Should abortion be legal?

This debate is about the question whether abortion should be legal, not about whether abortion is moral or the best course of action. This debate assumes that all (other, depending on your location) currently unlawful killings should remain as such.

Arguments edit

Abortion should be legal in any stage of pregnancy edit

  •   Argument Abortion without proper medical support endangers the mother's life, which happens when women seek unsafe abortion due to abortion ban. This is one mode by which the act of banning abortion results in otherwise avoidable deaths.
    •   Objection Unsafe abortion without proper medical support is already illegal. The solution to prevent endangerment of the mother's life is to better enforce existing laws, not legalizing pre-existing offences.
      •   Objection No evidence has been presented that tightening of enforcement of abortion bans will reduce the unsafe illegal abortions to zero. Of these, non-zero number of mothers' deaths may still result. Whether the proposed intervention (of better enforcement) will eliminate all unsafe-abortion-caused otherwise avoidable deaths is an empirical question and cannot be answered by philosophising; in any case, it seems likely that at least one otherwise avoidable unsafe-abortion-caused death will ensue.
  •   Argument Procedures designed to save mother's life during pregnancy are often indistinguishable from abortion.[1] As a result, the act of banning abortion leads to reduced or delayed administration of life-saving procedures for the fear of legal prosecution.[1] This is another mode by which the act of banning abortion results in otherwise avoidable deaths. The ban-caused additional mother deaths may be reduced by allowing life-saving abortions as an exception to the ban, but these deaths are still not necessarily reduced to zero since adding legal element to the deliberation adds risk to the medical doctor, who must be ready to prove that the abortion was necessary to save the mother's life.
  •   Argument If a woman lives in an environment exceedingly hostile to her situation (for example a pregnancy out of wedlock in a country under Sharia Law) then continuing with the pregnancy would risk her chances of a healthy and happy life, if not her life.
    •   Objection From a deontological perspective, the end doesn't justify the means and the pragmatic benefits of abortion do not justify allowing it.
    •   Objection Some people have mental illnesses that cause them to need to burn down buildings, kill people or steal thins, but we don't legalize such acts because of such people.
      •   Objection ok what does this have to do with abortion? Exactly what you’re saying some people aren’t mentally stable enough so they have the need to have an abortion for the child’s sake
  •   Argument Nobody is obliged to save someone else.
    •   Objection On the contrary, parents have a legal and moral obligation to protect the lives of their children.
    •   Objection Abortion isn't just refusing to save someone: it's taking active steps to end that someone's life.
  •   Argument There's a potential link between legalizing abortion and reducing crime.[2][clarification needed]
  •   Argument Legalizing abortion is useful to help control overpopulation.
    •   Objection So is legalizing murder, promoting war, releasing deadly viruses, etc.
      •   Objection In short all you are saying is that the murder should be allowed in the country....
      •   Objection The other methods listed are almost unanimously agreed to be unethical, while abortion (when chosen by the pregnant) is a more balanced, ambiguous, and potentially acceptable method.
        •   Objection Even if abortion isn't as clearly unethical as other methods, it still isn't acceptable just by being better than the alternatives for controlling overpopulation.
          •   Objection It isn't acceptable simply by virtue of being less ethical, but rather by virtue of its benefits to the mother's rights over her own body.
  •   Argument Criminalizing abortion would not end abortion, though it may reduce the rate of abortions. If we are concerned about reducing the rate of abortions, there are better ways of doing this, e.g. publicly funded contraception.
    •   Objection An anti-abortion law would extend the law against murder. Laws on human life don't prevent actions but are symbolic to a moral stance of a nation.
