Abortion: The ethical debate

Abortion is a morally painful topic for anyone who finds themselves in the position to have to address this decision. The decision to take a child’s life, whether it be the right thing to do or not is never going to be an easy issue. The abortion debate extends to all manner of moral situations but the key question is;

Is it ever ethically correct to act as God and take a human life?

For many this may be an easy answer and for others it will not. There has and will always be two sides of this debate, those who are Pro – Life and those who are Pro – Choice. It is also difficult to depict between personal choice, drawing upon the fear of losing the ability to have children again and those who have a strong, affirmed opinion.

It is of course first important to address the definition of ‘human being’,

“A being that possesses certain human characteristics in addition to the human genetic code.”

This definition draws us to the issue of at what stage does a foetus become a human being? By definition withholding a genetic code and characteristics is enough. How can anyone make the assumption that a foetus is not born with an identity, a character?

A foetus can be aborted in the UK up until the 24th week of pregnancy. However The Abortion Act 1967 states that certain guidelines must be met, one of which is;

“Two doctors must agree that an abortion would cause less damage to a woman’s physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy”

The definition of ‘mental health’ is undefined, it is difficult to depict that whether simply having to deal with an unwanted child is damage enough to cause justification for the termination.

At the stage of 24 weeks the baby’s brain is growing rapidly, taste buds have fully developed, and their footprints and fingerprints are continuing to form. If born at this stage it is officially considered viable, that they may well be able to survive. 36% of children survive when born at this age.

To me it is completely unfathomable that at the age of 24 weeks a baby that could potentially live could be aborted, as though it had never existed. I would like to stress that I am not being naïve or disregarding the fact that even at this stage of pregnancy perhaps, under certain, drastic circumstances aborting a child may be the only option. In the circumstances where the mother could be at risk, abortion is regarded as a justified and sometimes fair option or perhaps a determined disability of the child. However again I would stress the ethical consequences of even this situation. The baby cannot express its will to live, or defend its already affirmed right as a human being, at 24 weeks, to life. Also with today’s developing technology is it ethically correct to make a decision based on judgement that, in the case of disabilty, the child wont have a good quality of life. How can we be sure?

Who are we to decide whether that baby has a shot at living? Does the mother have any more right that than the unborn child?

In terms of equality, that baby has far surpassed the stage of being a helpless, inanimate foetus. Personality is developed from the very early stages of birth if not before. We consider anything that is responsive and feels emotion to be living.

So the real question in hand is;

Does aborting a child when it has a 36% chance of living constitute as murder?

The issue that needs addressing is whether 24 weeks is a viable stage to terminate a pregnancy. I struggle to understand that at this stage what justification there could be for killing a baby in such late development.  24 weeks translates as 6 months, 2 thirds of your way through pregnancy. One would hope that at this stage you are fully aware of the commitment you are taking on and making conscious preparations for the child. Surely at this stage it is not viable to simply decide that having a baby now isn’t for you?

A staggering “97% of abortions take place for convenience or to avoid
embarrassment.”

It is not defined at what stage of pregnancy this 97% derives from, however this ridiculously high number surely reflects a culture of indespensible life? If the issue of abortion is not addresses now, children will be brought up relying on the ‘saftey net’ of abortion. The ‘no need to fear, abortion will solve the ‘issue” attitude. Being given the gift of life and carrying a child is not something you can just ‘switch off’.

In some rare cases women are unaware of the fact that they are carrying a child. However, it is important to stress that there are other options. At the stage of 6 months surely adoption is a more ethical method. There has been some media attention revolving the abortion debate recently with David Cameron stating he

“personally’ favoured a ‘modest reduction’ from the current limit of 24 weeks,
‘because I think there are some medical arguments for that’. But he said he did
not agree with the 12-week limit.”

With the abortion issue addressed my question to you is;

Is up to the 24 week cap a justifiable time to terminate a child? If so, for what reason?

And at what stage, if any, is abortion acceptable?

