Abortion

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From the Latin abortus, the past participle of aboriri, 'to fail'. While one can abort a project, a process, or a military op., these days abortion is used primarily to refer to the abortion of a fetus, especially an intentional and premeditated destruction of the fetus.

When an abortion happens naturally, AKA Spontaneous abortion, it is sometimes defined as 'a termination of a pregnancy at any time before the fetus has obtained a stage of viability'. What exactly counts as a 'stage of viability' is debatable, and is usually based on fetal weight or age. As premature babies are being kept alive at younger and younger ages, definitions based strictly on time of gestation or weight aren't as important as is whether the baby lives or not. These days the term abortion will usually only be used if the foetus is expelled from the uterus because it has already died.

If a distinction is made between abortion and miscarriage (and usually there is), 'abortion' can be used when the death happens before the fourth month of pregnancy, and 'miscarriage' for any thereafter. Alternatively, miscarriage can be used to refer to any and all spontaneous abortions.

Most of the writeups in this node are about medically-induced abortion, which can be split up into numerous categories; induced abortion (your basic medical abortion, AKA artificial abortion), therapeutic abortion (for the health of the mother), eugenic abortion (because the foetus has serious defects), criminal abortion (done illegally), legal abortion, and habitual abortion (usually defined as abortion over three or more consecutive pregnancies, AKA recurrent abortion).

You also have to worry about incomplete abortion, where not all of the associated membranes (abortus) come out; missed abortion, the retention of the dead fetus for two or more months after death; septic abortion, when the abortion causes an infection in the mother; and threatened abortion, a condition of vaginal bleeding which often foreshadows an abortion.

Even with all that medical mess to worry about, the most controversial aspect of abortion is moral. Lots of people get very worked up about abortion. My opinions are noded elsewhere, but I will attempt to give a very brief and impartial overview of the debate. There are two basic viewpoints on abortions, generally termed pro-life and pro-choice.

Pro-life: A moral viewpoint holding that medically-induced abortion is wrong. Pro-lifers may have a list of conditions under which abortion is acceptable, i.e. if there are severe deformities of the fetus, or if the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape. Other pro-lifers will hold that abortions are always wrong. This viewpoint is generally based on the idea that the fetus is a living human being, and that killing it is wrong for exactly the same reasons that murder is wrong.

Pro-choice: A moral viewpoint holding that medically-induced abortion is not wrong. Pro-choicers generally hold that the right of the mother to choose what happens to her body is the primary moral and ethical issue to be considered. Pro-choicers often believe that imposing your belief system on another's body is at best oppressive and at worst rape.

A guy once asked me if I thought the abortion of a human fetus was morally deleterious. He asked me if I thought a woman should have the right to end the existence of the embryo growing in her uterus. I asked him if it was any of his concern what goes on inside the organs of a perfect stranger and that seemed to shut him up for a while. But minutes later he pointed out that I had never really answered his question. Personally, I thought I had rendered him a perfectly good answer, but he seemed to think otherwise. So I gave it another go-round in my head and decided that it was none of his damn business what my opinions were. And I told him so with a few more colorful metaphors thrown in to shut him up for good. But after a few minutes of thinking and rolling it around my noggin some more, I came to my conclusions about this whole abortion enterprise. I turned around to let the guy have it, but my inquisitor disappeared in search of more prey (actually he went to get lunch, but prey is far more dramatic). But so enthused was I about my revelation, I had to spill it.

First though, let me say this: Whatever the opinion of the United States Government, or even the people of this nation as a whole, I feel that congress should make no law concerning abortion. It is not the business of the State to decide the inter-workings of a woman’s reproductive organs. Remember, this is a stoic Republican talking here. I realize that it is good ol’ big brother’s job to promote the general welfare, but it also has the task of ensuring domestic tranquillity. And a car bomb in front of an abortion clinic is surely not the way to assist in this. Now pay attention.

The first question that I must address is the “When Life Begins” palaver. Some people say that life tends to begin at some point several weeks after conception, and some argue that it begins at the moment of conception. Now I’m no scientist, but I do tend to go about things in an empirical manner. So I agree with the latter; that life begins at conception. The fetus eats (absorbs nutrients), it reproduces (cellular mitosis), it metabolizes it’s intake of food in a crude fashion, and most importantly, it responds to stimulus. These are the classifications that wiser heads than mine have determined constitutes life. So, by following these classifications, that pencil dot of an embryo is alive.

