Is abortion ethical? | The Tylt

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Is abortion ethical?

American hold contradictory opinions about abortions. According to Pew Research:

Today, a 57% majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 40% think it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Conversations regarding reproductive freedom have been swirling since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, opening up a seat for another conservative, and likely pro-life, justice. Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in October of 2018. According to The Boston Herald's Kimberly Atkins:

The U.S. Supreme Court now has five justices who have either directly stated or signaled that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided...Overturning Roe would mark a departure from decades of jurisprudence, in part because of the role served by retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who Kavanaugh has replaced.

With a conservative-leaning supreme court, some state governments are holding out hope that early-abortion bills–which would outlaw abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected–will become law. Five states have also passed "trigger laws," which would immediately ban abortion statewide if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Meanwhile, in New York, abortions are now legal even after the 24-week mark, if a mother's health is in serious danger. 

Americans on both sides of this issue are collectively holding their breath for when the topic of abortion inevitably returns to the Supreme Court.


This debate comes down to both ethics and science. Pro-life advocates say that life begins at conception. Although the fetus represents an undeveloped life, it is still a life, and is therefore sacred and deserving of protection. Some even say the taking of an undeveloped life is tantamount to involuntary manslaughter.

Pro-lifers point to the fact that there is no single moment outside of conception that marks the beginning of human life. A few explain their position on Reddit. One user writes:

Regardless of the majority's unwillingness to tolerate abortion past the first trimester, this leaves us with only one other point at which human life can be said to begin: conception. Otherwise, we are asserting that there must be some arbitrary point between the first and second trimesters where a fetus becomes a human life worthy of protection, which is a flimsy and unconvincing argument when attempting to justify the legality of abortion. Either you must condemn it at all points during the pregnancy, or uphold a woman's right to terminate at any point during the pregnancy. To take any other position is morally inconsistent....

Another user breaks down their position in lengthier terms, again citing the idea that conception is the only reliable marker anyone can point to for when life begins. This person points out that human life is entirely based off of chance. A person's conception and a person's ability to avoid death at any point after birth are both circumstantial; therefore the death of a 5-year-old, 30-year-old or 80-year-old is not unlike the death of an unborn fetus. 


Some pro-lifers say that as soon as unique DNA is formed in a fetus–which is the moment sperm fertilizes an egg–life begins. The Boston Globe's Chelsea Conaboy explains the science behind the pro-life argument:

'A fetus is the same being that he is going to be as an infant,' said Dr. Ingrid Skop, a physician in San Antonio and a board member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 'He’s the same being he is going to be as a child or an adult. He’s just at a lower stage of development.'

On an ethical level, this means that the fetus deserves the same protections as any other living human. As one pro-life advocate writes:

When people say the unborn is 'not a person' or 'not a life; they mean that it has not yet grown or gained abilities that arrive later in life. But there’s no agreement about which abilities should be determinative. Pro-choice people don’t even agree with each other. Obviously, law cannot be based on such subjective criteria. If it’s a case where the question is 'Can I kill this?' the answer must be based on objective medical and scientific data. And the fact is, an unborn child, from the very first moment, is a new human individual. It has the three essential characteristics that make it 'a human life': It’s alive and growing, it is composed entirely of human cells, and it has unique DNA. It’s a person, just like the rest of us.
Abortion indisputably ends a human life. 

Pro-choice advocates claim that the question should not be about when DNA is formed in the fetus, but rather, when that fetus is capable of living outside of the womb–when life becomes "viable." Prior to the moment when a fetus can sustain life outside of the womb, the government has no right to mandate how a woman chooses to proceed with her pregnancy.

Such a mandate would perpetuate gender inequality. Women are more than vessels for a fetus; they have their own rights, potential and life to consider in addition to their unborn child's. Pro-choice advocates do not disregard the monumental nature of an abortion in a woman's life, but they believe it should be an option up to the point of viability. Failure to provide such an option is moral a failure to both women and their future children.

In 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade granted women the right to an abortion, saying the right to privacy includes "a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy."

In the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote:

'The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.'

One pro-choice advocate posed a different moral quandary to both the pro-choice and pro-life life communities. Although a morbid example, his question challenges the audience to rethink how they define life, as well as the potential to live a full life. According to The Independent's Sarah Young:

He goes on to explain a scenario whereby you are in a fertility clinic when the fire alarm goes off. Before you escape, you have the option to save either a five-year-old child who is pleading for help, or a container of 1000 viable human embryos.
'Do you A) save the child, or B) save the thousand embryos?' he asks.

According to the question's author, Patrick Tomlinson, "we all instinctively understand the right answer is 'A.'“ Tomlinson expands, saying:

'A human child is worth more than a thousand embryos. Or ten thousand. Or a million. Because they are not the same, not morally, not ethically, not biologically,' he tweeted.
Is abortion ethical?
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