When analysing this statement, there are several different factors that should be taken into consideration, these are: women’s rights, personhood, the sanctity of life and the normative ethical theory. Abortion is and always has been an extremely controversial subject and there have been many laws and acts enforced however even today there is still a lot of discrepancy over the issue. Firstly, there is the issue of women’s rights. These rights form a large part of the general issue of abortion. Many perceive abortion in terms of the foetus, not the women, her life and her place in society.
There was a famous feminist philosopher called Ellen Willis who believed that under all circumstances women should have complete control over their own lives and their bodies, “can it be moral, under any circumstances, to make a woman bear a child against her will? ” In a case called ‘defence of abortion’ in 1971, Judith Jarvis Thomson said that in cases whereby women are pregnant against their own will, i. e. rape, then a woman owns her body so she has more right to live and more right to claim her body than the foetus does.
She also said that as an act of self defence, women should be able to act, especially as unwanted pregnancy causes physical strains to women. Thomson compared the Foetus and Woman to tenants and owners; she stated that they are not equal rights. A foetus is ‘using’ the mother’s body, so it can be compared to a tenant and not an owner. Therefore, the mother can be referred to as the owner, ultimately having more control. One of Thomson’s key arguments is that a woman has no obligation to be a so called ‘good Samaritan’ if that involves putting herself at risk.
Thomson is criticised because she does not completely justify foetus extinction, just extraction upon the woman’s rights. Another stance to the argument, and one that several feminists take up is the issue that a woman has a right to her own privacy. If this is agreed with, then women have the right to make the decision as to what they think is best for themselves and for the foetus, this can potentially inhibit the extinction of the foetus. A feminist called Christine Overall thinks that it is immoral not to respect the personal preferences of the mother for several reasons.
Firstly, it is a violation of the mother’s autonomy to keep the foetus alive if that’s not what she wants. As a mother, she is the only person that is in the right position to make the decision that she thinks is right. The final aspect of the women’s rights is the pill. This is another crucial and important issue. It has always been a big debate. Feminists approve of the pill for many reasons, some being that it is a lot easier as it is not a medical procedure. Also, the fact that the pill is widely available makes it more appealing too, not only that but it is relatively cheap.
The criticisms and problems with the pill is that it can be seen as making the option of abortion too enticing, therefore reducing their autonomy. People against the pill also argue that seeing as it is not a medical procedure and can be done in complete privacy, it can leave women isolated and alone, therefore making it more traumatic than an operation. Secondly, personhood is another key issue within abortion. This issue deals with several key questions, what makes a person a person? What makes humans ‘special’? How do we differ from any other species?
When taking into account these questions, we have to consider what we deem necessary to make us count as human, it could be aspects such as memories, appearance and ability. However, some philosophers, for example John Locke believe that consciousness is critical for personhood, he says that consciousness is what separates us and animals. An aspect of personhood is continuity, changes in physical self raises problems as to whether we are the same over time.
If one element of us changes, does that make us an entire different person? Locke states that memory and history keeps our identities intact, e. . if your parents still recognise you then it confirms you are the same person. The final aspect of personhood is enduring self. Religious reject John Locke’s views as they believe that he fails to recognise the uniqueness of humans. A theory put forward is, memories can be lost, i. e. through amnesia, so if you have amnesia does that make you a completely different person too? The enduring self view holds that there is a difference between physicality and soul as the soul is made from a different substance to the body. Supporters of this view are dualists such as Plato.
This issue is important to the abortion debate, when a foetus becomes a person it is then regarded as extremely vital they are protected in the same way as we are. If the foetus is not yet considered as a person, then the issue of abortion is dependant upon other aspects, for example the state of mind of the mother. Thirdly, another key aspect to consider are the Sanctity of Life arguments, this issue centres around the issue of how the value of a persons life is decided. The idea of sacred life is one that has spread through religions, but sanctity of life appears in secular ethical traditions.