The next part is tricky. Why does society get to decide about one woman’s uterus? And I think they shouldn’t. This is probably one of my life guidelines that I will never change. If a woman decides to have an abortion, there isn’t a yes or no question that gets applied to me. It is entirely up to that woman and the partner (if there is one). And it is not my business, it’s not your business, or that guy’s business, or anybody’s. It is the sole choice of the two genetic donors. That’s it. Abortion should remain legal so that any woman, who decides to, can have the procedure performed. The fact of the matter is that humans are stubborn bastards. If the group says no, there will undoubtedly be a hand full of people who say yes. And just for all you kids out there: Raise your hand if you know how abortions were performed before it was legal? With coat hangers in a back alley. Now I leave it to you to figure out how that went. The fetus was destroyed all right and usually so was the mother. Abortion, no matter what I think of the people involved or the tools used or the politician on his or her soapbox, should remain legal. Since it’s gonna happen anyway, why not let it happen in a clinical setting. It becomes safe, anodyne, and humane.

Now I explained this to a few people, all female, who were already on the side of the patient. And the general consensus was that I was against the illegalization of abortion for all the wrong reasons. And maybe they were right. But recently, I realized, while there was an amount of truth to what they told me, I had a damn good reason for taking the stance I have on the subject. First off, I’m no activist. But second, I’m a man. I can never understand what it would be like to go through the procedure, or carry a child or be denied the right for personal happiness (pertaining to child rearing anyway. I work for the government, I know all about being denied personal happiness). I think that only a woman can feel those emotions and only a woman could be strong enough to weather that kind of mental torture. The best I can do is come up with an opinion that reflects my attitude on the world in general, not on just one of the many facets of human existence, especially one where I am only, at best, an observing party. All of the pain, joy, grief and ecstasy that comes with carrying a child, I will never experience. Ahh, but now I’m rambling.

I guess I’m done now.
Facts

Every year, there are six million pregnancies in the United States, and more than half of them are unintended. Half of these unintended pregnancies are ended in abortion.

Just the word "abortion" can cause extreme feelings in people. Some believe it is immoral, others feel it is the woman's choice. But I'm just going to cover the facts of this procedure, including why, when, and how it is done, without claiming support for one side or the other.

Why?

There are numerous reasons why women choose to have an abortion over the other options presented to them.

1. Not ready to have a baby
2. Can't afford a baby
3. Doesn't want to be a single parent, no relationship, doesn't want to marry her partner
4. Doesn't want anyone to know
5. Too young/immature
6. She already has all the children she wants
7. Her partner wants her to get an abortion
8. Health problems
9. Victim of rape or incest
10. Doesn't want children

Most women who have abortions feel extreme relief after the procedure. It has often been argued that most feel guilt, sadness, etc., but this hasn't really been proven. If the pregnancy was wanted and had to be terminated due to health risks, then these feelings are more common.

When?

90% of all abortions take place during the first trimester (first three months).

Less than 9% take place after the first trimester

Only 1 in 1000 takes place after 24 weeks

How?

For very early abortions, medication can be used.

1. The methotrexate-misoprostol method involves an injection and then a return visit 5 to 7 days later.
2. The mifepristone-misoprostol method involves swallowing the medication instead of an injection.

For early abortions, suction can be used. This takes about 20 minutes.

Early second trimester abortions are similar, but the preparation and the procedure takes longer.

Abortion after 24 weeks is just as risky as giving birth. Salt solutions are injected to produce labor and stillbirth (baby is dead at birth).

Conclusion

Hopefully, by giving you this information your eyes have been opened to the facts of abortion. I'm not asking you to believe in it or not to, just to understand why, when, and how it is done.

the warmth within - closeness,
a sentiment I cannot seize.
pushed away dauntingly,
bestowed to a savage extremity.
next to me she may be standing,
whispering or sometimes laughing,
touching me, she might be crying;
a tender, sweet charade.
deploringly, I lay here,
as a coldness stirs in it's place.

nov. 97.
Why does society get to decide about one woman's uterus?

