In a relatively recent move, some US states now require physicians to warn women seeking an abortion of the dangers to their mental health, in spite of the complete lack of scientific justification for doing so. Contrary to the assertions of anti-abortion activists, the majority of women granted an abortion report relief as their primary feeling, not depression. Given this is precisely the attitude fostered by anti-abortion activists, there is a dark irony at play when organisations of this ilk increase the suffering of the very women they claim to help.
As if abortion were not already an emotive enough issue, elements of the anti-abortion movement have long postulated that women who elect to have an abortion are at a much increased risk of cancer, particularly of the breast.
This is absolute unbridled nonsense of the highest order - the abortion-breast-cancer conjecture ABC was championed by prominent born-again Christian and anti-abortion campaigner Dr Joel Brind in the early s. This alleged link is not supported by the scientific literature, and the ostensible link between breast cancer and induced abortion is explicitly rejected by the medical community.
Bush altering the National Cancer Institute NCI website to suggest that elective abortion may lead to breast cancer in the early s. The NCI convened a workshop to look at the evidence in February , and concluded that the hypothesis was devoid of any supporting evidence and was political rather than medical in nature. Claims that abortion increases the risk of cancer are not credible, a position supported by bodies worldwide, including the WHO, the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Yet the ABC myth is still a potent weapon in the arsenal of anti-abortion campaigners. In , Canadian anti-abortion protesters put up posters alleging a cover-up by national cancer bodies. Even today , some US state legislation demands physicians warn women about the risk despite the complete absence of a reason to suspect there is one. The suggestion that abortion can damage fertility is understandably terrifying, but based on out-dated understanding of abortion techniques. However, this technique is obsolete , replaced with a much safer and effective suction method in the early s. In the 21st century, the WHO recommend a suction-based technique for surgical abortion, rendering the risk to future fertility negligible.
On top of this, across most of Europe the majority of abortions now take place early in the pregnancy , below 9 weeks. Abortions at this early stage are medical in nature, using compounds such as mifepristone RU which induce miscarriage. There is no evidence that either medical or modern surgical abortion impacts future fertility. One of the most inflammatory arguments against abortion is rooted in the assertion that the foetus can feel pain, and that termination is therefore a brutal affair.
This is extremely unlikely to be true. A foetus in the early stages of development lacks the developed nervous system and brain to feel pain or even be aware of their surroundings. But if we have the stand-off, then one might argue that we are left with a conflict of rights: a fetal right to life versus the right of a woman to control her own body. One might then argue that the right to life seems to be a stronger right than the right to control one's own body in the case of abortion because the loss of one's life is a greater loss than the loss of the right to control one's own body in one respect for nine months.
Therefore, the right to life overrides the right to control one's own body and abortion is wrong. Considerations like these have suggested to both opponents of abortion and supporters of choice that a Thomsonian strategy for de-. In fairness, one must note that Thomson did not intend her strategy to generate a general moral permissibility of abortion.
The above considerations suggest that whether abortion is morally permissible boils down to the question of whether fetuses have the right to life. An argument that fetuses either have or lack the right to life must be based upon some general criterion for having or lacking the right to life. Opponents of abortion, on the one hand, look around for the broadest possible plausible criterion, so that fetuses will fall under it.
This explains why classic arguments against abortion appeal to the criterion of being human Noonan, ; Beckwith, This criterion appears plausible: The claim that all humans, whatever their race, gender, religion or age, have the right to life seems evident enough. In addition, because the fetuses we are concerned with do not, after all, belong to another species, they are clearly human.
Thus, the syllogism that generates the conclusion that fetuses have the right to life is apparently sound.
On the other hand, those who believe abortion is morally permissible wish to find a narrow, but plausible, criterion for possession of the right to life so that fetuses will fall outside of it. This explains, in part, why the standard pro-choice arguments in the philosophical literature appeal to the criterion of being a person Feinberg, ; Tooley, ; Warren, ; Benn, ; Engelhardt, This criterion appears plausible: The claim that only persons have the right to life seems evident enough.
Thus, the syllogism needed to generate the conclusion that no fetus possesses the right to life is apparently sound. Given that no fetus possesses the right to life, a woman's right to control her own body easily generates the general right to abortion. The existence of two apparently defensible syllogisms which support contrary conclusions helps to explain why partisans on both sides of the abortion dispute often regard their opponents as either morally depraved or mentally deficient.
Which syllogism should we reject? The anti-abortion syllogism is usually attacked by attacking its major premise: the claim that whatever is biologically human has the right to life. This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of the biologically human includes too much: human cancer-cell cultures are biologically human, but they do not have the right to life.
Moreover, this premise also is subject to moral-relevance problems: the connection between the biological and the moral is merely assumed.
