tried to estimate the seriousness of a crime of murder by appraising the value of the FLO of which the victim had been deprived. How would one go about doing this? In they first place, one would be confronted by the old problem of interpersonal comparisons of utility. Second place, estimation of the value of a would involve putting oneself, not into the shoes of the victim at the time she was killed, but rather into the shoes the victim would have worn had the victim survived, and then estimating from that perspective the worth of that person's future. This task difficult, if not impossible. Accordingly, there are reasons to adopt a convention that murders equally wrong.
Furthermore, the FLO theory, in a way, explains why we do adopt the doctrine of the legal equity of murder. The FLO theory explains why we murder as one of the worst of crimes, since depriving someone of a future like ours deprives more than depriving her of anything else. This gives us a reason for making the punishment for younger victims very harsh, as harsh as is compatible with civiliazed society. One should not make the punishment younger victims harsher than that. Thus, the doctrine of the equal legal right to life does not seem incompatible with the FLO theory.
The Contraception Objection
The strongest objection to the FLO argument immorality of abortion is based on the claim that, because contraception results in one less FLO, the FLO argument entails that contraception, indeed, abstention from sex when conception is possible, is immoral. Because neither contraception nor abstention from sex when conception is possible is immoral, the FLO account is flawed.
There is a cogent reply to this objection. If argument of the early part of this essay is correct, then the central issue concerning the morality of abortion is the problem of whether fetuses are individuals who are members of the class of individuals whom it is seriously presumptively wrong to kill. The properties of being human and alive, of being a person, and of having an FLO are criteria that participants in the abortion debate have offered to mark off the relevant class of individuals. The central claim of this essay is that having an FLO marks off the relevant class of individuals. A defender of the FLO view could, therefore, reply that since, at the time of contraception, there is no individual to have an FLO, the FLO account does not entail that contraception is wrong. The wrong of killing is primarily a wrong to the individual who is killed; at the time of contraception there is no individual to be wronged.
However, someone who presses the contraception objection might have an answer to this reply. She might say that the sperm and egg are the individuals deprived of an FLO at the time of contraception. Thus, there are individuals whom contraception deprives of an FLO and if depriving an individual of an FLO is what makes killing wrong, then the FLO theory entails that contraception is wrong.
There is also a reply to this move. In the case of abortion, an objectively determinate individual is the subject of harm caused by the loss of an FLO. This individual is a fetus. In the case of contraception, there are far more candidates (see Norcross, 1990). Let us consider some possible candidates in order of the increasing number of individuals harmed: (1) The single harmed individual might be the combination of the particular sperm and the particular egg that would have united to form a zygote if contraception had not been used. (2) The two harmed individuals might be the particular sperm itself, and, in addition, the ovum itself that would have physically combined to form the zygote. (This is modeled on the double homicide of two persons who would otherwise in a short time fuse. (1) is modeled on harm to a single entity some of whose parts are not physically contiguous, such as a university. (3) The many harmed individuals might be the millions of combinations of sperm and the released ovum whose (small) chances of having an FLO were reduced by the successful contraception. (4) The even larger class of harmed individuals (larger by one) might be the class consisting of all of the individual sperm in an ejaculate and, in addition, the individual ovum released at the time of the successful contraception. (1) through (4) are all candidates for being the subject(s) of harm in the case of successful contraception or abstinence from sex. Which should be chosen? Should we hold a lottery? There seems to be no non-arbitrarily determinate subject of harm in the case of successful contraception. But if there is no such subject of harm, then no determinate thing was harmed. If no determinate thing was harmed, then (in the case of contraception) no wrong has been done. Thus, the FLO account of the wrongness of abortion does not entail that contraception is wrong.