Why does society forbid a person from killing his or her child, in their house? Why does society get to decide about what happens in any person's house? Because killing a person in that house is a violation of that person's rights. Ceasing the life of the fetus is no doubt a violation of the rights of that fetus. Society and the government can, and do, forbid activities that violate the rights of others.

If a woman decides to have an abortion, there isn't a yes or no question that gets applied to me.

If any person decides to kill another person who doesn't belong to one of any of the groups, classes, races, etc. to which I belong, there isn't a yes or no question that is applied to me either. It doesn't affect me any more than an abortion affects me. It's not my business whether a person kills someone. There are many things that do not "affect me," but that does not mean that it does not affect someone. The fact is, an abortion affects the fetus, possibly as much as it affects a person killed in the outside world.

Walking out of the store and down the street, I heard a gasping wail. Looking up, I saw a woman with two children in hand attempting to jaywalk in the middle of the street.

The wail prolonged and repeated. It was hysterical crying, coming, probably from both, but primarily for the older child, probably about seven, who was being dragged, feet dangling, by his wrist. It was a murderous cry. A desperate, all-out scream, rattling over and over again at the limits of breath.

Some children can make that noise because they’ve been denied a 23rd viewing of the Pokemon movie. Most people, however, reserve it for when they are being burned alive. It was hard to tell, at that moment, where on the scale this child was.

The mother stopped, transfixed momentarily by the glances of the people around her, and looking distractedly in either direction, dragged her children haltingly across the street, appearing not to notice as traffic stopped to accommodate her. As I walked closer, I heard her muttering in what might have been heavily accented English. Then it happened.

whack.

She had delivered a close-fisted blow to the head of the child. The screams intensified. Shouting unintelligible curses, she began hitting him repeatedly, still holding him up with her other arm.

whack. whack. whack. whack. whack. whack. whack.

She was hitting him with steady repetition, muttering and shouting things I was grateful I could not understand. A man ahead of me with a stroller and an older child of his own turned and furtively stared. There were glances from across the street. As I walked around the corner, she was shaking him, and smacking him in the face. The noises coming from his gaping mouth made me wonder at what point he might injure himself from screaming, or faint from not breathing properly. The more he cried out, the more vigorous the blows.

I wondered, shivering, as I stepped out of sight, whether or not it would eventually work; perhaps if she drove him unconscious, or the shock would overwhelm him, and eventually quiet him. I understood from her blankly murderous glance at me as she met my eyes that she could do that, beat her child half-unconscious on the street on 7th Avenue, without incurring comment from the horrified onlookers.


People don't seem to understand why I wrote this or what it means. I'm relating something that happened to me the day I wrote this, which made me think: how valid or genuine is anyone's concern over the lives of "unborn children" when we let the world work this way for the born ones? If you consider all of the energy various forces dedicate to ending abortion, while there is a shortage of foster homes, decent public schools are a myth, and good higher education has become impossible except for the exceptionally wealthy... let alone all the problems with the world into which we "precious" children grow up... the zealotry of the anti-abortionists starts to appear rather peculiar.

Why don't more people realize that the church is just as mercenary in its edicts as Phillip Morris or Coca Cola? It's trivial and obvious: religion is inherited. The only way the church can hope to replace its dwindling membership and grow again now is by christians having lots and lots of babies. And its transparent in its efforts - surprise... the church is openly against not only abortion, but sex education and birth control... But if it shocks you that the church can be brutal and self-serving in this way, you are obviously not a student of history...

The deliberate break with the past was inevitable. It was a cancer wrapped around my vital organs, choking off growth, both physical and spiritual. Too long I remained attracted to the beauty of the wondrous and addictive demon, which I had only discovered through you. Too long I clutched onto these foolish hopes you had sworn were truths. You stroked my hair, looked into my eyes, and filled my universe with lies. Your excuse was ignorance; mine was denial. The cards were before me the entire time. I just could never bring myself to read them.

This little creature we made threatened to swallow me. First I ignored it. Then I fed it and nursed it. It grew, and claimed more of me for itself. Meanwhile, you refused to acknowledge it as your own; its existence was confirmation of the night whispers which I relished speaking but you secretly feared. In my strained mind, I could only do one thing. While it slept, I crept in and strangled it, and felt my lifeforce die along with it. But unlike that murdered dream, I will live again. I did this for myself, yes, but also for you. You never recognized that... you never saw or felt what it was I had to do for you. That, my weakness, my jealousy, was the source of my anger.

