Why Abortion Should Be Legal?
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The debate upon abortions touches upon political, moral, ethical, philosophical and even religious views with rights of the mother and that of the fetus being of the main concern. Further, the provision of abortion services is one of the most elusive and controversial medical care services in many countries around the world, which affects the lives of millions of women. This issue involves intertwinement of the political, social, economic, ethical and even legal fabric of the country. The emergence of different groups that support or are against abortion complicates the issue because most of the arguments are biased or irrational and, therefore, fail to capture the real issue of life and death that both fetus and mother face.
Keywords: abortion, right to life, fetus, mother, pro-life, pro-choice
The right of a pregnant mother to end the life of the fetus by the method commonly referred to as abortion has elicited moral and ethical concerns from both political and religious sides. As a result, abortion is among the most debated and controversial social issues that humanity has ever faced. Different factions have emerged either to support abortion (legality of the action) or to support the right of the fetus to be born (illegality of abortion). Among the issues that dominate the debate is the right of the mother and the fetus in terms of whether a fetus can be said to be a human being and at what point, given the fact that even the legal status of children in many jurisdictions does not recognize them as physical persons until they reach majority. However, abortion should not be legalized when the mother or the child’s life or both are not in danger.
Political and religious views of what constitutes life varies. Therefore, the views should not be referred to in determining whether abortion should be illegal. According to Kaufmann (2010), abortion should be left to socialists and humanists, who have no bias or interest in influencing the course to which the society would want to follow in pursuing cases of abortion. Many pro-lifers also have not been able to differentiate political and religious arguments in the issue of abortions. As such, it is thought that a decision on abortion guided by the religious views ought to necessitate the decisions taken in the political circles and vice versa (Halfmann, 2011).
This is done in total disregard of the fact that many states are delineated from religious practices and act as secular entities, whose decisions are independent of the spiritual convictions of the citizens. The religious doctrines cannot form the basis upon which abortion and/or civil laws are enacted. This triggers the issue of abortion to remain the main topic of debates in the United States when compared to other developed countries where abortion does not provoke such discussions. The US is largely a devout country and, thus, many people, especially the pro-lifers, have not differentiated the religious doctrines from the state statutes regarding abortion and law. As such, there is much connection between politics and religious beliefs with major political leaders proposing to enact laws to the effect of controlling abortions while being driven by their spiritual convictions. (Suh, 2013).
Abortions can be legalized for ethical reasons. First, induced abortion is ethically right in the circumstances, when the mother is not prepared to have the child. However, some abortion activities (like the induced) continue to elicit debates in terms of their ethical, moral and legal rights. Many women who, at some point, are faced with a life-threatening case that requires abortion feel that the debate on abortion is invasive because it touches on a person's system of values. In far as pro-lifers are concerned, this group initiates questions as to sincerity and ingenuity of protecting life at the cost of securing the life of a pregnant woman.
One of these reasons might be that the woman is not prepared to raise the child after birth. In other words, the pregnancy is unwanted and, therefore, bringing up the unborn child will not only be a burden to the mother but also unethical, given the fact that parents have an obligation to take care of their children. If it is known in advance that the woman is unable to take responsibility for the child after the baby is born; hence, the best way is to terminate the pregnancy to avoid bringing another life into the world only to suffer (Wright, 2005).
Secondly, a woman’s right to life overrides the same right of the fetus. Most of the reasons given by pro-lifers are based on the mature carriage of the fetus in the mother’s womb without regarding the circumstances. The issues that they raise undermine the inalienable rights of the mother. As pointed out by Marquis (1999), as much as the fetus becomes a human at one point in their developmental stages in the womb, they are unable to make decisions for themselves and, therefore, it is a woman who is capable of taking decisions of ending the pregnancy by means of abortion. Thus, Marquis argues that in case a fetus is not able to have a claim to life as a human being so does a newborn baby, hence, the life of a newborn baby is of little value. (Marquis, 1999).
Absurdness of this claim does not require denial since the intrinsic value of human life or any other form of life comes from the fact that life is sacred and God-given, a position that many pro-choicers refuse to accept. Based on this argument, aborting unborn babies is justified as the circumstances may demand irrespective of the presumed rights that such a fetus may have.
