Essay by azizwCollege, Undergraduate March 2004

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During the past century, abortion has joined race and war as one of the most debatable subjects of controversy in the United States. The issue of abortion speaks to matters relating to human relations where principle, sentiment, and law collide. Abortion poses moral, social, and medical dilemmas. There are many points of view or positions toward abortion; the three outlined in Chapter 5 are the conservative position, the liberal position, and the moderate position.

One of the debate's focuses is whether or not the fetus is a person. The conservative stance on this issue is that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. Accordingly, the conservative opposes abortion at any stage of development for any reason except extreme cases where the mother's life is in jeopardy. The justification used in these instances is the mother's right to defend herself. However, some conservatives argue that if one life must be sacrificed and one saved (the mother or the fetus), then the morally just sacrifice would be the mother because the mother has lived for years and the fetus has not had the chance to experience.

Since the conservative position holds that fetuses are persons with the right to life, conservatives negate the views of their critics who support viability as the cutoff point for a morally-justified abortion. The conservatives argue that different fetuses are viable at different ages; therefore, this premise is implausible.

In contrast, the liberals support the theory that fetuses are not persons and they do not have the right to life. Some liberals hold personhood to the following criteria: consciousness, particularly the capacity to feel pain; self-motivated activity, relatively independent of genetic or external control; the capacity to communicate complex messages; and self-awareness and the presence of self-concepts. And, since fetuses lack...