      •   Objection The abortion-ban-caused otherwise avoidable deaths of mothers indicated in some of the above arguments are very much non-symbolic and outweigh anything that is merely symbolic.
  •   Argument Removing a fetus safely from a woman's body is much better than if she is forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy, which has a domino effect of now there is another mouth in the family to feed, and if it is a poor family, the kid will starve to death, which is much more painful and slower than what would originally occur.
    •   Objection A kid in a poor family may starve to death regardless of whether the pregnancy was unwanted or not. However, we do forbid poor people from killing wanted children to prevent painful starvation to death.
      •   Objection A family struggling to make ends meet with many children aren't going to intentionally create another child to feed. I see this point brought up alot about how we forbid killing children but not abortion, and I think it be important you know unborn babies are far different to kids.
  •   Argument An unwanted child exists in vain, and vain existence is worse than no existence at all.
    •   Objection This assumes that the purpose of child's existence is identical with the purpose for which the child was conceived, often pleasure-seeking via sex. If the child accepts this assumption, the child can choose to maximize the pleasure of its parents, in align with the purpose for which it was conceived; the result is a meaningful life rather than a life in vain. Furthermore, the child does not need to accept this assumption and may seek its own purposes in life, just like wanted children, rather than seeing itself as a mere vehicle for its parents' purposes.
      •   Objection Sounds great on paper, but in practice you are describing a utopian ideal as resolution to psychological patterns deeply rooted within both the parents and child. Proposing that an unwanted child musters the degree of willpower you imply, and be met with eager reception by what seem to be ignorant, irresponsible parents, sounds like a game hard-won.
  •   Argument Interventions reducing abortion rates exist that save lives of unborn fetuses while being very unlikely to cause any otherwise avoidable deaths of mothers. One such intervention is letting aborting women sign paperwork serving to convince them to skip abortion for convenience's sake. The paperwork may point out: 1) the child can be adopted; 2) from certain moral perspectives, abortion for convenience's sake is a murder; 3) from biological and genetic perspective, an adopted child is still a success, and some adopted children went on to achieve great things and become very famous while doing so; 4) some mothers experience psychological difficulties as a result of abortion. More non-banning interventions are available. In fact, non-banning interventions have caused a huge decline in abortion rates in the U.S.[1]
  •   Argument Wanton abortion is a self-limiting behavior in so far as the biological predispositions to the behavior are being less replicated as a result of the abortion. Wanton abortion is not a socially dangerous behavior.
    •   Objection This completely disregards the question whether abortion is a murder, and is a collectivist rather than individualist ethics. Instead of killing of a fetus as an evil to be avoided, it discusses social practicalities and assumes that the purpose of ethics is a pragmatic one, to eliminate socially dangerous behavior. This is a fundamentally unethical position, at least from the point of view of individualistic ethics.
  •   Argument In terms of outcomes or consequences, conception and subsequent abortion is no different from sexual abstinence and use of contraception: there is no child. There should be no legal difference between these cases.
    •   Objection The notional difference is that abortion involves a killing of an innocent while sexual abstinence does not. One cannot argue that abstinence is murder.
    •   Objection The same argument would make it possible for mothers to kill infants or even older children since the outcome would be the same as in abstinence: there would be no child.
      •   Objection Society could object to killing of a child into which it invested its resources such as medical services and public schooling.
        •   Objection Maybe so, but this line of reasoning is fundamentally inhumane, treating a human as a mere means to society's objectives. And it would not protect children into which no or little public resources were invested.

