Abortion is normally a topic of both philosophical and legal deliberation. The two opposing factions, pro-choice and pro-life both have justified arguments on their opinions. Individuals who are pro-life are of the opinion that life is precious and should be preserved no matter The pro-choice camp believe the individual carrying the baby ought to decide whether they want to carry it to term or not (Kaposy, 2010). Using the Schwartz model of value relation this paper discusses some of the critical questions on abortion.
Can a fetus enjoy the rights of a fully-fledged human being?
When it is widely accepted that human life is sacred, does the fetus qualify to be a person? If not would we give the same preference to a fetus as we would a human being
The assertion that the fetus is not a human being is ethically more complicated than it appears. Even though a fetus is not yet a human being, it has the possibility to become one. There are a variety of questions regarding this issue; for example, when does the fetus qualify to be a human being. Is it in the first, second, or third trimester? Is it when it can potentially live separate from the woman? Is it when its nervous system begins to work and it can sense pain? In the ruling of Roe V Wade abortion was permitted with distinctive guidelines that depends on the trimester. According to the ruling, the individual was free to choose during the first trimester whether to carry the fetus to term or not. In the second trimester, the administration could police but not forbid abortion if it was intended to protect the mother’s health, while in the third the government could disallow an abortion if the fetus could live outside the womb except in cases where the mother’s life or well-being is in danger (BBC News, 2020).
This decision by the Supreme Court to split the acceptability of abortion into trimesters implies that the moral status of the fetus increases as it develops. But who should be considered a human being? And how does being a person assure moral status? However, if fetuses are not yet human beings, can they qualify to have moral status? In some people’s view, a fetus that is not gestated doesn’t have a moral status but a fetus that is carried to term does have moral status. The problem in this thinking is that moral status is dependent on the future. Pro-life supporters argue that fetuses are human beings and killing a human being especially an innocent one is wrong. On the other hand, pro-choice states that the potential of a fetus to become a person does not warrant it being treated as a fully-fledged human being and therefore it cannot enjoy the same moral status as one. The critical question is if the two can derive their rationale without adhering to set social conventions.
Do the rights of fetuses supersede the right of a woman over her body?
Often, the discussion around the moral status of fetuses is applied to compare the rights of the fetus versus the rights of a woman to choose what transpires in her body. If we consider that fetuses as potential person, does their entitlement to continue gestating as a potential person supersede the woman’s right to her own body. Judith Jarvis Thompson gives an interesting take using the analogy of the violinist to show that the right of a person to their body can take precedence to another person’s right to live. The example involves a famous unconscious violinist who is about to die and needs urgent blood transfusion. The blood they need to survive can only come from a specific individual who is then kidnapped unwillingly and forced be connected to the violinist for nine months. Is it acceptable in this scenario to disconnect and let the violinist die? Thompson believes it is legitimate to separate from the violinist (Thomsen, 2015). A real example would be individuals who need a kidney donation to survive. Would it be permissible for the government to make it compulsory to donate our extra kidney? Now imagine in the case of the unconscious violinist that you had to connect to them for five minutes and they could live. Majority would have the perception that to disconnect would be ethically wrong. Abortion is similar to this scenario in some way. For some individuals bearing a child can be extremely challenging because of financial difficulties, psychological issues like in the case of rape, etc. The choice between one’s own body of the life of a fetus can have dissimilar ethical significance subject on the scenario.
Is legalizing abortion the remedy to unsafe abortions?
Even in cases where abortions are illegal, some do still take place. However, they are normally done unsafely due to the need for secrecy or to avoid prosecution. In most cases, the need for secrecy overcomes the need for safety. This results in women consulting people who don’t have any proper training or skills to conduct an abortion. When conducted by a trained professional abortions are generally safe. However, the loss of life or harm due to abortion argument only works if there is nothing essentially unethical with abortion. It would be morally incorrect to conclude that since people have been killed for a long time due to various reasons, then we should legalize murder but in a controlled way. This argument takes us back to the other two concerning the uncertainty of a fetus’s right to life. Anti-abortion argues that if it is uncertain whether a fetus has the right to life, having an abortion would equate to intentionally taking the life of an innocent person. Since it is not known for sure whether a fetus has the right to life it is reckless to take its life and treat it like it doesn’t have a right to life. Pro-choice on the other side argue that it then would be morally wrong to kill animals and plants since we are not certain whether they have a right to life or not.
Social scientists continue to search for evidence on how people base their preferences and choices with the liberal-conservative continuum explains some of the reasons why a subset of people evaluate different issues. Some arguments like the legalization of abortion are normally contentious and have been used to sway public opinion in accepting certain policies. For such cultural issues as abortion, homosexual rights, etc., beliefs in authority, conformity to acceptable public opinion, or even religion carry substantial weight.
BBC News. (2020, October 13). Roe v Wade: What is US Supreme Court ruling on abortion? https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54513499
Thomsen, C. (2015). The Politics of Narrative, Narrative as Politic: Rethinking Reproductive Justice Frameworks through the South Dakota Abortion Story. Feminist Formations, 27(2), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1353/ff.2015.0023
Kaposy, C. H. R. I. S. (2010). Two Stalemates In The Philosophical Debate About Abortion And Why They Cannot Be Resolved Using Analogical Arguments. Bioethics, 26(2), 84–92. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8519.2010.01815.x
Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1116