Sources & Extracts
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The questions related to the morality of abortion broaden out
to include a great many issues. To get some idea of the number
and variety of questions involved, consider the following passage
from L. W. Sumner's book Abortion and Moral Theory.
Abortion is not one moral problem but two. Better, it is two sets of problems, each arising in its own context. The primary context is that in which a woman decides whether or not to have an abortion, and a physician decides whether or not to perform it. Here the focus is on the moral status of abortion itself. In what moral category does abortion belong? Is having an abortion, or performing one, right or wrong, moral or immoral, good or evil? What sort of act is an abortion? With what other acts should we associate it? Is it more like murder or unplugging a life-support system or removing an appendix? Should we compare it to the two acts that lie, so to speak, just on either side of it --contraception and infanticide? Is it worse than the former but not so bad as the latter? Which is it more like? Is completing an unwanted pregnancy obligatory? Can abortion ever be obligatory? Does abortion violate the rights of the fetus?
Because all of these questions arise in the first instance when a woman is deciding whether or not to seek an abortion, we may call them collectively the personal problem of abortion. On some views the personal problem receives a simple answer: either abortion is always wrong or it is never wrong. On any such view abortion is a kind of act with a uniform moral quality that is utterly unaffected by its circumstances. Simple treatments of the problem avoid awkward further questions about the moral significance of circumstances. What are the conditions under which an abortion is justified? What role is played by the burden that the continuation of pregnancy will impose upon a woman -- the risk to her life, or health, or career, or economic position, or ability to meet other moral obligations? What role is played by her responsibility for being pregnant? Is the situation altered if she was raped, or her contraceptive failed, or she was deceived by a man who claimed to be sterile? Is it altered if she made no effort to avoid conception, while fully aware of the risks she was taking?....
The other, and secondary, context is that in which a society chooses a policy concerning abortion. Is a special policy necessary, or should abortion simply be regulated as any other medical procedure? Should abortion be treated as a criminal offense? If so, what should count as a defense? Should the woman be charged as well as the abortionist? Should publicly funded institutions be required to allocate facilities for abortions? Should abortions be permitted in specialized clinics as well as hospitals? Should agencies be permitted to realize a profit from abortion referrals? Because all of these questions require social policy decisions concerning abortion, we may call them collectively the political problem.
Reference: L. W. Sumner, Abortion and Moral Theory, p. 11-13.