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Abortion Essay, Research Paper


In order to discuss an important issue such as abortion, we must first understand what it means. Abortion is the expulsion of a human fetus within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, before it is viable. In other words, it is when a women has tissue removed from her uterus. Abortion is a very fragile issue to discuss because of the many conflicts involved with pro-abortion and anti-abortion. It has many negative and positive response from many people including philosophers. Thus, we will be discussing the arguments of utilitarian reasoning, of the article written by Judith Jarvis Thompson who is pro-abortion and by Sidney Callahan who is a prolife but also discusses prochoice. We will be analyzing each argument to understand their point of view on this controversial issue. Furthermore, I will indicate my own solution and voice my own opinion on abortion and also I will discuss what I do agree with and what I do disagree.

First , according to utilitarianism, we ought to decide which action or practice is best by considering the likely or actual consequences of each alternative. Hence for the utilitarian their arguments for abortion often cite the bad consequences that may result from a continued pregnancy such as loss of job, the suffering of the future child, the burden of caring for the child under particular circumstances, and so on. Some of their arguments against abortion also cite the loss of happiness (and that is the central theme in utilitarianism: happiness) and the future contribution of the being that is aborted. Act utilitarians believe that the persons making the abortion decision must consider the consequences of the alternative actions. In other words deciding to have the abortion or not. The kinds of consequences to consider are health risks and benefits, positive or negative mental or psychological consequences, and financial and social aspects of the alternative choices. Notice that the fetus is not an issue to the utilitarian if it is recognize as a person or not.It is the effects on the mother, child, and others that matter in the utilitarian thinking and not the moral status of the fetus or the ontological status at that stage of development. Moreover, notice that the utilitarian say that abortion sometimes would be permissible and sometimes not because it would depend on the consequences.

In the article A Defense of Abortion, Thompson agrees that the prospect for drawing a line in the development of the fetus looks dim. She s also inclined to agree that the fetus has already become a human person well before birth. Because by the 10th week, for example, it already has a face, arms and legs, fingers and toes, it has internal organs, and brain activity is detectable. Thompson grants that the fetus is a person. Thus the argument against abortion is that every person has a right to life. However, she uses the example of the violinist to shed another light about the issue of right to life. Thompson says to imagine that one morning to wake up and find ourselves attached through various tubings to a famous violinist. We have been kidnapped during the night because we are the only one to have the right blood type to help the violinist who has a fatal kidney disease. So they have plugged us into him so that he can live. To unplug ourselves would mean to kill the violinist. Thus, they say it will only be for nine months but what if it was for nine years or the rest of our life. Thompson reminds us that all persons have a right to live, and violinists are persons. She says that we have the right to decide what to our body, but a person s right to life outweighs our right to decide what happens in and to our body. She also brings the issue of rape; if a woman got pregnant due to rape would those who oppose abortion make an exception? She is sure they would change their minds about that. Beside rape, she also says that what if the pregnancy would shorten the mother s life would aborting be permissible? She uses the example of a woman who has become pregnant, and now learns that she has a heart problem which might result into death if she carries the baby to term.That is when she explains the extreme position which is abortion is impermisible even to the mother s life. So, who is more important to live? They are both people and do have the right to live, so how to choose between them? To perform the abortion would be directly killing the child, whereas to do nothing would not be killing the mother but letting her die.Thompson also brings up the case of self-defense. If a person is being harmed in any way such as the pregnant woman with the heart conditon then abortion would be permissible because it is self-defense to save her life. Same for the example of the violinist; we are being harmed and our life is in danger if we stay plugged in to him. Thus, self-defense is permissible to save our life and to let the other die.

She also brings another argument of self-defense with an example to make it clearer to us readers. Suppose a mother finds herself in a very tiny house with a rapidly growing child. The mother will be crushed to death but the child won t be crushed to death and in the end he will simply burst and walk out a free man. She argues that however the innocent the child may be, the mother does not have to wait passively while it crushes her to death. Thompson concludes for the self-defense is that a woman can defend her life against the threat to it posed by an unborn child, even if it involves death.

