Introduction to Ethics
Handout 10 - Introduction to Abortion
The Fundamental Question in the Abortion Debate:
"Under what conditions, if any, is it morally permissible to have an abortion?"
Our question is not ...
Our question is not, "Is it morally permissible to have an abortion?"
(Formulating the question this way suggests that one of the extreme answers must be correct (i.e., that either abortion is always permissible or that abortion is never permissible).)
Our question is not, "Should abortion be legal?"
Our question is not, "Is it morally permissible to interfere with another person's decision to have an abortion?"
Our question is not, "Would I be psychologically able to have an abortion?"
Answers to the Question:
There are two extreme answers:
Under no circumstances is it morally permissible to have an abortion.
Abortion is morally permissible under any circumstance.
There is a spectrum of positions in between, some very permissive of abortion, allowing abortion under many circumstances, others very restrictive, allowing abortion in only a few circumstances.
The following is a list of circumstances. For each circumstance, there are some who have thought that it is ok to have an abortion in that circumstance:
- if the fetus is going to die anyway
- if the abortion is required to save the life of the mother
- if the pregnancy resulted from rape
- if the pregnancy resulted from incest
- if the fetus would go on to have a bad life
- if the mother is "too young to raise a child"
- if not aborting would place extreme burdens on the mother
- if the child is unwanted and the parents took all reasonable precautions against getting pregnant
- if the child is unwanted