2 pages!!! in 15 hours
Key concepts involved in the abortion debate
Pro-Choice – Body, Ownership, health, happiness, rights Pro Life – Personhood, duties, rights, viability
When we are speaking about abortion, we will refer to it as induced abortion, the deliberate termination of a pregnancy by medical or surgical means. Therefore, we are not going to be referring to spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or therapeutic abortion (performed to protect the life and health of the mother). I also am asking you NOT to consider abortion in the instances of rape and incest in this forum.
In discussing abortion, we need to distinguish between the moral question (is it right?) and the legal question (what should the law allow?) This is very important in the abortion issue because of the federal ruling of Roe vs. Wadewhich many constitutional scholars have cited problems with since 1973. And, so from a legal point of view, we need to also ask ourselves should abortion be a federally protected right or should it be a States rights issue?
First, let’s look at the legal issue. In the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme court ruled that the right to an abortion was a constitutional right to privacy based on the 14th amendment due process clause. This right, the court argued, was broad enough to include issues of family planning, reproduction, and children. Also, the court argued that no where in the constitution does the term “person” refer to the unborn and that the constitution does not recognize the unborn as persons to whom we need to confer rights. The ruling also set the following guidelines in terms of regulation of abortion based on stages of fetal development:
(0-12 weeks) 1st trimester – a woman has an unrestricted right to an abortion and that is between her and her doctor. No regulation may be placed by the State.
(12-24 weeks) 2nd trimester – a state may regulate but not ban abortion, except to protect the health or life of the woman.
(24-36 weeks) 3rd trimester – after viability (a state where a fetus could live outside of the uterus which becomes problematic because it is dependent on technology) a state may regulate and/or ban abortion except when necessary to protect the health or life of the woman
A few interesting things here: Abortions performed to save the life of the mother are clearly and correctly legal under Roe V. Wade. But the Court also stipulated “health”, not just life, which opens the door to a broad definition of what constitutes health. Also, the Court did not stipulate how abortion could be regulated, they simply said that a State could regulate it. Typical regulations include a ban on partial-birth abortion, parental notification/consent for minors and internal examinations with 24 hour waiting periods. There are many examples of abortion regulations in the news, I would be curious to see which, if any, you find reasonable.
Please respond to the following:
1.) How would a utilitarian view abortion? What net happiness/unhappiness results from allowing abortion? The utilitarian does not tend to focus on the concept of personhood when evaluating abortion, i.e. is the fetus a person; that is what the pro-life side focuses on, but on the consequences for the woman.
2.) How would a Kantian view abortion? The concept of rights and personhood figure in way more for the Kantian theorist. If the fetus is a person – never to be treated as a means to an end but as an end in itself with dignity and intrinsic value, then the Kantian would argue that the fetus must be given rights and due respect. If the fetus is not considered a person, then the Kantian can argue for the morality of abortion because the woman is a person and needs to be treated with respect and dignity, while also having autonomy over her body.
3.) What are the criteria of personhood? Philosophical arguments for abortion (Mary Ann Warren, which is the 2nd link on your syllabus) tend to focus on the following criteria of personhood (which the fetus DOES NOT possess, according to her):
1.) Consciousness (awake, alert, of one’s surroundings, and sentient (the ability to feel pain/pleasure)
2.) Self-motivated activity
4.) Self-awareness (presence of self-concepts)
5.) developed capacity to reason.
Are these sufficient criteria of personhood? They seem to be necessary in talking about human persons, but are they sufficient? Can you find any problem with this argument?
4.) How do YOU view abortion. State which theory/theories suppport your view.