(My response: I agree with Dr Meadows. We have to err on the side of caution, and that means from an ethical standpoint, abortion is never right. In cases where the mother’s life is clearly at stake, make an exception. Beyond that, none. The idea that a woman’s circumstance should alter ethics is absurd. If she is not in a position to have a child, she shouldn’t have sex. Her indiscretion doesn’t make her decision to kill a child ethical.) – DO NOT INCLUDE THIS PARAGRAPH ON THE ESSAY. INSTEAD REWORD IT.
Annual Ethics Symposium Scenario: Debating Abortion
Speakers: Dr Catherine Williams and Dr Robin Meadows
Moderator: Few topics are more ethically charged than that of abortion. Both sides hold strong opinions. Those who see a fertilized egg as a human being view abortion as an act of murder. However, restricting or outlawing abortion and forcing women to bring unwanted children to term would raise serious ethical and legal questions. We should keep in mind while exploring abortion ethics, that abortion itself is legal, even if only for exceptional cases, in almost all developed countries.
We will begin with Dr Williams.
Dr Williams: Thank you. I know that this is an emotional issue, but it is very important that we protect the rights of an adult, human mother before the rights of a fetus, whose life is dependent on the mother. A fetus, depending on the stage of development, has not developed to the point that it can feel pain or thinkof itself as a being with an identity, qualities we often associate with human life. This issue is too complex to do more than skim the surface at the moment, of course, but remember that abortion is legal, and it is the mother’s rights that the law keepds in mind. Surely, those rights are clear.
Dr Meadows: We can barely skim the surface of this issue, that true. But as long as we’re painting in broad strokes, let’s look at the case for defending the life of the fetus. First of all, determining exactly when life begins has long been a bone of contention among medical professionals. If we cannot be sure when life begins, doesn’t it make sense to err on the side of caution so we don’t mistakenly take a human life? And we do value human life. It’s isn’t merely our job, it’s ethical to do so. We should see the potential future of the life in question and protect that future. In some cases, we might say the younger life is worth even more than an older one, because a greater potential future lies ahead. That’s why most parents would throw themselves in harm’s way to protect a child. Legally, yes, a woman has a right to an abortion. That certainly doesn’t mean we should encourage her to have one, or that she should make the decision without access to information on the life growing inside her.
Question from the audience: How common is abortion? Is the number of abortions increasing or decreasing?
Dr Meadows: About half of pregnancies among American women are unintended and about four in 10 of these ends in abortion. Statistics are incomplete, but the CDC reports the total number and rate of reported abortions for 2011 decreased 5% from the previous year.
Dr Williams: Erring on the side of caution is a double-edged sword. If we acknowledge that the mother is clearly a human life that we must protect, and that a fetus may or may not yet be a human being, then our ethical responsibilities are with the mother. If we are speaking of a young mother in a disadvantaged situation, all the more reason for our responsibilities to be so. The birth of the child could be unfeasible economically, it could hamper her ability to work or go school, it could bring on depression, and in short, completely alter the mother’s life and not always for the better.
Dr Meadows: It isn’t worth more. You mention school and work…the unborn child’s ability to work or go to school is completely lost along with every other aspect of a life that could have been. If we value the sanctity of life, and if we also cannot say exactly when life begins, let’s just assume it begins immediately upon conception.
Considering these responses, choose the one you believe to be the most ethical.
My response: I agree with Dr Meadows. We have to err on the side of caution, and that means from an ethical standpoint, abortion is never right. In cases where the mother’s life is clearly at stake, make an exception. Beyond that, none. The idea that a woman’s circumstance should alter ethics is absurd. If she is not in a position to have a child, she shouldn’t have sex. Her indiscretion doesn’t make her decision to kill a child ethical.