Abortion: The right of the person versus the right of the fetus

Essay by Debi_BalladonUniversity, Master's August 2005

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The freedom to choose an abortion should be the fundamental right of any pregnant woman provided that she is making an informed decision. Here the term abortion refers to the termination of a pregnancy before the gestation period of 20 weeks. To be able to make an informed decision the woman must be of sound mind and have received adequate counseling with regards to her options and the consequences thereof.

Every woman should have control over her own body. It is her body and her conscience and she must take responsibility for those. The rights of an 'incomplete' person cannot take precedence over the rights of a 'complete' person. A fetus has no legal rights. Take the example of a pregnant woman who is involved in a car accident that was caused by a drunken driver. If she miscarries due to the accident, the drunken driver is not charged with manslaughter or murder.

There is a general consensus that the deliberate killing of a person, other than in self-defense, constitutes murder. The great moral dilemma here is establishing at what point a fetus should be considered a person. Before fertilisation takes place, both the ovum and the sperm are considered to be 'alive' but they cannot be considered to be a person. Everyone agrees that a newborn baby is a person. There are several reasons why a fetus should be considered a person from the age of twenty weeks and why a pregnancy should not be terminated after that point. Firstly, a fetus is able to feel pain from the 24th week when the synaptic connections between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex are made. It is areas in the cerebral cortex that gives rise to the experience of pain. Secondly, let us look at when we consider a person...