The issue of abortion is one of the most contentious issues that have sparked great debates regarding its ethical and moral permissibility in a modern world. The controversies surrounding the morality of the act has attracted intensive reasoning on the philosophical, medical, social and political fronts. This paper presents two contrasting views regarding the permissibility of abortion based on its legal, social, medical, philosophical and ethical perspectives. The first argument discussed here is put forward by Marry Anna Warren in her famous publication ‘On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion’ (Warren 1-10). The next article reviewed and presented in this research is ‘Acorns and Embryos’ written by Robert P. George and is a counter argument to Warren’s position, supporting the abolition of abortion based on social and moral grounds (George and Lee).
Warren is one of the many people who has advocated for the legalization of abortion especially based on the consideration of the fact that the human embryo, which is often aborted, is not a human being. While, Warren agrees to the fact that all humans must be accorded dignity, respect and humane treatment in all aspects based on the virtue of being humans, she develops an understanding of humanity based on certain factors she feels qualify one to be classified as human. Relating to these arguments, Warren’s consideration of abortion is purely based on the debate and justification of whether or not human embryo deserve the accorded to other humans.
The proof of whether or not, a fetus is a human, and thus deserve moral and ethical treatment is argued on the basis of certain fundamental issues which Warren believes applies to all humans irrespective of their varied arrays of differences. These factors include (1) consciousness which is the ability of the fetus to feel pain from objects internal or external to it. (2) The ability to reason which defines the fetus’ ability to develop the capability to solve emergent problems some of which are complex. (3) Self-motivation of the ability to engage in activities which are either independent or are not influenced by the person’s genetic conditions or external control factors. (4) The ability to communicate using meaningful messages or any variety of communication characteristics besides being able to converse on a variety of topics. (5) The possession of self-consciousness, self-awareness stimulated by means of individual, or racial means. Consequently, Warren argues that infanticides should demonstrate these capabilities to warrant life considerations. Contrarily, Warren dismisses the validity of fetuses being classified as humans based on the argument that if person X lacks one or more of these traits, then they do not deserve to be regarded as humans and thus do not have rights or deserve ethical responses towards them.
George on the other hand, bangs supports for the abolition of abortion on the grounds of its violation of ethical and social norms. George bases his arguments on the biological explanations to support his arguments that the human embryos are humans in the making. He asserts that the current studies on embryology and developmental biology have proven the classification of the human embryos as humans and that there should be not doubts about this aspect. George stresses that each of us developed through the stages of the embryo, fetus, infants, children, adolescents and consequently, into adults with all their determinateness, identity, and unity all fully intact. Moreover, the sperms and ova, from whose union all humans emerged is also part of humans, even though none was once a sperm or an ovum before. For these reasons, when referring to embryos, George observes that we merely refer to humans at an earlier stage of development. By every means available, therefore, George believe that embryos are humans in all perspectives and deserve to be treated as humans.
Alluding to Sandel’s arguments, George notices that all humans must be accorded the same rights and basic human dignity on the basis of being humans. Arguing from the basis of human rights and dignity, George maintains that by virtue of being humans on the basis of their genetic and biological characteristics, embryos deserve humane treatment by all persons thereby disqualifying abortion. Arguing from the perspective of Sandel’s analogy of the oak tree sapling, for which we do not feel any particular sense of loss, George maintains that humans are more than a mere tree and thus must be treated with utter respect and dignity. Embryos, on qualification for consideration as humans, deserve this very humane treatment.
To conclude, I would wish the compare the two sides of the argument to understand the balance between them and justify the right to accord the right to abortion or discard it altogether. Considering the two sides of the arguments, I feel that Warren’s argument is quite erroneous based on the fact that the human embryo, by all means, must be classified as humans. The fact that the term human embryo stems from the term ‘human’ gives them the right to be called humans. More so, the embryo has life, just as George highlighted since they bear most of the characteristics of human beings, including the possession of life. Destruction of human life is the greatest violation of human rights and thus fundamentally unethical. On this basis, I support the arguments put forth by George, abolishing abortion on the basis of interfering with human life.
Mary, Anne, Warren, “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion.” Thomas, Mappes, A., and Degrazia, David. Biomedical Ethics. 4th . New York: New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1996. 434-440. Electronic. <http://spot.colorado.edu/~norcross/Ab3.pdf>.