So I carve out a piece of myself, and offer it to you, and to our mutual salvation. This is a moment of supreme sadness and tragedy. We have created the negative, and with that sobering knowledge I leave you.



Abortion methods

Here are the ways science has figured out for making a live fetus turn into a dead fetus. Since 1973, about 35 million Americans have been terminated in one of these ways. There are many additional practices that are not listed here due to their rarity.

First Trimester Abortions

SUCTION ASPIRATION (Also known as "vacuum aspiration"):
This is the most common method used for first trimester abortions. The cervix is numbed and then stretched open. A hollow tube with a knife-like edge is inserted through the cervix into the uterus and attached to a very powerful suction apparatus. The suction effect dismembers the fetus or embryo and desposits the torn human matter into a jar. The placenta is also sucked along with the fetus. Possible side effects include bleeding, infection, and perforation of the uterus.

DILATION AND CURETTAGE ("D&C", "sharp curettage"):
Relatively similar to suction aspiration, D&C is accomplished by inserting a curette (a type of loop-shaped steel knife) into the uterus through the cervix. The curette is then used to scrape the embryo or fetus from the uterine wall. Like suction aspiration, the placenta is also removed. The curette tears the fetus to pieces, and the fetal parts are then removed through the cervix by suction or additional scraping. Because of the scraping, this method usually requires anesthesia, as there may be considerable bleeding.

RU-486 ("mifepristone"):
At present, RU-486 is licensed for use only in France, Britain and Sweden, and has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Update 9/28/00: now it has). It is used in the fifth to ninth weeks of pregnancy. RU-486 inhibits production of the progesterone needed to prepare the uterine wall to support and nourish the pregnancy. Unable to obtain proper nutrients, the fetus starves. During the next visit, the woman is given Cytotec (misoprostol), a prostaglandin, which induces labor and expels the dead fetus from the woman's body. In the 5-10 percent of cases in which this is not successful, the woman must undergo a surgical abortion. Possible side effects include nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, heavy and extended bleeding, heart attack, hemorrhage, impaired future fertility and harm to future children, significant blood loss, and in very rare circumstances, death. Long term effects of use are not yet known.

METHOTREXATE ("MTX"):
Methotrexate has been approved by the FDA for treatment of cancer. However, a very few doctors have used it for inducing abortions. First, MTX is administered as an intermuscular injection. The MTX interferes with folic acid and kills rapidly growing cells, and is sometimes used for termination of life-threatening ectopic pregnancies (in which fertilized eggs grow outside the uterus). MTX is a toxic anti-cancer drug and can destroy the trophoblast, the protective outer layer of the fetus. Cytotec is again used for expulsion of the fetus. Potential complications include liver damage, kidney destruction, heart muscle damage, pulmonary failure, gastrointestinal problems, stroke, convulsions, nausea, diarrhea, bone marrow depression, severe anemia, methotrexate-induced lung disease, and death.

Second and Third Trimester Abortions

SALINE AMNIOCENTESIS ("saline injection", "salt poisoning"):
This method is used only after sixteen weeks of pregnancy. A needle is inserted into the woman's abdomen and a highly concentrated salt solution is inserted into the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus. The fetus dies as it breathes in and swallows the saline solution. Initially, the fetus struggles and sometimes convulses. As the salt takes effect, salt poisoning, dehydration, hemorrhages of the brain, and failure of other organs cause the fetus's body to become covered with bruises. Simultaneously, the salt soution chemically burns away the fetus's fragile skin. The death of the fetus is quite slow and usually takes more than an hour. Approximately 24 hours after the procedure, the woman gives birth to a dead fetus. This method was developed in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and is virtually no longer used in the United States because of instances of women giving birth to still-living (yet severely injured) fetuses. The UREA ABORTION uses a similar method with urea solution.

HYSTEROTOMY ("Caesarean section abortion"):
Practically identical to a Caesarian section delivery, the hysterotomy is generally used when chemical methods fail. Incisions are made in the abdomen and the fetus, placenta, and amniotic sac are removed. This method is rare, as it is the most fatal to the mothers and is one of the least successful (fetuses often live through the procedure and are left to die of neglect or otherwise killed outside of the womb). It is a major surgery that usually brings with it many painful side effects for the woman.

