Essays on Applied Ethics-Answer
Essays on Applied Ethics
A Critical Discussion of the Moral Status of the Human Foetus by Hursthouse
The term “Moral status of Human Foetus” refers to the humanity of the unborn child. This is one of the most debated issues – can the “unborn human foetus” be considered as “human” and has all the rights similar to a human? An entity has moral status only when its interests as health, goodness, happiness, comfort, security and so on morally matter to some degree for the entity’s own sake (MANNINEN, 2009). An individual human being is valuable in terms of their level of rationality, physical attributes or capacity for any relationship. According to famous moral philosopher Rosalind Hursthouse, a foetus is similar to a human being and it has all the rights similar to a human being especially “right to live” (Thomson, 1971). But if a mother is carrying a deformed foetus and asking for an abortion, is this violating the moral status of the unborn? Or she is helping the sufferer to get relief?
The Critical Discussion
Rosalind Hursthouse stated in her “Conservative View” on “The Moral Status of The Foetus” that human foetus is considered as a full human being or an adult and having similar rights just like an individual entity (Hursthouse, The moral status of the foetus (a), 1987). She also stated that a foetus is morally significant from the moment of conception. But, as per SINNOTT-ARMSTRONG (1997), moral status comes when an entity is rational, social and self-aware. A foetus is just a group of cells and it is fully supported by the mother for surviving. As per Saunders, whatever the condition arrives, the killing of a foetus is immoral (Saunders, 2006). This statement can be justified using this following example.
A mother who is in danger of the pregnancy or the foetus can opt for abortion if she is suffering from a life-threatening disease or deformed. According to Darwinian Ethic, “survival of the fittest”, an individual must have the ability to compete, survive and reproduce (SAUNDERS, 2013). Therefore, Hursthouse’s concept is not justified in this context.
The renowned American moral philosopher, Thomson has stated that it has been a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy or not because the decision of abortion in primary stage is ethical when the pregnant woman is in a life-threatening situation due to the pregnancy. She has also stated that an abortion does not violate the right of a foetus because a foetus can only survive in the mother’s body and get life-supporting functions (Thomson, 1971). Therefore, there is no right of the foetus of its own. A foetus is not a human being worthy of respect because it lacks rationality or capacity for building a relationship, self-awareness (SAUNDERS, 2013). It is also justified killing one human foetus in order to preserve one’s own life. If a woman aborts to save her own life, she is to be justified in aborting because the pregnancy would be harmful to her. It is justified under “self-defence”.
According to the Conservative view of Hursthouse (1987), even a rape victim cannot opt for abortion though it is legally acceptable (Hursthouse, The moral status of the foetus (b), 1987). For an example, a woman is suffering from HIV and carrying a one-month-old foetus which is also detected as virus infected. In such ground, killing this foetus cannot be considered as immoral. If the mother carries on the pregnancy and gives birth to the child, the situation will be more immortal.
Norcross (1990) has claimed that early abortion is wrong because it deprives the foetus of its future. But, it is also true that a foetus does not have “mental life” and it cannot think about its future like a human being (SINNOTT-ARMSTRONG, 1997).
Hursthouse (1987) also believed that contraception also could prevent pregnancy and it kills an embryo sometimes (Hursthouse, The moral status of the foetus (b), 1987). Hence, it also violates moral status of an unborn. But, this fact is absurd in reality. According to her consideration, a human foetus is alike a person and killing a foetus is just like a homicide (Norcross, 1990). For an example, a mentally ill woman is holding a one-week-old baby in one hand and a twelve-day embryo in a test tube in the other hand and she is ready to kill both of them. A nurse comes in and she is able to save only one of them.
Now, the conflict is –the mother will save whom, the baby or the embryo. The baby has her own parents who will cry for them but the embryo is the only hope of a widow whose husband had died (MANNINEN, 2009). Logically, the baby must be saved. But according to Husrthouse theory, the nurse should save the embryo, not the baby.
Each coin has two sides. Similarly, on the contrary, the fact is a foetus has some moral status in the mature stage. It can feel and breathe and so, there are no differences between a premature newborn baby and a seven-month-old foetus (Norcross, 1990). The premature newborn is in the incubator and later, it is in the mother womb. Therefore, both cannot survive independently.
Morality cannot deny reality. Every situation requires a proper judgement on the occasion of satisfying the argument. A written theory or statement cannot lead to a proper path for making a conclusion. “Moral status of Human Foetus” cannot be fully justified on the ground of “conservative view”. The arguments, used for the devaluing of the human foetus, are unpersuasive as well as biassed too. Instead of any doubt regarding the significance of a foetus, the human foetus should be given the priority. Either a foetus should be protected by endorsing the Catholic view “strong make a sacrifice for the weak” or the Darwinian theory of “non-survival of the weaker” should be followed.
Hursthouse, R. (1987). The moral status of the foetus (a). Beginning lives, 31-53.
Hursthouse, R. (1987). The moral status of the foetus (b). Beginning lives, 65-82.
MANNINEN, B. A. (2009). The Metaphysical Foundations of Reproductive Ethics. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 26(2), 190-206.
Norcross, A. (1990). Killing, Abortion, and Contraception: A Reply to Marquis. Journal of Philosophy, 268-277.
Saunders, P. (2006). The moral status of the embryo. nucleus, 17-26.
SAUNDERS, P. (2013, July 3). The Moral Status of the Human Embryo: When is a Person a Person? Retrieved from LifeNews.com: http://www.lifenews.com/2013/07/03/the-moral-status-of-the-human-embryo-when-is-a-person-a-person/
SINNOTT-ARMSTRONG, W. (1997). YOU CAN’T LOSE WHAT YOU AIN’T NEVER HAD:. A REPLY TO MARQUIS ON ABORTION, 59-72.
