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Issue of Women's Right to Abortion

Given the current political atmosphere, where the Republican party is firmly in control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, the most important moral issue we are facing today is the woman's right to an abortion. Are abortions ethical? If, for example, an abortion produces a greater benefit for the mother than a disbenefit to society or to the fetus, then the principles of utilitarianism would seem to indicate that this particular abortion was morally acceptable (IEP). Of course, weighing the benefits against the disbenefits involved involves a tricky and wholly subjective emotional calculus. Utilitarianism explains morality in terms of value, thus allowing for moral abortions depending on the circumstances. Deontological ethics takes the theory of duty to be much more basic; according to deontology a person is moral and ethical if they either do their duty or attempt to do their duty. Deontology, thus, would seem to take an unflattering view of abortion in that a woman seeking an abortion is shirking her duty as a mother (Harman). Lastly, virtue ethics takes virtue as a basic moral duty. To be virtuously ethical, the morally correct course of action is to do what a virtuous person would do in that particular situation (Harman). This, again, would seem to make abortion morally unethical. Thus, the morality of an abortion depends greatly on the ethical construct used to examine the issue.

Harman, Gilbert, "Virtue Ethics without Character Traits," Princeton University, August 1999, available at []

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), "Ethics," available at []


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