It is hard to think of a good argument for such a connection. If one wishes to consider the category of "human" a moral category, as some people find it plausible to do in other contexts, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is fully human without begging the question. Thus, the classic anti-abortion argument appears subject to fatal difficulties.
These difficulties with the classic anti-abortion argument are well known and thought by many to be conclusive. The symmetrical difficulties with the classic pro-choice syllogism are not as well recognized.
The pro-choice syllogism can be attacked by attacking its major premise: Only persons have the right to life. This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of persons includes too little: infants, the severely retarded, and some of the mentally ill seem to fall outside the class of persons as the supporter of choice understands the concept. The premise is also subject to moral-relevance problems:. Being a person is understood by the pro-choicer as having certain psychological attributes.
If one wishes to consider "person" a moral category, as is often done, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is not a person without begging the question. Pro-choicers appear to have resources for dealing with their difficulties that opponents of abortion lack. Consider their moral-relevance problem. A pro-. This is essentially Engelhardt's  view. The great advantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it seems far more plausible than any approach the anti-abortionist can provide.
The great disadvantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it adds to our earlier scope problems by leaving it unclear how we can have the duty not to inflict pain and suffering on animals. Contractarians have tried to deal with their scope problems by arguing that duties to some individuals who are not persons can be justified even though those individuals are not contracting members of the moral community. For example, Kant argued that, although we do not have direct duties to animals, we "must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men" Kant, , p.
Feinberg argues that infanticide is wrong, not because infants have the right to life, but because our society's protection of infants has social utility. If we do not treat infants with tenderness and consideration, then when they are persons they will be worse off and we will be worse off also Feinberg, , p. These moves only stave off the difficulties with the pro-choice view; they do not resolve them.
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Consider Kant's account of our obligations to animals. Kantians certainly know the difference between persons and animals. Therefore, no true Kantian would treat persons as she would treat animals. Thus, Kant's defense of our duties to animals fails to show that Kantians have a duty not to be cruel to animals. Consider Feinberg's attempt to show that infanticide is wrong even though no infant is a person. That is quite compatible with killing the infants we intend to discard.
This point can be supported by an analogy with which any pro-choicer will agree. There are plainly good reasons to treat with care and consideration the fetuses we intend to keep. This is quite compatible with aborting those fetuses we intend to discard. Thus, Feinberg's account of the wrongness of infanticide is inadequate. Accordingly, we can see that a contractarian defense of the pro-choice personhood syllogism fails.
The problem arises because the contractarian cannot account for our duties to individuals who are not persons, whether these individuals are animals or infants.
Because the pro-choicer wishes to adopt a narrow criterion for the right to life so that fetuses will not be included, the scope of her major premise is too narrow. Her problem is the opposite of the problem the classic opponent of abortion faces.
The argument of this section has attempted to establish, albeit briefly, that the classic anti-abortion argument and the pro-choice argument favored by most philosophers both face problems that are mirror images of one another. A stand-off results. The abortion debate requires a different strategy. Why do the standard arguments in the abortion debate fail to resolve the issue? The general principles to which partisans in the debate appeal are either truisms most persons would affirm in the absence of much reflection, or very general moral theories.
All are subject to major problems. A different approach is needed. Opponents of abortion claim that abortion is wrong because abortion involves killing someone like us, a human being who just happens to be very young. Supporters of choice claim that ending the life of a fetus is not in the same moral category as ending the life of an adult human being. Surely this controversy cannot be resolved in the absence of an account of what it is about killing us that makes killing us wrong.
On the one hand, if we know what property we possess that makes killing us wrong, then we can ask whether fetuses have the same property. On the other hand, suppose that we do not know what it is about us that makes killing us wrong. If this. Surely, we will not understand the ethics of killing fetuses, for if we do not understand easy cases, then we will not understand hard cases.
This is 42 million unborn children that never had a chance or even a say in what their futures would hold. It was. The Pro-Choice Argument: This implies that the only reason a woman would want to get an abortion is to avoid raising a child, and that isn't the case. To support their unwavering determination, women should have the option of a safe abortion. Common Reply : No, because women can practice safe sex and avoid getting pregnant.
Both pro-choicer and anti-abortionist agree that it is obvious that it is wrong to kill us. Thus, a discussion of what it is about us that makes killing us not only wrong, but seriously wrong, seems to be the right place to begin a discussion of the abortion issue. Who is primarily wronged by a killing? The wrong of killing is not primarily explained in terms of the loss to the family and friends of the victim.
Perhaps the victim is a hermit. Perhaps one's friends find it easy to make new friends. The wrong of killing is not primarily explained in terms of the brutalization of the killer. The great wrong to the victim explains the brutalization, not the other way around. The wrongness of killing us is understood in terms of what killing does to us.