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Ethical Dilemma of Abortion: Pro-life Or Pro-death

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Conflict over abortion has been developed as a central political debate in recent years, in which the issue derives from the moral implications of the termination of a pregnancy. Socioeconomic arguments provide a strong case as to why the government should not be involved in the process of abortions therefore, this essay will justify the case that the Government rarely if ever, justified in restricting women from having an abortion.

Liberal democratic rights state that everyone has a right to life and that everyone also has the right to control his or her own body. However, the argument of where life starts for a foetus is a challenging dilemma which has led to mass debate and controversy across many democratic states. Alison Jaggar provides an explanation within her article ‘Abortion and a Women’s Right to Decide’ that women and only women should have the right to control laws on abortions “Each woman should have the sole legal right to decide whether or not, in her case, an abortion should be performed” (Jaggar 1994) Alison Jaggar establishes that people need more to survive compared to dying, this can include things such as food, water, shelter. Everyone has a right to life but only living people can have this right; once it is allowed that people can be killed in certain circumstances; the right to life cannot stand on abortion. Thus moving on to say that all these are included within a right to life therefore no individual or state is unable to provide for protecting a person’s right to life. Applying this to abortion, Jaggar states that no group such as the government or an individual can be a protector as there is no guarantee of a fully human life consequently arguing that within our society the government should not be justified in restricting women from having abortions. Jaggar further suggested that since only women can bear children and do the majority of taking care of a child that this abortion case should be dependent on women; the state has no right in interfering as it does very little in nurturing the child despite providing goods and services. Jaggar’s argument suggests decisions should be made by those who are only affected by them and successfully argues that government should not be justified in restricting abortions as it has no interaction with the development of the foetus.

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Within her ‘A Defence of Abortion’ argument, Judith Jarvis Thomson provides a strong justification through her famous violinist analogy as to why only women should have the right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy in the case of unwanted pregnancies. The argument is whether it is morally necessary for someone to adhere to the conditions of the violinist case; in which Thompson argues regardless of the violinist’s right to life, the person has no obligation to save the violinist. This can be applied to abortion in which Thomson is in favour of the woman’s right to decide. For the sake of the argument; she claims that the foetus has the same moral value as an adult then goes on to say that pro-choice people regard the mother as morally superior whereas would argue that pro-life’s treat the mother as less important than the foetus. Thompson’s approach can be concluded into the notion that women should be able to control their bodies thus any other individual such as the government does not justify restricting women from terminating a pregnancy.

In favour of the government not interfering in the case of abortion, Margaret Little provides the argument of intimacy in which she states a foetus growing inside a woman’s body is a precious and intimate feeling providing a sense of significance, using this to argue that in the case of rapes, an unwanted pregnancy can result in an unwanted intimacy between the woman and foetus. Therefore if a woman does not wish to keep the child then she should be allowed the choice to terminate the pregnancy; applying this to whether the state should play a role, it can be argued that since it is an intimate matter between both woman and foetus; the government is rarely justified in restricting women from unwanted pregnancies.

The doctoring of double effect is the idea that it is wrong to intentionally bring something to an end however it argues in some cases to do well such as saving someone’s life then the bad consequence can be justified as you are not allowing the bad consequence to happen. This can be applied to abortion as if a woman’s life was in danger throughout the pregnancy then in some cases, it can be allowed to terminate the pregnancy despite resulting in the death of the foetus. In such cases, the government can be argued to have a moral obligation in protecting the mother’s life therefore could suggest that states should allow a woman to have an abortion.

If the Government allows the freedom of practising religion, the same should be for terminating a pregnancy, which is essentially what Ronald Dworkins’ suggests. His approach to this debate starts by clarifying that it is not relevant if the foetus is a person or not however highlights that we should look at the sanctity of human life. He argued the right to freedom of religion requires people to respect the sanctity of human life then the right to an abortion should be allowed and protected by the government. Dworkins’ argument identified that the cases of the first trimester should not be up to majority voting thus concluding that the government should rarely if ever get involved as states allow the freedom of religion and thus should also allow the freedom for women to terminate a pregnancy. This argument allows us to say that governments should rarely if ever get involved when it comes to restricting women from having abortions for example when the foetus has come to a point of development. It can be identified that late pregnancy terminations are less favourable as at this point the foetus has become more than “some cells”.

To fully assess the question of the essay, it is important to provide an alternative argument in which the government should intervene in restricting women from having abortions. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) provided an alternative argument within his phrase of ‘the tyranny of the majority which suggests that whatever the majority argue is socially acceptable should be used as a mandate, therefore the majority argue that abortion is wrong then the states will have to implement such laws in restricting women from having abortions, this decision can be based upon the intellect of the greater majority. How,ev encounter-argument, John Stewart Mill considered this to be a threat to individual liberty. This suggests that a wrong act should not be justified just because the majority want to do it. A recent example of this could be in the case of Savita Halappanavar, who was refused an abortion during a miscarriage and subsequently died from this. Following her death, it sparked a political uprising for the reform of Irish abortion laws. (Sinead O’Carroll, 2018)

Another objection to the argument within the main body is that the right to life trumps anything. Pro-lifers would argue that society may be harmed by the loss of a further generation and therefore should not permit women from having abortions. The wider social ramifications of allowing abortions can include the loss of respect for life, diminishing values for both motherhood and fatherhood as well as the lack of future generations. However, the dilemma with this can be argued to provide limits to democracy as if the government restricts women from having abortions thus restricts their legal right and freedom of choice.

Whether the government should ever be justified in restricting women from having abortions leads to the argument that the government ultimately is made to support basic human rights as within their policies, the rights of everybody are fought for, including the foetus. It can be argued in favour of this argument that women can do anything with their bodies however as soon as a foetus is developed into a baby, the mother has no right over whether the pregnancy should be terminated. However, I would conclude that throughout the arguments within this essay, there is are clear and compelling arguments made by authors such as Jaggar and Thompson as well as philosopher Dworkin which suggest that the government rarely or are not justified in restricting abortions as they all made the clear argument that this is a private matter between a woman and the foetus, no one has the right to restrict her decision, especially the state.    

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