ABORTION AND PERSONAL FREEDOM
Between Pro-Choice and Infanticide
A Position Paper
Prof. Michael Haliprin
William Paterson University
Abortion is one of those issues that are easy to take sides with either side but not both. People as well as politicians, who are opportunist by nature, have become polarized. Conservatives and those who are right of the political spectrum are pro-life using a deontological position. While liberals, feminist and the left of the political spectrum are pro-choice using a utilitarian argument. Today, the issue has taken a dangerous turn for the worst as pro-lifers have turned up the ante and are starting a crusade to murder the doctors that perform abortions. The choice to go up in arms for this issue does not bode well for a free society.
FIRST POSITION: Roe Vs. Wade Now its Legal.
In this landmark case the Supreme Court decided some on points of the abortion issue and purposely did not decide on some. It stated that the constitution does guarantees a right to privacy, meaning that abortions may not be restricted by the states in the first three months of pregnancy. The court did not decide on the moral status of the fetus. It treated them as potential people of some value if not rights. The restriction on the first three months is based on the governments interest in preserving the health and safety of the mother and not that of the fetus.
SECOND POSITION: Fetus are people too.
John Noonan argues that the questions of privacy are not as important as the right to life. Only anothers, namely the mother, right to life can override the fetus right to life. Since humans have the right to life, it follows that a fetus has the right to life from the moment of conception. Further, the right to life is greater than any other right.
THIRD POSITION: It might have rights but I am under no Obligation to carry it.
Judith Jarvis Thomson argues that although the fetus might have the right to life it does not automatically follow that the mother is under any obligation to carry it through the full term. Although, she does agree that there might be some obligations that we have to fulfill. The mother is under no obligation to carry the fetus.
Fourth POSITION: Potential people rights can not override peoples rights.
Mary Anne Warren argues that if the fetus was a person it would have rights and abortion would be immoral. However, the potential peoples rights can not take precedence over any rights of actual people therefore abortion is permissible. She defines a person as having features of personhood, consciousness, ability and self-awareness.
Fifth POSITION: The issue is greater than us.
Jane English argues that we should not look at the rights issue but change the focus to our obligation to others. Sometimes Abortion is justifiable while at other times it is wrong. She contends that both the liberal and conservative positions are wrong.
Sixth POSITION: Abortion is murder.
Don Marquis argues that abortion is immoral just as murder is. Murder deprives something that would have human life of its future. Abortion is like murder that it would deprive something that would have the potential to experience a human life of that opportunity.
Note: It is difficult to write about this issue. I have not fully reconciled my opinions about it. The reason for this delay is that I have not had to face and I hope that I never have to make such a decision. Further as I have read the above mentioned opinions I can not say that I fully agree with any one opinion. However, I will attempt to argue for one.
The issues here are far from simple. It is a classic case of ethical clash of positions, the deontological versus the utilitarian. Is the abortion issue a mere issue of the right to privacy, or the right to do with ones body what one wishes? These questions the courts of law may never satisfactorily answer.
Is the fetus a human being, or is it a potential human being? These questions that science may never be able to answer satisfactorily for us. It has to do with an unscientific question as to the meaning of life. Here we edge closer to metaphysical questions more than scientific. When we abort a fetus, are we murdering a life or a potential life? What value does this life or potential life have on its own merit? What effects does it have on us if any when we decide to end the life of a fetus? What are the psychological effects as well as social and economic factors involved. Are the problems that we have with infertility somewhat linked to Abortion? How can we balance those that have infertility with those that have fertility? These are all questions that merit further research to be able to tackle the issue with further insight.
Abortion needs to be handled on a case by case basis. It should not be used as form of birth control. The fetus is a living thing that does amount to something if we allow it to run its course. The miracle of life is something much more valuable than to be decided on a mere issue of privacy rights. If the mothers life is in any danger, it should not be scarified under any circumstances. If the mother fears that she will not be able nor have, the means to take care of the child society must step in to help her take care of the child once born. Those fears are unfounded and must be dismissed.
Further, once two people engage in an act that will bring about a life the state must hold them both, the male and female, responsible for its care. Society should not let them off so easily. Life is too valuable a thing to be the plaything of children. If you can not withstand the heat get out of the kitchen. We should educate people of their responsibility to life early on in their education. Many grown adults want to procreate without having any idea of take care of their children.
Just as once we were potential people and our mothers carried us to full term we are under that very same obligation to carry out a potential life its full term. Unless there was some mitigating situation that prevents us from doing so, therefore we should not voluntary put an end this process once started.
We are under a natural obligation to propagate our species. Just as we were once given a chance to life, we should not deny others that chance. This is a deontological position that keeps us duty bound to our species. Further, it could be argued from a utilitarian position that there is value in all human life. We can never know what value those lives that were denied life could have contributed to the betterment of humanity.
Had Michael Jordans mother opted for abortion we would have no Jordan. Had Einsteins mother opted for abortion we would see the world much differently. What if Socrates mother decided to get rid of that ugly child what consequences would that have on the world. What gives us the authority to deny humanity of its choicest fruit?