DILATION AND EXTRACTION ("D&X", "Partial Birth Abortion"):
D&X is performed on babies from the fifth month of development until birth. First, the cervix is dilated for two days using Cytotec or laminaria. When the cervix is sufficiently dilated on the third day, the amniotic fluid is drained away and the doctor inserts forceps through the woman's vagina and cervical canal into the uterus. The fetus is grasped by the leg and pulled through the vagina feet-first until only the head remains inside the woman. Surgical scissors are inserted into the base of the fetus's skull and spread apart to enlarge the opening. A suction tube is inserted into the skull and the fetus's brain matter is suctioned out through the tube. This causes the skull of the fetus to collapse, and the fetus is instantly killed. With the head of the fetus collapsed, it is easily removed from the vagina. Finally, the afterbirth is cut away. Because many of the fetuses exterminated in this nature are old enough to be viable, accidental births occur if the head slips out of the vagina during the procedure, meaning that continuing with the abortion is legally murder. The American Medical Association refuses to support this procedure.


I did a lot of research on this, but I still may be in error. If you would like me to better explain a procedure or believe I'm wrong about something, please contact me. Also let me know if you feel that I have left out any significant method. - Uber

Something that I have noticed here is that no one has mentioned what the father's rights are concerning abortion. Well, I was curious, so I looked for some information on this. Turns out, the father has NO rights. No one seems to ever mention this, or even take it into consideration, so I felt it necessary to say this to complete the definition of abortion here - abortion in the United States is the choice of the mother, with no legal precedence invovled in the choice of the father, however both parents are equally responsible for the well-being of the child after birth. I will not give my point of view on this subject, as this is not the forum in which to do so.

Abortions are not a fun thing to go through. I remember how happy I was, taking that pregnancy test and knowing in my heart, as the two lines appeared, that I would be a mother. I didn't know how I would pull it off, being only 16, but I would try my best. I went to the doctor and was told that for health reasons, I should have an abortion, and that if I decided not to have one, there was a good chance I would die.

So, a month later, on February 24th, I found myself lying to my mother, waving goodbye, and walking out of the house to my boyfriend's car that was waiting to take me away to an abortion clinic towns and towns away, where no one knew me and no one cared.

I waited for six hours in that lobby. I remember walking inside the back room when they called my name and sitting in the chair, letting them take my blood pressure, temperature, and then stab my finger with a pin for a sample of blood to test. "You're Rh-," she said. "That will cost an extra 50$ for the shot." I sighed and nodded, and went back into the lobby and waited. A little while later, they called me in and performed an ultrasound, telling me that I was 13 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I could still have the easier vacuum abortion, they told me. They would lay me down, insert small rods into my cervix to open it wide enough, then insert a vacuum tube with a metal end into my uterus to clean it out. Had it been 14 weeks, they said, they would have had to perform a more painful abortion with a large pair of forceps. I was very glad for not waiting any longer to get this over with.

At the end of the six hours in that lobby, they called me into their office and asked how I would pay. They said that it would cost us $650 for everything, including the shot I would need, and the so-called anesthesia they would use on me, called Twilight. They told me that Twilight would not really reduce the pain, but it would numb it a bit, and it would also block my mind from making memories of the experience. They took our $650, and warned me that the pain would be like bad cramping. Then they escorted me into the abortion room, and I stripped, and then I laid down on the special table that held your feet up and apart. The nurse was there with me, holding my hand. I felt them give me the shot, and then I felt them put the IV of Twilight into my arm, and then everything went hazy. I felt fumbling inside me, dull flashes of pain here and there, that built quickly into huge amounts of sharp, bright pains that made me cry out and bite my lip so hard that it bled…and they took my baby.

I was in that room for five minutes, they told me, though it felt like hours. The Twilight never blocked the memories of pain, like they said it would. I remember all of it. I felt all of it. I feel badly for anyone who goes through that pain.

Some people argue that abortion is a bad, bad thing, and that it should not be legal. There were Christian protesters outside the clinic when I went, screaming for us not to kill the babies. Yes, there was a chance that I might have lived to have that baby, and then lived afterwards. But I had the abortion anyway. Yes, I killed my child, and I did so willingly. I have no regrets, and to anyone who thinks I should not have done what I did, I ask them to go through the sickness and pains I would have had to endure to have that baby, as well as the possible death. I wanted to make sure I'd live, to be healthy and have a healthy baby later.

