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In our modern society, abortion is one of the most constantly argued issues of the present day. The practice of abortion dates back to ancient times. Pregnancies were terminated through a number of methods including the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure, and other techniques. Now days as technology have advanced, abortion is now simpler and can be performed by taking a pill called the RU486 pill. However is this practice immoral? Doesn't a foetus have human rights? This will be further investigated taking in account of an array of perspectives including various religious beliefs, scientific views and anti-abortion groups such as the Pro-Choice group and individual views.
Firstly, what are human rights? Human rights is the basic rights to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law, BusinessDictionary.com (2009). Everyone has human rights regardless of their nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. However the definition has proclaimed that “...rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled...” Since abortion is legal, does this mean that an unborn human is not human? This is suggesting that the foetus is only human the second it takes its first breath. Many beliefs argue that the foetus is a human when it's still inside the womb of the mother even if it does not look like a human at all, point of conception, when the sperm meets the egg. One of these religious beliefs is the early Christian Tradition.
The Judeo-Christian tradition dates back thousands of years and human life is valued dearly, including the unborn human life. The Bible constantly describes children the unborn baby as simply very small and young children. In Luke's Gospel, it was written that Jesus and John the Baptist had welcomed one another whilst still in the mother's womb. Chapter 1, verse 41 states: "It happened, when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."
Psalm 139 describes the development of the unborn baby: "For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body." One of the earliest Christian writings, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles had declared that a being should not kill an unborn baby or any new born infants.
This evidence supports the claims of the Judeo-Christian Tradition, that an unborn baby is indeed a human from the point of conception. This means that it obtains the right to live as a human no matter what stage of life it is in. Although the unborn baby cannot talk nor have a say whether it wants to live or not, it will still be considered as murder to the Australian law as it by passes the humans rights, specifically the right to life.
A similar view compared to the Judeo-Christian Tradition is the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has always condemned abortion as a grave evil. Abortion is murder and it is no different than to kill an innocent child. Christian writers from the first-century of the Didache, the second commandment of the Catholic teaching, to Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life") has a consistency in the bible which forbids abortion, just as it forbids murder. This religion believes that human life begins from the point of conception and that life is valued exceedingly. Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism also fall under this category. Although, these beliefs are only based on the foundation of the religion, there is no hard evidence that this is true.
However not all evidence supports the religious teachings. An example of this is Judaism. The Torah or Jewish law prohibits the killing of an innocent life, abortion and stresses that human beings are made in the image of God. A twelfth century interpreter of Jewish law called Maimonides, had interpreted a sentence in the Torah stating that anyone who kills a human being or even a foetus in its mother's womb, is to be put to death. The only exception to this law was that if the birth of the child threatens the life of the mother then abortion is acceptable. This claims that a foetus has the right to live just as a normal human being does unless the birth of the child risks the life of another being. On the other hand there is evidence from the Judaic Old Testament that contradicts the beliefs and the teachings of this religion. It states that “life begins at first breath, but babies are not valued until they are a month old.” (Genesis 2:7). This clearly exemplifies that the foetus is nothing but a pile of tissue and bones until it is one month old then it is valued dearly after that. Also the Judaic Old Testament claims that abortion is not an issue.
People frequently phrase the question in a way where it is not specific enough. It is most common that a person will ask the question as “Is a foetus human?” This confuses a biological question with a moral question. Biologically, yes a foetus is human but this does not make it a human “person”. To be a human person means to be part of a moral community. So what does it mean to be part of a moral community? What characteristics would make an entity to be considered a person? According to Mary Ann Warren (1997), American writer and Philosophy Professor, the main factors that contribute to being a person or morally human are consciousness and the capacity to feel pain, reasoning, self-motivation, the capacity for complex communication and having a sense of self. Mary Ann Warren has concluded that a foetus does not satisfy any of these factors and therefore making just a biological human and nothing more. Which therefore means in her sense, abortion is not an issue.
