Abortion has and continues to be a controversial topic. Most would argue that every woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason, because her body and the fetus are one entity. Since termination of a pregnancy or abortion is the status quo within society, most would agree with this consensus. I, however, without properly acknowledging the rights of all the parties involved with abortion (the fetus and father), I do not believe it should be used so freely within society. Since the historic case of Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion has been the accepted standard within society.
With this historic judgment, women within this country are legally able to obtain an abortion up to a certain point during their pregnancy. Most believe that “a pregnant woman and her fetus should never be regarded as separate, independent, and even adversarial, entities” (ACLU, 1996, p. 1). But with men gaining an increased roll in child rearing and with medical advancements, the rights of the men and fetus should be considered before abortion is ever considered an option. There is a long and complicated history that goes hand in hand with abortion. The action of performing abortions can be traced back to the early American colonies.
Although many religions forbade or even restricted the practice, abortion was not considered illegal in most countries until the 19th century (Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 2005, p. 1). Even though abortions became outlawed in the United States, it did not stop women from getting abortions illegally. “By 1965, all fifty states banned abortion, with some exceptions which varied by state: to save the life of the mother, in cases of rape or incest, or if the fetus was deformed” (Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 2005, p. 1). Many women worked daily in an effort to have abortion legally available to women.
The landmark court case that made an impact for women’s rights on the topic of abortion is Roe v. Wade, one of the most controversial Supreme Court cases in history. Roe v. Wade case established the foundation for abortion rights within the United States stating that laws banning abortion“violate a constitutional right to privacy” (ACLU, 1996, p. 1). This case was opposed by many who thought that the fetus was infact a person from conception and therefore has the right to life, but ultimately this viewpoint was overruled in favor of the “pro-abortion” side.
The Supreme Court ruled that the decision to legailze abortion is “necessary to preserve women’s equality and personal freedom” (ACLU, 1996, p. 1). The Supreme Courts decision to legallize abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973 was the spring board for many decades of court cases to try and reverse the decision. Today, there is still great controversy on the topic. Many politicians and ordinary people debate over what their stances on the subject daily. But whose view is morally and ethically correct, Pro-Choice or Pro-Life?
Throughout history abortion has remained a topic of extreme controversy and debate. What makes abortion such a controversial topic? “An individual’s personal stance on the complex ethical, moral, and legal issues has a strong relationship with the given individual’s value system. A person’s position on abortion may be described as a combination of their personal beliefs on the morality of induced abortion and the ethical limit of the government’s legitimate authority” (Lemos, 2007, p. 45). The stances on abortion are split into “pro-life” and “pro-choice. These groups have opposing viewpoints on the morality, legality and ethics of abortion. Pro-life activists tend to be religious and avid on the rights of the fetus. Their perspective is that from the moment of conception, that is when a fetus is a human being and therefore has a right to life (Kissling, 2004, p. 1). Pro- life activists consider abortion murder and want to have it outlawed since they believe murder of any kind is unacceptable. The pro-choice viewpoint is the complete opposite.
Pro-Choicers believe that the fetus is not a human being and is just a “mass of tissue” and therefore abortion is not murder (Kissling, 2004, p. 1). Pro- choice activists believe that women should have the right to chose whether to carry out a pregnacy because their body is one with the fetus and they should be able to choose whether to keep or terminate a pregnancy. The main issue of debate is whether or not an embryo is considered a person and if that embryo should have any right and I believe that they should. “Although Fetuses have never been given any recognition whatever as bureau of persons.
It has never been counted as a member of the population. Legally is can not own, bequeath, or inherit property. It can not be sued, married, or adopted. It has no legal relationships and therefore can not be considered a person” (Kissling, 2004, p. 1). However, dramatic scientific breakthroughs in medical technology have revolutionized physician’s ablities regarding fetuses which may enable a fetus to be considered a person (Lenow, 2007, p. 1). Medical advances allow for surgery to be performed in utero, with these advances, new legal implications arise. If the fetus can be treated, then should it be considered a patient separate from its mother? If so does it possess all the rights of the post-birth patients? ” (Lenow, 2007, p. 2). As a society it seems that we do not consider a fetus to be a person until it is viable. “Viablilty is a concepty widely used to identify a reasonable potential for subsequent survival if the fetus were to be removed from the uterus thus viablity is defined in terms of practicality i. e. how early a fetus can be delivered with hopes of reasonable survival” (Lenow, 2007, p. 0). However, I believe that using the standard of viabilty to determine whether or not a fetus is a human is too broad. With the new medical advances that can perform life-saving procedures on fetuses early on in the pregnancy, I believe viability of life should not be the only standard used to determine whether or not a fetus can be aborted or not; A recently reported example illustrative of this potential conflict involved a fourteen year old female, twenty-six weeks pregnant, who experienced premature labor due to a rupture in the amniotic sac.