Let the woman make the choice. It is her body, and I don't care what your beliefs are…only hers matter. We, as women, are given the power to create life, and can make the choice to create or not.

For those of you who, for any reason, are pregnant and/or do not want to be/become pregnant and need or want information on herbal contraceptives, birth control, and abortions, see these sites:

http://www.geocities.com/sister_zeus/
http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/2279/List.htm

Some time has passed since I originally posted this writeup, resulting, I must admit, in the node being locked. The writeup has received a rather mixed response - it has been upvoted, downvoted, praised and criticised and often ignored. I would now like to expand and clarify it, because I have realised that in the original text, I only presented the final argument in a chain of several.

The subject is a touchy one - abortion, cause of much discussion and conflict. Superficially, the two sides of the argument can be called “pro-life” and “pro-choice”. But there are two problems with this view. For one, it is not a simple yes-or-no question with no gray area, whatever the radicals might say. The other problem is with the names of the two positions, or rather what they imply the opposition to be. While the expression “pro-choice” implies an “anti-choice” side to the matter, which is more or less true with many of those people, “pro-life” implies an “anti-life” or “pro-death” faction. That is hardly the case - I doubt that anybody is very fond of abortions and would like more of them to happen.

Actually, in a way, everybody actually wants the same. Both sides would like it best if absolutely no abortions were necessary. But, this being an imperfect world, that is not the case. As I mentioned above, this is not in fact a black-and-white question, no case of us-and-them. One of the main reasons for all of the confusion about the entire matter is that at its heart is a gradient: At the beginning are sperm and ovum, single-celled lifeforms, at the end is a newborn baby. Everybody agrees that killing newborn babies is bad, but there the consensus ends. Everybody agrees on the sanctity of human life, but there is disagreement about when human life begins.

Is a sperm cell a human being, entitled to human rights and protection? That does sound a bit absurd, since the spermium does not even have a full set of human genes. The same goes for the ovum. So, what about the fertilised egg cell? It does have a complete set of human genes and it is undoubtedly alive. Yet many if not most fertilised ova never actually grow into a human being. Do we hold funerals for them? Not really. So, can we claim that it has human rights? Maybe.

Next comes the grey area, where the single cell slowly develop into a fully articulated human being over the course of ten months. The development is fairly continuous, so it’s very difficult to point at a specific point in time and convincingly argument that this is where the unborn becomes human. Though there is one vaguely defined point in the development where a somewhat convincing case can be made: it is when the unborn would survive if it were to be born at that time. However, most “pro-life” people would probably think this a far too late date. Shortly after, the baby is born, and only now does the question become clear. This is the point where everybody agrees that the baby must not be killed. But what about a baby who is still inside, but which will be born in, say, ten minutes? May it still be aborted? What about twenty minutes, an hour, a day, a week, a month, three?

Our ethical thinking, which is based on the opposite concepts of right and wrong, has great difficulties with such a gradient from reasonably clear rightness to definite wrongness. What are we to do? Implement a sliding scale of punishments? Make abortion in the first month a minor offense punished by a mild fine. In the fourth month it’s a few days of prison. In the ninth it’s a sentence for murder, without recourse. Imagine the squabbling and problems and chaos and ethical dilemmas resulting from such a practice. That will not do.

So I decided to abandon the whole question of if and when abortion is evil, and instead tried to look at it from a more practical point of view. Doing this, I realised that making abortions illegal will not necessarily reduce their number anyway, so the entire argument about what to do legally might be beside the point. I then reasoned the following way:


"In discussions about whether to allow abortions, many religious, ethical and philosophical arguments are brought forth to either justify or attack aborting pregnancies. However, there is one very practical argument against prohibiting abortion that often seems to be ignored:

Outlawing abortions will not make women stop having them.

There were aborted pregnancies long before there were abortion clinics. Those days, women terminated a pregnancy on their own, using knitting needles, table edges and other pointed things. Using such crude and unhygienic methods, they were in grave danger of injuring or even killing themselves. Abortion clinics are places where pregnancies can be aborted quickly and safely, for the safety of women.