Even though Mary Ann Warren has argued that foetus is not morally human, scientific evidence reveals Mary Ann Warren is incorrect. According to Dr. Paul Ranalli (2009), Neurologist, University of Toronto, at 20 weeks, the foetal brain would have all the components of an adult's brain. Being so the foetal will be able to receive pain signals from the body, and any other electrical activity can be recorded. As one of the factors that contribute to making someone or something morally human, using Mary Ann Warren's definition of being a “human person” is that it must have the capacity to feel pain; it therefore proves that a foetus is indeed a human person. Furthermore, as it is a human person it now obtains human rights and hence abortion should be considered murder morally and lawfully.
Using the facts above, we assume that foetuses are now known to be a human person, so why is abortion still legal? Why should it be allowed if it will be murder? Ken Chisholm (1999), a member from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has argued for abortion in logical terms. He claims that laws against abortion will kill women. By this he means that, to forbid abortions does not mean it will stop them. When women feel it is compulsory, they will choose to have abortions no matter what it takes, even without medical care. In the time period before abortion was legal in the United States, it's been estimated that over 1 million women per year had illegal abortions, consequences of this act are thousands of women died and many others were injured. Statistics obtained from When Abortion was Illegal (2005).
He also claims that a woman is more than a foetus. This is implying that a woman should be able to make this decision to whether abort the unborn baby or not, based on her conscience. To produce a law making a foetus as a human “person” will only over power the mother's rights to her own body. This will then hold the potential to an increase in abandoned children as mothers who don't want the baby but are forced to give birth to the baby will either give them up for adoption or thrown out on the streets. This makes it very unfair on the women's rights as they will no longer have control over their body when it comes to pregnancy.
This claim relates to an anti abortion group called Pro-Choice. Pro-choice abortion is the belief that women have the right to choose to abort a baby from their body. The pro-choice view is that a baby does not have human rights within the mother's womb. The unborn baby is under the mother's rights. They have argued that the woman should be able to do whatever she wants with her body including the baby. This means that if the mother wants an abortion then she has every right to proceed with that decision, no one can tell her what to do, not even the highest powered person on earth can tell her what to do.
Not everyone is ready to be a mother or wants to be one. Taking teenagers as an example, say a 16 year old girl got pregnant. She finds out that she missed her period, takes a pregnancy test and results show that she is pregnant. The first thing that will run through her mind is the question “What am I going to do?” Her emotions will then take its toll. She will become afraid and possibly depressed as she knows that her life is going downhill. She will be too scared to ask anyone for help as she is scared of her parents or embarrassed about the issue but she knows that everyone will eventually find out. During her pregnancy, she will become attached to the baby and will be determined to take care of it. However she knows that the baby will live a fairly miserable life and so will her. Not every mother would want the baby to live a hard life in its first few years. Stress will begin to build up and possibly depression will take over. Having an abortion would solve these issues easily. However abortion will only be morally right if the unborn baby is not morally human.
Going back a few paragraphs, it was temporarily concluded that a foetus is a human person. However the foetus had only obtained one of the factors from the definition of being a human person. Does this really make it a human person? By satisfying one factor really makes a being achieve personhood? This is a question that will never be answered. We simply cannot foretell what is actually going through the foetus' mind, if it does have one in the early stages of its life. This is further supported by a Ph. D in Ancient History, Richard Cevantis Carrier. He states that the foetus does not become truly neurologically active until the fifth month (20 weeks). It is in this month that the brain begins to complete its final stages and will be fully developed by the sixth month. “What is actually going on mentally at that point is unknown, but the hardware is in place for a human mind to exist in at least a primitive state.”
After much debating, it is concluded that foetuses are indeed a human person after 20 weeks from the point of conception as it is proved scientifically. It is up to the beliefs of people or religions whether it is morally human or not before that time. However, even if the foetus obtains human rights or not, it should be the mother's decision to have an abortion only if she wants to. This protects the mother's rights and dignity and is the most logical and moral answer there is to this issue. This then concludes that abortion is not technically considered murder in the first few months of pregnancy but will be “known” as murder after the fifth month or so.
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