Eleanor Newton

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14 thoughts on “Abortion: The ethical debate

  1. On my opinion side: the mother has to trump the baby and to bring the word ‘murder’ into the debate is too emotive and insulting.
    The mother is the one that will have the bodily, financial and time consequences of the child. Even putting the child up for adoption is not a clean break since it was made legal for children over 18 to find the mother.
    A woman who is too young or too scared shouldn’t have to bring a life into the world if she doesn’t want too – because she is the one that will face the consequences of that life. And what about rape cases? Surely no one can say it is right to force the woman who carry the constant reminder of her trauma?
    And to look at it from the child’s point – it isn’t fair for the potential child. If a woman has considered abortion then she doesn’t want the baby therefore she shoulnd’t have it! No baby should be born when it is not wanted, and again adoption is not a clean answer. Children who grow up in adoption have their own set’s of issues because of that.
    I think it is very easy for people to say ‘it has a viable chance of living’ therefore it is murder – but consider that it ‘shouldn’t have a viable chance of living. Medicine has gone so far that we can maintain life to extraordinary levels, but only now do people seem to be asking: should we? A premature baby could have serious problems because of it’s prematureness and will most likely live in an incubator for a few months. It’s a close to the debate of euthanasia, just because we can keep someone alive it doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do.
    Just generally I think people SERIOUSLY don’t consider all the factors and consequences of things like abortion and euthanasia. Too many people pick a side when they are under-informed, haven’t thought it through enough or with a bias: such as religion.
    To answer directly your question of:
    Is up to the 24 week cap a justifiable time to terminate a child? If so, for what reason?
    It most definitely is, and to be honest I think abortion should be allowed further into pregnancy, I’d be looking at 28 weeks if it were me. No baby should have to come into the world unwanted and what right has a politician to force a woman who made a mistake or was raped to live with that for 18 years and more.

    If you’ve not guessed I’m pro-choice.

    • Thankyou I appreciate your comment, you make some interesting points. It is clear that you have a very strong opinion id like to expand on this.
      I understand your point of a woman being fearful of the prospect of having a child however the argument is that at 24 weeks, one would hope that the decision would already be made, confirmed and in turn justified . It is argued that when it gets to the 24 weeks stage you owe it to the child that you have carried thus far to give it a chance. Rape cases are of course a very difficult situation and by no means should a woman have to endure carrying a constant reminder and I don’t think that many people would argue that. However, I believe in rape cases that most people would take immediate action, so other than the argument that some people believe that as soon as an egg is fertilised it adopts a soul, this early abortion is justified. It is the length of 24 weeks that borderlines into the ethical suggestion of ‘murder’. As stated by the anti-abortion gang ‘murder’ is in fact a viable term used to explain abortion in the latter stages . Would you argue that at your proposed 24 weeks this baby could not be considered as a viable life to fight for?

      In terms of abortion, 18 years is a long time for the mother of the child to mature and rethink the matter, do you not think?. A recent survey stated that more than more than 82 percent of the women who responded indicated they deeply regretted their abortion decisions. If put up for adoption, allowing the child to find their birth mother at the age of 18 could in fact be a blessing, allowing the women who live life with regret to put things right and build relationships with their children. If this child were aborted women would lose this chance forever, always thinking what if. The survey found a 61-year-old who had her abortion in 1970, still feels “very guilty and sad”; another 30 years on and she has never stopped grieving.” How do you feel about this statistic in terms of the debate?

      It is difficult to determine where to draw the line when it comes to medicine and maintaining life. However I feel that Euthanasia and abortion are very different. For example abortion starts at the beginning, if there is the potential that they could survive with the support of intensive care, then why not give them the chance to fight. However in terms of euthanasia, it is normally in the case of someone who is terminally ill and they have personally made the decision that their life is not worth living anymore. Normally they have accomplished things in their life prior. However it is of course important to address the fact that babies cannot communicate and pain levels cannot be gauged. It is a very difficult argument.

      In response to your suggestion of 28 weeks that is a very strong comment, increasing the cap even further would only encourage women to ‘change their mind’ about having a baby after all and justify this notion. I think it would be very rare for someone to bring an unwanted child into the world who hadn’t made this decision within the first 3 months of pregnancy. With the research I conducted and my personal opinion 28 weeks is far too long and not justified enough. Id be very interested to hear your opinion in particular of whether you feel it is viable at this stage to just ‘change your mind, and abort the baby? Or do you appreciate there has to be a justified reason? Do you think you could ever be swayed by the statistics shown?

      • I doubt that I can ever be swayed from my opinion.
        You still talk of adoption – and while I’ll admit that it works sometimes – every child in adoption wonders why they are there ‘did mummy not want me?’ ‘Am I not good enough?’ etc. When you’re bringing a life into the world I think you should think about what you have to offer that life: if the best you can offer is a life of pain and confusion growing up in adoption (the child may love their adoptive parents very much – but that doesn’t mean they won’t wonder about their birth parents).