Abortion should not be legal in any stage of pregnancy edit

  •   Argument For late-term abortion, it is much harder to argue that it is not a murder: the fetus is significantly developed.
    •   Objection The position stated is, paraphrased "For all stages of pregnancy, abortion ought to be illegal at that stage of pregnancy", not "There exists a stage of pregnancy such that abortion ought to be illegal at said stage". The universal and existential quantifier is conflated.

Abortion should be legal in the first trimester edit

The first trimester is a conventional time length meant to distinguish the period in which a fetus is totally dependent on the mother, from the rest of the pregnancy, in which the fetus may survive without her. Conception occurs on the third week of the first trimester. By the end of third month of pregnancy, a fetus is well-developed,[3] with most of its organs fully developed or at least functioning. There is no sudden transformation happening on the day 90 of the pregnancy, just as there is no sudden transformation when we turn 18 and become officially legal adults. A fetus doesn't suddenly become independent on the 90 day mark, just as a person doesn't suddenly become an adult on the 18th birthday. These conventions are educated decisions necessary for legal reasons.

  •   Argument During the first trimester, the fetus is attached to the mother by the placenta and umbilical cord, its health is dependent on her health and cannot live outside her womb. After the third trimester, the fetus is capable of surviving external from the mother's body, if properly nourished and cared. Therefore, a fetus in the first trimester cannot be regarded as a separate entity, is part of the mother's body and it's up to her what she wants to do with her own body.
    •   Objection A fetus has its own unique genetic code, so it is a different organism living inside its mother, and not just another part of her body.
      •   Objection Unfertilized egg cells have their own unique genetic code, and unfertilized egg cells are not organisms.
    •   Objection By this logic, people on artificial life support should have no right to life because of their dependence on something other than themselves for survival.
      •   Objection The difference is that people on artificial life support have at one point already achieved the status of individual autonomy whereas the fetus in the first trimester has yet to ever acquire that status.
      •   Objection Those examples are not analogous. The people on artificial life support don't feed on another individual's body. On the contrary, the fetus always demands active and ongoing support from the host (woman). The better analogy would be forcing someone to give their blood to save another person's life against their consent. Until the fetus can survive outside the womb, not allowing abortion violates the women's bodily autonomy. 
      •   Objection People in coma and relying on artificial life support have proxies making the decision whether to keep them on life support. The proxy can choose to withdraw life support. In the case of the fetus, the mother is the proxy and can choose to withdraw use of her body as life support
        •   Objection The withdrawal of life support can only occur when specific medical criteria are met. There has to be no chance for improvement of patient health and ability to function independently in the future.
          •   Objection It still establishes the principle that killing a living human biological body of an innocent human is not automatically considered to be a murder. Some other principles need to be sought to differentiate. The principle could be that the mind or soul can appear in the body in future, but we may counter that the mind or soul has not arrived yet in the first trimester, and therefore we only kill a host for the mind or soul that has never seen a mind or soul, so the mind or soul has no identity yet; it is only the biological host body that has an identity. And we have already established that human biological bodies are not preserved at any and all costs regardless of their relation to mind or soul.
  •   Argument Fetuses in the first trimester are incapable of feeling pain,[4] having future goals and are not conscious. All of those conditions are good reasons to value the life of something, but something that does not meet them is not valuable.
    •   Objection People undergoing full-body anesthesia are incapable of feeling pain, having future goals and are not conscious. We put a value on their life because they have the potential to do all these things once they wake-up. Similarly, fetuses have the potential of having a valuable life.
      •   Objection People under anaesthesia are valued because they have had the capability to be conscious. Ending that life is ending the possibility to continue that consciousness while ending the fetus's life is ending the possibility to start consciousness. The value comes from continuing consciousness.
      •   Objection Potentiality is not a sufficient defense in the first trimester as there is no way of knowing if or how many complications can occur that drastically decrease a person's quality of life or existential awareness.
      •   Objection Many animals can feel pain, have future goals and are conscious, yet there's no outcry to end meat eating.
        •   Objection Veganism is a growing movement.
          •   Objection Veganism may be a growing movement but it is far from anything enforced at the level of legality. 
  •   Argument A fetus in the first trimester should not be entitled to rights that born people are not entitled to. Born people do not have the right to someone else's body even if they need it to survive (I don't have a right to your blood even if I need a blood transfusion to live).
    •   Objection Assuming that the pregnancy is not due to rape or similar unfortunate circumstances, then the mother should have known that having sex involves the risk of her getting pregnant. If she willingly took the risk of putting another human in a situation where they would depend on her body, then she is responsible for taking care of them in the case that she actually gets pregnant.
      •   Objection This argument assumes that pregnancy can be perfectly preventable. However, none of the birth control methods works perfectly (100%), and contraception requires chance, even under ideal conditions. Therefore, getting pregnant cannot be reduced to a single act or decision.
      •   Objection This argument assumes that past actions should restrict the person's bodily autonomy in the future. Even the person can change their present circumstances; the state should not allow that.
      •   Objection We are not assuming as much. Even if we do, a ban is likely to result in otherwise avoidable deaths of mothers, and therefore disregards the mother's right to life.
    •   Objection The right to life is more important than the right to avoid the inconveniences of pregnancy, so we ought to prioritize the former over the latter and give fetuses their right to life.
      •   Objection In certain cases, the right to life of a fetus is in conflict with the right to life of the mother, a moral conflict. These cases may be alleviated by the ban allowing life-saving abortions, but this does not completely eliminate the threat of legal prosecution, adds legal element to the decision making in addition to medical and moral, and thus such a exceptions-allowing ban can still result in otherwise avoidable deaths.

