Considering a Woman’s Right to Abortion
One might consider a number of factors when approaching this subject. The vast majority of humanity believes that there are ethically justifiable reasons to end human life. For example: in self-defense, or defense of country, or the execution of dangerous criminals. Should then abortion be considered also justifiable? The crucial factor in the above examples of justifiable killing is that in each case the individual to be killed infringed upon another’s rights. The attacker who is killed in self0defense infringed upon the right to personal safety and health. Can it be argued that infant in the mother’s womb infringes upon the mother’s rights? The assertion seems ridiculous. The infant has no control over its circumstances, unlike those involved in the above examples. In the examples each action in the voluntary choice of a being endowed with free will. Thus, those involved in the examples can be said to have deserved to die-with the notable exception of the dying soldier. Soldiers are far more often the victims of circumstances than the actual villains of a conflict. The next prudent question then is whether or not the infant deserves to die. Again the answer seems obvious. The infant deserves no punishment because it has done nothing wrong. Notice that in order to deserve something negative-punishment-some action must be undertaken. However, by the laws of our country in order to deserve something positive-the intrinsic right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- the individual must do nothing except merely exist. Thus the scenario we are presented with is this: the infant deserves nothing negative-as it is unable to perform any meaningful action as of yet- and it deserves something positive-as it exists.
However, the whole concept of “deserving” indicates that the infant is considered a human being. Therefore, if it is accepted that the infant is a human being, I can think of no argument that justifies its killing. This discussion will then be forced to consider if the infant is in fact a human being. This will of course depend upon the definition of human. If human is defined by genetics, then the argument is over. The moment the sperm fuses with the egg 100% human DNA is in existence, as can be verified by a biologist. If a human is defined by physical aspects, which ones? The arms? There are one-armed individuals who are widely accepted as human. Eyes? Ears? Brain? Heart? If someone has part of their heart destroyed in an accident, are they less human? It seems foolish, in light of these considerations, to base humanity upon physical aspects. Are we then to be defined by the realm of the mental? Is it our minds that make us human? Is it our intelligence? By that reasoning, are more intelligent individuals more human than others? Are those who are sadly mentally handicapped less human then? Again it seems that humanity cannot be defined by mental characteristics.
The scientist will become uncomfortable as the discussion turns inevitably to the realm of the spiritual. Thus it will be left for another discussion. Perhaps then it is time that defines a human, a certain stage of the pregnancy or development. Very well. Which part? Birth? What about if just the head is out? Is it human? What if it is halfway out? Is it half-human? Can it be half-aborted? What if it is an inch from open air? Does it truly undergo such a vast transformation within an inch? From expendable biomass to a living human being? I think not.
Moreover, it seems to me that the element of the unknown is the greatest argument against abortion. The constitution does not define a human being. Thus we are left to interpret that for ourselves. However the very fact that we are unsure about whether or not the infant is a human should be enough to halt any attempt to destroy it. If there is even a 10% chance that the infant is a human it is far too much of a gamble to eliminate it. If a building is due to be demolished, and at the last second it is reported that someone might just possible be inside, will the demolition continue? Obviously not. The fact that it is at all possible that the infant is a human immediately makes it immoral to even attempt to end its life.
The last argument I have heard is the one relying upon the statement that the mother has a right to do what she wants with her own body. The understanding here is that because the infant relies upon the other to survive the mother has a right to control the infant’s life. I invite you to consider a scenario. You are dangling off the edge of a cliff, clutching a rope. I am holding onto the other end of that rope. Your continued survival is dependent upon my existence and willingness to hold onto the rope. However, it is my body and my hand holding the rope. My hands and body are getting tired of holding the rope, so I let go and you plummet to your death. Am I morally justified? I think not. Especially if I pushed you off the cliff in the first place.