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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Abortion Case Study

We have been looking into specific moral philosophies and grouping them into either a philosophy of the rights or a philosophy of duty and responsibility. Looking at both arguments which are pro-choice and pro-life. I want to show how they also can represent either a priority of your rights or your duty. While both stances involve moral duties, and rights. I argue that each stance emphasizes one aspect.

Whichever side you lean towards, it is important to recognize your biases. Our small social circles tend to consist of like minded people. With the digital age, we also have large social circles through social media. In this we are able to choose the perspective that our news gets filtered through, and customize whose and what type of opinions we see consistently. Yes this can be helpful to strengthen our moral philosophies on a variety of  issues, but equally harmful not seeing opposing ideas. In order to validate your argument, and beliefs you should dive into the opposite perspective. Even the most extreme hypothetical circumstances. This will strengthen your philosophical views and or correct them. I am pro-choice, but my intention while writing this paper is for my pro-choice stance not to be obvious unless I am specifically expressing my opinion, but I will mainly do that in my conclusion.

By how difficult I found it to be truly unbiased, I understand the natural instinct us humans have to highlight the strongest points of your opinion, and focus on the weakest part of the opposite argument. In the wisest analysis of a philosophy, you would begin at the strongest aspect of both sides. From there you analyze the reasons or the “why?”. Then hopefully understand not just the philosophies themselves, but determine from a wider perspective which has the most reason. Which answer to the question “why?” has more validity.

While analyzing these points of view it will be helpful to know a deeper background. I was the first presentation in our case study group, because we wanted to start with a history of abortion, and abortion laws in the United States.

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues of our time. It is an extremely sensitive, and complex issue. Like most aspects of life, abortion is hardly black or white. There is a vast amount of gray, and that gray is where philosophy lives. Most people would not say “no abortion ever”, nor would someone likely claim “abortion is always permissible regardless of the circumstance”. Well, and that leaves a lot of room for disagreement.

Starting with some history, here in the United States abortions have been happening since the beginning. Beyond America, abortions have been being performed for at least thousands of years. In the U.S, anti abortion laws started popping up in the 1820’s, and then continued to accelerate in the 1860’s. Supposedly one reason anti abortion laws were pushed into place was because of fear that the children of newly arriving immigrant parents would start to dominate population. The American Medical Association said that the reason for stricter abortion laws was because they were dangerous and immoral.

Connecting morality to abortion. We have to question a law being passed on the basis of being immoral. The spectrum of personal morality is wide, but the agreed exception is when another life is being affected. What is not agreed upon is whether a fetus’s right to be born conflicts with a woman’s right to make a decision to allow that fetus to grow into a human inside her body for nine months. Majority of people agree in cases of assault abortion is permissible, based off of the decision whether to have intercourse is out of the equation. More controversial questions, like did a pregnant woman give consent to the possibility of losing rights to her body for nine months when she chose to have sex? Is a forced nine month pregnancy an appropriate consequence for a person who has sex being fertile, and female?

By 1910 almost every state had criminalized abortion except in the circumstance where the Dr. decided the mother’s life was in danger. For obvious reasons records were difficult to keep, but it is estimated that between 1880 and 1973 many thousands of woman were harmed from back alley abortions. At no point in the U.S did abortions stop. While they were against the law It is estimated that 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed each year. Regarding safety and health, and that intentions of a law which are to make things safer. These statistics make it clear that abortions being illegal does not mean less abortions, it makes abortions unnecessarily dangerous.

In the 1960’s liberalization laws started making their way through the states. These laws were making abortion more accessible by widening the range of circumstances which they were aloud. Then in 1967 Ronald Reagan, signs a bill in California that would allow easier access. I was surprised to learn while researching that initially the states where liberalization laws were being passed were primarily Republican run states. It was in the northeast that those bills were failing, because of the Catholic church’s stance on abortion. At this time Catholics were primarily democrat. Then in 1973 the supreme court rules that the Texas statute forbidding abortion was unconstitutional. This is the famous case of Roe v. Wade.

