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Humanities LibreTexts

5.1: Arguments Against Abortion

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  • Page ID 35918

  • Nathan Nobis & Kristina Grob
  • Morehouse College & University of South Carolina Sumter via Open Philosophy Press

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We will begin with arguments for the conclusion that abortion is generally wrong , perhaps nearly always wrong . These can be seen as reasons to believe fetuses have the “right to life” or are otherwise seriously wrong to kill.

5.1.1 Fetuses are human

First, there is the claim that fetuses are “human” and so abortion is wrong. People sometimes debate whether fetuses are human , but fetuses found in (human) women clearly are biologically human : they aren’t cats or dogs. And so we have this argument, with a clearly true first premise:

Fetuses are biologically human.

All things that are biologically human are wrong to kill.

Therefore, fetuses are wrong to kill.

The second premise, however, is false, as easy counterexamples show. Consider some random living biologically human cells or tissues in a petri dish. It wouldn’t be wrong at all to wash those cells or tissues down the drain, killing them; scratching yourself or shaving might kill some biologically human skin cells, but that’s not wrong; a tumor might be biologically human, but not wrong to kill. So just because something is biologically human, that does not at all mean it’s wrong to kill that thing. We saw this same point about what’s merely biologically alive.


This suggests a deficiency in some common understandings of the important idea of “human rights.” “Human rights” are sometimes described as rights someone has just because they are human or simply in virtue of being human .

But the human cells in the petri dish above don’t have “human rights” and a human heart wouldn’t have “human rights” either. Many examples would make it clear that merely being biologically human doesn’t give something human rights. And many human rights advocates do not think that abortion is wrong, despite recognizing that (human) fetuses are biologically human.

The problem about what is often said about human rights is that people often do not think about what makes human beings have rights or why we have them, when we have them. The common explanation, that we have (human) rights just because we are (biologically) human , is incorrect, as the above discussion makes clear. This misunderstanding of the basis or foundation of human rights is problematic because it leads to a widespread, misplaced fixation on whether fetuses are merely biologically “human” and the mistaken thought that if they are, they have “human rights.” To address this problem, we need to identify better, more fundamental, explanations why we have rights, or why killing us is generally wrong, and see how those explanations might apply to fetuses, as we are doing here.

It might be that when people appeal to the importance and value of being “human,” the concern isn’t our biology itself, but the psychological characteristics that many human beings have: consciousness, awareness, feelings and so on. We will discuss this different meaning of “human” below. This meaning of “human” might be better expressed as conscious being , or “person,” or human person. This might be what people have in mind when they argue that fetuses aren’t even “human.”

Human rights are vitally important, and we would do better if we spoke in terms of “conscious-being rights” or “person-rights,” not “human rights.” This more accurate and informed understanding and terminology would help address human rights issues in general, and help us better think through ethical questions about biologically human embryos and fetuses.

5.1.2 Fetuses are human beings

Some respond to the arguments above—against the significance of being merely biologically human—by observing that fetuses aren’t just mere human cells, but are organized in ways that make them beings or organisms . (A kidney is part of a “being,” but the “being” is the whole organism.) That suggests this argument:

Fetuses are human beings or organisms .

All human beings or organisms are wrong to kill.

Therefore, fetuses are wrong to kill, so abortion is wrong.

The first premise is true: fetuses are dependent beings, but dependent beings are still beings.

The second premise, however, is the challenge, in terms of providing good reasons to accept it. Clearly many human beings or organisms are wrong to kill, or wrong to kill unless there’s a good reason that would justify that killing, e.g., self-defense. (This is often described by philosophers as us being prima facie wrong to kill, in contrast to absolutely or necessarily wrong to kill.) Why is this though? What makes us wrong to kill? And do these answers suggest that all human beings or organisms are wrong to kill?

Above it was argued that we are wrong to kill because we are conscious and feeling: we are aware of the world, have feelings and our perspectives can go better or worse for us —we can be harmed— and that’s what makes killing us wrong. It may also sometimes be not wrong to let us die, and perhaps even kill us, if we come to completely and permanently lacking consciousness, say from major brain damage or a coma, since we can’t be harmed by death anymore: we might even be described as dead in the sense of being “brain dead.” 10

So, on this explanation, human beings are wrong to kill, when they are wrong to kill, not because they are human beings (a circular explanation), but because we have psychological, mental or emotional characteristics like these. This explains why we have rights in a simple, common-sense way: it also simply explains why rocks, microorganisms and plants don’t have rights. The challenge then is explaining why fetuses that have never been conscious or had any feeling or awareness would be wrong to kill. How then can the second premise above, general to all human organisms, be supported, especially when applied to early fetuses?

One common attempt is to argue that early fetuses are wrong to kill because there is continuous development from fetuses to us, and since we are wrong to kill now , fetuses are also wrong to kill, since we’ve been the “same being” all along. 11 But this can’t be good reasoning, since we have many physical, cognitive, emotional and moral characteristics now that we lacked as fetuses (and as children). So even if we are the “same being” over time, even if we were once early fetuses, that doesn’t show that fetuses have the moral rights that babies, children and adults have: we, our bodies and our rights sometimes change.

A second attempt proposes that rights are essential to human organisms: they have them whenever they exist. This perspective sees having rights, or the characteristics that make someone have rights, as essential to living human organisms. The claim is that “having rights” is an essential property of human beings or organisms, and so whenever there’s a living human organism, there’s someone with rights, even if that organism totally lacks consciousness, like an early fetus. (In contrast, the proposal we advocate for about what makes us have rights understands rights as “accidental” to our bodies but “essential” to our minds or awareness, since our bodies haven’t always “contained” a conscious being, so to speak.)

Such a view supports the premise above; maybe it just is that premise above. But why believe that rights are essential to human organisms? Some argue this is because of what “kind” of beings we are, which is often presumed to be “rational beings.” The reasoning seems to be this: first, that rights come from being a rational being: this is part of our “nature.” Second, that all human organisms, including fetuses, are the “kind” of being that is a “rational being,” so every being of the “kind” rational being has rights. 12

In response, this explanation might seem question-begging: it might amount to just asserting that all human beings have rights. This explanation is, at least, abstract. It seems to involve some categorization and a claim that everyone who is in a certain category has some of the same moral characteristics that others in that category have, but because of a characteristic (actual rationality) that only these others have: so, these others profoundly define what everyone else is . If this makes sense, why not also categorize us all as not rational beings , if we are the same kind of beings as fetuses that are actually not rational?