She brings another view to defend abortion which is an example of Henry Fonda s cool hands. She is asking us that for a persons right to life would include having the right to be given at least the bare minimum one needs for a continuum of life. The question she is asking is that what if the person has no right to even be given the bare minimum? She uses the example of a person who s sick, ready to die. The only thing that will save him is the touch of Henry Fonda s cool hand on the fevered brow. However, the person has no right to be given the touch of Henry Fonda s cool hands on the fevered brow. It would be nice if Mr. Fonda could but the person has no right at all against anybody that he should do this to him. In addition if we return to the other example of the violinist, who needs our kidneys to live, has no right against us that we should give him continued use of our kidneys. She argues that nobody has any right to use our kidneys unless we give him the right to do so. Also nobody has the right against us that we should give him this right because if we do let the violionist use our kidneys it is shown as a kind act. Plus , to explain more on this argument is another example presented. Suppose a boy and his little brother are jointly given a box of chocolate for Christmas. If the older boy takes the box and refuses to give any of them, then he is unjust to him, because the brother has been given a right to half. This shows that the little boy was treated unfairly because he has at least the ownership of half of

them. Thus, Thompson argues that the right to life consists not in the right not to be killed, but rather in the right not to be killed unjustly. So, if a pregnant woman does not kill an unborn child unjustly, that person does not violate her right to life.

Another argument is the use of the terms consent and voluntariness. For consent , Thompson says that if the pregnant woman has not given consent to the unborn child to use her body for shelter and food then she has the right to abort it such as a pregnancy due to rape. If the woman does not want to have a child then she has the right to chose for it being killed because it is not unjust against herself and of the child. For a woman voluntarily has intercourse, and took all the precautions to prevent being pregnant, although she is conscious that she may get pregnant, does in fact get pregnant than it is not her fault. Because it is not her fault, and she doesn t want the child then she has the right to have an abortion. Thus, because a pregnant women did not consent or did not voluntarily want this to happen to her then abortion is viewed not to be unjust especially if it were rape.

By using many of her examples she argues about the term for what is right. Take the case of Henry Fonda. Remember that Thompson said that the person had no right to the touch of his cool hands on his fevered brow, even though it might save the person s life. Even if Henry Fonda was his neighbor, and not in the West Coast, he still has no right to be given that to save his life. Also with her other examples, she brings up the same argument which is that even though we ought to let the violinist use our kidneys for only the one hour he needs, we should not conclude that he has the right to do so. If we refused we would be like the boy who owns all the chocolate and will give none away, self-centered, callous and indecent but not unjust. Same for a woman who is raped then she should have an abortion if she wishes but she would not be unjust.

Thompson brings the point of a Good Samaritan to argue her point for abortion. She says that a Good Samaritan would rush out to give assistance, even if it means putting his life at risk. She uses the example of Kitty Genovese who was murdered while thirty-eight people did nothing at all to help her. She say that there wasn t a Good Samaritan to her assistance not even a Minimal Decent Samaritan to at least call for help. Of course no one is legally forced to do something like this. However, she argues that many women are forced not only to be Minimal Decent Samaritan but also a Good Samaritan to the unborn child inside her. She says that women with unwanted pregnancy should not be forced by law to keep this child and be a Good Samaritan to it. She argues that there is gross injustice in the state of law. The people who did not act to help Kitty Genovese were not charged by law, however if a woman doesn t want the unborn child can be punished by law if she decides to have an abortion. She argues that Minimal Decent Samaritan laws are one thing, Good Samaritan laws are another and also highly improper. Thompson says that what we should ask ourselves is not whether a person is compelled by law to be a good Samaritan,but whether they can be a Good Samaritan voluntarily.

Thompson argues that even though the fetus is recognize as a person, the pregnant woman still has a right to have an abortion. She argues if the parents did not try to prevent the pregnancy, do not obtain an abortion, but rather take it home with them then they have assumed responsibility for it. The parents have given it rights and they cannot stop given it support because they find it difficult to go on providing it. However if the couple did try to prevent the pregnancy, then they should not take the responsibilities to provide for it and take care of it.

While Thompson argues that abortion is not impermissible, she does not argue that it is always permissible. For instance, a sick and frightened fourteen-year-old schoolgirl is pregnantdue to rape. She may choose abortion and that any law that rules this out is an insane law. However, she doesn t agree and says it would be indecent if a woman requested an abortion, and indecent for the doctor to perform it, if she is seven months pregnant because she wants to avoid a nuisance of postponing a trip abroad. Thus she concludes that a very early abortion is not killing a person but a thing.

