The Morality of Abortion

Published 22 Feb 2017

I. Introduction

Bioethics is a recently coined word. It comes from “bio” which means life and from “ethics” which is morality. Bioethics is that branch of Ethics which deals directly with the problems of life and dying, of health and of healing. It focuses attention to the need for a healthier world in accordance with the dictates of reason. Life is precious. It is our main concern and duty. Health is our personal responsibility. This requires that we adopt a style of life that fosters health. We owe it to our family and society to be healthy. The cost of health care is becoming expensive everyday. It is a crime of gross injustice when, because of our reckless habits, we force our family to suffer financial losses and indebtedness.

But do we really care about the life which God has bestowed in us? Yes, certainly we do but there are some women choose to abort the life that is in them for some irrefutable reasons. Many agree to abortion depends to the circumstances but how about the women who just do not want to have kids? Is it reasonable that they just abort the “life” because they want to avoid responsibilities? Absolutely, not!

The intent of this paper is to investigate the women’s right to abortion and how do our society views this issue.

II. Background

Interruption of pregnancy or expulsion of the product of conception before the fetus is viable is called abortion. The fetus is generally considered to be viable any time after the fifth to sixth month of gestation. The term “premature labor” is sued when a woman experiences labor after this point in the pregnancy.

Abortion is the termination of pregnancy before the embryo or fetus is able to live outside the uterus. In other words, it is the intentional expulsion of a fetus which cannot survive by itself outside of the womb of the mother. In complete abortion the tissues surrounding the embryo or fetus are also expelled. Abortion can occur in a pregnant woman between the time the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus and the time the fetus is 28 weeks old. (After the fetus is 28 weeks old, it may survive outside the uterus).

A naturally occurring abortion is called a spontaneous abortion, or commonly, a miscarriage. It usually occurs because the uterus has rejected an abnormal embryo or fetus. Sometimes spontaneous abortion is the result of an injury or disease in the mother.

An induced abortion is one that is deliberately performed to terminate a pregnancy. It is called a therapeutic abortion when the life or health of the mother would be endangered if the pregnancy were to continue.
For most of the 20th century, abortion was illegal in the United States. In the 1960’s, some states began to allow abortions to be performed under various circumstances. In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court held in Roe v. Wade that the right of privacy covered a woman’s right to end an unwanted pregnancy in the early stages.

This decision caused a controversy over the rights to the mother versus to those of the unborn child. Groups identifying themselves as “pro-choice” defended a woman’s right to have an abortion. Anti-abortion, or “pro-life,” groups stated that human life began at the moment of conception and that abortion was thus the taking of a human life. In 1989 the Supreme Court again considered the abortion issue and, while upholding Roe v. Wade, allowed states to impose restrictions on how, when, and where abortions can be performed (see Head, Jeanne E. Does Abortion Access Protect Women’s Health? Volume: 19. Issue: 6. June 2004.

Many countries have abortion laws similar to those of the United States, and some consider abortion to be a birth control measure. Other countries allow the therapeutic abortions but limit other induced abortions to pregnancies resulting from rape. In some countries, abortion is completely illegal.

III. Background
Abortion is a highly publicized issue about which many people feel very strongly. Debate continues, pitting the principle of sanctity of life against the principle of autonomy and the woman’s right to control her own body. This is an especially volatile issue because no public consensus has yet been reached.

Abortion laws provide specific guidelines about what is legally permissible. In 1973, when the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton cases were decided, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the constitutional rights of privacy give a woman the right to control her own body to the extent that she can abort her fetus in the early stages of pregnancy (see Rubin, Eva R. Abortion, Politics, and the Courts: Roe v. Wade and Its Aftermath. Greenwood Press. New York, 2001.

In 1989, the Supreme Court’s decision in Webster v Reproductive Health Services upheld a Missouri law banning the use of public funds or facilities for performing or assisting with abortions. In 1992, President Clinton rescinded the Rust v. Sullivan 1991 decision, dubbed the “gag rule,” that prevented health care providers from discussing abortion services with clients in nonprofit agencies. The Supreme Court and state legislature continue to struggle with the issue of abortion.

IV. Discussion

A. Spontaneous Abortion

It is estimated that 1 of every 5 to 10 conceptions results in spontaneous abortion. Most of these occur because an abnormality in the fetus makes survival impossible. Other causes may include systematic diseases, hormonal imbalance, or anatomic abnormalities. If a pregnant woman experiences bleeding and cramping, a threatened abortion is diagnosed because an actual abortion is usually imminent. Spontaneous abortion occurs most commonly in the second or third month of gestation.