This explanation might seem to involve thinking that rights somehow “trickle down” from later rationality to our embryonic origins, and so what we have later we also have earlier , because we are the same being or the same “kind” of being. But this idea is, in general, doubtful: we are now responsible beings, in part because we are rational beings, but fetuses aren’t responsible for anything. And we are now able to engage in moral reasoning since we are rational beings, but fetuses don’t have the “rights” that uniquely depend on moral reasoning abilities. So that an individual is a member of some general group or kind doesn’t tell us much about their rights: that depends on the actual details about that individual, beyond their being members of a group or kind.

To make this more concrete, return to the permanently comatose individuals mentioned above: are we the same kind of beings, of the same “essence,” as these human beings? If so, then it seems that some human beings can be not wrong to let die or kill, when they have lost consciousness. Therefore, perhaps some other human beings, like early fetuses, are also not wrong to kill before they have gained consciousness . And if we are not the same “kind” of beings, or have different essences, then perhaps we also aren’t the same kind of beings as fetuses either.

Similar questions arise concerning anencephalic babies, tragically born without most of their brains: are they the same “kind” of beings as “regular” babies or us? If so, then—since such babies are arguably morally permissible to let die, even when they could be kept alive, since being alive does them no good—then being of our “kind” doesn’t mean the individual has the same rights as us, since letting us die would be wrong. But if such babies are a different “kind” of beings than us, then pre-conscious fetuses might be of a relevantly different kind also.

So, in general, this proposal that early fetuses essentially have rights is suspect, if we evaluate the reasons given in its support. Even if fetuses and us are the same “kind” of beings (which perhaps we are not!) that doesn’t immediately tell us what rights fetuses would have, if any. And we might even reasonably think that, despite our being the same kind of beings as fetuses (e.g., the same kind of biology), we are also importantly different kinds of beings (e.g., one kind with a mental life and another kind which has never had it). This photograph of a 6-week old fetus might help bring out the ambiguity in what kinds of beings we all are:


In sum, the abstract view that all human organisms have rights essentially needs to be plausibly explained and defended. We need to understand how it really works. We need to be shown why it’s a better explanation, all things considered, than a consciousness and feelings-based theory of rights that simply explains why we, and babies, have rights, why racism, sexism and other forms of clearly wrongful discrimination are wrong, and , importantly, how we might lose rights in irreversible coma cases (if people always retained the right to life in these circumstances, presumably, it would be wrong to let anyone die), and more.

5.1.3 Fetuses are persons

Finally, we get to what some see as the core issue here, namely whether fetuses are persons , and an argument like this:

Fetuses are persons, perhaps from conception.

Persons have the right to life and are wrong to kill.

So, abortion is wrong, as it involves killing persons.

The second premise seems very plausible, but there are some important complications about it that will be discussed later. So let’s focus on the idea of personhood and whether any fetuses are persons. What is it to be a person ? One answer that everyone can agree on is that persons are beings with rights and value . That’s a fine answer, but it takes us back to the initial question: OK, who or what has the rights and value of persons? What makes someone or something a person?

Answers here are often merely asserted , but these answers need to be tested: definitions can be judged in terms of whether they fit how a word is used. We might begin by thinking about what makes us persons. Consider this:

We are persons now. Either we will always be persons or we will cease being persons. If we will cease to be persons, what can end our personhood? If we will always be persons, how could that be?

Both options yield insight into personhood. Many people think that their personhood ends at death or if they were to go into a permanent coma: their body is (biologically) alive but the person is gone: that is why other people are sad. And if we continue to exist after the death of our bodies, as some religions maintain, what continues to exist? The person , perhaps even without a body, some think! Both responses suggest that personhood is defined by a rough and vague set of psychological or mental, rational and emotional characteristics: consciousness, knowledge, memories, and ways of communicating, all psychologically unified by a unique personality.

A second activity supports this understanding:

Make a list of things that are definitely not persons . Make a list of individuals who definitely are persons . Make a list of imaginary or fictional personified beings which, if existed, would be persons: these beings that fit or display the concept of person, even if they don’t exist. What explains the patterns of the lists?

Rocks, carrots, cups and dead gnats are clearly not persons. We are persons. Science fiction gives us ideas of personified beings: to give something the traits of a person is to indicate what the traits of persons are, so personified beings give insights into what it is to be a person. Even though the non-human characters from, say, Star Wars don’t exist, they fit the concept of person: we could befriend them, work with them, and so on, and we could only do that with persons. A common idea of God is that of an immaterial person who has exceptional power, knowledge, and goodness: you couldn’t pray to a rock and hope that rock would respond: you could only pray to a person. Are conscious and feeling animals, like chimpanzees, dolphins, cats, dogs, chickens, pigs, and cows more relevantly like us, as persons, or are they more like rocks and cabbages, non-persons? Conscious and feeling animals seem to be closer to persons than not. 13 So, this classificatory and explanatory activity further supports a psychological understanding of personhood: persons are, at root, conscious, aware and feeling beings.

Concerning abortion, early fetuses would not be persons on this account: they are not yet conscious or aware since their brains and nervous systems are either non-existent or insufficiently developed. Consciousness emerges in fetuses much later in pregnancy, likely after the first trimester or a bit beyond. This is after when most abortions occur. Most abortions, then, do not involve killing a person , since the fetus has not developed the characteristics for personhood. We will briefly discuss later abortions, that potentially affect fetuses who are persons or close to it, below.

It is perhaps worthwhile to notice though that if someone believed that fetuses are persons and thought this makes abortion wrong, it’s unclear how they could coherently believe that a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest could permissibly be ended by an abortion. Some who oppose abortion argue that, since you are a person, it would be wrong to kill you now even if you were conceived because of a rape, and so it’s wrong to kill any fetus who is a person, even if they exist because of a rape: whether someone is a person or not doesn’t depend on their origins: it would make no sense to think that, for two otherwise identical fetuses, one is a person but the other isn’t, because that one was conceived by rape. Therefore, those who accept a “personhood argument” against abortion, yet think that abortions in cases of rape are acceptable, seem to have an inconsistent view.

5.1.4 Fetuses are potential persons

If fetuses aren’t persons, they are at least potential persons, meaning they could and would become persons. This is true. This, however, doesn’t mean that they currently have the rights of persons because, in general, potential things of a kind don’t have the rights of actual things of that kind : potential doctors, lawyers, judges, presidents, voters, veterans, adults, parents, spouses, graduates, moral reasoners and more don’t have the rights of actual individuals of those kinds.

