Two of the most widely discussed moral issues which confront Americans today are abortion and the death penalty. There is hardly an election year when either or both of these two issues are debated and become part of the platform for a political election campaign. With the advent of the women’s movement came the issue of women’s rights. Many women felt that they had the right to terminate a pregnancy if they did not want to have a child. Often humanitarian reasons are cited, such as the deformity of a fetus, or a woman having been the victim of a rape.
In the U. S. according to a 1973 Supreme Court ruling abortions are permitted during the first six months of pregnancy. The debate has also centered on the question of human life. Over the years it has led to a heated moral debate concerning the point at which a fetus in a woman’s womb becomes a person. Most church groups are opposite abortion while some sociologists have been more tolerant of the practice. They are more concerned over the effects of unwanted pregnancies may have upon society.
In recent years the numbers of abortions have increased alarmingly and its practice is being met each year with more indifference. The question of the death penalty as a punishment for incorrigible criminals is equally controversial. Those who favor the death penalty feel that it will discourage crime. Many, however, feel it is barbaric and not worthy of a moral society. Furthermore, most studies have proven that the death penalty has done little to reduce criminal behavior.
Certainly of all developed societies, America is one of the few which not only has the death penalty but has brought many to justice over the years in this way. The method of execution may vary from state to state. Some are put to death by lethal injection, others are hanged and others are sent to the electric chair. It is also the power of the governor of each state to grant pardon from the death penalty. He has invested within the powers of his office to save a life from such a punishment.
The weeks preceding an execution may be filled with heated appeals to spare a life. While at the same time others may actively demonstrate to support the execution. Ironically, those who seem to be the most in favor of the death penalty are the same ones who are most opposed to abortion. Behind both positions there is a conservative way of thinking which is still found in many sections of the country. In both these issues can be seen the awesome power to determine the life and death of a person. This is a right which some believe belongs only to God.