This essay contains an argument for the view that, except in unusual circumstances, abortion is seriously wrong. Deprivation of an FLO explains why killing adults and children is wrong. Abortion deprives fetuses of FLOs. Therefore, abortion is wrong. This argument is based on an account of the wrongness of killing that is a result of our considered judgment of the nature of the misfortune of premature death. It accounts for why we regard killing as one of the worst of crimes. It is superior to alternative accounts of the wrongness of killing that are intended to provide insight into the ethics of abortion. This account of the wrongness of killing is supported by the way it handles cases in which our moral judgments are settled. This account has an analogue in the most plausible account of the wrongness of causing animals to suffer. This account makes no appeal to religion. Therefore, the FLO account shows that abortion, except in rare instances, is seriously wrong.
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Feldman, F., Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
Kant, I., Lectures on Ethics, trans. L. Infeld ( New York: Harper, 1963).
Marquis, D. B., "A Future like Ours and the Concept of Person: a Reply to Mcinerney and Paske," The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, ed. L. P. Pojman and F. J. Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994), pp. 354-68.
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McInerney, P., "Does a Fetus Already Have a Future like Ours?," Journal of Philosophy 87 (1990): 264-8.
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Paske, G., "Abortion and the Neo-natal Right to Life: a Critique of Marquis's Futurist Argument," The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, ed. L. P. Pojman and F. J. Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994), pp. 343-53.
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Steinbock, B., Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
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Tooley, M., "Abortion and Infanticide," Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (1972): 37-65.
Warren, M. A., "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion," Monist 57 (1973): 43-61.
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The Pro-Choice Argument
There are those who hold that contraception unfairly manipulates the workings of nature, and others who cannot see the fetus as a child until the umbilical cord is cut. Invoking an almost religious fervor on both sides of the issue, abortion is one of the most emotionally potent present political controversies. Motherhood is a powerful institution in American life, and both the "Pro-choice" (supporting a woman's right to choose) and the "Pro-life" (anti-abortion) forces see the other as attacking the foundations of the mother-infant bond.
Social analysis argues forcibly for the need for safe, legal and affordable abortions. Approximately 1 million women had abortions annually until the 1973 decision legalizing abortion, and abortion had become the leading cause of maternal death and mutilation (40 deaths/100,000 abortions compared to 40 deaths/100,000 live births according to National Abortion Rights Action league.) An estimated 9000 rape victims become pregnant each year (FBI 1973); 100,000 cases of incest occur yearly (National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect, 1978). Two-thirds of teenage pregnancies are not planned, because many do not have adequate access to contraceptives (NARAL). And the taxpayer price of supporting a child on welfare is far greater than that of a Medicaid abortion. But the issue that provokes such anger surrounds the fetus's right to life--its status as a potential human being. Anti-abortionist proponents usually take the position that conception is life and therefore abortion is murder and violates the rights of the unborn, or that there is an inherent value in life and abortion is murder because it destroys that value.
The Supreme Court decided in 1973 that the unborn fetus had no constitutional rights until the third trimester (24-28 weeks), as it is incapable of functioning independently from the mother until that time. Right-to-Lifers claim that because the fetus will develop into a human being, it demands the same paternalistic protection that is extended to animals, children and others subject to exploitation and maltreatment. The fetus must be accorded the same constitutional rights as its mother.
Two arguments delineate the problems in giving the fetus these equivalent rights. The first looks at individual rights as the products of a social doctrine. Animals and children are unavoidably present within a society, and to ensure that they remain functioning members of that society they must be protected from exploitation by other societal members. Different political platforms advocate different rights--the right to free medical care, the right to minimal taxation--but all demarcate the interaction of the individual within the group. A person's rights protect him from future harassment, but to actually obtain those rights he must already be a member of the group providing him with those protections. An Australian cannot lay claim to American rights until he is on American soil (or its equivalent). He may have a guarantee that should he enter the United States, he will be accorded many of those protections. But the guarantee depends on his entrance onto American territory. In analogous fashion, until the fetus is actually, not potentially, a member of society, it does not have constitutional rights.