Some respond that potential gives the right to at least try to become something. But that trying sometimes involves the cooperation of others: if your friend is a potential medical student, but only if you tutor her for many hours a day, are you obligated to tutor her? If my child is a potential NASCAR champion, am I obligated to buy her a race car to practice? ‘No’ to both and so it is unclear that a pregnant woman would be obligated to provide what’s necessary to bring about a fetus’s potential. (More on that below, concerning the what obligations the right to life imposes on others, in terms of obligations to assist other people.)

5.1.5 Abortion prevents fetuses from experiencing their valuable futures

The argument against abortion that is likely most-discussed by philosophers comes from philosopher Don Marquis. 14 He argues that it is wrong to kill us, typical adults and children, because it deprives us from experiencing our (expected to be) valuable futures, which is a great loss to us . He argues that since fetuses also have valuable futures (“futures like ours” he calls them), they are also wrong to kill. His argument has much to recommend it, but there are reasons to doubt it as well.

First, fetuses don’t seem to have futures like our futures , since—as they are pre-conscious—they are entirely psychologically disconnected from any future experiences: there is no (even broken) chain of experiences from the fetus to that future person’s experiences. Babies are, at least, aware of the current moment, which leads to the next moment; children and adults think about and plan for their futures, but fetuses cannot do these things, being completely unconscious and without a mind.

Second, this fact might even mean that the early fetus doesn’t literally have a future: if your future couldn’t include you being a merely physical, non-conscious object (e.g., you couldn’t be a corpse: if there’s a corpse, you are gone), then non-conscious physical objects, like a fetus, couldn’t literally be a future person. 15 If this is correct, early fetuses don’t even have futures, much less futures like ours. Something would have a future, like ours, only when there is someone there to be psychologically connected to that future: that someone arrives later in pregnancy, after when most abortions occur.

A third objection is more abstract and depends on the “metaphysics” of objects. It begins with the observation that there are single objects with parts with space between them . Indeed almost every object is like this, if you could look close enough: it’s not just single dinette sets, since there is literally some space between the parts of most physical objects. From this, it follows that there seem to be single objects such as an-egg-and-the-sperm-that-would-fertilize-it . And these would also seem to have a future of value, given how Marquis describes this concept. (It should be made clear that sperm and eggs alone do not have futures of value, and Marquis does not claim they do: this is not the objection here). The problem is that contraception, even by abstinence , prevents that thing’s future of value from materializing, and so seems to be wrong when we use Marquis’s reasoning. Since contraception is not wrong, but his general premise suggests that it is , it seems that preventing something from experiencing its valuable future isn’t always wrong and so Marquis’s argument appears to be unsound. 16

In sum, these are some of the most influential arguments against abortion. Our discussion was brief, but these arguments do not appear to be successful: they do not show that abortion is wrong, much less make it clear and obvious that abortion is wrong.

How To Win Any Argument About Abortion

abortion is wrong essay

So you're talking to someone who says something ignorant . And while you know that they're in the wrong, your words escape you. To make sure that doesn't happen, we've compiled a series of reference guides with the most common arguments — and your counter-arguments — for the most hot-button issues. Ahead, how to argue the pro-choice position .

Common Argument #1: A fetus is a human being, and human beings have the right to life, so abortion is murder.

The Pro-Choice Argument: I'm probably not going to convince you that a fetus isn't a life, as that's basically the most intractable part of this whole debate, so I'll be brief:

  • A fetus can't survive on its own. It is fully dependent on its mother's body, unlike born human beings.
  • Even if a fetus was alive, the "right to life" doesn't imply a right to use somebody else's body. People have the right to refuse to donate their organs , for example, even if doing so would save somebody else's life.
  • The "right to life" also doesn't imply a right to live by threatening somebody else's life. Bearing children is always a threat the life of the mother (see below).
  • A "right to life" is, at the end of the day, a right to not have somebody else's will imposed upon your body. Do women not have this right as well?

Common Argument #2: If a woman is willing to have sex, she's knowingly taking the risk of getting pregnant, and should be responsible for her actions.

The Pro-Choice Argument: You're asserting that giving birth is the "responsible" choice in the event of a pregnancy, but that's just your opinion. I'd argue that if a mother knows she won't be able to provide for her child, it's actually more responsible to have an abortion, and in doing so prevent a whole lot of undue suffering and misery.

But let's look at this argument a bit further. If you think getting an abortion is "avoiding responsibility," that implies that it's a woman's responsibility to bear a child if she chooses to have sex. That sounds suspiciously like you're dictating what a woman's role and purpose is, and a lot less like you're making an argument about the life of a child.

Common Reply : No, because women can practice safe sex and avoid getting pregnant. If she refuses to use contraception and gets pregnant as a result, that's her fault, and her responsibility.

Your Rebuttal: Not everyone has easy access to contraception , nor does everyone have a good enough sex education class to know how to use it or where to obtain it. But let's just suppose, for the sake of argument, that everyone had access to free contraception and knew how to use it correctly.

Even then, no contraception is 100% effective. Presumably, you oppose abortions even in cases where contraception fails (and it does sometimes fail, even when used perfectly). If that's true, you're saying that, by merely choosing to have sex — with or without a condom — a woman becomes responsible for having a child. And that's a belief that has everything to do with judging a woman's behavior, and nothing to do with the value of life.

Common Argument #3: But I'm OK with abortions in cases of rape .

The Pro-Choice Argument: Why only in those cases? Are the lives of children who were conceived by rape worth less than the lives of children who were willfully conceived? If preserving the life of the child takes primacy over the desires of the mother — which is what you're saying if you if you oppose any legal abortions — then it shouldn't matter how that life was conceived.

Common Argument #4: "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Your Response: Go home, Todd Akin , you're drunk.

Common Argument #5: Adoption is a viable alternative to abortion.

The Pro-Choice Argument: This implies that the only reason a woman would want to get an abortion is to avoid raising a child, and that isn't the case. Depending on the circumstances, the mere act of having a child in a hospital can cost between $3,000 and $37,000 in the United States. Giving birth is dangerous, too: In the United States, pregnancy complications are the sixth most common cause of death for women between the ages of 20 and 34.

Even before birth, there are costs to pregnancy. In addition to the whole "carrying another human being around in your stomach for nine months" thing, many women, particularly teens, are shunned and shamed for their pregnancies — not only by friends, families, employers, and classmates, but also by advertisements in the subway . There's also the risk of violent retribution from abusive partners and parents.