The next article is Abortion and the Sexual Agenda: A Case for Profile Feminism by Sidney Callahan. Callahan gives the arguments for pro-choice and, like herself, prolife. She says that pro-choice feminist are claiming that abortion rights are prerequisites for women s full development and social equality. However, prolife feminists, like herself, argue that women can never achieve the fulfillment of feminist goals in a society permissive toward abortion. Feminist theorists of the prochoice position want to put the demand for unrestricted abortion rights as a moral imperative and insist upon women s right to complete reproduction freedom. Callahan summarizes the prochoice views in terms of four central moral claims.

The first one is the moral right to control one s own body . She says that prochoice feminist argues that a woman choosing an abortion should be seen and recognized in our common law tradition. These feminists say if a women does not want to go through with the demands of a pregnancy and birth, she should not be forced to against her will. For it is her body and she has the right to terminate the pregnancy if she wants to. They argue that nobody is forced to donate an organ or other invasive physical procedures no matter how good the cause is.Hence, prochoice argues that no woman should be forced to a cumpulsory pregnancy . They also refer to the fetus as a biological parasite taking resources from the woman s body. They argue that during pregnancy, a woman s whole life and energies will be actively involved in the nine-month process. In addition, the mother must undertake a twenty-year responsibility for raising the child. They say that since it s her body, it s her risk, her burden, then she alone should be free to decide on pregnancy or abortion.

The second moral claim is the moral necessity of autonomy and choice in personal responsibility . Prochoice feminists claim that to be a full adult morally, a woman must be able to make responsible life commitments. To plan, choose, and exercise personal responsibility, one must have control of reproduction. They say that a woman must be able to make a yes or no decision about a specific pregnancy, according to her situation,resources, prior commitments and life plan. For them, contraceptive provides a measure of personal control. However if by any chance the contraceptives fail and a pregnancy has resulted then thats why the free access to abortion can provide the necessary garantee. Because, they argue, without reproduction freedom, women s personal moral agency and human consciousness are subjected to biology and chance.

The third moral claim is the moral claim for the contingent value of fetal life . Prochoice feminists claim that the value of fetal life depend upon the woman s free consent and subjective acceptance. The fetus must be invested with maternal valuing in order to become human. Thus , they argue, if the fetal interests or fetal rights can never outweigh the woman s prior interest and right. If a women does not consent to invest her pregnancy with meaning or value then she has the right to terminate her pregnancy. They say that prior to her free choice and conscious investment, a woman cannot be described as a mother nor can the child be said to exist. Also they say that a woman is allowed to terminate her pregnancy if there is a genetic problem or some other problems that might emerge before birth. Thus, they say that late abortion should be granted without legal restriction.

Finally the forth moral claim is the moral right of woem to full social equality . They argue that women have a moral right to full equality. They say that if a women cannot control when and how she will be pregnant or rear children, she is disadvantaged especially in a male-dominant society. They argue that women must enjoy the basic right of a person to the free exercise of heterosexual intercourse and full sexual expression, without worrying about getting pregnant. Hence, abortion is necessary for promiscuous women.

Callahan provides four moral claims from the prolife feminists view. The first one is from thr moral right to control one s own body to a more inclusive ideal of justice . Prolife feminist agree that the moral right to control one s own body does apply to organ transplants, mastectomies, contraception, and sterilization; but they disagree ,with the prochoice, that it is not a conceptualization adequate for abortion. Prolife feminist recognize the fetus as a human development and that it is a continuum. They argue that it is wrong to harm other bodies no matter if they are immature, dependent, different looking, or powerless. Even the the handicapped, the retarded and new borns are legally protected from harm. They argue that just like women who were treated inferior now the fetus is seen as merely a biological life instead of a person. They also argue that the fetus is an immature, dependent form of human life which only needs time and protection to develop. Thus, they say that immaturity and dependency are not crime, so why kill them.

The second claim is from the necessity of autonomy and choice in personal responsibility to an expanded sense of responsibility . They argue that women should have a wider acceptance of the unexpected events that life presents. They argue that a woman, involuntarily pregnant, has a moral obligation to the existing fetus wheter she consents to it or not. The prolife feminist argue that these women should accept the burdens; the fetus has rights arising from its extreme need and the interdependency and unity of humankind. They say that to follow the prochoice feminist idealogy of insistent individualistic autonomy and control is to betray a fundamental basis of the moral life.

