Background and Context
Abortion is defined as a procedure that is done to remove an embryo or fetus from the uterus of its mother in order to prevent its birth (Roth, 2005). Abortion is categorized as a bioethical issue because it relates to the morals of biomedical advances, policies and research. Abortion is a difficult subject that can involve personal morals and beliefs, legality and religious values. The issue is often viewed from either the side of pro-life, which places emphasis on the fetus and its right to life or pro-choice, which emphasizes the rights of the mother to decide the appropriate action (Roth, 2005). This brings the ethical question of should the government have the right to outlaw abortion into debate. The two viewpoints of pro-life and pro-choice explore the two main moral issues concerning abortion (Roth, 2005).
The first moral issue is the moral status of the fetus (Roth, 2005). This deals with the question of whether or not the fetus should be considered as a person and at what stage does the fetus become a person. The second moral issue is the rights of the mother (Roth, 2005). This deals with the question of whether the mother has the right to decide to carry the fetus full term or not. It is important to note that there are two separate questions regarding abortion, one being its morality and the other being its legality (Roth, 2005). There are things that are considered immoral but they are not necessarily illegal. For example, marital infidelity is considered to be wrong but it is not illegal.
One moral argument is that the fetus is an innocent person and it is wrong to kill an innocent person therefore it is wrong to kill a fetus (Roth, 2005). The opposite argument can also be made. The fetus does not have a moral status and it is not immoral to kill something with no moral status, therefore it is not morally wrong to kill a fetus (Jones, 2007). This brings up the issue of the moral status of the fetus and the question of whether the fetus is a person or not. If the fetus is a person, then it has the same rights that all persons have, which includes the right to life. Personhood is a key concept that links the fetus to the right to life (Jones, 2007). This brings about the question of what it means to be a person. Susanne Gibson, a professor at St. Martin’s College in the United Kingdom, argues that even though the concept of personhood is contested and irresolvable, it is still important to debate the issue of abortion (2004).
Mary Anne Warren, a philosopher, states that there are characteristics that separate a fetus from being person as opposed to being biologically human (1973). A person is typically defined as someone who is part of the moral community (Warren, 1973). The characteristics that define a person are consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, the ability to communicate and presence of self-concepts and self-awareness (Warren, 1973). A person that has none or a few characteristics is...