In short, there are a lot of reasons a woman might seek an abortion. Adoption doesn't address all of them.

Common Argument #6: When abortion is legal, women just use it as a form of birth control.

The Pro-Choice Argument: Do you have evidence of this? Considering that contraceptives are cheaper, easier, less painful, less time-consuming, less emotionally taxing, and more readily available than abortions, it seems odd to suggest that women who've already decided to use birth control would select abortion as their preferred method. It's more likely the opposite: Historical and contemporary data suggests that women will seek abortions regardless of whether or not they're legal, but that when birth control and contraceptives are more widely accessible, abortion rates go down.

Common Argument #7: Abortions are dangerous.

The Pro-Choice Argument: When performed by trained professionals, abortions are one of the safest procedures in medicine, with a death rate of less than 0.01%. The risk of dying while giving birth is roughly 13 times higher. Abortions performed by people without the requisite skills and training, however, are extremely unsafe. An estimated 68,000 women die every year from back alley abortions, which are generally most common when abortion is illegal and/or inaccessible.

If you'd like to examine the health impact of banning abortion, consider Romania, which banned abortions in 1966. That policy remained in place for about 23 years, during which time over 9,000 women died from unsafe abortions , and countless others were permanently injured. That's around two women dying every day. When the policy was reversed, maternal mortality rate plummeted to one-eighth of what it was at its peak under the no-abortion policy.

abortion is wrong essay

Abortions and maternal death rates in Romania, 1965-2010. Image credit: BMJ Group

The negative health effects of prohibiting abortion don't end with the mothers. Romania's abortion ban sparked a nationwide orphan crisis, as roughly 150,000 unwanted newborns were placed in nightmarish state-run orphanages . Many of those orphans now suffer from severe mental and physical health problems, including reduced brain size, schizoaffective disorder, and sociopathy.

When abortion is illegal, it becomes exponentially more unsafe for both women and their children. You may not like the fact that women will seek abortions even when they're illegal, but it is undeniably a fact nonetheless.

Common Argument #8: What if Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King had been aborted?

Your Response: Are you saying abortion policy should be influenced by how good of a person a fetus ends up becoming? If that's the case, what if Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot had been aborted?

Common Argument #9: Many women who get abortions regret their decision later on.

The Pro-Choice Argument: This is a pretty common argument. As with shaming of teen moms, it pops up in subway ads.

This is a bad argument. Should the government ban people from doing things they sometimes regret? Think of everything you've ever regretted — not moving after college, dating the wrong person — and ask yourself if you wish there had been a law to prevent you from doing that thing. You probably don't, because you probably believe people should be able to choose their own paths in life regardless of whether they regret those choices later on. I agree, which is part of why I'm pro-choice .

Common Argument #10: Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to pay for things they find morally disagreeable.

The Pro-Choice Argument: By that rationale, America also shouldn't have a military, since that's funded by taxes, and many taxpayers find American foreign policy morally disagreeable. Also, the Hyde Amendment prevents most public funds from going toward abortions. But that's a moot point, because these are two separate arguments. Believing that abortion should be legal doesn't require you to also believe that taxpayer dollars should fund abortions.

Common Argument #11: What if your mother had aborted you?

The Pro-Choice Argument: Well, if I'd never come into existence in the first place, I probably wouldn't have any strong feelings on the matter. Anyway, I love my mother very much and respect her right to make whatever decisions are right for her body and life.

The best pro-choice arguments , in summary:

  • A "right to life" doesn't imply a right to use someone else's body to sustain a life.
  • Women do not have a "responsibility" to have children, and certainly don't assume such a responsibility by virtue of deciding to have sex.
  • Outlawing abortion is very dangerous, both for women and their children.
  • Adoption still requires women to carry a baby to term and then give birth, both of which are also inherently dangerous.
  • Abortions, on the other hand, are quite safe.
  • Banning abortion violates a woman's right to control her own body.

This article was originally published on March 5, 2014

abortion is wrong essay

Essay on Abortion Is Wrong

One of the most significant societal debates is whether abortion should be legal due to its perceived consequences. Personally, abortion is wrong and should not be considered legal as its disadvantages are more typical than its benefits. Such reputations include the death of a woman having it, immorality in killing the unborn innocent life, encouragement of carelessness in self-care and intimate relations, and deprivations of morals and future generations. This essay desires to argue against abortion and aims to prove that it is a wrong act in society, hence making it illegal.

Abortion is not correct as it is a dehumanization of the unborn, hence why it should be illegal. This argument is based on the fact that life begins immediately after the conception and the development of an individual takes off, as proven by scientists. The supporters of the idea that life begins at birth are wrong because studies have shown that genes, tissues, and organs development begin at the moment of fertilization, hence human formation (Danielsson et al., 2020). Therefore, the termination of such lives should be considered murder cases, and the perpetrators, the doctor, and the woman should be accountable and face the law. The mother is also likely to die after their abortion because the procedure usually does not guarantee 100 percent survival. Also, hospital reports have shown that almost 50 percent of women who pursue abortion lost their lives due to unavoidable blunders during the procedures (Faúndes et al., 2021). Therefore, abortions should be illegal as it causes death of an innocent unborn individual and its mother.

Abortions usually do not assure the women’s safety, and mostly the probability of health complications is usually very high. The procedure is the termination of pregnancy which entails disturbance of the body tissues and may result in a critical condition such as excessive blood loss. Another condition may be a pelvic inflammatory illness that may last for the rest of the patients’ life. According to Faúndes et al. (2021), abortions victims are the people that hold the most significant percentage of the population that suffers long-term psychological and physical pain and stress, which is an apparent reason why abortion should not be legal. Abortion should be made illegal because some hospitals do not have the appropriate and reliable facilities necessary to conduct it, which only increases the women’s chances of being exposed to risks and infections (Grossman et al., 2019).

Abortion is wrong because it leads to deprivation of the future and the morals and ethics of society. When abortion is made legal, more women will engage in it, leading to fewer births in society. Consequently, this reduction will make the future generation have a low population, which may fail to have enough potential people to build the world’s economy, politics, and other aspects of society. So, abortion should not be an option for any reason unless the pregnancy poses a health threat to the fetus’s mother (Grossman et al., 2019). Additionally, abortion legalization is a way the government and society tolerate killing because it opens the route through which people will make killing innocent lives acceptable based on the guaranteed right for abortion. Abortions also reduce moral and ethical values by reducing the respect of life society should have, hence promoting genocide, euthanasia, and murders rates (Faúndes et al., 2021).