Abortion should not be legal in the first trimester edit

  •   Argument Fetuses meet all seven characteristics of life,[5] and are human, so abortion is akin to murder as it's the act of taking human life. No civilized society permits one human to intentionally take the life of another human that has caused no violence, and abortion is no different.
    •   Objection The concept of personhood is different from the concept of human life.
    •   Objection In in vitro fertilization, fertilized eggs that are not implanted are routinely thrown away and no one considers that murder.
      •   Objection Then maybe throwing away in vitro fertilized eggs should be prohibited. Certainly opponents to fetal stem cell research think so.
    •   Objection A fetus during the first trimester is not yet human, since it hasn't developed the large neocortex that sets humans apart from other animals.[6]
      •   Objection The fetuses we are talking about are human, though sometimes, it's acceptable to kill humans, especially if it hasn't yet developed consciousness.
    •   Objection A person's right to life is contingent on what their life requires of other people. Nobody has a right to your blood because they need it to survive.
    •   Objection Why should the society permit the abortion banners to cause an otherwise avoidable loss of life of mothers? Is it because the killing is caused a little more indirectly than in the case of an abortion? Or is it because the lives of fetuses are more valuable than lives of mothers?
  •   Argument Many citizens who pay taxes are opposed to abortion, therefore it's morally wrong to use tax money to subsidize abortion.
    •   Objection It isn't necessary to use taxpayer money to subsidize abortion. This debate is about legalizing abortion, not subsidizing it.
    •   Objection Taxpayer dollars are used to enable poor people to access the same medical services as rich people and abortion is one of these services.
    •   Objection Subsidizing abortion is no different from any other subsidy. For those who are opposed, the place to express outrage is in the voting booth.
    •   Objection Many citizens who pay taxes are opposed to central government. But we can't defund the government.
  •   Argument An abortion can result in medical complications later in life: the risk of ectopic pregnancies doubles, the chance of a miscarriage and pelvic inflammatory disease also increases, not to mention intense psychological pain, stress and emotional burdens left after abortion, called "post-abortion syndrome".[7] A procedure so risky shouldn't be supported by making it legal.
    •   Objection Abortion is a safe medical procedure. The vast majority of women (88%) who have an abortion do so in their first trimester. Medical abortions have less than 0.5% risk of serious complications and do not affect a woman's health or future ability to become pregnant or give birth.
    •   Objection Risk is not an adequate reason to forbid a medical procedure. Many procedures, such as surgeries on late-term cancer patients, carry the risk of causing physical harm and are not guaranteed to be beneficial, but we permit them as long as there is informed consent on the part of the patient.
  •   Argument Adoption is a viable alternative to abortion.[8]
    •   Objection Adoption doesn't prevent the many months of unwanted pregnancy.
    •   Objection Adoption doesn't prevent the risk of health risks that pregnancy entails.
      •   Objection Abortion also entails health risks.
  •   Argument According to most legislations,[9] killing a pregnant woman at any stage in the pregnancy is legally a double homicide. The law defines "child in utero" as "a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb". Therefore, under current (United States) Federal law, abortion at any stage of development is murder of a member of our species, which is illegal.[10] In other words, Federal legal precedent stands on the side of fetal personhood.
    •   Objection The debate is not about what the current laws are, but about what the laws should be.
    •   Objection This argument only applies to the United States, but this debate is not restricted to any one country.
    •   Objection Since death penalty is legal in some states, the fact that fetuses are members of our species doesn't by itself imply that their life can't be legally taken.
      •   Objection The person receiving the death penalty was guilty of a crime, they are not innocent like the child in utero.
  •   Argument Certain societal intervention such as better sex education can make abortions unnecessary.[1]
    •   Objection This is an argument against banning, not for banning: non-banning interventions can reduce the phenomenon that we find objectionable--killing of fetuses for convenience sake--without at the same time causing another phenomenon that we find objectionable--abortion-ban-caused otherwise avoidable deaths of mothers.
  •   Argument Legal abortion has eugenic potential by enabling trait-selective abortions such as those to eliminate a fetus of unwanted sex.[1]
    •   Objection This can be resolved by making illegal to have an abortion after prenatal sex determination, but not before it. And if coercion to test the fetus's sex is a problem, coercion to not abort would still be a problem in that situation, even without the restriction.

Abortion should be legal in case of risk to the mother's life edit

In the United States, around 6% of abortions are reported to be due to physical or emotional health problems with the mother.[11]

  •   Argument If the life of the mother is compromised, she should have the right to abort as a matter of self-defense.

