Is Abortion Ever Justfied?
Uploaded by a_paper_heart on Mar 18, 2001
Is abortion ever justified? If not, why? If it depends, then on what?
It is not unreasonable to suggest that the vast majority of people consider it morally wrong to kill other persons. There may be examples of situations where the killing of a person may be justifiable, although they are by no means universally consented to, such as killing in self defence or as a form of capital punishment, but taken in isolation it is generally accepted that to kill is wrong. Therefore in the debate between pro and anti abortionists must centre around two essential questions: whether a foetus is a person, and if so when a foetus becomes a person; and whether abortion can be said to be self defence.
Possibly the deepest dilemma for an anti abortionist concerns the stage at which a foetus can be said to be alive, in the sense in which we would refer to a child after it is born. It seems absurd to think that in the relatively short time which the birth takes, the baby’s status will be so radically altered yet an almost mystical store is set by birth as for the first time we can distinguish a distinct personality, and directly interact with the infant . However, it is a largely unfounded significance in ethical terms as birth is often governed by contingent factors and the time of birth can be manipulated. Also to be considered is the fact that if the baby is ready to emerge from the womb, then surely it possesses enough properties for us to consider it in some sense a person. For example, if not than an eight month old foetus would not have the same claim to personhood as a two-month-old baby born prematurely at six months even though they are of similar developmental stages. Thus other stages of pregnancy are more commonly cited as the point in which personhood begins. John Grigg adopts the stance that there is a life that comes into existence as soon as conception occurs:
“To my mind life begins at the moment of conception… Conception is the magic moment.”
(John Grigg, in the Guardian, 29 October 1973)
This view may be problematic if we consider that life does not necessarily imply personhood. We may claim that the foetus is a human being but this merely implies that it is a member of our species, and not that...