The question of abortion: the issue, arguments for and against.

Essay by McRichardsB, November 2006

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1. Introduction

Abortion is one of the most controversial moral issues that has become the center of discussion in our contemporary society. This issue has raised strong arguments, and for some people simply to mention 'abortion' is to stir up emotions. In this essay, I will present both sides of the argument: in favor and against. To take a closer look at this issue, I will discuss the arguments of Judith Jarvis Thomson, Michael Tooley, Don Marquis and the position of the Catholic Church. Finally, I will evaluate and show the way forward.

2. What is abortion?

Punzo defines abortion as 'the expulsion of the embryo or fetus from the uterus before it is capable of living outside the uterus' (1969:206). Similarly, Fagothey defines abortion as 'the expulsion of the fetus from the womb before it is viable, that is, before it can live outside the mother' (1989:250). An abortion may occur spontaneously, in which case it is called a miscarriage, or it may be brought on purposefully, in which case it is called an induced abortion.

In my essay I will discuss the latter, which is voluntarily chosen.

Abortion, as a moral issue, presents mother-fetus conflict: rights of the fetus versus the rights of the mother. The source of controversy is the response to whether a fetus is a human being or not, because it can only have human rights - including a right to life - only if it is human. Therefore, if a fetus is not a human being, then abortion can be morally justified. On the other hand, if a fetus is a human being, it has a right to life - it is entitled to the protection we accord to any other human being. Hence, making abortion morally wrong. It is evident that...