To conclude, abortion is wrong as it terminates the developing life of the fetus, even though some individuals may argue that life begins after birth. It also poses death, infections, and other critical infection risks to the woman undertaking as the procedure is usually not safe. Women who have had abortions are likely to suffer long-term physical and mental health stress and complications that may limit them from resuming the lives they had before the abortion. Lastly, abortion is a way of depriving the future generation and devaluing the ethics and morals of society through a lack of respect for life. Therefore, based on these pernicious consequences, abortion should be deemed wrong hence not worthy of being legalized.

Bento, S. F., Pádua, K. S. D., Pacagnella, R. D. C., Fernandes, K. G., Osis, M. J. D., Duarte, G. A., & Faúndes, A. (2021). Advantages and Disadvantages of Medical Abortion, According to Brazilian Residents in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.  Revista Brasileira de Ginecologia e Obstetrícia ,  42 , 793-799.

Biggs, M. A., Ralph, L., Raifman, S., Foster, D. G., & Grossman, D. (2019). Support for and interest in alternative models of medication abortion provision among a national probability sample of US women.  Contraception ,  99 (2), 118-124.

Fiala, C., Bombas, T., Parachini, M., Agostini, A., Lertxundi, R., Lubusky, M., … & Danielsson, K. G. (2020). Management of very early medical abortion—An international survey among providers.  European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology ,  246 , 169-176.

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Is Abortion Sacred?

By Jia Tolentino

The silhouettes of two women made from the negative space of a rosary.

Twenty years ago, when I was thirteen, I wrote an entry in my journal about abortion, which began, “I have this huge thing weighing on me.” That morning, in Bible class, which I’d attended every day since the first grade at an evangelical school, in Houston, my teacher had led us in an exercise called Agree/Disagree. He presented us with moral propositions, and we stood up and physically chose sides. “Abortion is always wrong,” he offered, and there was no disagreement. We all walked to the wall that meant “agree.”

Then I raised my hand and, according to my journal, said, “I think it is always morally wrong and absolutely murder, but if a woman is raped, I respect her right to get an abortion.” Also, I said, if a woman knew the child would face a terrible life, the child might be better off. “Dead?” the teacher asked. My classmates said I needed to go to the other side, and I did. “I felt guilty and guilty and guilty,” I wrote in my journal. “I didn’t feel like a Christian when I was on that side of the room. I felt terrible, actually. . . . But I still have that thought that if a woman was raped, she has her right. But that’s so strange—she has a right to kill what would one day be her child? That issue is irresolved in my mind and it will eat at me until I sort it out.”

I had always thought of abortion as it had been taught to me in school: it was a sin that irresponsible women committed to cover up another sin, having sex in a non-Christian manner. The moral universe was a stark battle of virtue and depravity, in which the only meaningful question about any possible action was whether or not it would be sanctioned in the eyes of God. Men were sinful, and the goodness of women was the essential bulwark against the corruption of the world. There was suffering built into this framework, but suffering was noble; justice would prevail, in the end, because God always provided for the faithful. It was these last tenets, prosperity-gospel principles that neatly erase the material causes of suffering in our history and our social policies—not only regarding abortion but so much else—which toppled for me first. By the time I went to college, I understood that I was pro-choice.

America is, in many ways, a deeply religious country—the only wealthy Western democracy in which more than half of the population claims to pray every day. (In Europe, the figure is twenty-two per cent.) Although seven out of ten American women who get abortions identify as Christian, the fight to make the procedure illegal is an almost entirely Christian phenomenon. Two-thirds of the national population and nearly ninety per cent of Congress affirm a tradition in which a teen-age girl continuing an unplanned pregnancy allowed for the salvation of the world, in which a corrupt government leader who demanded a Massacre of the Innocents almost killed the baby Jesus and damned us all in the process, and in which the Son of God entered the world as what the godless dare to call a “clump of cells.”

For centuries, most Christians believed that human personhood began months into the long course of pregnancy. It was only in the twentieth century that a dogmatic narrative, in which every pregnancy is an iteration of the same static story of creation, began both to shape American public policy and to occlude the reality of pregnancy as volatile and ambiguous—as a process in which creation and destruction run in tandem. This newer narrative helped to erase an instinctive, long-held understanding that pregnancy does not begin with the presence of a child, and only sometimes ends with one. Even within the course of the same pregnancy, a person and the fetus she carries can shift between the roles of lover and beloved, host and parasite, vessel and divinity, victim and murderer; each body is capable of extinguishing the other, although one cannot survive alone. There is no human relationship more complex, more morally unstable than this.

The idea that a fetus is not just a full human but a superior and kinglike one—a being whose survival is so paramount that another person can be legally compelled to accept harm, ruin, or death to insure it—is a recent invention. For most of history, women ended unwanted pregnancies as they needed to, taking herbal or plant-derived preparations on their own or with the help of female healers and midwives, who presided over all forms of treatment and care connected with pregnancy. They were likely enough to think that they were simply restoring their menstruation, treating a blockage of blood. Pregnancy was not confirmed until “quickening,” the point at which the pregnant person could feel fetal movement, a measurement that relied on her testimony. Then as now, there was often nothing that distinguished the result of an abortion—the body expelling fetal tissue—from a miscarriage.

Ancient records of abortifacient medicine are plentiful; ancient attempts to regulate abortion are rare. What regulations existed reflect concern with women’s behavior and marital propriety, not with fetal life. The Code of the Assura, from the eleventh century B.C.E., mandated death for married women who got abortions without consulting their husbands; when husbands beat their wives hard enough to make them miscarry, the punishment was a fine. The first known Roman prohibition on abortion dates to the second century and prescribes exile for a woman who ends her pregnancy, because “it might appear scandalous that she should be able to deny her husband of children without being punished.” Likewise, the early Christian Church opposed abortion not as an act of murder but because of its association with sexual sin. (The Bible offers ambiguous guidance on the question of when life begins: Genesis 2:7 arguably implies that it begins at first breath; Exodus 21:22-24 suggests that, in Old Testament law, a fetus was not considered a person; Jeremiah 1:5 describes God’s hand in creation even “before I formed you in the womb.” Nowhere does the Bible clearly and directly address abortion.) Augustine, in the fourth century, favored the idea that God endowed a fetus with a soul only after its body was formed—a point that Augustine placed, in line with Aristotelian tradition, somewhere between forty and eighty days into its development. “There cannot yet be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation when it is not formed in flesh, and so not yet endowed with sense,” he wrote. This was more or less the Church’s official position; it was affirmed eight centuries later by Thomas Aquinas.