Consequently, it is necessary to define the exact time when a fetus acquires a right equal to the right to life of all human beings. As the life of the fetus is tied to that of the mother, it is futile to separate a fetus from the mother with regards to life. It is not right to value a fetus's life over that of the mother in situations when the woman’s life is in danger. Controversies over abortion make the principles of life to be the issue in question. It is necessary to ask that if the unborn child has the right to life, should this right be valued to the extent of risking the mother’s life?
Considering the implications of a pregnancy to a woman, even though a fetus may be presumed to have some rights to life, such rights depend on the ability of the woman to carry a child. It, therefore, means that, from all perspectives, the right of the mother overtakes that of the fetus, hence, forms a legal and ethical basis upon which a woman can be allowed to terminate the pregnancy. (Wright, 2005).
The proponents of abortion also argue that abortion should be legalized based on the understanding that legalizing the practice empowers women by giving them a choice of reproduction (Costa, 2007). According to the pro-choice, women should be allowed the chance to make their informed choices on when and whether they want to have children. The argument is linked to the fight for women’s liberties, independence, and ability to take decisions regarding their future. Therefore, in this regard, women should be seen as an informed part of the human population that is capable of making moral choices. If they are subjected to restrictions on matters affecting their life, such as abortion, it will be futile to demonstrate an interest in any liberational struggles aimed at setting women free from male chauvinism. Linked to this argument, the proponents of abortion associate the legalization of abortion with women’s ability to take part in economic and social life without being discriminated against.
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It is also essential for women to be given time to determine their life choices and feel a sense of equal citizenship with men. The argument on the legalization of abortions is grounded on the thought that abortion does not cause pain to the fetus. According to neuroscientists, most abortions are done before the fetuses can feel any pain. It is considered that a fetus can only feel pain if the abortion is performed after the formation of the cortex. To support the idea, the neuroscientists suggest that it takes 26 weeks for the cortex to develop. Therefore, they are of the opinion that most abortions do not result in any pain for the fetus as they are done before the 26th week of pregnancy. Incomplete biological development in the fetus at the time when most abortions are performed makes the fetus to be incapable of experiencing pain. It is only possible for the fetus to experience pain when subjected to the environment after birth. Although some reactions can occur in the fetus during an abortion, the reactions are said to be simple reflexes that should not be taken to show that the fetus feels pain.
According to Ferriter (2005), the legalization of abortions is also supported on the ground that it gives pregnant women the option of not carrying children with severe abnormalities. The proponents of abortion argue that some abnormalities are severe to the point that the death of the fetus is inevitable after the baby is born. One of the abnormalities that are pointed out to have such adverse effects on the fetus after birth is anencephaly, a deviation when the fetus develops without a brain. Hence, it is wrong to force pregnant women to carry children with severe deformities to the point of giving birth while affecting their own life. Besides, some families may have no ability to care for children with severe disabilities. Due to this reasoning, abortion should be made legal to couples that do not have sufficient emotional strength, financial competence and family support (Boonin, 2003).
Finally, abortion is opposed by many religious groups though many such organizations advocate for women’s reproductive choices (Boonin, 2003). Religious groups, like the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church, support abortions, reasoning that the Bible does not oppose abortion unless it is subjected to personal interpretations. They state that the Bible does not regard abortion to be equivalent to the actual killing of a human being. To support this opinion, reference is made to the book of Exodus 21:22-25 that considers a crime that results in a miscarriage as a property crime while the same scripture considers killing the same woman to be a case of murder.
The opponents to abortion argue that life begins at the moment of conception; hence, making an abortion is viewed as an immoral termination of the life of innocent human beings. Those pro-life are opposed to the idea that the fetus does not feel any pain at the time of abortion but is rather subjected to severe suffering. Therefore, even in situations where one shows no interest in taking care of a child after conception, it is better for a pregnant woman to donate the child to the couples unable to biologically conceive (Schwarz & Litimer, 2012).
The opponents of abortion also argue that abortion is a form of murder. In their argument, the pro-life state that killing an innocent human being cannot be justified even if it is done before the moment of physical birth. They state that the life of a fetus has to be protected as the life of any human being.
According to the opponents of abortion, life begins at the moment of conception (Weatherford, 2002). Based on this opinion, the pro-life suggests that all unborn babies are human beings; hence, they have the right to life.