As the fetus was considered borderline viable, it was evident that chances for fetal survival would be maximized with cesarian delivery…the patient expressed her wishes not to have the child and delivered vaginally (Lenow, 2007, p. 18). The issue of viability comes to play in situations where the child can sustain life, but the actions of the parents ultimately abort the pregnancy.
The aforementioned mother ultimately chose to not save her baby because she didn’t want to have it, essentially aborting the fetus, but at what point during a pregnancy does the fetus gain rights? Recently a friend of the family had complications with their baby at twenty-six weeks and chose to deliver the baby and try everything possible to save it, the baby is now surviving with medical help. Until there is a universal standard for viability, all babies that could possibly survive should be given that opportunity.
Within the past two years, states have tried to enact legislation that would provide protection to an unborn fetus; however these bills must be worded carefully as the legislation “can endanger women’s rights by reinforcing claims of “fetal rights” in the law under Roe v. Wade” (ACLU, 1996, p. 1). The extent to which such a bill may endanger reproductive rights depends on its specific terms and implications. For example, states may: 1) amend existing homicide statutes to include the fetus as a possible victim; 2) ass statutes defining the fetus as a person or human being, thereby making the fetus fall within the compass of other statutes applicable to all persons or human beings; 3) enact freestanding statutes to define and penalize a new crime of injury to a fetus, fetal homicide, or “feticide”; 4) extend wrongful death statutes to permit civil suits against individuals who cause the death of a fetus; or 5) enact new statutes to penalize injury to a pregnant woman that causes her fetus to die or be injured. However, abortion whether they are performed by a medical professional or self-induced must be exempted from all legislation (ACLU, 1996, p. ). Therefore, a fetus is considered an entity separate from the mother in all in legal aspects except in cases involving abortion. Essentially until a fetus can gain rights across all potential legal and societal aspects, fetuses are suffering injustices. Another aspect of abortion where I believe injustices are suffered, are the rights of the father. Though a mother must incubate a fetus for nine months, the father also contributed to creating the life and should have equal rights regarding the potential life that is created.
According to a clinical study performed in Europe, two-thirds or twenty-three out of thirty, of the men who agreed to participate in the research, disagreed with their partner’s decision to have an abortion (Naziri, 2007, p. 480). Should a man have a right to make decisions about his unborn child as well? According to popular beliefs and legal precedent within this country and many others, a man has absolutely no say when it comes to the unborn fetus. There is minimal research and information on the topic of men and their rights regarding abortion. The social, political, and legal constraints…have deterred research regarding post-abortion men directly and also indirectly by contributing to difficulties in obtaining funds for such research” (Coyle, 2006, p. 1). One of the few studies on young men’s experiences reveals fear of isolation when peers, parents and partners do not accept abortion, despite its legalized status (Hallden & Christensson, 2010, p. 126) Men are involved in conception, decisions concerning out come of the pregnancy, and aftermath of abortion (Coyle, 2006, p. ). According to Coyle, a researcher for the Internet Journal of Mental Health: elective abortion surely involves some sense of loss for many of the men whose partners undergo abortion. Given the inequality between men and women in abortion decisions, one might reasonably expect at least some men to be negatively affected. Yet, men’s tendency to comply with society’s expectations by repressing their emotions may effectively prevent others from appreciating their suffering.
As members of a society which, restricts the discussion of abortion as a woman’s right, post-abortion men may be confused by their reactions, unsure of their roles or responsibilities, and unlikely to seek help (2006, p. 1). Therefore in a society where a man clearly has no societal or legal support, he is hesitant to come forward and express his feelings towards his partner having an abortion. There have been instances where a man attempts to establish rights to the fetus, but it has not been upheld legally in the court system.
