2. Is Abortion Morally Permissible?
Abortion involves the intentional killing of an innocent human being. Many people believe that in certain circumstances, abortion is morally permissible. So, how is it possible for abortion not to be murder?
Murder unquestionably violates a person’s right to life. What aspects give a person a right to life? Why is it considered murder to kill an innocent person but not an animal? Are we morally superior to animals? In ethics, a being with full moral status, and therefore full moral rights, is called a person. If all human beings are persons then there is no problem. In other words, is it necessary and sufficient to be a human being in order to be considered a person?
The notion that not all persons are human beings is one that is widely held, but not recognized the slightest bit. Most Christians, for example, believe God to be a person. However, few would claim that He is a biological human being. There have to be several criteria to be considered a person.
1.) Consciousness (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being, and in particular the capacity to feel pain);
2.) Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems);
3.) Self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively independent of either genetic or direct external control);
4.) The capacity to communicate, by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinitely many topics;
5.) The presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness, either individual or racial, or both. (Warren, n.p.)
It is possible for abortion not to be murder because persons can be murdered and fetuses are not persons. There is a criteria to be a person, and fetuses do not fit the criteria. Abortion does not violate a fetus’ right to life because a fetus is not something that can have a right to life.
When a woman is raped, she is forced to have sex without her consent. If the woman gets pregnant after she is raped, abortion should be morally permissible. The victim of rape did not consent to getting pregnant. Judith Thompson’s Violinist describes an example that shows a different perspective on the topic of abortion.
“You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers have canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, ‘Look, we are sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you-we would never have permitted it if we had known. Still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug him would be to kill him. But never mind, it is only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.” (Thompson, n.p.)
The violinist was connected without permission. If the violinist were unplugged, he would die from his illness. The person he is connected to is not responsible for the illness in his kidneys. Therefore, unplugging the violinist is permissible, but poisoning the violinist is not permissible. In the case of a fetus, some are “connected” without permission. This also means that certain abortions are not permissible just as you could not shoot the violinist. If you could just, “unplug” the fetus that would be morally permissible. Cesarean abortions and abortions where the uterus is stimulated to contract and expel the fetus whole are permissible in the case of rape.
Sometimes there are serious complications during a woman’s pregnancy. In some circumstances, the only way to save the mother’s life is to abort the pregnancy. In this case, I believe it is morally permissible to have an abortion. To abort a fetus for medical reasons is morally permissible. If a pregnancy has complications and the fetus is not aborted, there is a greater likelihood that the mother will die and the fetus will spontaneously abort anyway.
There are also cases where mothers do not want to take responsibility after they consent to unprotected sex. This is the only case where I believe that abortion is not morally permissible. If you consent to have sex, then you consent to the consequences. The consequences of unprotected sex are sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Women have to live with the consequences of their actions. This means not putting a baby in a trashcan or aborting a fetus.
There are many different influences on a person’s decisions. Religion, media, and society all have effects on people’s decisions. The choices to believe in God, or to have an abortion, are both significant topics discussed in society today. I believe that God is the meaning, cause and reason for everything, including abortion.