One could object that the fetus in the womb is as signally present in society as the child in the crib, that each are equally members of society. Yet surely the conception of "member" involves some minimal interaction. The fetus reacts to society of the outside world solely through the medium of the mother. Strictly speaking, then, society has no legal responsibility to the fetus, but rather to the mother.
This seems like a rather harsh position, but we can distinguish between the rights of the fetus and the action that a mother might feel morally compelled to take. Consider the following situation: suppose you were to return home one day and find a stranger camped out in your living room and peacefully eating the ham sandwich you saved for dinner. You would be tempted to throw him out in the street. Almost everyone could agree that you had the right to eject him.
But suppose he told you that he could not live outside of your house; perhaps one of his enemies waits outside your door. Moreover, he informs you that he needs food and clothing and someone to talk to--he needs your presence much of the day. He becomes more demanding: you must work less, earn less, give up jogging.
Introduce a complication: your food is strictly rationed, or perhaps your heating, on subsistence level for a single person. If the stranger stays with you, your life will be seriously endangered. You might be very upset, but if it came down to the wire you would probably kick him out of the house. Again, most people would agree you were within your rights to do so.
The difficulty of course arises when it would be possible for you to support him and take care of him, but you would rather not. You might agree if the demand were only for an evening, but hesitate if it were for the rest of your life. Do rights then depend upon the time factor? You could claim a certain moral responsibility towards another human being. But it is hard to say that he has the right to force you to support him. You are not legally required to help an old lady across the street.
One counterargument declares that willing intercourse implies acceptance of a possible pregnancy--that in effect you invited the stranger in, that you knew what you were in for and that he now has the right to demand your help. But faulty contraception is like a broken window. When you return to your suite and find your stereo missing, do you accede the thief's right to take it because your window is easily pried open? The abortion issue thus forces a clarification of the nature of the individual and his social rights. Although we may feel morally constrained to protect the future child, the fetus does not have the right to force us to do so. In the traditional dichotomy of church and state, to restrict abortion is to legislate morality.
The staunchest opposition comes from those who hold absolutely that conception is life. But belief in the inherent value of life is not a trite axiom: it avows some faith in the quality of existence beyond the moral injunction "Thou shalt not kill." It becomes easy to see as hypocritical those anti-abortionists--particularly men--who condone extra-marital intercourse (or even intramarital intercourse) yet would refuse to financially and emotionally support the child conceived because of faulty contraception. The only morally consistent value-of-life position is to have intercourse only if one is willing to accept a child as a possible consequence, and participate in the quality of the child's life. This in part lies behind the Catholic prohibition of premarital sex.
As a personal doctrine few would reproach those who follow it. But pragmatics belie its application to all society, rape being the prime instance where the woman is not free to choose to become pregnant. The restriction of federal support to cases of rape, incest and probable death of the mother suggests an interesting quality-of-life argument: that potentiality is not absolute but must be prorated. Due to society's dread of incest, such a mother and her child would be spared a psychologically unbearable life. In case of danger to the mother's life we do not hear that the 'child' has potentially far more years of happy, productive life than the mother. Rather, the argument runs that the mother's life should not be sacrificed for the child who would bear such a tremendous burden.
Yet an unwanted child may be born into a household with an equally heavy psychological toll. If the potentiality of life thesis rests on an understanding of the inner qualities of life, then abortion is a necessity rather than a crime. Those who deny the right to an abortion under any circumstances fail to see that their argument undercuts itself. Abortion provides a unique understanding of the "inherent good" of existence. It is morally irresponsible to believe that a pregnancy must be brought to term even in case of the mother's death simply because it is a matter of nature and out of our hands when we have the medical means to save the mother. The case involves a comparison of the life-value of the mother and the child: the final decision must evaluate the process of existence--the value of life as it is lived. The inherent value of life cannot be an a priori constant if a choice is to be made between two lives.