In the early modern era, European attitudes began to change. The Black Death had dramatically lowered the continent’s population, and dealt a blow to most forms of economic activity; the Reformation had weakened the Church’s position as the essential intermediary between the layman and God. The social scientist Silvia Federici has argued, in her book “ Caliban and the Witch ,” that church and state waged deliberate campaigns to force women to give birth, in service of the emerging capitalist economy. “Starting in the mid-16th century, while Portuguese ships were returning from Africa with their first human cargoes, all the European governments began to impose the severest penalties against contraception, abortion, and infanticide,” Federici notes. Midwives and “wise women” were prosecuted for witchcraft, a catchall crime for deviancy from procreative sex. For the first time, male doctors began to control labor and delivery, and, Federici writes, “in the case of a medical emergency” they “prioritized the life of the fetus over that of the mother.” She goes on: “While in the Middle Ages women had been able to use various forms of contraceptives, and had exercised an undisputed control over the birthing process, from now on their wombs became public territory, controlled by men and the state.”

Martin Luther and John Calvin, the most influential figures of the Reformation, did not address abortion at any length. But Catholic doctrine started to shift, albeit slowly. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V labelled both abortion and contraception as homicide. This pronouncement was reversed three years later, by Pope Gregory XIV, who declared that abortion was only homicide if it took place after ensoulment, which he identified as occurring around twenty-four weeks into a pregnancy. Still, theologians continued to push the idea of embryonic humanity; in 1621, the physician Paolo Zacchia, an adviser to the Vatican, proclaimed that the soul was present from the moment of conception. Still, it was not until 1869 that Pope Pius IX affirmed this doctrine, proclaiming abortion at any point in pregnancy to be a sin punishable by excommunication.

When I found out I was pregnant, at the beginning of 2020, I wondered how the experience would change my understanding of life, of fetal personhood, of the morality of reproduction. It’s been years since I traded the echo chamber of evangelical Texas for the echo chamber of progressive Brooklyn, but I can still sometimes feel the old world view flickering, a photographic negative underneath my vision. I have come to believe that abortion should be universally accessible, regulated only by medical codes and ethics, and not by the criminal-justice system. Still, in passing moments, I can imagine upholding the idea that our sole task when it comes to protecting life is to end the practice of abortion; I can imagine that seeming profoundly moral and unbelievably urgent. I would only need to think of the fetus in total isolation—to imagine that it were not formed and contained by another body, and that body not formed and contained by a family, or a society, or a world.

As happens to many women, though, I became, if possible, more militant about the right to an abortion in the process of pregnancy, childbirth, and caregiving. It wasn’t just the difficult things that had this effect—the paralyzing back spasms, the ragged desperation of sleeplessness, the thundering doom that pervaded every cell in my body when I weaned my child. And it wasn’t just my newly visceral understanding of the anguish embedded in the facts of American family life. (A third of parents in one of the richest countries in the world struggle to afford diapers ; in the first few months of the pandemic , as Jeff Bezos’s net worth rose by forty-eight billion dollars, sixteen per cent of households with children did not have enough to eat.) What multiplied my commitment to abortion were the beautiful things about motherhood: in particular, the way I felt able to love my baby fully and singularly because I had chosen to give my body and life over to her. I had not been forced by law to make another person with my flesh, or to tear that flesh open to bring her into the world; I hadn’t been driven by need to give that new person away to a stranger in the hope that she would never go to bed hungry. I had been able to choose this permanent rearrangement of my existence. That volition felt sacred.

Abortion is often talked about as a grave act that requires justification, but bringing a new life into the world felt, to me, like the decision that more clearly risked being a moral mistake. The debate about abortion in America is “rooted in the largely unacknowledged premise that continuing a pregnancy is a prima facie moral good,” the pro-choice Presbyterian minister Rebecca Todd Peters writes . But childbearing, Peters notes, is a morally weighted act, one that takes place in a world of limited and unequally distributed resources. Many people who get abortions—the majority of whom are poor women who already have children—understand this perfectly well. “We ought to take the decision to continue a pregnancy far more seriously than we do,” Peters writes.

I gave birth in the middle of a pandemic that previewed a future of cross-species viral transmission exacerbated by global warming, and during a summer when ten million acres on the West Coast burned . I knew that my child would not only live in this degrading world but contribute to that degradation. (“Every year, the average American emits enough carbon to melt ten thousand tons of ice in the Antarctic ice sheets,” David Wallace-Wells writes in his book “ The Uninhabitable Earth .”) Just before COVID arrived, the science writer Meehan Crist published an essay in the London Review of Books titled “Is it OK to have a child?” (The title alludes to a question that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once asked in a live stream, on Instagram.) Crist details the environmental damage that we are doing, and the costs for the planet and for us and for those who will come after. Then she turns the question on its head. The idea of choosing whether or not to have a child, she writes, is predicated on a fantasy of control that “quickly begins to dissipate when we acknowledge that the conditions for human flourishing are distributed so unevenly, and that, in an age of ecological catastrophe, we face a range of possible futures in which these conditions no longer reliably exist.”

In late 2021, as Omicron brought New York to another COVID peak, a Gen Z boy in a hoodie uploaded a TikTok , captioned “yall better delete them baby names out ya notes its 60 degrees in december.” By then, my baby had become a toddler. Every night, as I set her in the crib, she chirped good night to the elephants, koalas, and tigers on the wall, and I tried not to think about extinction. My decision to have her risked, or guaranteed, additional human suffering; it opened up new chances for joy and meaning. There is unknowability in every reproductive choice.

As the German historian Barbara Duden writes in her book “ Disembodying Women ,” the early Christians believed that both the bodies that created life and the world that sustained it were proof of the “continual creative activity of God.” Women and nature were aligned, in this view, as the material sources of God’s plan. “The word nature is derived from nascitura , which means ‘birthing,’ and nature is imagined and felt to be like a pregnant womb, a matrix, a mother,” Duden writes. But, in recent decades, she notes, the natural world has begun to show its irreparable damage. The fetus has been left as a singular totem of life and divinity, to be protected, no matter the costs, even if everything else might fall.