The third claim is from the moral claim of the contingent value of the fetal life to the moral claim for the intrinsic value of human life . They argue that human life from the beginning to the end of the development has intrinsic value. They say that it s either we are going to value human life and humanity as a good thing or take some variant of the nihilist position that assumes human life is just one more random occurrence in the universe such that each human life must be justified to prove itself worthy to continue. Thus, they argue that biological life should never be dicounted. Collective human familiy is the basis for human solidarity, equality, and natural human rights.

Finally the fourth claim is the moral right of women to full social equality from a profile feminist perspective . Profile and prochoice feminist both agree on the moral right of women to the full social equality so far denied them. However, the disagreement between concerns the definiton of the desired goal and the best means to get there. They argue that permissive abortion laws do not bring women reproductive freedom, social equality, sexual fulfillment, or full personal development. They argue that women will never climb to equality and social empowerment over mounds of dead fetuses . The prolife feminist say that as long women bear children then they stand to gain from tha attitudes in our society and the institutions that will also protect the fetus in the womb s baby. In other words eliminating the cultural assumptions that support permissive abortion. They also argue that if woman do have a choice to have an abortion or not then why should the men have to support it and share the responsibility if they cannot be in the decision of the childs welfare?

She concludes that while legal abortion are freely available, a clear cultural message is given which is that conception and pregnancy are no longer serious matters. She says that with abortion as an acceptable alternative, women will not be as responsible for the use of contraception. Thus, they will take risks. She finally says that it becomes more and more difficult not to use abortion to solve problem pregnancies. An abortion, she says, becomes no longer a choice but a necessity.

Now after all the arguments discussed throughout this paper, I have my on views on abortion. Specifically, there are some arguments that do not persuade especially the arguments for abortion. For instance, the argument proposed by the utilitarian for abortion is that it will cost too much and also the loss of job. Well, first women do not lose their jobs because of maternity leave. However, there will be a period during the childs raising where the woman has to decide to continue to work or to stay at home. That s free choice. In our society we see a lot of women who do work and raise their children and they have balanced both very well. While they do say arguments for abortion, there are also arguments against abortion such as the loss of happiness and the future contribution of the being that is aborted. I agree with this view because the woman would not feel happy after the procedure. Most women have psychological problems such as guilt and remorse for killing an innocent unborn child.

The article by Thompson did not persuade me, especially her arguments which seemed all absurd. For instance, the outrageous example with the violinist who is a person and as a person he has the right to live. I agree that all persons do have the right to live, however the child did not ask to be put on earth. The violinist could have gone through some treatment and be cured and be saved, but who will save a healthy, innocent and defenseless unborn child? Plus, to prove her point of argument she always brings up the topic of being raped and consequently being pregnant. Research has been done and it shows that it is less than one percent of chance to get pregnant due to rape. Thus, what about the rest, do they deserve to be killed because the woman is not ready to have a child? Then when is she ready? She also says that if the woman has health risks such as a heart problem then abortion is permissible. I do not agree, because with the advanced technology and high skilled doctors treatment and closely being monitored would prevent any complications. Also it is proven that some women do experience health problems such as internal bleeding, which can result into death. So there are also risks to not be prevented from dying due to abortion. Hence, two lives would be terminated. Another argument that she brings up is the issue of self-defense. I asked myself self -defense against what? Against an innocent child,who s harmless. Again if the mother is in danger, doctors are highly skilled and would prevent the risk of death. Plus, like I mentioned earlier, women have also risk if they undergo with the procedure of abortion.

Thompson also argues that we are not required to even give the bare minimum to save a life if we do not want to. That is absurd, because it is her fault that she is pregnant. Thus, she should take the responsibility and give this unborn child all the necessity needs it requires. I f she does not want the child, the least she could do is to give it up for adoption where a family would give the maximum necessity that it requires to live a happy life. When Thompson says that if a woman took all the precaution to not get pregnant and she did then abortionis permissibel. Exactly how many women in this society have had expected pregnancies? Most women do want children but there are others that have had accidental pregnancies and still keeps them. Because all unborn childs do have the right to life and to deny it from life is immoral.