  2. I appreciate the point you make here Katie but after reading the post as stated one would assume that the carrier would be aware of the pregnancy well before 24 weeks let alone 28 weeks. Although the word ‘murder’ seems harsh, its a matter of fact that this argument exists. At 28 weeks the baby weighs just over 1 kg and could measure up to 38 centimeters sharing the resemblance of a 9 month age baby.

    Its the 24/28 week abortion that i object to. and yes I would consider it to be a type of murder. Some fault lies on the mother if at 24 weeks she is unaware that she is pregnant.
    It has to be taken into consideration, that there are many stable families out there who can’t get pregnant and can offer a loving home. There are plenty of options and plenty of awareness of these alternatives and this has to be taken into account before doing something as drastic as abortion, especially at 24 weeks.

    • There are indeed lots of families willing to adopt – but there will always be lots of children in care. The majoritiy of children in care are there because of abuse by their parents (not being fed, not being cared for, being beaten, etc) very few are babies put up for adoption at birth.
      The only reason to push for adoption at birth is to allow more adoptive familes to get their ‘baby’ instead of an elder child. It’s the children who enter care older that are most in need of adoption and who are the most unlikely to be adopted.

  3. This is an excellent post, you have done well to coerce people into not seeing abortion as a simple yes or no scenario.

    Personally i wouldn’t say abortion is ever the less ethical choice, because I don’t consider creating a life to be inherently more ethical than not creating it.

    Ideally abortion should only be used to protect the life of the mother, in the case of a real life threatening occurence that a mother will die if the child is not aborted.
    Also if there’s reason to believe that the potential child would not be healthy, provided for and wanted (whether by its birth parent/s or adopters). There will always be exceptions, but it is wrong to base policy on them.

    The real concern is the overwhelming number of abortions that fall under convenience, whether it is financial, academic aspirations, extended family pressure or simply not wanting to “man up” and take the responsibilty to keep the child they helped conceived. Unfortunately in my opinion the insouciant attitude adopted by society of all ages today towards the use of safe contraception, means that abortion is subconsiously relied upon to cater sexual pleasure. Ideally under such circumstances abortion should not be acceptable to forcefully address the seriousness of safe contraception, however the adverse effects of implementing this considering the current attitudes would be catastrophic and cause chaos to society.

    • I agree, abortion is beginning to be used as a method of contraception, it is a worry that young adults could become reliant on the ‘ease’ of simply having an abortion to get rid of the problem of carrying an unwanted child. Do you feel that the best way to put a stop to the ever increasing issue of abortion is to educate? It is important to teach young adults about the abortion procedure and change the mind set that this could be an easy way out before we further play with life and death. Many would consider life as a gift, however by all means under certain circumstance early abortion is viable if a young adult simply could not provide for the child, however this should not be considered as a procedure for the mass market. As you recognised it is the 24 weeks cap of abortion that is the real issue in hand. I agree that in these circumstances when the baby is of direct threat to the mother this is justified.

      Do you feel that the increase of abortion up until the 24 week limit is down to a cultural shift in values, choosing the method of medical solutions as opposed to valuing life and understanding the responsibility to adopt when you fall pregnant? Should there be more law abiding restrictions to both solve the issue of late development abortion and also put a stop to the amount of people initially falling pregnant whom ultimately turn to abortion? If so, do you have an opinion on what could be put in place?

      • Increasing awareness is key; many won’t be fully aware the terrible effects an abortion can have long term on themselves and their partner.

        General perceptions today are similar to- “Abortion helps women in trouble. Everyone knows it’s safe. It’s no big deal. After an abortion, you can forget about it and focus on the future. Life will go on the way it was before.”
        I think many who have gone through the mental strain of an abortion would agree the last paragraph is a myth and every assertion in it is completely false. Unfortunately this myth dominates our culture. It shapes our politics, our counseling services, and the attitudes and advice of our friends and families. It has even infected our churches and seminaries to some extent.
        In part, this myth has been cleverly reinforced and spread by abortion proponents who care less about women than they do about promoting population control for the “unfit”. But even more important, this myth has been protected by shame. While millions are struggling with the life-shattering grief and guilt which follow abortion, most are silenced by their own shame. And so the myth survives.
        Abortion is linked to low self-esteem, broken and abusive relationships, substance abuse, chronic depression, nightmares, increased anger and violence, child abuse, suicide and a host of other psychological problems. For many post-abortive women and men, abortion trauma has caused them to engage in elaborate or even bizarre patterns of denial and self-destructiveness.

        The government should take responsibility by generating initiatives and schemes which powerfully educate and prevent this general perception. Law abiding restrictions would scare the population, although it could be avoided if enough awareness on the affects of abortion were delivered.