Once the quality of life-as-it-is-lived is introduced into the argument, we can say that abortion provides the possibility of improving that quality. Motherhood is a remarkably special bond between mother and child, perhaps the most important relationship we ever have. It requires tremendous emotional capacities, and raising children should be one of the most conscious decisions we make. Many of those who have abortions when young have children later in life, when they are more emotionally and financially equipped to handle them. Contraception is at most 99 per cent safe, and abortion must be available to allow women the freedom to provide the optimum conditions for their child's growth.
According to a 1978 Clark University study, 83 per cent of Massachusetts supports the woman's right to choose. But the trend of recent legislation is distinctly anti-abortion, the result of an extremely well-organized and funded "Pro-life" movement (which some link to the New Right). On the federal level, the 1976-7 Hyde Amendment, a rider on the Labor-HEW appropriations bill, cut off federally funded abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and "medically necessary" instances, defined by the Supreme Court as long-lasting physical or psychological damage to the mother's health.
In 1977 this clause cut 99 per cent of all reimbursements (250,000-300,000 annually prior to the cut-off); this year "medically necessary" has been replaced by probable death of the mother. Military women are similarly restricted under the Dornan Amendment; the Young Amendment funds no abortions at all for Peace Corps women. Employers may refuse to include abortion coverage in their company health plan under the Beard Amendment. Fifteen states have called for a constitutional convention to introduce the prohibition of all abortions: 19 more would fulfill the requisite number of 34.
In Massachusetts the Doyle Bill would cut off state funds in the same manner as the Hyde Amendment. Formerly an adjunct to the budget it was passed and signed as a bill this year. Appealed by MORAL (the Massachusetts Organization for the Repeal of Abortion Laws), the bill is under injunction and pending review by the Federal District Court on the basis of a Supreme Court decision that all medically necessary services must be available to the poor. As of last May, hospitals are no longer required to perform abortions upon demand except in case of probable death to the mother. Legislation restricting abortions to hospitals with full obstetrical care (rather than women's health clinics), now before the Massachusetts House, could place the woman in a double bind. Also under Massachusetts debate is an "Informed Consent" bill which essentially amounts to harrassment: the bill requires spouse and parental notification, with consent of parents or courts for minors, full information concerning the viability and appearance of the fetus, description of the aborting technique, anad a 24-hour waiting period after the 'information session' before the abortion could be obtained.
There is a real danger that anti-abortion legislation could become increasingly more restrictive. It already discriminates against women in lower economic brackets. The power of the pro-life people should not be underestimated: they have targeted 12 Congressmen for defeat in 1980, among them Morris Udall and Birch Bayh. We need to inform our politicians of their pro-choice constituency and reverse the further tightening of the over-restrictive and discriminatory legislation.
Tanya Luhrmann '80-3 is working for Abortion Rights Action Week.
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Pro Choice (abortion) - Essay Examples And Topic Ideas For Free
An essay on the pro-choice stance in the abortion debate can analyze the arguments and principles supporting a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy. It can discuss reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, and the ethical considerations surrounding abortion, addressing the complexities of this divisive issue. We have collected a large number of free essay examples about Pro Choice (Abortion) you can find at Papersowl. You can use our samples for inspiration to write your own essay, research paper, or just to explore a new topic for yourself.
A Look at the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Arguments Regarding Abortion
Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy after conception, and can be intentional or unintentional. It involves killing the undeveloped embryo or fetus. Abortion is one of the most complex subjects of our time; and can provoke very strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Abortion is an issue that you really have to think about and know what you are talking about before you speak on the issue. Those people who are against abortion will call it murder […]
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Recently, I heard a subtly profound statement from a friend who said, "Everything wants to live. It does not want to die," (Flory). This sentiment, probably unnoticed by the one who voiced it, nonetheless caught my attention. It sparked something inside that was obviously there but needed an awakening. I will be writing my paper based on your article, "You Are A Good Woman." Your article defends women's decisions for abortion and attempts to back up mothers' stances on the […]
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The controversial issue about whether the ‘pro-life’ or the ‘pro-choice’ ideology should prevail is ongoing. Moreover, the dilemma about abortion rights is not easy to resolve because it involves the lives of millions, both alive and unborn. The United States is one of the many countries that restrict abortions, depending on what led to the pregnancy.
