Essay Briefly Considering the Legal and Moral Arguments Advanced to Determine Whether Abortion is Wrong or Not

Essay Briefly Considering the Legal and Moral Arguments Advanced to Determine Whether Abortion is Wrong or Not

The term abortion evokes strong sentiments, opinions and controversy due to the nature of the act that it refers to. Potts et al (1977, p. 20) posit that abortion is an extraordinary subject where even the definition is confused, paradoxical and revealing of social attitudes. They go further to investigate various definitions of abortion to highlight the fact that different perspectives have been taken to the subject. Krieg (1999, p.5) offers a factual definition of abortion as the ultimate termination of pregnancy either by natural or artificial means. However, this definition ignores the debate on morality, legality and sentiment attached to the termination of a pregnancy through any other means than birth. It also ignores the element of deliberateness that is inherent in a mother choosing to end her pregnancy by terminating the foetus instead of letting it proceed with its natural life. The fact that abortion allows a mother to live while having chosen to terminate the life of her unborn child creates a dilemma that is not easily resolved. Lee and George (2005, p.13) argue that the act of abortion is objectively immoral for the reason that what is ended is a human life. However, they add that their focus is on the choice to procure an abortion and not necessarily the act or the motives. This essay shall adopt this premise to show that abortion is indeed wrong for the reason that regardless of the perception taken to it, there is an element of choice that ought to apply for all.

Abortion as a Legal and Moral Wrong
The question of whether abortion is wrong is one of legal as well as moral consideration. Legally, different jurisdictions have legislated on the issue with a view to either restricting it or outlawing it completely. For example, in the USA, abortion is legal under certain circumstances, such as within the early stages of pregnancy. The legal threshold was determined in the landmark case of Roe V. Wade (1972) and subsequent decisions which have held that the legality of abortion turns on the viability of the foetus. This means that if the foetus could survive on its own outside the mother’s womb, then a mother cannot legally abort. Other jurisdictions have also tried to draw the fine lines of distinction between legal and illegal abortion.

There are also moral concerns attending abortion. Krieg (1999, p.5) explains that the debate has raged on between pro-life groups that advocate for the protection of the foetus as a human life and pro-choice groups that advocate for women’s reproductive rights and their freedom to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term or not. McKinnon (2010, p. 98) explains that abortion is a moral issue because it touches on health, well-being and the value of human life. Thus, pro-life groups oppose abortion primarily on a moral basis arguing that it robs the foetus of a chance to grow, live and be valued by virtue of being human. By the same token, pro-choice groups argue that women should have the moral right to continued well-being, happiness and to enjoy their lives without having to bear the burden of an unwanted child. Tamney et al (1992, p. 38) carried out a study in which they discovered that religion was one of the greatest factors affecting attitudes towards abortion, whereby the consensus is that God is the only giver and taker of life, thus mothers should not kill their unborn children. Furthermore, Ebaugh (2006, p.10) explains that religious social movements have proscribed abortion and its attendant activities such as premarital sex, irresponsible behaviour and immorality as a means for the followers to avoid situations where they have to commit moral wrongs.

Therefore, it appears that abortion is a legally and morally questionable act. In order to rationalise it and support their respective positions, both pro-life and pro-choice groups have advanced their arguments. Roberts (2010, p.95) explains that proponents of legal abortion make a distinction between early and late abortions as a means to establishing whether it is wrong or not. In the former case, it is argued that the person was merely possible while in the latter scenario, there was already a person existing. This notion has been used by pro-choice groups to advocate for the legalization of early abortions while pro-life groups have continued to argue that all human life is valuable, whether it has been delivered into the world or not. Lee (2004, p.249) argues that there cannot be a realistic distinction between the time when a foetus comes into existence and when they become entitled to their own rights. He adds that the distinction established by the legal abortionists is highly arbitrary as it is primarily one of degrees of development. Callahan (2009, p.126) bolsters this argument arguing that despite being a feminist, she is of the view that the moral rights of a mother expand to include responsibility for the life growing in them, as it is also entitled to the same.

Therefore, it appears as if pro-life groups take an absolute stand advancing that abortion is both a moral and a legal wrong, despite its being legally permissible under certain conditions, while pro-choice groups try to draw legal and moral lines that are hard to define or agree upon. Scott (1989, p. 319) carries out a survey in which she determines that the moral beliefs of those who oppose abortion go toward strengthening their legal stance towards its being outlawed. Conversely, those who believe in a mother’s right to choice are more likely to favour legal abortion even where they harbour moral concerns. It is for this reason that an objective approach is advanced herein to support the argument that abortion is wrong. Boonin (2003, p.7) claims that abortion is morally permissible but that this should not mean that it cannot be criticized. It is my view that abortion is both morally impermissible and criticizable. Further, that it cannot be completely justified on legal grounds. Attempts to reconcile the prevailing moral and legal arguments simply add to the confusion and paradoxes. The objective approach proposed herein advances that each entity should have the opportunity to make their own choices, and for that they cannot be terminated before they can.

This essay has briefly considered the legal and moral arguments advanced to determine whether abortion is wrong. However, both these approaches pose continuing difficulties. In light of that and without leaning to either inclinations, the view adopted herein is that abortion is wrong for taking away the foetus’ opportunity to live and exercise their own freedom of choice.
Works cited

Boonin, David. A defense of abortion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Callahan, Sydney ‘Abortion and the sexual agenda’ in White, James, E. Contemporary social problems. 9th Ed. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning, 2009.
Ebaugh, Helen Rose. (ed) Handbook of religion and social institutions. New York: Springer Science+Business Media, 2006.
Krieg, Sabine. Abortion in the United States of America. Scholarly paper. Grin Verlag: Germany, 1999.
Lee, Patrick and Robert, George, P. ‘The wrong of abortion’, in Cohen, Andrew, I. and Wellman, Christopher, H. Contemporary debates in applied ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.
Lee, Patrick. “The pro-life argument from substantial identity: A defence” Bioethics. Vol. 18, Issue 3. June (2004): pp. 249-263.
McKinnon, Barbara. Ethics: theory and contemporary issues-concise edition. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning, 2010.
Potts, Malcom, Diggory, Peter and Peel, John. Abortion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
Roberts, Melinda. Abortion and the moral significance of merely possible persons: finding middle ground in hard cases. New York: Springer Science+Business Media, 2010.
Roe V. Wade 410 US 113 (1972)
Scott, Jacqueline. “Conflicting beliefs about abortion: legal approval and moral doubts” Social Psychology Quarterly. Vol. 52, Issue 4. December (1989): pp. 319-326.
Tamney, Joseph, Johnson, Stephen and Burton, Ronald. “The abortion controversy: conflicting beliefs and values in American society” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Vol. 31, No. 1. (1992): pp. 32-46.