Opponents to abortions use the distinct genetic makeup of the unborn babies to support the idea that life begins after fertilization; hence, the life of the unborn child needs to be protected.
Although people have the right to have control over their own bodies, the right of the fetus may override their own right to control their bodies. This view means that ethically, the fetus has a right to life even though it causes the woman to lose her right to control her own body. Based on the argument by Marquis (1999), we can hardly prove the immorality of abortions based on mere belief without understanding why it is wrong to kill adult human beings. Abortion is also, in most cases, understood in terms of death. (Wright, 2005).
Contrary to the argument presented by the proponents of abortion that the fetus does not feel any pain during an abortion, the opponents state that abortion subjects the unborn child to unbearable pain. To support their argument, the opponents state that the fetus develops the spiral reflex that is the primary response to pain. They argue that the spinal reflex is developed by the eight weeks of gestation and that children are capable of feeling pain in the first trimester. The belief that a 12-week old fetus is capable of feeling excruciating pain during an abortion makes the practice to be outlawed as it contravenes the human right to life. It is believed that the unborn child screams silently by opening the mouth because of pain and the fact that its life is threatened by extinction.
Levine (2007), stated that abortion is illegal because it is a show of discrimination against children with genetic abnormalities, especially in cases of abortion when the unborn children are perceived to have severe genetic abnormalities. Opponents of the legalization of abortion state that genetic abnormalities should not be used to justify the immoral act of abortion as well as physical limitations should not be used to discriminate against the disabled. They argue that people with disabilities are capable of living fulfilling lives, hence, their right to life should be protected. On the contrary, individuals disabilities should be seen as important members of society that can contribute to societal development.
In as much as abortion beats the rights of the mother and that of the fetus, it can be argued that it should not be permissible on the basis that pregnancy itself is not an accident, even in circumstances where the woman is raped. According to Savulescu (2013), one of the unavoidable consequences of sexual act is pregnancy and, thus, all sexually active women must be well aware of this fact. To this end, the argument that a pregnant woman will bring an unwanted child into the world does not hold any conviction since the woman should have been aware of the consequences of sex (whether forced or not). Another argument is that science has provided women with the means of contraception to protect themselves from becoming pregnant. Failure to use contraceptives and claiming a right to abort an innocent life is an indication that the woman is solely responsible for the pregnancy and, thus, should carry it to birth.
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Further, the fact that pro-lifers resort to both politics and religion in their argument on the need to protect the life of the fetus, can be disputed on the grounds that people’s political and religious life cannot be exercised in isolation (Gupta, 2006). In other words, it can be argued that either affects the other, and the fact of this interaction of political and religious views on abortion is unavoidable. Many civil laws in the current world society are established on the grounds of religious beliefs. For instance, many religions teach that theft is bad, and in this manner, the political class enacted laws that criminalize all forms of theft with no exception. The civil laws criminalizing theft have not conflicted with the religious views and beliefs about theft, yet when the same principle is applied to abortion, the argument being brought forth is that politics and religion should not be mixed (Savulescu, 2013).
The debate on abortion presents a moral and ethical issue that will continue to elicit disagreements between groups with varying views. The pro-lifers always see a fetus as a human being who equally, just as the mother, has a right to life. However, they fail to see the link between the safety of the mother and that of the fetus. On the other hand, pregnant women willing to have an abortion are encouraged to face the consequences of their sexual activities and failure to use contraceptives. On the other hand, pro-choice groups view the debate about abortion as lacking in content and context have given that pregnancy should be a private matter. Moreover, they question if expectant mothers should be denied the capacity to terminate the life of unborn children who are wholly dependent on them and who cannot take decisions on their own (Fernandez, Sperry & Newsad, 2009).
Taking into account the arguments presented by the two opposing groups, it is reasonable to state that abortion should be made legal in cases when the life of an expectant mother is in danger. The legalization of abortions is also justifiable under the circumstances when a misguided choice was made resulting in pregnancy, particularly when the newborn will be exposed to severe suffering throughout their lives (Whittaker & Berghahn Books, 2013). Some pregnancies also come as a result of acts of violence against women. Hence, women should be given a chance to exercise their autonomy by having control over their reproductive health. However, the matter of abortions should be controlled so that women do not use them as a form of birth control.
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