Typically, the pro-life approach defends the woman’s right to give birth or not. However, others reckon this act is cruel and doesn’t value human life. According to this ideology, abortion should not be legal. Conversely, supporters of the Pro-Choice movement believe that abortion should be the mother’s will and accessible to all. The general opinion is that women should be able to choose what happens to their bodies.
In reality, the issue of reproductive rights is more complex. For instance, an abortion can be the only way out in certain circumstances, such as rape, incest, or threat. However, the procedures for removing fertilized eggs should be safe and rare. The debate goes further because there is no consensus on when life begins.
To draw attention to the subject, students often have to write a research paper or draft a speech outline regarding abortion. Essay titles include arguments for and against abortion, emotional and social support for women who chose not to reproduce, and the impact on the body. You can also elaborate on the freedom of choice, cost-effective and reliable contraception forms, and the religious component of the topic.
Framing the ideal title and text that gives value and promotes the issue requires sharp critical thinking and writing skills. Crafting an essay conclusion on Pro-Choice and introduction that hooks the readers’ attention is also challenging. So, what can you do to ease the burden of your chest?
Since the subject is multi-faceted, it’s advisable to read a few free argumentative essays on abortion Pro-Choice. If you don’t know where to look, PapersOwl is the ideal place to find high-quality papers with thesis statement examples and conclusions. You can also order a custom-made essay by specifying the details of the assignment.
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Pros and Cons of Abortion to the Society Argumentative Essay
Introduction, pros of abortion, cons of abortion, relationship between abortion and the course on religion, works cited.
If you’re studying the pros and cons of abortion, the essay below will be a great place to start your research.
For a very long time now, the right to abortion has been one of the most controversial topics on the planet, pitying two major sides. On one side, pro-lifers insist that it is immoral and amounts to murdering an innocent child, while pro-abortionists argue that it is just a form of birth control. The latter claim that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it as all children should be born when they are wanted.
The numerous legislations, policies by governments and even hard-line stands by some organizations like the church have made this subject more controversial instead of offering solutions. At one point, one may argue that there would never be a consensus on abortion’s pros and cons in any essay or discussion.
This debate is likely to go on for several years unless the sturdy stands taken by both pro-lifers and pro-abortionists are softened. People have to find ways of accommodating the views of each other regarding the subject. The author will evaluate the issues surrounding the abortion debate. Analyzing the pros and examining the cons of abortion, the essay will seek to find solutions to the conflicting ideas.
There are several arguments that one forward in support of abortion. First of all, any birth of a child should occur when the parents want and not by chance (Potts et al. 229). This way it would go a long way in assisting the world to have an environment where all children that are born in this world have an environment conducive for proper development.
There is no need for inflating the world with many children who cannot have access to basic needs like adequate clothing, food, shelter, and education. It should also be noted that when a person decides to carry out an abortion it is not out of her dislike for children but because she feels that it would not be a wise decision to proceed with the pregnancy as it is still not yet the right time to have a baby (Potts et al. 229).
In the case of rape or incest, keeping a pregnancy is very traumatizing to the person raped as no one would wish to keep a child that is a result of this, and the best solution to this problem would be to abort the unborn child.
For the case of rape, the emotional effects of the occurrence are too traumatizing and take time to heal, and some rape victims do not recover at all. Adding a child to the rape victim is like adding more salt to a wound and would be a constant reminder that is likely to add more emotional trauma to the victim (Khoster 35).
Many studies on the morality or immoralities of abortion have found that some of those against the morality of abortion tend to agree that it is acceptable to abort a pregnancy that is a result of rape.
For instance, the gulp poll carried out in Canada found only 13% of the respondents were against the practice completely while interestingly a whopping 65% were of the view that it is acceptable to abort an unwanted pregnancy in certain conditions like if it is a result of rape (Flanagan 130).
