Abortion is a controversial topic that has seen a great deal of debate. On one hand we are told that abortion is immoral while others believe in the right to choose. Rarely is reality so black and white, and the topic of abortion is no different. Abortion is a necessary right that maximizes personal freedoms, but it is also a right that should be tempered by the law.
Abortion Is Not Murder
Prolife advocates argue that abortion is tantamount to killing babies. However, this perspective is simplistic and does not consider the wholly different situation. Several points need to be considered before understanding why abortion is not murder. First, society accepts that murder is wrong on the basis of human rights, a code of morality. This code, along with most laws, is roughly based on the Golden Rule, a rule which states that one should treat other individuals in a manner that they would expect to be treated. This rule is seen as just because individuals are conscious and capable of experiencing situations that may negatively affect them, but it cannot apply to things that do not have all the characteristics of individuals.
While the unborn is undeniably human, it is not an individual as it lacks many of the characteristics that define one. Until birth, a child it is neither conscious nor independent and relies on the mother for survival. While an unborn does become progressively more of an individual over the course of development, an unborn child is never complete and has always been a part of the mother. This dependence draws into question whether an unborn is an individual. In addition, the unborn does not possess consciousness and cannot experience harm caused to it. Thus if a child is aborted, has someone really been murdered? If something is unconscious and incapable of experiencing harm, it does not meet all the criteria for being an individual, and thus it cannot be murdered. Therefore, there is little immorality in such an act. This is not to deny that the longer one waits to abort, the more abhorrent the act becomes.
The Right To Self
There is probably a more accurate term for what I had in mind, but I cannot think of it at the moment. Each person has a right to self and self determination, and abortion maximizes these personal freedoms. One should have the right to act as they choose, granted that their actions do not conflict with the Golden Rule. With abortion, the fetus is entirely dependent on the mother, and it is still a part of the mother. While I am not implying that abortion is as insignificant as getting a tattoo or a piercing, abortion is in a sense a modification of the self, which does not negatively affect others aside from possibly offending your sensibilities. Outlawing abortion would be a restriction on the right to self and a restriction of personal freedoms.
Abortion Maximizes Pleasure
Yet again for lack of a better word, I will use pleasure to describe the concept of maximizing desirable, positive things. Another issue to consider is the variety of situations where abortion may be considered. Raising a child is a massive investment of time and money. Until the child becomes an adult, parents exist to serve as advisers and are obligated to provide the sound advice, tools, environment and resources necessary to enable the child to achieve personal happiness. This is the role of parents.
To enable the child to achieve personal happiness, parents must address both nature and nurture. If neither of these conditions is optimal, the child has a greater chance of experiencing suffering (another filler word for the opposite of pleasure) down the line.
What are these optimal conditions? In terms of nurture, the parents must make enough money to ensure the entire family a comfortable lifestyle, and they should be well educated in a variety of fields. I am not suggesting that the poor should not be permitted to have children.
In terms of nature, the parents should ensure their children have no defects. If a defect is detected early on, the best option would be abortion. I do not use the term defect loosely, and it would apply only to reasonably serious problems that would prevent the individual from living a comfortable life in the future. On some level all of this might sound cruel, but it is all for ensuring an optimal future for the child.
Suppose a low income family decided to have a child, but it had some sort of defect which caused him to have a weak immune system so that he required frequent hospitalization. Both parents are working hard, but with hospital bills, they work even harder. The kid misses school frequently because of his illness, falls behind on his schoolwork and is unable to establish solid friendships. The child’s inability to establish friendships makes him an outcast which causes social anxiety. This hypothetical scenario shows how small problems are amplified due to the butterfly effect. With legalized abortions, a problem with “nature” and the subsequent problems it creates are prevented.
In another instance, suppose a family has a child by accident, but is not fully committed to the child due to the birth being an accident. In this situation the parents are lacking commitment to ensure that the child can maximize happiness. While the child is not provided an optimal environment for growth, the parents may be slightly unhappy they must support a child they never intended to have. The result is three people who have not maximized their pleasure. This example shows how a problem with “nurture” is prevented.
Reasonable Abortion Laws
- Abortion on demand is legal prior to 15 weeks.
- Abortion to maintain the health of the mother is legal any time prior to birth.
- Abortion due to rape is legal at any time prior to birth.
- Abortion due to defect is legal any time prior to birth.
- Children born with disorders that can be detected during pregnancy should not be allowed support related to its treatment using public funds. This assumes that testing for these disorders is provided to all during pregnancy.
- Depending on how healthcare is provided, there must be limitations on the number of standard abortions within a timeframe funded by the public to prevent abuse.
While abortion may offend the sensibilities of some, the benefits to society and personal freedoms it creates are far greater.