If abortions are outlawed, women who really want to have one will be in a dire situation.

Some women apparently get an abortion without realizing the magnitude of their decision. It is partly to stop this from happening that some people advocate that abortion be forbidden. However, there could be some kind of counseling process that would show whether a woman really wants an abortion. She might not know the alternatives, or she might be under pressure from the father of the child or from relatives. But still:

If a woman really wants to have an abortion, she will get one - there is no way to stop her."


Wherever you may stand on the debate outlined at the beginning of this text, whether you are "pro-life" or "pro-choice", this argument still holds true. The great debate does not really matter. Instead it takes away our time and energy, which we could devote to finding other solutions to the problem. If one really wants to reduce the number of abortions instead of fighting about ethics and morality and religion, then there are more effective and less dangerous ways of doing so, like proper, truthful sex education, family planning, social support for single mothers and counseling for expectant parents.

Abortion can never be justified as it involves the taking of an innocent person's life: an evaluation

The debate of abortion is a heated and passionate one. Views are divided, from the 'conservative' pro-life stance to the 'liberal' pro-choice, and everything in between. The title of this node “abortion can never be justified as it involves the taking of an innocent person's life” expresses a fairly strong conservative viewpoint, and that which is most commonly employed as the principal argument against abortion. In this writeup, I aim to examine this claim. It rests on the idea that it is in fact an “innocent person” whose life is being destroyed when abortion takes place. In order to evaluate the strength of this claim, this idea must be considered,and furthermore the idea that this innocent person's life overrides any other justifications involved in the abortion debate.

The idea that “life” is being taken during an abortion is indisputable – as Glover says “Abortion is the destruction of life after conception and before birth”. From a scientific viewpoint life begins at conception, but whether this life is of moral value depends on the living thing's status as a 'person'. There is a taboo on taking human life as opposed to another's: drowning a kitten is a common occurence, whereas drowning an infant would not be acceptable. This sanctity rests upon many ideas, but can be summed up in the idea that killing a 'person' is wrong. In this way, much of the debate on issues surrounding abortion center on if and when a fetus becomes a person. Many cite this at different stages, mostly conception, viability and birth. If it was possible to prove that a fetus is not a person at one point, and is at another, it would mean that abortion is, according to the claim in the node title, justifiable at one point and not at another: at one point it would not be a person's life that is being taken. This would mean that “abortion can never be justified...” is untrue, as abortion is justified at a point in the pregnancy, or a certain situation. This however is inherently accepting the claim in the title that when a life is being taken it cannot be justified, and finding a way of evading it. It must now be considered therefore, whether abortion can be considered in spite of it taking a person's life – i.e. whether this claim is really valid.

Wertheimer outlines the strength of the conservative argument: “A human fetus is a human being, not a partial or potential one, but a full fledged, actualized human life. Given that premise, the entire conservative position unfolds with a simple, relentless logic.” This logic rests on the widely held assumption that killing an innocent is wrong:

1.A fetus is an innocent person.
2.Killing innocent people is not morally justifiable.
3.Abortion is killing a fetus.
Therefore abortion is not morally justifiable.
This, coming from a mostly Judeo-Christian ethical background, does not take into account the ideas of the utilitarian, where killing an innocent may be morally permissible if it were to create greater happiness than pain. This line of argument is often cited as the “woman's rights” argument: perhaps, although unpleasant, an abortion of an unwanted child would be beneficial to the mother and other parties to the extent that it outweighs the pain of abortion. Sadly, it is a great difficulty with the utilitarian concept that it is virtually impossible to measure 'happiness' or 'displeasure' in an attempt to balance these out. Wertheimer points out also “...The precise scientific tabulations of grief do not add up to an argument here, for some pain, no matter how considerable and undesirable, may not be avoidable.” These opposing positions are difficult to reconcile, applying as they do totally different ethical systems. This argument between the greater happiness or 'greater good' is in this case unresolvable, as the concepts on one side of the argument simply do not apply to the other.

It is then necessary to consider the way in which the first premise affects the debate: that the fetus is an innocent person, and this implies they have a right to life – a right not to be killed. This is separate from the issue of whether is fetus is a person before or after a certain point in its development, as that is simply altering that first premise and in turn the claim made in the title. To consider whether the fetus is a person and consequently has the right to life is evaluating an assumption implicit in the claim. Thus, once more, whether the fetus actually is a person or not is virtually irrelevant.

