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Summary: Should abortion be permitted?

Author:Joe Devanny ( United Kingdom ) Modified: Monday, April 13, 2009

The issue of abortion is one of the most controversial, and emotive dilemmas faced by modern societies. The question is whether one should allow the termination of a child whilst it is in its mother’s womb. For some, the question is even more fundamental: at whatstage is the fetus in the womb to be regarded as a child? The battle-lines are drawn between strict, religious (‘pro-life’) arguments (that it is never permissible), and those (‘pro-choice’) that emphasize the mother’s right to choose as the primary concern. Whilst abortion has been accepted by the American state since the land-mark Roe vs. Wade case in the early 1970s, this is by no means areflection of universal agreement – either international or within America itself – as many Western countries still have considerable restrictions on abortion. For example, the Irish position has softened only recently, and the Catholic Church steadfastly refuses to change its resolutely pro-life stance in the face of criticism from Women’s and other lobby-groups.
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Women shouldhave control over their own bodies; they have to carry the child during pregnancy and undergo child-birth. No-one else carries the child for her; it will be her responsibility alone, and thus she should have the sole right to decide. These are important events in a woman’s life, and if she does not want to go through the full nine months and subsequent birth, then she should have the right tochoose not to do so. There are few – if any – other cases where something with such profound consequences is forced upon a human being against her/his will. To appeal to the child’s right to life is just circular – whether a fetus has rights or not, or can really be called a ‘child’, is exactly what is at issue. Everyone agrees that children have rights and shouldn’t be killed. Not everyone agrees thatfetuses of two, four, eight, or even twenty weeks are children. | | Of course, human-rights should be respected, but it is never the case that a person has a right to make a decision with no reference to the rights and wishes of others. In this case, one might wonder about the rights of the father to have a say in the fate of the fetus. More importantly, though, pro-choice groups actively ignorethe most important right – the child’s right to life. What is more important than life? All other rights, including the mother’s right to choice, surely stem from a prior right to life; if you have no right to any life, then how do you have a right to an autonomous one? The woman may ordinarily have a reasonable right to control her own body, but this does not confer on her the entirely separate(and insupportable) right to decide whether another human lives or dies. |
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Not only is banning abortion a problem in theory, offending against a woman’s right to choose, it is also a practical problem. Enforcing an abortion ban would require a quite degrading and inhumane treatment of those women who wished to have their fetus terminated. Moreover, if pregnant women travelled abroad,they would be able to have an abortion in a country where it was legal. Either the state takes the draconian measure of restricting freedom of movement, or it must admit that its law is unworkable in practice and abolish it. The ‘third way’ of tacitly accepting foreign terminations would render hypocritical the much-vaunted belief in the sanctity of life. In addition, the demand for abortions willalways exist; making abortion illegal will simply drive it underground and into conditions where the health and safety of the woman might be put at risk. | | Unborn children cannot articulate their right to life; theirs are vulnerable lives and as such must be protected. Many laws have difficulties pertaining to implementation, but these do not diminish the strength of the principle behind...
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