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Abortion and the Public Interest

The intention of the following pages is to explore the way in which arguments are constructed for the pro and con positions regarding government funding for abortions. Although both positions will be summarized, the pro position will be examined in more detail.

The essential abortion "debate" consists of two diametrically opposed positions. Those who favor abortion as an available option for women under a number of conditions, generally labeled the "pro-choice" position. Those of this mind-set contend that the fetus is essentially not yet human life, but tissue that is part of the women's body, and thus under her control. On the con side, the position labeled "pro-life" are those who do not favor abortion as an option, except in very limited circumstances, if at all. These people tend to assert that the fetus is a human life and that abortion is murder (Luker, 1984).

For the most part, these are the positions that also determined whether or not individuals favor government funding for abortions. (However, there are some exceptions on the pro-choice side in which conservatives who support the woman's right to choose do not support funding for abortions for low-income women.)

There are several fundamental arguments on the con side which undergird individual's opposition to government funding of abortion. Some of these have an extreme edge to them, while others are closer to the mainstream. Three of them are as follows:

First, opponents of abortion contend that the fetus represents a human life. There are gradations in this assertion. Some contend that the fetus represents a human person from the moment of conception; others are closer to the position that the fetus represents potential human life, and, as such, qualifies for certain rights and protections (Dworkin, 1993). Many believe that the fetus should be protected under the constitution as a person, and there has been a movement to add that statement to the cons...

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