Glover defines having a right to life as such: “To say that people have a right to life is to say that it is never morally justifiable to kill them, and that the wrongness of killing is independent of any claim about the undesirability of the consequences.” This does not demonstrate that being a person necessarily entails a right to life – more that when someone has a right to life, they have a right to life. In contrast, Tooley gives a circular argument that “'X is a person' will be synonymous with 'X has a (serious) moral right to life'.” In this case, the fetus as a person, as the claim implies, has a full right to life. Granting this right to life implicitly grants this to the mother, as she is indeed also a person: “...Women are persons. They should not be treated as something different when they are pregnant.” This can then lead to a somewhat contradictory situation in which two 'rights to life' coincide: were the mother's life threatened by the pregnancy such that she would surely die, whose right to life would perish? In such an instance, several arguments can be employed in making the decision of one 'right to life' over another. Firstly, the simple issue of strength of particular rights: Thomson argues that a woman has a particular right to decide what goes on in her own body. Arguably, in a situation where the mother's life is not threatened, the fetus' right to life overrides what right over her womb the mother has. However, when her life is threatened, her right to life coupled with her right to decide what goes on in her own body overrides the fetus' simple right to life. (This presents a dilemma in abortion issues as scientific evidence of a nobility study shows that childbearing shortens a mother's life – as to whether shortening of life is equal to threatened life is another story). Secondly, and furthermore, there is the idea of a woman's right of self defense against another person who is going to kill her, in the same way she has the right of self defense against someone who is going to kill her in the street.

In this way, superior justification is presented in favor of the child being aborted. This presents a problem for the idea that the fetus, as a person, has a right to life – i.e. Has a right not to be killed. Dworkin explains “...Abortion should be permitted when necessary to save a mother's life. Yet this exception is inconsistent with any belief that a fetus is a person with a right to live.” Accordingly, the fetus does not always have the right to life, so the basic argument is altered to

1.A fetus is an innocent person.
2.Killing innocent people is sometimes morally unjustifiable.
3.Abortion is killing a fetus.
Therefore abortion is sometimes morally justifiable.

Through this analysis of the link between premises 1 and 2 – that 2 is part of the right to life as implied in 1 – it can be seen that abortion is on occasions morally justifiable. This therefore means that the claim “abortion can never be justified as it involves the taking of an innocent person's life” cannot stand as “taking of an innocent person's life” is not always morally wrong therefore cannot be used as justification against abortion. This is not a claim that abortion is right nor is it one that abortion is wrong: simply it states that the claim made in the node title is not a valid argument in this debate. This perhaps demonstrates the limits of the philosophical approach to a subject which so deeply motivates emotion.

Sources
Dworkin, R. Life's Dominion: an argument about abortion and euthanasia Harper Collins 1993 London
Glover, J. Causing Death and Saving Lives Penguin 1977, 1987 London
ed. Singer, P. A companion to Ethics Blackwell 1991, 1993 Oxford
Williams, B. Ethics and the limits of Philosophy Harper Collins 1985, 1993 London

Philosophy and Public Affairs:
Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
Thomson, J. “A Defense of Abortion” Vol. 1, Iss. 1, 1971
Tooley, M. “Abortion and Infanticide” Vol. 2, Iss. 1, 1972.
Wertheimer, R. “Understanding the Abortion Argument” Vol. 1, Iss. 1, 1971.
Zaitchik, A. “Viability and the Morality of Abortion” Vol. 10, Iss. 1, 1981.

A*bor"tion (#), n. [L. abortio, fr. aboriri. See Abort.]

1.

The act of giving premature birth; particularly, the expulsion of the human fetus prematurely, or before it is capable of sustaining life; miscarriage.

⇒ It is sometimes used for the offense of procuring a premature delivery, but strictly the early delivery is the abortion, "causing or procuring abortion" is the full name of the offense.

Abbott.

2.

The immature product of an untimely birth.

3. Biol.

Arrest of development of any organ, so that it remains an imperfect formation or is absorbed.

4.

Any fruit or produce that does not come to maturity, or anything which in its progress, before it is matured or perfect; a complete failure; as, his attempt. proved an abortiori.

 

© Webster 1913.

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