Views Of Abortion – A Simplified Understanding To An Unending Debate
To say that abortion is a controversial subject is an understatement. From the regular citizen up to a governing body’s higher echelons, the issue of abortion has either made or broken careers and lives.
It may even be safely assumed that almost every country has at least broached the subject of abortion in one way or another. 1 However, since the first known practice up to the present, there has never been a worldwide consensus about it. We all know that there are three sides to this coin: pro-abortion, anti-abortion and the neutral. Let’s establish what we already know:
1. Clinical definition (How “neutrals” define it)
Abortion is the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced. The term abortion most commonly refers to the induced abortion of a human pregnancy. 2
2. Anti-abortion’s take of Abortion
Abortion is the premeditated killing of an innocent, unborn human being.
Opponents of abortion rights argue that the embryo or fetus is a person, or at least that the government has a responsibility to ban abortion until it can prove that an embryo or fetus is not a person. Although opponents of abortion often frame their objections in religious terms, abortion is never mentioned in the Bible. 3
3. Pro-abortion’s take of Abortion
Supporters of abortion rights argue that the embryo or fetus is not a person, or at least that the government has no right to ban abortion unless it can prove that an embryo or fetus is a person.
What else is new, right? Three different perspectives to abortion, or could it simply be three ways we handle our differences in our culture? What is the problem? Where’s the conflict? Well, go back to the different “takes” and take note of the terminology used as they define their stand.
In the Neutral’s point-of-view, everything is clinical. You can see words like “fetus”, “embryo”, “miscarriage”, “termination”, “viability” etc.
In the Anti-abortion’s point-of-view, you can see words such as “unborn”, “innocent”, “killing”, and “person”.
The Pro-abortion’s point-of-view uses terminology similar to the Neutral’s (embryo, fetus, etc.) with the exception of the word “person”.
It becomes apparent that the word “person” would seem to be a good starting point of the conflict. At this point, let us forego with the Neutral point-of-view primarily because these are individuals who would rather be diplomatic about the whole affair but usually end up choosing the side that makes the loudest noise.
Let us define “Person”, shall we? Before we get carried away with trying to define it, which will lead us to talk about the philosophy of the word and consequently talk about personal identity and the philosophical principles of Determinism, Libertarianism, and Compatibilism 4, would it be right to say that a person is a human being? Would it then also apply that a human being is a person? Truth be told, it is this author’s opinion that no other animal or entity can be called a person except for a human being (If you see it differently, you’re welcome to use the comment box provided for you). With that as a foundation or common ground, let’s move on.
A person is a being, such as a human, that has certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood, which in turn is defined differently by different authors in different disciplines, and less formally by different cultures in different times and places. 5
It is also a fact that Human rights are commonly understood as “inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being.” Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national and international law. 6
Therefore, since every person or human being is inherently entitled to human rights, it logically follows that a human fetus has the same right. In this light, do we need to state the fact that we have grossly abused the human rights of the innocent?
On the flip side, the pro-abortion or pro-choicers contend:
Regardless of whether a fetus is a human being or has rights, women will have abortions anyway, even if it means breaking the law or risking their lives. Even women who believe that abortion is murder have chosen to get abortions, and will continue to do so. That’s why we should leave the decision up to women’s moral conscience, and make sure that they are provided with safe, legal, accessible abortions. Because ultimately, the status of a fetus is a matter of subjective opinion, and the only opinion that counts is that of the pregnant woman. 7
On the point of view that anti-abortion or anti-choicers have regarding a fetus as a human being, the pro-choicers have this to say about it:
Biology, medicine, law, philosophy, and theology have no consensus on the issue, and neither does society as a whole. There will never be a consensus because of the subjective and unscientific nature of the claim, so we must give the benefit of the doubt to women, who are indisputable human beings with rights. 8
On the issue of a fetus’ rights, the pro-choicers contend that there is no support for fetuses as legal persons in international human rights codes. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Virtually all national constitutions do not treat fetuses as persons or citizens. American citizenship is limited to those “born or naturalized in the United States” (as per the 14th Amendment) and the word “Everyone” in the Canadian constitution has been deemed by the courts not to include fetuses.
Many, if not all, pro-choicers contend that:
If people want to stop abortion, they should turn to methods that do work. These include comprehensive sex education and safe, affordable contraceptives. Unfortunately, as illogical as it sounds, the people who are most against abortion are also often most against these preventative measures. If they truly wanted to reduce the number of abortions that occur, they would embrace these methods. 9
Perhaps there will never be a definitive line between these two points of view. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no meeting-half-way effort as well. Take for instance The Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute. As of the 21st of March, 2012, they have started training left-leaning clergy to speak out for abortion rights. According to a press release from the Center for American Progress, the institute “will provide new and seasoned leaders with the resources they need to be effective faith advocates for women’s reproductive health.” Their argument is quite straight-forward. According to Sally Steenland, director of the Faith Initiative at the Center for American Progress, a progressive group that launched its Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute,
Religion does support a woman’s personal decision-making about whether she is ready to become a
On a side note, would it cause any harm if we regard the issue the same way we deal with other taboos such as death by stoning or decapitation legally practiced by some cultures? Those against the practice simply turn away and ignore what happened. When asked for their opinion, the default slogan is that they’re respecting the laws and traditions of the said culture. Everyone goes their merry way. Now, if only someone would post an actual video of an abortion on Youtube… I wonder.
Are you still Neutral?
Human Fetus – By drsuparna http:[email protected]/ [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Abortion Laws Map – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AbortionLawsMap-NoLegend.png
- Abortion Laws ↩
- Abortion ↩
- Civil Liberties: What is Abortion? ↩
- Introduction to Liberty/What is a Person ↩
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person ↩
- Human Rights ↩
- Personhood: Is a Fetus a Human Being? ↩
- Personhood: Is a Fetus a Human Being? ↩
- 10 Arguments in Favor of Pro-Choice Policy ↩
- Progressive Group starts Training Pro-Abortion Rights Religious Leaders ↩