Thompson argues about the term right with the example of the kidney being used for an hour. She says that the violinist does not even have the right to have that privilege. That is ridiculous, for the unborn child to be denied of life because the woman does not want it, well, deal with it. Life was given by God and the woman should not be the sole judge to decide to terminate the pregnancy. Another amusing argument is when she says that it is gross injustice that a woman has to be a Good Samaritan and not to abort it. Well let me ask you this: How about the gross injustice to the unborn child to be denied of life? Should the unborn child be punished because of a self-centered woman that doesn t understant the value of life? Hence, the arguments she tries to defend abortion are nonsense because there is no excuse for anyone to be denied of life, especially iif its an innocent, dependent and harmless unborn child.

The article by Sidney Callahan did persuade me to agree with the prolife feminist but not with the prochoice feminists. The prochoice feministsargues that if the woman does not want to be pregnant then she has the right to have an abotion. She should not be forced against her will to keep it because it s her body and it s her decision. All I have to say to this is it might be her body, however, the father should have a say in the decision because it is half his too. They also refer to the unborn child as a biological pararisite . That term is indecent and wrong to even refer your own child as a parasite. They argue it s like a parasite that takes resources from the woman s body. Well, how do we expect the child to develop, and be a healthy baby if not to provide him with the basic needs. Also, they argue that the mother must invest all her energies into the nine-month process and the next twenty years of responsibility. We were designed to reproduce and our responsibility is to provide the child with the basic needs. They refer to having a child is like an unwanted task when it should be the most wonderful experience any parent could wish to have and be blessed with.

They also argue that if the pregnancy does not in their present situation and priorities than abortion is permissible. Thus they should have control over reproduction. So, contraceptives are available to prevent that. However, they say, that if by chance it fails then abortion can provide the necessity garantee. Then if the woman took all the precautions necessary and still became pregnant then she should take full responsibility. These women, who indulge to have intercourse, know that they might risk of getting pregnant. Hence, if a women is mature enough to have sex then she should be mature to accept the responsibility of havig the baby.

Prochoice feminists also argue about the fact that if the woman is not interested in investing maternal value then she should be able to terminate her pregnancy. they say that the fetal interest can not outweigh the woman s prior interest and right. When a woman is pregnant it is her moral duty to accept the unplanned event and make it her first priority. There is no excuse to have an abortion because it doesn t fit in her present situation.

Finally the last point they argue is that the woman should be able to have sex and be able to enjoy it(i.e. happiness) without worrying about getting pregnant. That is why abortion is important to have access to if ever it happens. Then if the women do not want to get pregnant there are a lot of contraceptives that are ninety-nine percent effective such as the oral contraceptive. Abortion should not be the solution.

Then Callahan argues her view for prolife feminists which I agreed with. She says that prolife feminists so recognize the fetus as a human development and that it is a continuum. I agree that at the moment of conception, which is the first two weeks, is considered as a human development and not some biological parasite. I also agree when she says that it is wrong to harm other bodies no matter if they are immature, dependent, different looking or powerless. Because immaturity and dependency are not crimes, then why kill them.

I also agree with the fact that women should have a wider acceptance of unexpected events. If they can accept, for example, a death in the family or losing their jobs, which are both unexpected events and can be dealt with, then they can deal with the pregnancy. Because women have a moral obligation to the unborn child and to follow th ideology of the prochoice is to betray a fundamental basis of the moral life. Plus, Callahan adds to her argument against abortion that the humanlife from the beginnig to the end of the development has intinsic value. I agree with her point because life does have value and should be the number one priority to the woman to provide the maternal values and needs so that the unborn child could have his right to live.

Finally, when Callahan says that permissive abortion would not bring women reproductive freedom, social equality, sexual fulfillment, or full personal development, it is true because they are proving to society that they cannot do both such as having a career and a family. I also agree with the prolife feminist when they say that men cannot have a say if the women decides to have the abortion, but they have to share the responsibility if the women decides to keep it. Hence, Callahan said something that really caught my attention and thought that it was true. She says that abortion becomes no longer a choice but a necessity. It is true, because women view abortion as a solution for unwanted pregnacies. Thus, they deviate from their moral obligation to survive in a male-dominant society.

In conclusion , abortion will always be a controversial issue because of it s complex and delicate views. For instance, the right to life versus the free choice of women. It will probably be lleft unsolved because of the many arguments for and against abortion which all have strong positions. However, I believe that abortion should not be permissible because of its grotesque way of killing an unborn child. Hence, everyone has their own feelings and own opinions about this. Therefore, we can only conclude that women do make the right choice and value the life that has been given to them.

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