There has also been an unending debate on the exact time that a fetus acquires life and becomes a person with rights and ability to have feelings (Sather 159). Sather further argues that before the 24 th – 28 th week, the fetus has not yet acquired human features and it does not amount to murder if you perform an abortion before this time.
Pro-lifers led by the Catholic Church insist that life begins at conception and anyone who is found guilty of having performed an abortion could be excommunicated from the church because of committing murder (Kohmescher 137). That is not all several studies when life stars in the case of an unborn child have resulted in conflicting dates.
The impending standoff as to, when a person can and cannot have an abortion, have left it possible for anyone to conduct an abortion. It is not clear as to when life begins, and as so long as a woman feels that she cannot have a baby, she has the freedom to do it since it is not yet clear when the life of a person begins.
Sometimes complications can occur to a pregnancy that may put the life of the mother or unborn child in danger and even at times all of them. In this case, abortion ought to be permitted to save the physical health of the mother although some of those advocating for abortion have often argued that the mental health of the mother ought to be included when talking about health (white & Baldwin 113).
At this point, the life of the mother is given first consideration as the fetus cannot survive without the mother, and in any case, the chances are that the mother can always get other children if she wants, but there is no way a fetus can survive on its leave alone getting other parents which is impossible.
Several disadvantages of abortion are argued out by pro-lifers. Most of the books on the subject are mostly in support of the drawbacks of abortion as compared to the advantages. According to Koster abortion is only a temporary and irrational decision that make women feel that they have gotten some relief to an unwanted child against chances of permanent loss of infertility (Koster 304).
She further argues that although removing an unwanted pregnancy may somehow offer relief to the woman the possibility of becoming infertile especially if an unqualified person performed the operation is very significant and once you lose your fertility there is zero chance that you will regain it.
Even when performed by a qualified medical doctor there is a chance that complications may arise like in some medical procedures and if this happens, you could definitely lose your fertility. In fact, interviews conducted on women who had complications when performing an abortion revealed that a majority of them had lost the ability to conceive or hard a miscarriage (Koster 304)
The relief that one feels after procuring an abortion is usually short-lived, and it dies after some time leading to a permanent feeling of guilt and sadness. In fact, in most of the times, this feeling of relief is just a deliberate attempt by the psychology of a person to delete the sense of guilt and shame that creeps in immediately one procures an abortion (Holman 321).
Holman further adds that although most of the legislation and policies concerning abortion allow the practice in the case of schoolgirls the idea that you once killed part of you is not likely to go away and will haunt you forever.
A lot of pro-lifers would equate abortion to murder, and it is therefore morally wrong and should be outlawed. Genovesi defines murder as an intentional act of taking away the life of a human being (Genovesi 340). Fro this he further adds that since the fetus of a person has life, then taking it away will amount to killing it, which is the same as murder.
Of course from this reason arguments are bound to arise as to when the life of a person actually begins. To all Christians led by the Catholic Church, it is completely unacceptable to allow a person to take away another person’s life for whichever reason and at whatever stage in life as it is still murder.
The late Pope John Paul is on record as having condemned the practice and even stating that it would threaten the freedom and dignity of humankind as it promotes a culture of accepting death as a normal thing (Zastrow & Kirst 82)
Procuring an abortion is not the only solution in the event of unwanted pregnancy as the child could also be put to adoption. It is estimated that in all married couples in the United States alone, between 10% -15% of them do not have the ability to have children (Grunlan 217).
This figure is so high that more and more Americans are turning to other countries overseas in order to get children of their own and as Grunlan further adds; this figure has been increasing in the recent years as more mothers turn to abortion as a way of controlling birth.
Furthermore, as Zastrow & Kirst add, in this age where there are so many available contraceptive methods; there should be very minimal unwanted pregnancies that warrant the need to abort a baby who has already been conceived (Zastrow & Kirst 82).