Thomson, J. J. (1971). A Defense of Abortion. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1(1), 47-66.
A Critical Discussion of the theory of Thomson on Abortion
Abortion is a controversial issue in every country. As per Boonin (2003), if a woman wants to terminate her pregnancy, she can’t be allowed to do an abortion. Judith Jarvis Thomson, a well-known American moral philosopher, stated that it is a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy or not. But, it is taken as an unjust to the foetus according to many philosophers (Abbott, 1978). It is taken into account that a foetus is a person and it has right to live. According to Thomson, an abortion does not violate the right of a foetus as a foetus can only be survived by the use of the mother’s body and get life-supporting functions (Thomson, A Defense of Abortion, 1996). Therefore, there is no right of the foetus of its own. This view is going to be discussed critically in this essay.
The Critical Discussion
As per Rasekh (2003), an abortion is performed when the mother’s life is not threatened by the pregnancy. But, it is her own body, so it must be her right to take the decision own. Killing a foetus in the prior stage is not any violation of the right of the foetus. The status of women is changing day by day. Their rights are secured under the country’s constitution provides them equality which means they are equal just like men in the eyes of the law (Thomson, A Defense of Abortion, 1996). In this era, empowerment of women is a burning issue. It helps them to take their own decision and make them independent in terms of thoughts, rights, decision etc. by ignoring all limitations created by the society and family.
A woman is a “Good Samaritan” as she goes beyond her obligations. She knows what is best for her and her family (Abbott, 1978). For an example, a woman is married to a seriously ill person. They have two children and she is also pregnant. But within a week, her husband died of the illness. She continues her pregnancy with the thought of the new life and gives birth to a child. In this case, she ignores all the outcomes and problems in her journey as she is determined and capable of bringing up the child. All she needs to live in a positive atmosphere to fulfil proper needs of the child. So she does not opt for abortion. But, if she seems that it would be difficult to survive with three children without a proper economic condition, she can opt abortion and it should not be unjust. The reality is greater than morality (Beckwith, 2008).
Women are seen in many corporate areas where they are at the top position taking decision for the company. But in many cases, they are forced to remain silent and they accept the decisions which are taken by their family for them. They are also forced to take it for the pressure of the society (Hursthouse R. , 1991). But, in the case of her pregnancy, she should listen to her family, not to her heart. She cannot terminate her pregnancy even if she does not want to carry it. If a woman is not mentally prepared to carry on her pregnancy, she should be given the right to abort the foetus and it must not be seen as an unjust (McDonagh, 1996). According to the law, if a pregnancy is life-threatening to the mother, then it can be terminated and it is justified. But, if a mother is not mentally prepared to carry the foetus, her abortion is justified as unlawful and unjust to the unborn (Rasekh, 2003). All the situations should be justified on account of its practical outcomes, not as moral ones.
The definition of right is the capability to do as per the wiliness of the person following the law (Thomson, A Defense of Abortion, 1996). It is applied by the citizens of a country for their rights of children, etc. Basically, rights are exercised by the most developed living beings of the society. Therefore, the concept of the right of the foetus is not justified as it survives only by the support of its mother except late term abortion (Hursthouse R. , 1991). A foetus is developed after 9 weeks of fertilisation. Then it uses to develop in between 17th – 25th week and in 21st week, it starts its slight movement (Wilhelm, 2015). Therefore, if abortion is done before 21 weeks, it should not be seen as injustice.
In China, the law of “one child policy” prohibits couples having more than one child. There are more than 13 million abortions in a year or 1500 an hour for the existence of this law in China, according to Government researchers (Beckwith, 2008). It also encourages abortions and results into forced abortions and sex selection abortions. Though the one child policy was abolished, but another substitute, the two children policy is there. In such cases, the foetus is killed not only for the mother’s life may be in danger but also, it is against the law having more than two children and it is lawful (McDonagh, 1996).
All human beings are entitled to enjoy their rights to pursue happiness. Sometimes a baby can disrupt a woman’s happiness. Although she wants to terminate abortion, still she carries the burden for nine months. This unwanted child suffers a lot. Most of the cases, the child gets medical and mother care, love, so that the child becomes malnourished and left alone (Hare, 1975). Only a few percentages of children are adopted by suitable parents. Others become a menace to the society.
An abortion must be seen as putting the unwanted child out of the misery. Abortion in early stage would not kill a “person” as the belief of many moral philosophers and so it is not unjust. In short, an abortion allows a woman to hold her constitutional rights as well as it relieve the child out from sufferings. It builds a safer and moral society. Abortion should not be seen as unjust on the ground where there is no life threatening issues for the mother regarding the pregnancy, Therefore, the beliefs of Thomson is justified and should be accepted socially and morally.
Abbott, P. (1978, August). Philosophers and the Abortion Question. Political Theory, 6(3), 313-335. Retrieved March 5, 2016, from
Beckwith, F. J. (2008). Defending Abortion Philosophically: A Review of David Boonin’s. Life and Learning, 225-258.
Boonin, D. (2003). A Defense of Abortion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hare, R. M. (1975). Abortion and The Golden Rule. Phylisophy and Public Affairs, 4(3), 201-222.
Hursthouse, R. (1991). Virtue Theory and Abortion. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 20(3), 223-246.
McDonagh, E. (1996). Breaking the Abortion Deadlock : From Choice to Consent. New York: Oxford.
Rasekh, M. (2003). Battle of Life: A Brief Study of Theories on Abortion. Journal of Reproduction and Infertility, 220-236.
Thomson, J. J. (1996). A Defense of Abortion. Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical Ethics, 69-80.
Wilhelm, D. (2015, June 22). On Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A defence of abortion”. Retrieved from Philosophy Experiments: http://www.philosophyexperiments.com/whosebody/Default12.aspx
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