In Planned Parenthood of Missouri versus Danforth, 428 U. S. 52, the Supreme Court ruled that the state was not required to notify or obtain permission from the husbands of women seeking abortion. Legal arguments have tended to focus on this inequity between men’s lack of legal power regarding termination of pregnancy and their liability for child support there have been a few publicized cases in which men attempted to prevent an abortion such as that of John Stachokus. Mr. Stachokus and his attorney were able to obtain a temporary injunction prohibiting his partner’s abortion.
However, the injunction was suspended one week later (Coyle, 2006, p. 1). Ultimately, until men can be treated as an equal in the process of conceiving a child, a woman is free to abort a fetus that a man could potentially want to care for without any legal repercussion on her part creating a gross injustice to the rights of men. Overwhelming evidence purports that the decision to keep a baby is only given to a mother. This creates gross injustices for both the fetus and father; each should have a say, but are unable to due to lack of societal and legal support.
With the decision in Roe v. Wade, women’s rights are the only rights considered. Legislature and some society members have attempted to recognize the rights of the fetus by establishing legislature, but the efforts have failed because abortion must be exempted from all legislation in order to protect the rights of women. In order to counteract the injustices found with abortion, I believe that the standard of viability for a fetus should be thoroughly investigated and set of standards should be developed in order to better clarify at what point during the pregnancy a fetus is viable.
Also, I believe more consideration should be given to the rights of the male involved in conceiving the fetus. He played an equal part in conception and should have an equal say in whether or not to keep the baby. In order to determine this, I believe more research and information should be gathered on a man’s involvement in the decision to keep or abort a fetus. Until there is a Supreme Court case to challenge Roe v. Wade, none of these qualms about abortion can be addressed. Popular philosophers would also have a heated debate over the ethical and moral implications of abortion.
John Stuart Mill was an avid Utilitarian and believed that what would produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people was the correct choice in life (Waller, 2008, p. 65). Philosopher Immanuel Kant disagreed with this viewpoint. His theory was that the moral law is a principle of reason and is not based on facts about the world, such as what would make us happy (Waller, 2008, p. 140). “Always act so as to treat humanity, whether in yourself or in others, as an end in itself, never merely as a means” (Solomon, 2003, p. 256).
Kant would agree with pro-life activists believing that a woman has no right to terminate a fetus since the sole purpose of having an abortion is to fulfill the wishes of the mother. Instead of relying on fact, Kant relies on reason. To correct the injustices that are apparent with abortion, we as a society should use reason like Kant to shed light on the rights of the father and fetus. So as a society, perhaps we should put the utilitarian approach aside and take each case individually and use Kant’s point of view or reason to assess the situation.
Don Marquis, professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas, agrees with the immorality of performing abortions. What makes abortion wrong is: The loss of one’s life is one of the greatest losses one can suffer…[it] deprives one of all the experiences, activities, projects, and enjoyments that would otherwise have constituted one’s future. Therefore, killing someone is wrong, primarily because the killing inflicts (one of) the greatest possible losses on the victim (Waller, 2008, p. 264). Even though a fetus has yet to establish a life, it is never given the chance when it is aborted.
According to Marquis, “the wrongness of killing can be extended to fetal life” (Waller, 2008, p. 265). Therefore, because a fetus could have the potential to partake in all of life’s experiences and have a prosperous future, it is morally wrong to abort the fetus. Ultimately, abortion is accepted as the status quo within this country. However, the principles surrounding this procedure are flawed ethically. Fathers and fetuses are given little to no consideration regarding their rights with abortion. Since Roe v.
Wade, a woman’s fundamental rights of privacy, bodily integrity, and self-determination are the only factors considered regarding abortion. Thus, until standards of viability for the fetus are assessed and legal role of men in conception and abortion are established, abortion should be considered an injustice to society.
References American Civil Liberties Union. (1996, July 31). What’s Wrong with Fetal Rights? Retrieved from http://www. aclu. org/reproductive-freedom/whats-wrong-fetal-rights. Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. (2005).