Abortion should not be legal in case of risk to the mother's life edit

  •   Argument The mother could indirectly defend herself with the intent not to abort. For example, taking chemotherapy for Uterine cancer may have the unintended side effect of abortion but that was not the intent. This is known as the Principle of double effect.
    •   Objection If it's illegal to abort and the treatment-prescriber knows that their treatment results in abortion, it would be illegal to provide treatment, killing the mother.

Abortion should be legal in case of rape or incest edit

In the United States, around 1% of abortions are reported to be due to rape or incest.[11]

  •   Argument In the case of incest, if the child was born, they'd have a substantially impaired quality of life, even in adoption by the most loving family imaginable, due to recessive disorders (especially if said child is male, for males are more likely to get X-linked recessive disorders)
  •   Argument Forcing a woman to continue with a forced pregnancy is a violation of her rights.
    •   Objection Still, you would be killing someone else without that someone's consent.
      •   Objection Just as the woman was raped into having a child without her consent.
      •   Objection Virtually all legal killings are against the victim's consent.
        •   Objection In the event of euthanasia, this is not the case
  •   Argument A fetus conceived through rape or incest is like an intruder and can be expelled like such.
    •   Objection A fetus shouldn't be treated like an intruder because it did not willfully intrude, someone put it there. No reasonable person would expel an unconscious person into the winter cold and leave it to die, if it was thrown into his property by a kidnapper.
      •   Objection But by the same notion, a person shouldn't be expected to harbor an unconscious person because the kidnapper had assaulted them and then left the unconscious person in their care.
  •   Argument Having children due to rape or incest can be seriously deleterious to the mother. Abortion in such cases is the best of the bad outcomes available in most cases.
    •   Objection Adoption services already exist. If a mother wishes not to raise the child, these seem like a much more palatable option than killing a fetus that could go on to do great things.
      •   Objection A woman shouldn't be expected to endure 9 months of pregnancy and the emotional and psychological burden of conceiving the child of her rapist because that unsolicited fetus might go on to do great things. 
  •   Argument if we ban abortion, women who have been raped are now forced to have kids, and with the unfortunately high occurrence of rape, this may cause the population to explode, piling on to the already major problem of overpopulation. Not to mention, most bastard children live in such poor conditions and have so little morale for their existence that they will likely suffer their entire lives and never amount to anything. In that case, it's better for everyone involved that they didn't exist
    •   Objection rate of rape seems to be inconsequential to population growth. If we take the US, there seems to be roughly 85000 reported rapes per year. If we conservatively assume that this is half of the total rapes, that conservatively there's a 5% chance of getting pregnant per sexual intercourse (which tends to apply only to younger people), that right now there are no rape-related births in the US (likely untrue) and, finally, that no illegal abortion would take place, the number of pregnancies as a consequence of rape if abortion would be illegal would be roughly 0,2% of total birth in the US. Real percentage would probably be orders of magnitude lower.

Abortion should not be legal in case of rape or incest edit

  •   Argument Proper medical care can ensure that a woman victim of rape or incest will not get pregnant.
    • Correction: "... a female [redacted]/incest victim..." or "...a [redacted] or incest victim who is a woman...'
    •   Objection Often a rape victim is too afraid to speak up or is unaware of being pregnant, thus the morning after pill is ineffective in these situations.
    •   Objection If conception has already taken place, any way of making her no longer pregnant is an abortion.

See also edit

Notes and references edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Abortion - Top Arguments For and Against -". Abortion. Retrieved 2022-08-16.
  2. Levitt, Steven D; Dubner, Stephen J (2006). Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything (in English). ISBN 9780061234002. OCLC 73307236. 
  3. "The first trimester: your baby's growth and development in early pregnancy". WebMD. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  4. "Fetal Awareness: Review of Research and Recommendations for Practice". Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  5. "The 7 Characteristics of Life". 2017-12-21. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  6. Sagan, Carl. The dragons of Eden: speculations on the evolution of human intelligence (First ed.). New York. ISBN 0394410459. OCLC 2922889. 
  7. "Post Abortion Stress Syndrome (PASS) - Does It Exist?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2017-11-16.
  8. "Adoption Statistics | Adoption Network". Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  9. "Unborn Victims of Violence Act". Wikipedia. 2022-07-05. 
  10. The law is codified in two sections of the United States Code: Title 18, Chapter 1 (Crimes), §1841 (18 USC 1841) and Title 10, Chapter 22 (Uniform Code of Military Justice) §919a (Article 119a).
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Reasons given for having abortions in the United States". Retrieved 2019-06-12.