There are various kinds of spontaneous abortion, depending in the nature of the process (threatened, inevitable, incomplete, or complete. In a threatened abortion, the cervix doe not dilate. With bed rest and conservative treatment, the abortion may be prevented. If cannot, an abortion is imminent. If only some of the tissue is passed, the abortion is referred to as incomplete. If the fetus and all related tissues are spontaneously evacuated, the abortion is complete.

In some countries, abortion is considered a legitimate means for regulating the size of the family or that of population. In some of these countries, it is not only legalized but is encouraged by subsidizing it with taxpayers’ money.

Ethicists and theologians distinguish between indirect and direct abortion.

Indirect or therapeutic abortion is that which is performed for the purpose of saving the life of the mother. This is regard as morally permissible. The case, however, does not only imply that the mother’s life is simply preferred over that of the child. The choice is between a life which can be saved and a life which cannot be saved. The moral dilemma is either to let both die or to save the mother.

The unencephalic fetus is cited as example. Not only that this defective fetus cannot survive, it cannot fully develop into a conscious human life. Thus, it is justifiable to abort it rather than have it endanger the life of the mother.

It does not however belong to therapeutic medicine that aborts a fetus because it is afflicted with some kind of genetic disease, or possesses the risk of it. The fetus, and not the mother, is the patient. Killing the patient is no therapy whatsoever. What could be done, or should have been done, insofar as genetic disease is foreseeable, is to avoid conception. After conception, the only moral remedy is for immediate treatment after the delivery of the child.

Direct or Selective Abortion is the expulsion of the fetus by the willful wishes of the parents for purposes other than saving the life of the mother. Thus, abortion is resorted to as a means of limiting the number of children; as a political ploy to control population growth; or, simply, as means of eliminating an “unwanted” baby for social or economic reasons.

Direct abortion is immoral. It is violative of the natural right of the child to live.

Pro-life vs. Pro-Choice: The debate on abortion has divided public opinion into two opposing camps: the pro-life and the pro-choice.
Pro-life advocates adhere to the principle which calls for the protection and preservation of human life in all its forms.

First, life is present from the moment of conception, and secondly, that life will develop into human being, unless it is crushed out of existence. In other words, there is already a human being there in its first stages of development, like a tiny rose-bud that will one day open into a beautiful bloom. Life is there from the first moment. It is not just a piece of tissue, or a growth; it is a living thins, with a distinct life of its own. Anyone who destroys it destroys the human being that is to be.

Pro-choice advocates maintain that the mother, being a human being, and not merely a machine of procreation, has the right and the freedom to decide when to continue or terminate pregnancy. The State has no authority to prohibit abortion, since this belongs to the domain of the parents, especially the woman, as a matter of human right.

Pro-choice proponents do not deny the value of life. Towards its promotion, they insist that there other situations which may justify abortion other than that of saving the life of the mother. One such situation is the socio-economic capability of parents especially of single parents. Thus, accordingly, the ultimate decision should belong to the woman and/or parents as a matter of personal right.

It is denied that pregnancy is an intimate personal matter which concerns the woman or the family. But, likewise, it must be emphasized that abortion would not be a moral issue if couples would also admit to the prior responsibility of conjugal love and sex. Pregnancy is a foreseeable result of the sexual act. Couples, therefore, who are faced with risk of unwanted pregnancy, should have recourse to the moral means for avoiding conception.
It contradicts reason to allow persons to be reckless with their sexual activities and give them besides the “right” to judge whether the offspring deserves to live or to die. In this extreme situation, the parent or parents would be the criminal, the judge, and the executioner; and the child has no fighting chance to survive.

This is why pregnancy, after the fact, assumes a social dimension. It cannot be left entirely to the private moral decision of the individuals. It would be tantamount to giving each person the right to commit murder in accordance with their personal wishes.

IV. Conclusion

Having an abortion is a case to case basis. I cannot blame women who undergone abortion because that is their own prerogative and their right as a woman. I strongly believe that women who aborted their babies have irrefutable reasons; thus, their pregnancy might endanger their lives or the baby itself has its problem or whatever reasons the mother may have, we cannot push, dictate or even blame that individual. I don’t say that I am pro or anti but as an individual, I should not be judgmental and learn to understand women who experienced that kind of process. I should look at on the other side of the coin of why mothers aborted their babies.


  • Colker, Ruth. Abortion & Dialogue: Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, and American Law. Indiana University Press. Bloomington, IN. Publication Year: 2002.
  • Mohr, James C. The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800-1900. Oxford University Press. New York, 1999.
  • Pollitt, Katha. Abortion in American History. Volume: 279. Issue: 5. 2001.
  • Rubin, Eva R. Abortion, Politics, and the Courts: Roe v. Wade and Its Aftermath. Greenwood Press. New York, 2001.
  • Head, Jeanne E. Does Abortion Access Protect Women’s Health? Volume: 19. Issue: 6. June 2004.
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