The Morality of Abortion
Abortion is the process of terminating a pregnancy by removing a fertilized egg from the womb so as to prevent the birth of a child. Over the years, it has generated numerous debates regarding its moral status. Various ethical theories created logical syllogisms for and against abortion. These arguments are mostly based on the dispute of when human life begins to establish the morality of the action. However, the ethical aspect of abortion should also consider the factors that lead to abortion, such as (1) social injustice that impacts making the choice in favor of abortion; (2) the difficulties faced by the women; and (3) the conflicting pleasures of carrying a baby that impact not only the child and parents but also to the community as a whole. Although many people believe that it is immoral to kill an innocent human being, abortion is morally acceptable within certain limits according to the principles of utilitarianism.
The ethical theory of utilitarianism states that morality or immorality of a human action is determined by its consequences. Thus, if a deed has desirable results, then it is morally acceptable. Conversely, if an action produces unfortunate results then it is categorized as immoral. Nevertheless, abortion is known to lead to both good and bad consequences. According to utilitarianism, abortion is morally acceptable whenever its implications yield the greatest virtue and to the largest number of people. For instance, it is morally acceptable to perform an abortion to save the mother’s life if the failure to do so would lead to the death of both the mother and the child. The morality of the action relates to the fact that carrying out an abortion would have less serious repercussion to the mother and the society as a whole compared to losing both the mother and the child.
Similarly, Mill’s utilitarianism principle articulates that the noble goal of all human beings is achieving happiness, which is mostly relates to increasing pleasure and minimizing pain. In this case, utilitarianism views happiness as the only factor with an intrinsic value regarding morality. Hence, an action is morally acceptable if it tends to provide considerable pleasure to the greatest number of people. As a result, abortion is morally justifiable if having a child would place the parents at a financial disadvantage and lessen the chances of other children to have a healthy life. Hence, abortion is morally because having a child decreases pleasure and maximizes pain for both the parents and other siblings. Therefore, it would be morally acceptable to perform an abortion to undermine the pain of grief and depression and thus achieve the greatest good, which would be maximizing happiness for the greatest number of people.
In addition, according to Bentham’s Hedonistic Calculus of utilitarianism theory, the morality of abortion can also be evaluated based on the conflicting pleasures felt by the child, parents and other individuals who are directly affected. In this regard, if the pleasures yielded by an abortion are of the greatest good, then abortion is morally justifiable and acceptable. The process of evaluating the benefits of abortion is guided by the equity, where each benefit is considered as equal with no special significance. For example, if the pregnancy was as a result of rape, abortion may be morally justifiable. This idea is articulated by the fact that the pleasures derived from bearing the baby would cause pain to the child, the mother, and other family members unlike the pleasure of not aborting the fetus, which is the greatest ethic from the Hedonistic Calculus.
Consequently, utilitarian philosophy states that no person has an absolute right to life; therefore, it is morally acceptable to take a life with the aim of preventing the occurrence of a greater evil. In this line, there are no grounds for proving that human life is sacred and should be respected and protected regardless of the circumstances facing it. On the contrary, the theory is based on moral arguments of values that may arise as a result of abortion. Therefore, it would be morally justifiable to carry out an abortion if the fetus were mentally ill or totally paralyzed based since the suffering the child would endure after being birth and the difficulties that the parents would experience with raising the child. The argument rests on the fact that giving birth to the child would be accompanied by misery and suffering for the child and parents rather than views human life as sacred and requiring protection.
All things considered, abortion is morally acceptable within certain limits of the ethical theory of utilitarianism based on whether the pregnancy represents physical, mental, sentimental or economic hardships to the greatest number of people. This is attributed to the fact that morality of abortion is evaluated based on whether it yields good or bad consequences; its ability to bring happiness by maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain; the types of desires it produces to the parties involved; and the lack of an absolute right to life. Therefore, based on the abovementioned arguments, abortion is morally acceptable if it yields the best results to the parties involved under the presented circumstances and at a given time.
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Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism. [Place of publication not identified]: Duke Classics, 2012.
Rodgers, Liam. “On Consequentialism: A Brief and Critical Analysis of the Established Arguments For and Against.” Munich: GRIN Verlag, 2012. http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:101:1-20121224674.
Sheng, Ching-lai. A New Approach to Utilitarianism: A Unified Utilitarian Theory and Its Application to Distributive Justice. Springer, 2012.
Velasquez, Manuel. Philosophy: A Text with Readings (13th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2017.
? Aric W. Dutelle. Ethics for the Public Service Professional. (London: Boca Raton, 2011), 15.
? John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism. ([Place of publication not identified]: Duke Classics, 2012.) https://www.overdrive.com/search?q=FD1867F5-67EB-4674-A0AB-0CBB8007EF21.
? Liam Rodgers. “On Consequentialism A Brief and Critical Analysis of the Established Arguments For and Against.” (Munich: GRIN Verlag, 2012.) http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:101:1-20121224674.
? Ching-lai Sheng. A New Approach to Utilitarianism A Unified Utilitarian Theory and Its Application to Distributive Justice. (Springer, 2012), 528.
? Manuel Velasquez. Philosophy: A Text With Readings. (Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2017), 512.