  4. Thanks for the invitatation to read and comment on your post EC.

    “murder” is a legal term pro-choice hides from when choosing to kill an unborn baby. Abortion may be legal, but it doesn’t make the unborn baby killed by abortion any less dead. I know it may seem harsh, but the reality of abortion has been white washed for so long, people forget that real babies are the ones who die.

    Someone mentioned handicapped babies, and the hardships they would face. 90% of unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome, are killed by abortion. I’ve personally never met an unhappy Down Syndrome child, have you? These babies are not killed to save them from hardships, they are killed to save the parents from hardships.

    24 weeks is what the pro-choice lobby has settled for, because they’ve had no choice. And you see the vote for 28 weeks from Katherine already. They (pro-choice, not necessarily Katherine) would go much higher than this if they could. I even know some pro-choice people who would support a women who would choose to abort her baby at full term (not that it’s legal or would ever happen).

    Babies are not created at birth, they are created at conception. It’s time for women to support their children and stop killing them for their own convenience.

    • Thank-you for your comment and insight.

      This is a very interesting point, in terms of disability, a parent who genuinely wants to have a baby should love and appreciate it whether it be it disabled or not. The question of quality of life in terms of Down Syndrome children is exactly what the parents make it. It of course will be taxing and a huge life shift but nonetheless it is their daughter/son. I would be interested to know how you feel about babies that are born prematurely due to illness and put into intensive care, and the medical support they receive to keep them alive. Is it ethical to go above and beyond to keep that baby alive, where does medical meddling stop? Does this coincide with the efforts against abortion? In terms of abortion premature birth, disability and illness how would you define quality of life?

      It is unfathomable that some pro-choicer’s would support the notion of full term abortion, when babies killed in society are quite rightly immediately considered murder. I cannot imagine what possible justification there could be for this.

  5. I am now in my 40s and was adopted soon after my birth. Although my adoptive parents provided me with a life some children could only have dreamt of, I don’t think anyone except an adopted child can deeply understand the inner trauma of not connecting with the natural mother. A period that is part of the biological sequence deep in the area of personality where the psychological and physiological are merged.
    Since childhood I’ve suffered from anxiety attacks and depression, without really understanding why. My parents have always provided me with an abundance of love, safety and shelter but inside I always felt a piece of me missing, resulting in endless clinical endeavors, social instability and seclusion from human existence.
    I therefore at the age of 20 decided to hunt down my biological mother to only painfully discover that she suffers from unipolar depression. There are studies which prove a legacy of depression in mothers to the child.
    She prefers to not hear or feel my existence.

    So now, half a lifetime later I’ve come to understand that my natural mother never even realised she was pregnant until 25 weeks into the pregnancy. No means of support and too late to abort, I was put up for adoption.
    Looking back on my life and the hurt and pain I’ve inflicted on myself and the people around me, I would never wish that on any human being.

    Hence I’m pro-choice.

    • Thank you for your comment I really appreciate your story, sharing another perspective on the debate. You are right, unless you have experienced adoption it is very hard to imagine the trauma and struggle one goes through. I cannot fathom the confusion and torment an adopted child must go through. The circumstances are extremely damaging, in terms of abortion; being unaware that you are pregnant into such late stages must (in some cases) be a devastating discovery.

      Is there any advice you would give to a woman who is considering giving her child up for adoption? In reference to abortion, how far into the pregnancy would you argue that abortion is viable?

  6. I don’t believe there is a clear answer to this and i don’t think there ever will. It is just a topic that needs to be discussed and assessed in depth with guidelines on issues of “mental and physical health” made clear. I read a recent article, in light of Kate Middleton where a woman felt she need an abortion due to the severe morning sickness even though she really wanted the child. She then decided to have another baby and suffered the same symptoms but this time round decided to power through to the end. Examples such as this should be used within guidelines to determine if harm is going to be caused to the either the mother or the baby, just like in case law.

    • Thank you for your comment; I agree that it is a worry that the ‘fear factor’ could influence women to get an abortion due to the lack of education surrounding pregnancy/childbirth and abortion. With current media attention very much focused on Kate Middleton’s ‘acute’ morning sickness and drastic measures taken to admit her to hospital as a precaution could insight fear. This could insinuate and miss communicate that morning sickness could be detrimental to the mother and child. It is important to ensure that mothers are educated of the risks and given support, especially those who are considering an abortion. Do you feel that doctors should take more responsibility to reassure fearful mothers and encourage alternative methods? Or does it extend to a much wider scale?

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