Many people can accept that murder is morally unacceptable no matter what; when it comes to abortion, it is a different story. If you murder someone you can be convicted under the United States judicial system, but abortions are legal in every state. The topic of abortion has been an ongoing debate for a very long time all over the world. After reading Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Mill’s The Classical Utilitarians, and Grounding For the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant, it has become clear that using their argument’s abortion is morally unacceptable. Aristotle’s ethics was based on virtues and that people can achieve a virtuous life by making a habit of living a virtuous life. Immanuel Kant believed that ethical actions were only actions that were done from duty, and Mill’s Utilitarian ethics is based on the greatest happiness principle. The greatest happiness principle says that an action is moral if and only if it produces the greatest happiness for the greatest amount of people. There are also many counter arguments made that support pro-choice for abortion. This includes when people do not believe that a fetus is a human being until birth, and/or people believe that their lives are more important and having an abortion will produce the greatest happiness.
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The center of this debate is to try and decide when human life begins. There are two approaches to do this, some people follow the religious aspect to judge this and other people try to determine scientifically. Every religion has a different view on this topic. Christians, Buddhist’s, and Hindu’s all believe that human life begins at conception while the Judaism religion does not believe that the soul enters the body at conception. This is a personal decision when looking at it from a religious point of view. To look at it from a scientific point of view is very challenging. This is because there is no scientific experiment we can do to determine when life begins. We have to gather all that we know and make our own inference. Personally, I believe that human life begins at conception through a scientific argument. At conception, the sperm and the ovum fuse and so does the genetic material, half from the male and half from the female. The genetic material contains all the information needed for human life. The genetic material codes for all the materials in the human body and the information for the differentiation of the cells into different body parts. At this point, at conception, the egg is able to form every tissue, bone, protein, and organ needed in the body by following the genetic code. The egg becomes a self-directing organism, which I believe qualifies conception as being the moment that human life begins,
Once we qualify conception as being the point that life begins, we can see how Kant’s argument of duty applies to abortion. Duty arises by “act[ing] only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”(421 Kant). This means that it would be acceptable if everyone followed the same action that you would do. I believe this statement to be true; it makes common sense that we should only act in a way that we would have no problem if someone else acted in the same way towards us. From this we can see that we have a duty as human beings to maintain human life. If we make our maxim be that it is ok to kill any human life, either born or an unborn life we can see how this cannot become a universal law. We would not want someone else to have the ability to kill us and not be punished for his or her action, so it shows that the maxim of killing cannot be moral. It would be impossible for this maxim to become universal so it means that the opposite of this action should be moral. That makes the maxim of preserving human life to be a moral action, so having an abortion is an unethical action. This case can even apply to people who do not believe that human life begins at conception, and rather that once the egg is fertilized that now it has the potential of life. If we want to prove abortion to be right we would have to make our maxim be that it is ok to stop potential life. I believe that we cannot prove this maxim to be universal. If we decided to make having an abortion a universal law we would be saying that it would have been acceptable for someone to have not given us the chance to be born. Would it be a good thing if everyone thought it was morally ok to stop potential life? It is our purpose, or rather our duty, as human beings to make sure that the species continues. If we stop potential life over and over again by making abortions morally ok, we are going against our duty as human beings. Kant’s concept of judging an action’s morality on its ability to become a universal law really shows how clear it is that abortions are immoral.
Aristotle’s ethics is based on the idea that human beings have a final purpose of achieving happiness, and that happiness can be achieved by living a virtuous life. One very important virtue that Aristotle esteems as being one of the most important is Magnanimity, or having the appropriate amount of self-esteem, (Aristotle, 1123b). I believe that some people chose to have an abortion because they care too much about honor, they don’t want people to know that they are pregnant. I believe that this case is very prominent in the younger age group. Girls in high school or even college are afraid of what there family or others will think of them if they are pregnant. This case shows the weak will of the action. People will receive an abortion even if they know that it is wrong. Aristotle’s proof for someone being weak willed was that they had experienced guilt or regret, and this occurs often among women that have abortions. BBC news, had an article on a study about abortions having mental effects on patients. They compared the mental distress caused by miscarriages to the mental distress caused by abortions. They found that in the first 10 days more women suffered mental distress that had miscarriages then women that had abortions, but after 6 months and even after 5 years women who had abortions were still experiencing mental distress, while most of the women that had miscarriages had been able to cope with the situation and move on, (BBC). If people are feeling regret and guilt, it shows that they are making a weak willed decision against what they know to be morally right, showing that having an abortion is immoral and unethical, and people know this but are to weak to admit it.
Aristotle also believed in Natural Law, which is what is fair in the state of nature whether or not it is legal or illegal. One of his ideas of natural law is that murder is never ok no matter what the circumstances are. As long as we can accept that human life begins at conception than having an abortion should be considered a murder and morally wrong. Aristotle also believed that equals should be treated equally, but at the same time, he did not believe that all people are created equal. Even if not all human lives are equal what makes an adult’s life superior to the life of an unborn child. We have no way of knowing what that unborn child is going to grow up to be. What would have happened if Mother Theresa was not given a chance to be born or if Albert Einstein had never been born, think of the negative effects it would have had on our society. We also have to look at the other side of this too by saying what if Adolf Hitler had never been born, but how are we supposed to know who is who before they are born. It is true that each circumstance has an equal chance of happening but it should not be our choice as human beings to decide who gets a chance at life, and who is going to be superior or inferior to us.
