The abortion and the utilitarian view Abortion is a sensitive topic that requires a considerable amount of understanding when addressing the ethics behind it. Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy thus ending the life of the embryo/fetus prematurely (Matthews MP, Dutt T, 1998). My ethical justification for abortion stems from a utilitarianism standpoint. When using the utilitarian consequential principle of ethics, we establish a set of general morals and rules in which we can apply to every moral question based upon our utilitarian findings.
When this is applied to abortion, we can see that abortion is a completely ethical entity that provides “the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people” (Jeremy Bentham, 1789). Since utilitarianism in general is based on the empirical evidence that supports the widespread happiness of many, it’s important to include statistical data to support one’s position. By looking at the medical and social health benefits of abortion, we can come to the conclusion that it is ethical on the basis that it spreads happiness amongst a great number of the populace. Half of all pregnancies in the U. S. each year are unintended, and about half of these are terminated by medically safe, legal abortions. In 2000, 1. 31 million abortions took place, down from an estimated 1. 61 million in 1990. From 1973 through 2000, more than 39 million legal abortions occurred. Following the legalization of abortion, the largest decline in birthrates were seen among women for whom the health and social consequences of unintended childbearing are the greatest — women over 35, teenagers, and unmarried women (Levine, et al. 1999). Today, thirty percent of the abortions in the U. S. are provided to women over 35 and to teenagers. If safe, legal abortion were not available, more women would experience unwanted childbearing, and unwanted childbearing affects the entire family. Mothers with unwanted births suffer from higher levels of depression and lower levels of happiness than mothers without unwanted births. They spank and slap their children more often than other mothers, and spend less leisure time outside the home with their children.
Lower-quality mother/child relationships are not limited to the child born as a result of the unwanted pregnancy — all the children in the family suffer. Couples at risk of having children affected with severe and often fatal genetic disorders have been willing to conceive because of the availability of amniocentesis and safe, legal abortion. Most women report a sense of relief, although some may experience temporary depression. Serious psychological disturbances after abortion occur less frequently than after childbirth (Planned Parenthood Federation of America. October 2005). This statistics reflect the social, physical, and emotional benefits of abortion. This data, provided by Planned Parenthood, illustrates an ethical case for abortions. By way of addressing each of the aforementioned data, we can create a sound, logically based argument for the ethics behind abortions, relating to utilitarian ethics. If half of all abortions are unplanned, then why should couples (or women more specifically) subject themselves to the nine months of pregnancy for something they potentially may not want, need, or have the means to take care of?
This creates an unnecessary hardship and burden on the individuals to provide and take care of another life in which they may not be ready to do so. By utilizing abortion, women whom pregnancy is not an optimal decision are able to terminate births before they can have a disastrous effect on their bodies, emotions, and even lives. Women over 35 and teenagers have physical, financial, emotional, and mental reasons to abstain from getting pregnant.
Services that provide abortions to women of these likes give teenager a second chance at fulfilling her life, or a middle-aged woman the chance to avoid physical complications from birth. Abortions are going to occur regardless of whether or not society finds them ethical; if this is the case, then does it not make more sense (in regards to protecting and serving the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people) to create an accepting, tolerant, and safe environment for such procedures to occur?
Without these facilities, more unwanted births would occur and statistical evidence proves that these situations create undue hardships on not only the mother, but the entire family. This, in turn, lowers the quality of life of all those involved and can be seen as impeding the quality of life for the mother and her family. While not completely getting into the field of eugenics, abortions allow parents to terminate a fetus that may potentially carry fatal or severe birth defects, which inherently create emotional and financial stresses that the parents are not always able to comply with.
Also, technology stemming from studies on abortions and fetal genetic makeup has allowed scientists and doctors to come up with ways to block such disorders from appearing. Abortions allow the prevention of bringing more severely dependent people into a world that is unwilling, and unable to take care and provide for them. Lastly, statistical evidence proves that “more women suffer from depression after birth than after receiving an abortion” (Shah I, Ahman E. December 2009).
Any situation that spreads depression on the populace can be seen as ethically wrong from the utilitarian outlook. Women whom undergo abortions have averted (often times) sudden disaster in their life, often due to the fact they are not emotionally and financially ready to accept the responsibilities of raising a child. This absolving of unwanted hardships will ultimately result in the lessening of unnecessary burdens on not only the individual, but more importantly society as a whole.
In conclusion we have to understand that the utilitarian consequential principle of ethics seeks to set a general rule for which to be applied to all moral decisions. In the case of abortions, the utilitarian states that all unwanted pregnancies and pregnancies that represent a physical, mental, emotional, and financial hardship should be terminated via abortion. The utilitarian does not look at the fetus (as a whole or individual) as the party in which happiness is to be gained or lost, but rather the society as a whole.
The fetus is not guaranteed any rights by any means nor is it guaranteed happiness for it doesn’t experience cognitive and rational thought. With this in mind, the utilitarian stance is simply a question of whether or not introducing unwanted/non-financially viable children into the world is ethically just (Shaw, William H. 1999). The consequences symbolize a systematic decrease in birth-rates; (nonetheless reproduction still occurs) that ultimately results in the increasing of utility amongst the population.
It is short-minded to consider only those directly involved in individual instances of abortion, and much more important to recognize the fact that society does not revolve around these individuals per se, but around general rules that result in overall happiness. From these tenets, we can conclude that the consequences of said ethical justifications result in a question of whether or not it is ethical to bring more people into the world, or to control the rate at which children are born. By utilizing abortion from a utilitarian standpoint, life is generally much happier for those directly and indirectly involved.
Fewer children are uncared for, fewer families are burdened by unwanted children, fewer resources have to be divulged towards state children facilities, and population control is thus put into practice. The ethical question of abortion isn’t as difficult as one may think initially, particularly when looking at it through a utilitarian standpoint. The utilitarian ultimately sees this as more of a non-issue, when the real issue is answering all moral questions from a communal standpoint, and appropriating the greatest amount of utility to the vast population.
Works Cited “The Facts Speak Louder than the ‘Silent Scream'” Planned Parenthood. 2004. Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 1 October 2005. Matthews MP, Dutt T. “Gynecology for Lawyers”. Routledge. 1998. Shah I, Ahman E. “Unsafe abortion: global and regional incidence, trends, consequences, and challenges”. J Obstetric Gynecologic. December 2009. Stoppler. “Miscarriage Spontaneous Abortion”. In Shiel WC Jr. MedicineNet. com. Retrieved 2009-04-07. Bentham, Jeremy. “The Principles of Morals and Legislation”. 1789.