ETHICAL THEORIES AND THE ABORTION QUESTION
One issue that has generated so much controversy in the world to day in that the pope has to lead his voice to it was the issue of the legality and illegality of abortion. In this article I will try and apply some ethical theories to the abortion question in an attempt to balance the debate on both sides.
An ethical theory “is an attempt to establish the fundamental principle(s) by which actions are judged morally right or wrong”. On the other hand, abortion “is the act of causing a pregnancy to end early, in order to prevent the baby from developing and being born”. The abortion issue has supporters on both side of the divide. The pro abortionist are of the view that the mother has a right to do whatever she wants to do with her body, most importantly when her life is at stake, while the anti abortionist claim that the fetus is a human being from conception, they support this fact with a medical testimony that “from the tenth week the fetus already has a face, arms, fingers, toes, internal organs, and brain activity”. They also claim that the fetus has a right to life. It is on this ground that the application of ethical theories become inevitable in order to know just when to draw the line on this sensitive issue.
According to Aristotle, man is a pleasure, self seeking and selfish animal, this translate to mean that in whatever man does his interest comes first, this brings us to the ethical theories of hedonism and egoism. Hedonism is a theory that holds that “acts are right and good only if they produce pleasure and happiness and are wrong or bad if they produce pain or unhappiness”, while egoism is a theory which holds that ‘one ought to act so as to secure the greatest possible good for oneself”. These two theory tries to explain the driving force why anybody would do certain things at a point in time, the driving force that would make a person abort a pregnancy is that she would consider her interest first before any other person, also these theory has a direct consequence on the person involved, any action must be in her favour. If one has to go by the rules of these theory abortions should be legalized, because the fetus is dependent on the mother as such has a limited right.
Altruism is an ethical theory that says that “one ought to act for the good of all concerned”, if one is to go by this theory the issue of abortion should be looked from the standpoint of both the mother and the fetus. In this regards both parities have a right to enjoy the fundamental rights, the question now will be, one must have to submit her right, from the stand point that the right of one person is limited by the right of another person and also given the fact that the fetus is dependent his right is also dependent on the mother, therefore the position of the mother should be considered first, but on the other hand the reason of the mother must support any line of action she wants to take that would be beneficiary to all concerned. If one look at abortion from this angle both sides have a case.
Pragmatism is a theory that insists on the workability of any principle in practice, therefore any action that is unrealistic and impracticable is a bad and wrong action, while the reverse is a good and right action. Judging from this position both sides has a position to defend depending on superior argument.
Situation ethics is a theory that holds “that nothing is good or bad, right or wrong, but the situation makes it so”, from this position if a woman abort for the fun of it without any serious social or health reason such action is wrong, but if on the contrary the pregnancy is posing danger of any sort and the pregnancy is aborted the action is right.
I will not take side in this debate but would leave the reading public to judge applying the various ethical principles to arrive at their judgement.