There are many people that believe in pro-choice and that abortion should remain legal. One of their arguments is the debate on when human life begins, and they argue that if you do the abortion before a certain point when the embryo is “not living” then abortion is fine since you are not destroying a life. This argument in invalid for me because as I have stated before I believe that human life begins at conception, so there is no point where an abortion is not considered destroying a life.
Another argument that comes up is using Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principle, and that having an abortion would produce the greatest happiness for the greatest amount of people. This case is usually brought up when people are not ready to have a child, either they do not think they have enough time or enough money. If you believe abortion to be moral by using a utilitarianism argument, you are saying that in this case, it would cause more happiness to not have a life at all then to have a hard life; or rather, the avoidance of pain would be achieved by having an abortion. I can see how this opinion could be valid if keeping the child or having an abortion were the only choices, and that the abortion was done before the fetus could feel any pain. That is definitely not the case, especially in the United States. There are many families that are not able to have children and would give anything for a baby of their own and would be very happy to adopt a baby, especially if you know you are going to put the baby up for adoption before the baby is even born there is a high chance of being able to find an adopted family for the child. This also brings up Mill’s idea of the different qualities of pleasure or happiness. Would you say that your quality of happiness of not having to have a child and being able to have an abortion is equivalent to the quality of pleasures of being alive or in the case of adoption the quality of pleasure of being able to finally have a child. I do not believe that there is any comparison between these qualities. Your avoidance of pain by having an abortion and not having to deal with being pregnant and either keeping the baby or looking for an adopted parent is nowhere near the amount of happiness that an adoptive parent will feel when they get to hold their own baby or even the pleasures of the baby being able to have a life. Mill believes that human life has the best potential for happiness and the greatest amount of pleasure. He supports this by saying a human would never give up his pleasures for the pleasures of a swine, or rather any type of animalistic pleasures, (Mill 101). Also Mill believes that happiness is not an impossible thing, so if your reason for having an abortion is because you are trying to avoid causing pain to your child because you don’t have enough money Mill would disagree with that decision. Mill does not believe that social conditions should be the cause of unhappiness because he believes that most of these conditions can be removed.
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I do believe that there is one exception for abortion being unethical and that is in the case of a rape victim. Aristotle said that there are 3 types of actions, voluntary, involuntary, and mixed actions. For an action to be voluntary there has to be no external constraint and know all the particulars of the action. The action is involuntary if it is due to some external constraint or if there is ignorance of the particulars including ignorance of self, what one is doing, the affected party, the instrument, the result of an action, or the manner of how it is done. In the case of rape, the action is involuntary because they had no control over the situation; the action of having sex was due to a physical constraint of some external force. I do not believe that you can apply any other situation as being an involuntary action, even if you do not have the intention of becoming pregnant you still know the consequences of having unprotected sex and being aware of that makes it not possible to be an involuntary action. I believe that as long as the action is not involuntary we are responsible for the actions we do and the decisions we make. We should have to deal with the consequences of our actions and believe that having an abortion is the easy way out of a consequence. If you are not old enough to be responsible for your actions, you should not be engaging in such actions.
When it comes to abortions all we focus on is the rights of the women to be able to have a choice, we do not give the unborn baby a chance to have a choice. The thing I believe is that then woman made her choice when she made a full and conscious decision to have sex. If she knew that no matter what if she got pregnant she was going to have an abortion, she should have been more careful and really deliberated about her actions. The unborn baby has no choice in this situation, they had no control over their conception, and they have no control over being aborted. I understand pro-choice and do believe that we should have a choice and have control in our lives but why is the woman the only one who has a choice, especially when it was a voluntary action that they entered into willingly. It seems ok in this situation because we only hear the argument from the woman, there is no one to speak for the unborn child, but if we apply a different situation to the same rules, it will be very clear. If you commit a crime like murder and it is a voluntary action where you are fully aware of the particulars you then have to be responsible for the action and pay the consequences, you cannot just say it was a mistake and that you don’t want to go to jail anymore and everything be ok. If you feel you are adult enough to engage in these actions you are saying you are mature enough to deal with the consequences of your actions.
You can examine abortions from many different angles, which I believe I did, but it always turns up as being an unethical action. Using any of Mill’s, Aristotle’s, or Kant’s philosophical theories on ethics you cannot prove abortion to be an ethical decision. It goes against our natural law we have just become too comfortable with this idea because we have been surrounded by it. Just because our government has deemed abortions to be a legal action does not mean we should not continuously be questioning our justice system to make sure that it is an ethical law. If we just followed our government’s laws without question how would we have been able to get rid of slavery or get equal rights for women. We have to step away from the easy path of allowing abortion and really challenge ourselves to examine whether or not abortion is the right action to take.
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