The scholar Katie Gentile argues that, in times of cultural crisis and upheaval, the fetus functions as a “site of projected and displaced anxieties,” a “fantasy of wholeness in the face of overwhelming anxiety and an inability to have faith in a progressive, better future.” The more degraded actual life becomes on earth, the more fervently conservatives will fight to protect potential life in utero. We are locked into the destruction of the world that birthed all of us; we turn our attention, now, to the worlds—the wombs—we think we can still control.

By the time that the Catholic Church decided that abortion at any point, for any reason, was a sin, scientists had identified the biological mechanism behind human reproduction, in which a fetus develops from an embryo that develops from a zygote, the single-celled organism created by the union of egg and sperm. With this discovery, in the mid-nineteenth century, women lost the most crucial point of authority over the stories of their pregnancies. Other people would be the ones to tell us, from then on, when life began.

At the time, abortion was largely unregulated in the United States, a country founded and largely populated by Protestants. But American physicians, through the then newly formed American Medical Association, mounted a campaign to criminalize it, led by a gynecologist named Horatio Storer, who once described the typical abortion patient as a “wretch whose account with the Almighty is heaviest with guilt.” (Storer was raised Unitarian but later converted to Catholicism.) The scholars Paul Saurette and Kelly Gordon have argued that these doctors, whose profession was not as widely respected as it would later become, used abortion “as a wedge issue,” one that helped them portray their work “as morally and professionally superior to the practice of midwifery.” By 1910, abortion was illegal in every state, with exceptions only to save the life of “the mother.” (The wording of such provisions referred to all pregnant people as mothers, whether or not they had children, thus quietly inserting a presumption of fetal personhood.) A series of acts known as the Comstock laws had rendered contraception, abortifacient medicine, and information about reproductive control widely inaccessible, by criminalizing their distribution via the U.S. Postal Service. People still sought abortions, of course: in the early years of the Great Depression, there were as many as seven hundred thousand abortions annually. These underground procedures were dangerous; several thousand women died from abortions every year.

This is when the contemporary movements for and against the right to abortion took shape. Those who favored legal abortion did not, in these years, emphasize “choice,” Daniel K. Williams notes in his book “ Defenders of the Unborn .” They emphasized protecting the health of women, protecting doctors, and preventing the births of unwanted children. Anti-abortion activists, meanwhile, argued, as their successors do, that they were defending human life and human rights. The horrors of the Second World War gave the movement a lasting analogy: “Logic would lead us from abortion to the gas chamber,” a Catholic clergyman wrote, in October, 1962.

Ultrasound imaging, invented in the nineteen-fifties, completed the transformation of pregnancy into a story that, by default, was narrated to women by other people—doctors, politicians, activists. In 1965, Life magazine published a photo essay by Lennart Nilsson called “ Drama of Life Before Birth ,” and put the image of a fetus at eighteen weeks on its cover. The photos produced an indelible, deceptive image of the fetus as an isolated being—a “spaceman,” as Nilsson wrote, floating in a void, entirely independent from the person whose body creates it. They became totems of the anti-abortion movement; Life had not disclosed that all but one had been taken of aborted fetuses, and that Nilsson had lit and posed their bodies to give the impression that they were alive.

In 1967, Colorado became the first state to allow abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or medical emergency. A group of Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis began operating an abortion-referral service led by the pastor of Judson Memorial Church, in Manhattan; the resulting network of pro-choice clerics eventually spanned the country, and referred an estimated four hundred and fifty thousand women to safe abortions. The evangelical magazine Christianity Today held a symposium of prominent theologians, in 1968, which resulted in a striking statement: “Whether or not the performance of an induced abortion is sinful we are not agreed, but about the necessity and permissibility for it under certain circumstances we are in accord.” Meanwhile, the priest James McHugh became the director of the National Right to Life Committee, and equated fetuses to the other vulnerable people whom faithful Christians were commanded to protect: the old, the sick, the poor. As states began to liberalize their abortion laws, the anti-abortion movement attracted followers—many of them antiwar, pro-welfare Catholics—using the language of civil rights, and adopted the label “pro-life.”

W. A. Criswell, a Dallas pastor who served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1968 to 1970, said, shortly after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Roe v. Wade , that “it was only after a child was born and had life separate from his mother that it became an individual person,” and that “it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and the future should be allowed.” But the Court’s decision accelerated a political and theological transformation that was already under way: by 1979, Criswell, like the S.B.C., had endorsed a hard-line anti-abortion stance. Evangelical leadership, represented by such groups as Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority , joined with Catholics to oppose the secularization of popular culture, becoming firmly conservative—and a powerful force in Republican politics. Bible verses that express the idea of divine creation, such as Psalm 139 (“For you created my innermost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb,” in the New International Version’s translation), became policy explanations for prohibiting abortion.

In 1984, scientists used ultrasound to detect fetal cardiac activity at around six weeks’ gestation—a discovery that has been termed a “fetal heartbeat” by the anti-abortion movement, though a six-week-old fetus hasn’t yet formed a heart, and the electrical pulses are coming from cell clusters that can be replicated in a petri dish. At six weeks, in fact, medical associations still call the fetus an embryo; as I found out in 2020, you generally can’t even schedule a doctor’s visit to confirm your condition until you’re eight weeks along.

So many things that now shape the cultural experience of pregnancy in America accept and reinforce the terms of the anti-abortion movement, often with the implicit goal of making pregnant women feel special, or encouraging them to buy things. “Your baby,” every app and article whispered to me sweetly, wrongly, many months before I intuited personhood in the being inside me, or felt that the life I was forming had moved out of a liminal realm.

I tried to learn from that liminality. Hope was always predicated on uncertainty; there would be no guarantees of safety in this or any other part of life. Pregnancy did not feel like soft blankets and stuffed bunnies—it felt cosmic and elemental, like volcanic rocks grinding, or a wild plant straining toward the sun. It was violent even as I loved it. “Even with the help of modern medicine, pregnancy still kills about 800 women every day worldwide,” the evolutionary biologist Suzanne Sadedin points out in an essay titled “War in the womb.” Many of the genes that activate during embryonic development also activate when a body has been invaded by cancer, Sadedin notes; in ectopic pregnancies, which are unviable by definition and make up one to two per cent of all pregnancies, embryos become implanted in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus, and “tunnel ferociously toward the richest nutrient source they can find.” The result, Sadedin writes, “is often a bloodbath.”

