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In our society, there are many ethical dilemmas that we are faced with that are virtually
impossible to solve. One of the most difficult and controversial issues that we are faced
with is abortion. There are many strong arguments both for and against the right to have
an abortion which are so complicated that it becomes impossible to resolve. The
complexity of this issue lies in the different aspects of the argument. The essence of a
person, rights, and who is entitled to these rights, are a few of the many aspects which are
very difficult to define. There are also issues of what circumstances would justify abortion.
Because the issue of abortion is virtually impossible to solve, all one can hope to do is
understand the different aspects of the argument so that if he or she is faced with that issue
in their own lives, they would be able to make educated and thoughtful decisions in
dealing with it.
The definition of a person is an aspect of the abortion issue which raises some very
difficult questions. Is an unborn baby a person? When does the unborn baby become a
person? This is a difficult question because in order for one to answer it, he must define
the essence of a person. When describing the essence of something, one needs to describe
the necessary and sufficient conditions of that thing. So how does one define the essence
of a person? Kant describes a person as a rational being. Some people define the essence
of a person from more of a biological standpoint. Nevertheless, defining the essence of a
person is a very difficult thing for a group of people to agree on. One’s own definition of a
person would most likely greatly impact his opinion on whether abortion is morally
justified or not. This becomes even more complicated when one takes into account
potentiality. This raises the question of whether the fetus is an actual person or a potential
person. Many would argue that a fetus is a potential person because it is has the potential
to become what it is not yet. However, does a potential person have potential rights? An
example was used: does a potential doctor have the rights of a licensed doctor? When one
is describing potentiality, All he is really describing is what that thing is not. By declaring
that a fetus is a potential person, one is also stating that a fetus is not a person.
As one can see, this issue of the essence of a person and whether a fetus is a
person is a very complicated one. This becomes seven more complicated if one takes into
account the issue of rights.
Now, the concept of human rights, that is to say, what American society dictates
as human rights, conflicts heavily with itself. On one hand, we form a deep and heavy
opinion on one’s right to life. On the other, we hold an equally strong opinion on one’s
freedom to live that life as they please. American society by and large has a firm belief in
an individuals right to live. Therefore, if one comes to the conclusion that a fetus actually
is a person, then that fetus should receive the protection to it’s right to live, as much as
you or I. This society also holds the firm belief in one’s right to the sovereignty of his or
her own body, equal to that of one’s right to live. In this case, it is imperative that we
understand what liberties we can and cannot take upon ourselves concerning our lives.
Case in point, suicide. Society dictates what we are allowed to do, and how we are
allowed to live, by law. Most of American laws are written to preserve one’s rights to
individuality, and one’s right to take the liberty to live their lives as they see fit. However,
laws are also written to undermine those who’s actions compromise the liberties and
freedoms of other individuals, thus protecting the concepts and ideals of agency and
liberty. Based on our society’s laws, essentially, we believe that what you do to yourself
is your choice, and is accepted by law, so long as it doesn’t stop or impede the lives and
freedoms of others. The difficulty in this dilemma lies within the question of whether an
abortion falls into a category of protection of a woman’s right’s over the sovereignty of
her own body, or whether it falls into a different category of an action which is not
permissible because, according to some people, the fetus is a person whose life and
freedom is being compromised.
The question of rights is further complicated by the different circumstances where
the abortion issue could be raised. Many people would argue that abortion should not be
used as birth control or as a means to deal with the consequences of promiscuous sex.
However, how does one address the abortion issue in the circumstance of rape or incest?
Many say that in these circumstances, abortion is justified. The confusing thing is that the
outcome is the same in both circumstances. The fetus is being denied its right to live and
grow to its potential as a human being. Where does one draw the line? What about a case
where there is medical complications? For example: a woman becomes pregnant and goes
to the doctor for an examination. During the doctor visit, various tests are run and it is
discovered that the baby will be born severely deformed and that its quality of life would
be extremely substandard. If the woman were to have an abortion, would it be justified?
What about a situation where a woman becomes pregnant and she does to the doctor and
is told that the baby is deformed and the birth would most likely kill the mother. The
argument justifying abortion in this case goes back to the right to physical sovereignty
over one’s own body. A person has the freedom to do what he or she wants to concerning
their own body as long as it does not harm or compromise the freedom of another, except
in self defense. Therefore, in the case of the mother who would most likely die in
childbirth, an abortion could be justified because she is acting in self defense. And in the
case of rape, many argue that an abortion is also justified because the woman’s right to
not conceive has been violated, therefore she should not be responsible for the
consequences which came through no fault of her own.
As on can see, the issue of abortion is on e that is extremely complicated. The
problem being that many of the ethical dilemmas involved in the abortion issue are so
closely intertwined that they are difficult to distinguish from one another. There are some
aspects of the issue that would convince most people that abortion is justified, however
when those aspects are combined with other intertwining aspects and imperatives,
justification oftentimes becomes impossible.
In conclusion, the issue of abortion is so complicated and controversial that it is
unlikely that a consensus could be reached by American society. There are too many
aspects of the issue which peoples views vary to widely. Some of these issues could be
things such as the definition of a person, is the fetus a person, and if so when does it
officially become a person. There is also the issue of rights. Do the rights of a person
outweigh the rights of a non person. Does the right of a mother’s sovereignty over her
body outweigh the right of an unborn child to live. The answers to these questions are
very diverse as a result of the diversity of the American society. With the issue of abortion,
one’s attitude toward it is going to be based on many things such as religious background
and personal morals. There is no black and white answer to the abortion issue. Luckily we
live in a country where we are able to decide for ourselves whether something is morally
right or wrong. Thus, ultimately, the choice is ours. As with the many other ethical issues
which we are faced with in our society, it is hard to come to a concrete answer until we
are personally faced with that issue. All we can do is make an effort to know all of the
aspects which are involved so that we may be able to make a sound decision if we were
faced with this problem in our own lives.
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