The main concern in the abortion controversy is whether it is morally and ethically right or wrong. Ethics and morality are significantly discussed in unit one of the course.
In unit one, the main issue discussed is how to know what is right and what is wrong. As argued by Aristotle in part of the course, to become ethical he should first reason well and have good character, and total happiness can only be achieved if people are noble.
The abortion debate centers on ethics in that while those who are for abortion argue that it offers a solution to lots of problems that could be brought about by having unwanted children, those against it argue that this relief is only temporary.
Unit three of the course is mainly on how to live a good life as Christians. In this essential part, the unit deals on acceptable Christian virtues and values. One such virtue is having unconditional love towards others. On abortion, it is argued that when one performs an abortion automatically, she does not have love for that child regardless of the conditions.
Moreover, all Christians should preserve human life and have respect for Gods creations, and failure to do so is a sin. People are also supposed to think critically of their actions and be held accountable to these actions, and, as discussed in the unit, they should avoid searching for quick-fix solutions to problems facing them.
The Catholic Church has been the most vocal in speaking against abortion for a long time, and as it stands, there is no chance that this sturdy stand will be reverted. In the book Catholic morality and human sexuality, the author argues that immediately after fertilization, the resulting zygote has human features and should be respected as a human being. Removing it from the uterus amounts to murder (Genovesi 344).
Furthermore, if you reject human life at any point, it is like rejecting God as humans are created in the image of God (Ferrara & Ireland 20). Accepting abortion has been argued by the church as accepting a culture of death and living without Jesus Christ as it amounts t killing an innocent creature of God who has not yet performed any sin.
Even in cases of rape or incest, the church does not permit abortion (Kohmescher 138). In this case, a woman may seek treatment immediately after the incident but not abortion weeks after the incident, and even if the pregnancy is a threat to human life, there should be an attempt to save both lives human lives are sacred and equal before God an none is unique to the other.
As it stands today, it seems the debate on abortion will not come to an end soon. The stands taken by both the pro-abortionists and anti-abortionists are so rigid, and there have not been any attempts to build a consensus.
For instance, the church will certainly not relent on its claim that abortion is murder and therefore a capital sin while pro-abortionists argue that having a child should be a choice. The conflicting policies by different governments regarding the issue have added more controversy to this subject instead of offering guidelines.
There should be efforts to provide a clear policy on this issue that would be acceptable in the whole world through an international body like the United Nations. Apart from that the church and other organizations that are anti-abortion ought to soften their stand in some incidences like rape which are too traumatizing.
Ferrara, Jennifer & Ireland, Patricia. The catholic mystique: fourteen women find fulfillment in the Catholic Church. Huntington: Sunday visitor publishing, 2004. Print.
Flanagan, Thomas . Game theory and Canadian politics . Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998. Print.
Genovesi, Vincent. In pursuit of love: Catholic morality and human sexuality . Minnesota: Hutts Publishing, 2002. Print.
Grunlan, Stephen . Marriage and the family . Michigan: Zondervan. 1983. Print.
Holman, Thomas . The family in the new millennium . Westport: Praeger Publishers. 2007. Print liturgical press, 1996. Print.
Khoster, Winnie. Women and abortion in the Yoruba society, Nigeria . Amsterdam: Aksant academic publishers, 2003. Print.
Kohmescher, Matthew. Catholicism today: a survey of Catholic belief and practice the third edition. New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1999. Print.
Potts, Malcolm, Diggory Peter & Peel John . Abortion . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. Print.
Sather, Trevor . Pros and cons: a debaters handbook 18 th edition . London: Routledge, 1999. Print.
White, Stuart & Baldwin, Timothy . Legal and ethical aspects of anesthesia, critical care, and preoperative medicine. Cambridge: Cambridge university press, 2004. Print.
Zastrow, Charles & Kirst, Karen. Understanding human behavior and the social environment: 8 th edition. Belmont: Brookscole, 2007. Print.
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