The goal of this essay is to summarize Peter Singer’s opinion on the moral approach of abortion, which is describes in his book Practical Ethics. His goal is to clarify and provide a clear-cut answer to what is generally thought as a moral debate with no solution. To him, the subject of abortion is far from being so, as the ethical problem has wrongly been approached.
Singer first points out that the different opinions on abortion come from the debate on when a human life actually begins. He formulates the common argument against abortion as follows: it is wrong to kill an innocent human being; a human fetus is an innocent human being; therefore, it is wrong to kill a human fetus. It is because killing a human being is undoubtedly wrong and immoral that the opposition instead attempts to deny the second part of the argument “a human fetus is an innocent human being”. By doing so, critics argue that the fetus does not have the status of a human being. This debate results in focusing on whether, or when, the fetus can be considered a human being, and therefore given the same rights against being killed as another human being. Singer however claims that it is difficult to find a moral dividing line between a fetus and a human being because the development of the human egg to a child is gradual. To prove his point, he describes four commonly proposed moral lines (birth, viability, quickening, and consciousness), which he then denies with strong arguments.
On the first stage, birth would not be a plausible line because it is so arbitrary. In fact, we are sympathetically inclined towards a newborn baby because we can touch and see it; it however creates favoritism over a fetus. Also, he argues that there should not be a difference between a baby that is almost in term and a newborn baby, because they are very similar to one another; the only difference is their location in and out of the mother’s body. The second stage is viability, which is the time where the fetus would be capable of living outside of the womb if it were obligated to. Singer argues that viability is not a defined moment in pregnancy; it in fact varies according to medical access and advances in different countries. He gives the example of a 6-month-old prematurely born fetus, which would have much more chances of survival in an advance medical city, rather than in a small village in New Guinea. So would it be morally accepted for a woman from New York to fly to New Guinea and get an abortion, but immoral for her to get it in her own city? Opposition responds that the dependency of the fetus to its mother for survival removes its rights of life independently of the mother’s wishes. However, this claim implies that any human being dependent on another would give away their right to live, which is absurd. Singer concludes that the fetus’ dependence on its mother does not give her the right to kill it. The third stage Singer discusses is...