The Realities of Abortion That Need to Be Discussed More Often
Morality Of Abortions
Before I make any points, I need everyone to understand that I am working under the premise that nothing about morality, ethics, emotions, and religion is objective. I will concede that most western societies believe that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. These unalienable rights are still somewhat subjective, but they are certainly a little bit less subjective than other moral principles.
The last unalienable right is definitely the most controversial because it is hard to define what constitutes as pursuit of happiness. Additionally, one individual’s pursuit of happiness can curtail another individual’s pursuit of happiness. Therefore, the harm or nonaggression principle has to come into play. This principle states that individuals can do whatever they want in order to pursue happiness as long as it does not hurt anybody else.
When it comes to abortions, the harm principle might encounter some muddy waters. On the one hand, abortion hurts a fetus by taking away its potential to become a child. On the other hand, forcing someone into an unwanted pregnancies hurt pregnant people and their families because they cannot make the best decisions about parenthood. The question of whether the fetus or the or the pregnant individual takes precedence is obviously one that faces a lot of controversy. As someone who is pro-choice, I would argue that the pregnant individual takes precedence over the fetus. After all, even if the fetus is arguably alive, the individual whose womb is supporting the fetus is definitely more human than the fetus is.
However, I do recognize that, on the other side of the debate, people believe that the harm imposed on an aborted fetus is more severe than the harm imposed on an individual who has to carry the pregnancy to term. While I can list all the reasons why forcing pregnancy on people is a terrible fate for both the parent and the child, I cannot prove that any of these reasons are important enough to ignore the fact that abortions do snuff out the potential for life. I would not call it murder the way that pro-lifers might, but the decision to end a pregnancy is not a decision that should be taken lightly. I may trust people to make their own decision, but I know that there are people who do not think there should even be a choice.
From a philosophical perspective, the abortion debate is not truly a debate about whether or not we should trust people to make their own decisions about parenthood, pregnancy, birth control, and abortions. When it comes down to western moral philosophy, the question of abortion can be condensed into a single debate. We must determine the extent to which the harm principle applies to fetuses. Of course, other moral principles might be at play, but I am willing to bet that someone’s answer to this question on the harm principle will almost always reveal where that person falls on the spectrum between pro-life and pro-choice.
Additionally, this question is closely tied to the question of whether a fetus is considered a human life or not. If you believe life begins at conception, then you likely think the harm principle would fully apply to a fetus, embryo, and zygote, so you would be against abortion entirely. If you believe life begins at birth, then you likely think the harm principle does not apply to a fetus at all, so you would be pro-choice. If you believe life begins when a fetus could theoretically survive outside the womb, then you likely think the harm principle only applies to certain fetuses, so you would have a relatively moderate opinion on abortion that would probably fall closer to the pro-choice side of the spectrum. If you believe life begins when someone’s body produces eggs or sperm, then you are probably pro-choice, but you are also reducing this whole debate to the absurd and you need to be careful about logical fallacies when you may not know the whole premise of an argument.
Personally, I believe that a pregnant individual gets to decide how strongly the harm principle applies to the fetus. We have to trust people to make their own choices about what is and is not right when it comes to issues that have a certain amount of moral ambiguity. However, I recognize that many pro-lifers are so strong in their convictions that nothing is going to convince them to allow pregnant people to make this choice. If you fully believe that abortion is tantamount to murder, then it is no surprise that you are protesting outside Planned Parenthoods. I wish you understood that you have been manipulated by a society that just wants to control women. I wish you opened up your eyes and saw all the good that abortions can do. I wish you did your research and learned that Planned Parenthoods do so much more than simply provide abortions. Alas, I have run out of ways to make pro-lifers change their minds.
However, I know that it is possible to convince people to accept abortions. In fact, I was not always pro-choice. Back when I was growing up in a pro-life community, I did not take the time to fully consider the abortion issue. I simply equated abortion to murder and assumed that this equivalency was obvious. However, I changed my mind after some feminist family members explained to me what happens to people who did not have access to safe abortions.
The truth is that, whether you like it or not, abortions are going to happen. Unless you can adequately monitor every sexually active individual, you are not going to stop abortions. All you can do is limit someone’s access to a legal abortion. This reality is one of the major factors that influenced by stance on abortions. However, for some reason, the rhetoric around abortion never seems to discuss this issue anymore. Pro-lifers scream about how women are Godless sexual monsters that seduce men, get themselves pregnant, and then murder babies. Pro-choicers retaliate with sarcastic comments about how evangelical male demagogues and politicians need to stop trying to regulate a woman’s body.
No one is listening anymore. No one is sharing substantive thoughts anymore. I get that pro-choicers are getting frustrated. I too am tired of explaining super basic facts about reproductive rights to white men, but I still recognize that this debate is not pointless. While it should not have to be a debate, it definitely is, so I should not reduce it to meaningless screaming matches. Nobody in these screaming matches are talking about back-alley wire hanger abortions anymore. Nobody is talking about women who have literally died because legal abortions were unavailable. I used to hear about it all the time, but it has been a long time since I last heard someone bring it up.
I have no idea what made the issue of illegal abortions fade into the background. Perhaps political rhetoric has simply become less nuanced in recent years. Perhaps people are forgetting what the days before Roe vs Wade were like. The truth is that there could be a million reasons why people have decided that it is more important to argue about whether it is okay to shame a woman who got an abortion than it is to prevent her from doing something that could seriously hurt her body. Some of these reasons could be perfectly valid. I just think it is important to emphasize that a huge benefit of legalizing abortion is that there will be a significant decrease in instances of botched and unsafe abortions. I think that, according to the harm principle, since illegal abortions pose a serious risk, the pregnant individual’s life should take precedence over the life of a fetus, especially one who has a high chance of growing up unwanted.