Norma McCorvey was the plaintiff in the lawsuit, and went by the pseudonym “Jane Roe”. Norma had a rough life, after running away from home as a teen she returned back pregnant for the first time. That baby was raised by her mother, After leaving again Norma was in an abusive relationship which resulted in another pregnancy. She had the child but did not keep it, and then after she found herself pregnant for a third time Norma wanted an abortion. This is where she was pulled into this case that would be a huge part of a social war. I don’t believe Norma had much intention or desire to be involved in the movement. Though the case went in their favor, she did not end up having an abortion with the third pregnancy. Norma was not an ideal spokesperson. She was troubled, and later went on to claim she felt used. She became a born again Christian and became an advocate for pro-life. Norma experienced extreme aspects of being a part of both sides. Fighting for her moral right to have an abortion, then later becoming religious making it her responsibility to stop an immoral act.

That is how I would group each extreme stance, with either an emphasis on moral duty or rights. The feminist movement happening at the same time as liberalization laws caused feminism and pro-choice to become closely and permanently fused. Feminists fighting for women’s rights, while evangelicals are fighting to restore lost morality. These two movements hurtling toward each other, forges the modern political debate. The movements are not surprising or insignificant. One side’s perspective that innocent children are being murdered, and radicals are stripping away the Christian morality this country was built on. Religion becomes a necessary component to pro-life arguments and the moral duty seems clear. While feminists have been pushed to have to fight and protest for their rights to choose what happens to their bodies. Seemingly the most important basic human right, to decide for yourself what is best for you. It was a right that half the country didn’t have based on gender, and the gender that abortion pertains to much less.

In the 1980’s political party affiliation begins to mean something definitive in the abortion debate, which is clearly still the case today. The laws on abortion have always been up to the states, but the supreme court begins to retreat from Roe v. Wade by allowing more restrictions. Protest division has become worse, and now violent. In attempts to win over Christian voters, Ronald Reagan switches to a Pro-life stance. He addresses the issue openly, and claims he regrets his past involvement that contradicts his current view. Reagan becomes president, and in 1984 “The Silent Scream” is released. Using new ultrasound technology, it is released to show abortion from the “victims” point of view. This horrific film demonstrating “biological homicide” sheds light on exactly what this debate is about, and why it becomes such a sensitive, complex moral issue.

At a Campaign For Life rally last May our President Trump said “For the first time since Roe v. Wade, America has a pro-life president, a pro-life vice president, pro-life house of representative, and twenty-five pro life representative state capitals, that is pretty good, that is pretty good, wow”. Legal or not, abortion is widely considered taboo. Like other social issues it often becomes part of a political game, and used as a pawn. The process of having an abortion differe’s from state to state. In Utah abortion is legal if it’s done before viability, if the woman’s life or health is at risk, for a victim of raped or incest, or if the fetus has a diagnosable and lethal defect. In the last twenty years abortion rates have gone down. This is largely contributed to more accessible contraceptives and sex education thanks to the internet.

Professor Judith Jarvis Thompson writes an essay titled “A Defense of Abortion”. A pro-choice argument that In my opinion one of the most solid philosophical arguments made regarding abortion rights. She makes a valid argument, in which she takes a hypothetical situation to the absolute extreme. In contrast Don Marquis writes “Why Abortion Is Immoral” in this essay he is highlighting our moral duty and responsibility, us humans have to draw a line. This line is drawn at murder. Disregarding the belief abortion is not murder, he stops right there. He argues that murder in any case is immoral, and most people would not disagree. Though, this argument works mainly because he doesn’t dive more into personhood. I enjoy Professor Thompsons essay based on the way she uses the idea that the fetus is a person, though she states right away that is not her opinion. In any case of persuasion, you will not get far if you don’t adhere to their personal moral beliefs in the argument. Even when persuasion is not the main goal, but to shed light on wise contradictions.

My conclusion is that it is more than fair to say abortion is not an easy debate, and the best solution is not obvious. As a society we will never be on the same page, but having these debates is very important. Respectful conversations with people who have opposite views is necessary to avoid getting stuck with senseless ideas or norms that weren’t continually questioned. I believe where we are now is a pretty good compromise, and a compromise between duty and rights is where I think we have to be. I am pro-choice, the right to choose with necessary regulation. My final opinion is that the fetus could never be more important than the woman carrying it.

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