Essay Sample on Ethics of Abortion

Published: 2023-03-04
Essay Sample on Ethics of Abortion
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Abortion Ethical dilemma Social issue
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1199 words
10 min read

The arguments about whether to perform an abortion or not revolve around whether the fetus is a person or not. Controversies exist on when life begins. Proponents of abortion argue that fetus is not a person, and it has not started living and hence can be aborted at will. The opponents of abortion say that life begins at conception and as such, a fetus is a person. In this regard, the latter consider abortion morally and ethically wrong since it amounts to killing while the former think abortion to be morally and ethically right. Since a fetus has already started living since conception, it is a person and hence should ultimately matter for the purposes of determining whether abortion is morally permissible or not.

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The fetus is both a human being and a person. Proponents of abortion argue that the fetus is undergoing development and does not resemble a human being (Dabbagh 2). In this regard, it cannot be regarded as a human being since it is a complex of cellular elements. From an ontological and semantic point of view, a 20 weeks fetus cannot be referred to as a human being since there is significant ontological change has taken place. At four weeks the complex cellular elements have only become bigger, and nothing more has changed. The semantic further applies to 30 weeks, and a 36 weeks fetus that they cannot be regarded as human beings since they are complex cellular elements (Dabbagh 2). However, a newborn is considered a human being, which brings controversies regarding the semantic point of view. Since a newborn has not grown fully and, as such is also undergoing development, should not be regarded as a human being. The fundamental features of a newborn and a 36 weeks fetus are more or less the same (Dabbagh 2). Based on this, a fetus is a human being and as such, a person who has the potential to develop a brain, conscious, and feelings, among other criterions for personhood.

Although Mary Anne Warren argues that a fetus is a human being and not a person, the argument is flawed because despite stating that a newborn is a person, it does not fulfill the criteria she says for personhood (Reynolds-Wright 51). As a result, if a newborn is a person yet it does not satisfy the criteria for personhood, there is no reason to deny that a fetus is a person. If a premature fetus can still survive outside the womb then it should be treated like a newborn. As a result, a 36 weeks fetus can survive outside the womb and, as such can be considered a person the same way a newborn is viewed as a person. Although fetuses and newborns are not persons for lack of psychological maturity to reason, belief or possess goals, they cannot be excluded from the moral community (Reynolds-Wright 51). This can, therefore, be argued from the point of potential. A fetus, just like a newborn has the potential to become a person since they can develop the conscious good in future. Infants and fetuses to have the potential to grow and become full persons. People intend to have a child, and the journey starts with a fetus; hence, the fetus has a potential for future just like any other person. A fetus has a future like any other person and should, therefore, be treated like a person.

The discussions on whether a fetus is a person are essential in determining if a fetus is a person and as if it can be aborted. If fetus is not a person, then abortion would be considered morally permissible, but if it was a person, then it could be regarded as ethically impermissible. The discussions for or against abortion tend to determine the moment when life begins and when a fetus starts being a person. Hence, the moral permissibility of a fetus is determined by its ability to be a person. Thus, the questions are critical and an ultimate matter in deciding whether abortion is morally permissible or not.

Mary Anne Warren provides a concise justification that an infant is not a person although a human being. While the argument is concise, it fails to answer some questions relating to personhood of the fetus and the infant. She presents the case that for an embryo to be considered to be of moral authority it has to be part of the moral community. In the moral sense, fetuses are human and hence have the full moral right. The author quotes the argument of Professor Thomson's who posited that abortion is permissible despite the fetus possessing a moral right. Thomson used the violinist analogy which only favors the proponents of women's rights hence guaranteeing abortion (Warren 5).

The author appears biased towards supporting the rights of women rather than in defending the rights of the fetus. She posited that a fetus is not a person but only possesses the potential to be a person. However, this would morally permit euthanasia and would compel people to induce some state of unconsciousness and execute the killing. For instance, people who are temporarily in a state of coma do not meet the criteria for personhood as described by Warren. As a result, they can be killed since they are not persons. Such a judgment would be flawed as it would lead to killing of people before their natural deaths. Besides, newborns between the age of 1 and 2 years do not fulfill the criteria for personhood and, as such can be killed at will for they are not persons. This argument would make infanticide morally permissible if it were to be relied upon as morally upright. Warren argues that despite a fetus having the potential top life and hence a prima facie right to life, that right does not surpass the right of a woman to have an abortion. In her justification, the right of an actual person invariably outweighs that of a potential person. The other flaw that the argument put across by Warren is about the rights of women. No right can be higher than the right to life. A fetus possesses full moral rights to live. A woman cannot claim to have rights that override the rights to live. In this regard, the rights of as fetus becomes more important than the right to enjoy life and as such, should be considered for greater good.

In conclusion, while Warren offers the reader a concise argument in support of women's right to abort she overlooks the rights of a fetus. If the pregnancy can be terminated almost towards the end of the gestation period, and still survive, why not give such a fetus the moral right to survive? There is hence a gap in her argument about the rights of women versus the rights of fetuses and infants.

Work Cited

Dabbagh S. Fetus as Human Being: Where is the Cut-off Point?. J Med Ethics Hist Med. 2009;2:2. Published 2009 Mar 17.

Reynolds-Wright, John. "The Moral and Philosophical Importance of Abortion." Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, vol 39, no. 1, 2013, pp. 51-53. BMJ, doi:10.1136/jfprhc-2012-100427. Accessed 29 Nov 2019.

Warren, Mary Anne. "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion." The Monist, vol. 57, no. 1, 1973, pp. 43-61. JSTOR,

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