The abortion dilemma is one of the most sensitive and contentious issues in the moral, political, religious and cultural frameworks (West, 1999). The debate has dates has a very long history, and to-date, is still heavily debated across the globe; both in legality and morality terms. Some of the never ending questions include: Are there any legal and/or moral rights for the foetus? Is the justification of abortion morally? Is the foetus a human being, and therefore, need protection? What does it take to be a human being?
This debate is dominated by two camps with opposing views concerning abortion. They include the pro-life activists and the pro-choice with extreme conservative and extreme liberal views on abortion, respectively. The pro-life activists believe that the development of a unicellular zygote marks the beginning of a personhood of a human being. Therefore, as per the religion stand, abortion should remain illegal by virtue of the “imago dei” of human being; otherwise, it would be a homicide. On the other hand, the pro-choice activists through McDonagh argue abortion is a right for women so as to defend themselves “against the non-consensual invasion, appropriation, and use of her physical body by an unwelcomed foetus” (West, 1999).
The pro-life activists seem advantaged by defining human personhood from the very start of life. However, it may sound insane to refer a zygote as a human being. The abortionists view maybe also right because their major claim is reinforced by a popular philosophical usage of concept “personhood.” Yes, the offspring is more developed than the unicellular zygote. However, this does not imply that the pro-choice definition faces no hurdles. There is no morally relevant difference between a just-born baby and a foetus ten minutes prior to birth. This article will attempt to analyse the controversy surrounding abortion in utilitarian terms, and then contrast utilitarian against deontologists view on abortion (Ngwenya, 2013).
The utilitarianism can be an efficient way of handling the abortion controversy in the current world. Utilitarian believe thathumans’ major aim is to achieve the greatest possible pleasure. Utility evades the aforementioned problems since it does not share the hypotheses. Utilitarianism argues that the abortion rights should be measured by their usefulness to the society. Therefore, this article presents analysis based on the pain and pleasure amount in cases where abortion is legal and illegal.
Many individuals would expect the argument to centre on foetus’ interest since it may be destined for a happy future life, and also abortion itself is agonizing, especially if carried-out in late-stages of the pregnancy. However, these are shoddy considerations because: any pain that can arise in the process of abortion can be prevented through a timely abortion or the use of painless approaches. Hence, the overall pain experienced by the foetus cannot offer a solid reason against abortion; only the ugly exercise of it. If one assumes the foetus’ future life comprises of a feasible balance of happiness over pain, then a crucial consideration arises against abortion (Ngwenya, 2013).
Secondly, this paper considers parents and family members if adoption exists as an alternative to abortion. Some researchers claim that having a baby, even in instances where pregnancy is intentional, might reduce the happiness in a relationship. Once again, this claim is insignificant; hence, no need to consider it. According to utilitarian theory, the wrongness or rightness of abortion do not depend either on the effects of abortion on the agent or the victims but lies on the less direct consequences of the overall society. The abortion controversy, assuming the existence “rights” and guilty conscience of “baby murders,” becomes desirability of either decreasing or increasing population (Utilitarian.org, 2000).
If there is a population size that is below the optimal number, it is obvious that the utility will advocates for new birth above this number. In this instance, utility provides positive duties. If the utilitarian agree that the baby’s future happiness, coupled with a calculated value of the consequences on others is in such way that utility opposes abortion, directly s/he implies that utility advocates for population increase. In utility terms, the authentic act of abortion is not a principally important one (Utilitarian.org, 2000).
In this analysis, the dominant issue is the comparative consequences on the overall society. First, nurturing a child in a contemporary developed country is very expensive in monetary terms. Secondly, the world faces an increasing pressure on the environment and other terrible inequalities; and hence people should not focus on the growing population (Poglitsh, 2012).
In case a utilitarian finds out that she is unexpectedly pregnant, then she has to abort because the utility opposes her reproduction. While if the utility is in favour of her pregnancy, means that should have been attempting to get pregnant; hence, it should not be a surprise (Utilitarian.org, 2000).
Deontology theory, on the other hand, claims that every human being has certain duties. While utilitarian is much concerned with the consequences, deontology focuses on ethical truths and norms that are universally acceptable by everyone. In other words, certain actions are immoral irrespective of their consequences. Consider, for example, a pregnant lady who in the course of her pregnancy develops health complications and the only way-out is either to abort, or she dies. Automatically, a utilitarian will advise the lady to abortion since it produces the highest happiness; however, a deontologist will advise her not to have an abortion because murdering an innocent foetus is wrong as per the universal moral truth.
According to utilitarian, existence of a “universal moral truth” is not logic: it is difficult, if not impossible, to establish. To them, the happiness and suffering of any doings are easily determined. Hence, people should stop basing on such unstructured and ambiguous moral truth, and instead embrace more concrete ways of ascertaining ethics of a given action (Physicsisphirst, 2004).
On the other hand, Deontologists view outcomes as illusory i.e. it is impossible foretell the consequences of an individual’s acts with total certainty. The only way for assurance is for one to gauge whether his/her actions are ethical or do not base on the categorical imperative. Deontologists also believe that each human being is individually responsible for his/her own actions and not actions of others. Therefore, the pregnant lady is responsible to either her decision to have an abortion or not. Lastly, deontologists accuse the utilitarian of entrusting perilous moral relativisms by allowing individuals to validate dreadful deeds in the name that its effects are beneficial (Physicsisphirst, 2004).
In conclusion, for one to think that the wrongness or the rightness of abortion is an issue that can be ascertained by considering the consequences on the parties, i.e. parents, foetus and doctors, who get directly involved in the action can be such a precarious short-sighted and naïve move.
Ngwenya, Z. (2013). Abortion is Intrinsically Evil. Times of Swaziland, November, 9. Retrieved from http://www.times.co.sz/letters/93067-abortion-is-intrinsically-evil.html.
Physicsisphirst. (2004). Utilitarianism vs. Deontology. Physics forum, March, 3. Retrieved from http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=15622.
Poglitsh, R. (2012).Letters to the Times of Swaziland. Times of Swaziland, November, 25. Retrieved from http://letterstothetos.blogspot.com/.
Utilitarian.org. (2000). Abortion. Retrieved from http://www.utilitarian.org/abortion.html.
West, R. (1999). Liberalism and abortion. Georgetown Law Journal, 87(6), 2117-2147. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/231486885?accountid=87314.