The Book of Genesis tells us that the pain of childbearing is part of the punishment women have inherited from Eve. The other part is subjugation to men: “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you,” God tells Eve. Tertullian, a second-century theologian, told women, “You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of the (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.” The idea that guilt inheres in female identity persists in anti-abortion logic: anything a woman, or a girl, does with her body can justify the punishment of undesired pregnancy, including simply existing.

If I had become pregnant when I was a thirteen-year-old Texan , I would have believed that abortion was wrong, but I am sure that I would have got an abortion. For one thing, my Christian school did not allow students to be pregnant. I was aware of this, and had, even then, a faint sense that the people around me grasped, in some way, the necessity of abortion—that, even if they believed that abortion meant taking a life, they understood that it could preserve a life, too.

One need not reject the idea that life in the womb exists or that fetal life has meaning in order to favor the right to abortion; one must simply allow that everything, not just abortion, has a moral dimension, and that each pregnancy occurs in such an intricate web of systemic and individual circumstances that only the person who is pregnant could hope to evaluate the situation and make a moral decision among the options at hand. A recent survey found that one-third of Americans believe life begins at conception but also that abortion should be legal. This is the position overwhelmingly held by American Buddhists, whose religious tradition casts abortion as the taking of a human life and regards all forms of life as sacred but also warns adherents against absolutism and urges them to consider the complexity of decreasing suffering, compelling them toward compassion and respect.

There is a Buddhist ritual practiced primarily in Japan, where it is called mizuko kuyo : a ceremony of mourning for miscarriages, stillbirths, and aborted fetuses. The ritual is possibly ersatz; critics say that it fosters and preys upon women’s feelings of guilt. But the scholar William LaFleur argues, in his book “ Liquid Life ,” that it is rooted in a medieval Japanese understanding of the way the unseen world interfaces with the world of humans—in which being born and dying are both “processes rather than fixed points.” An infant was believed to have entered the human world from the realm of the gods, and move clockwise around a wheel as she grew older, eventually passing back into the spirit realm on the other side. But some infants were mizuko , or water babies: floating in fluids, ontologically unstable. These were the babies who were never born. A mizuko , whether miscarried or aborted—and the two words were similar: kaeru , to go back, and kaesu , to cause to go back—slipped back, counterclockwise, across the border to the realm of the gods.

There is a loss, I think, entailed in abortion—as there is in miscarriage, whether it occurs at eight or twelve or twenty-nine weeks. I locate this loss in the irreducible complexity of life itself, in the terrible violence and magnificence of reproduction, in the death that shimmered at the edges of my consciousness in the shattering moment that my daughter was born. This understanding might be rooted in my religious upbringing—I am sure that it is. But I wonder, now, how I would square this: that fetuses were the most precious lives in existence, and that God, in His vision, already chooses to end a quarter of them. The fact that a quarter of women, regardless of their beliefs, also decide to end pregnancies at some point in their lifetimes: are they not acting in accordance with God’s plan for them, too? ♦

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abortion is wrong essay

So Why is Abortion Wrong?

If you paid any attention to the title of this piece, you would have known what the essay was going to be about before even reading the paper. In “Abortion is Morally Wrong,” John T. Noonan Jr. defends the idea that an entity becomes a person at the time of conception and that abortion is morally wrong. The only exception to his belief is if the mother’s life is at stake (Noonan Jr. 353) Throughout his writing, Noonan Jr. presents oppositions from the opposing stance that abortion is morally right, and then refutes it. He attempts to answer the question: “How do you determine the humanity of a being?” He introduces several opposing viewpoints and promptly refutes them. The two that will be primarily focused on are the ideas of the dependence on the mother and the unborn child’s lack of experience.

The first opposition that he presents is the idea that the lack of experience makes the child less human. He rejects the claim that “a being who has had experiences, has lived and suffered, who possesses memories, is more human than one who has not” (Noonan Jr. 354). The opposition claims that because the child has never yet experienced anything (i.e. happiness, sadness, pain, etc.), it is not qualified to be a human. He rejects this idea by emphasizing “the embryo is responsive to touch after eight weeks and at least at that point is experiencing” (Noonan Jr. 354). Even if humanity were determined by experience, babies experience things while in the womb even before birth. It was found that unborn children could differentiate touch from pain in the womb at several weeks into pregnancy and maybe even before then (Ertelt). Therefore, the idea that the unborn child does not experience anything while in the womb is inaccurate. However, the question is: Is the level of experience an accurate way of measuring how human a person is? Would older people be more human than young people? Older adults have been through and experienced more than small toddlers. So according to the objection, the older adults would be more human than the toddlers. The age of the person has no correlation with how human a person is. Therefore, the unborn child in the mother’s womb should not be considered less human than an adult on the basis that experience determines humanity.

The second opposing view that he presents is the idea that because the child is dependent on the mother during early pregnancy, the child is not a “human.” The objection explains, “this dependence is made on the basis of denying recognition to [the unborn child’s] humanity” (Noonan Jr. 353). However, Noonan Jr. asserts that this distinction is not fully valid because “artificial incubation may make the fetus viable at any time” (Noonan Jr. 353). Nowadays, there is more technology to provide a chance for premature babies to survive without fully developing in the mother’s womb. He mainly argues against this opposition by asserting that the dependency of the child does not end after birth. He claims that “ the fetus is still absolutely dependent on someone care in order to continue existence” (Noonan Jr. 354). After the birth of the child, do the parents just let the child grow on its own without any assistance? Of course not, that would be child neglect; if this were the case, no one would be alive today. The notion that a child’s dependency on the mother to live determines how human it is not valid. Babies and even small children are completely dependent on others to live. Since they cannot fend for themselves, they rely on others entirely.

Noonan Jr. compelling argument against abortion provides great retribution for the opposition’s arguments. An unborn child is no less human than a person who has had more experience or is “less dependent” on the mother. The child has the potential to grow up and become someone but abortion takes that away in a matter of minutes. Despite others attempts to define humanity, an unborn child is human regardless simply because it has the potential to become an experienced and independent human being.

Works Cited

Ertelt, Steven. “Study: Unborn Babies Can Differentiate Touch, Pain in Womb.” . N.p., 09 Sept. 2011. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.

Noonan Jr., John T. “Abortion is Morally Wrong.” Famine, Affluence, and Morality. N.p.   353-357. Print.

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Her work touches questions we can answer and questions we can’t. But her main focus is elsewhere: ‘the patient in front of me.’

With the leak Monday of a draft decision by the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the future of abortion in the U.S. has been a highly charged topic of conversation all week. Doctors are among those wondering what’s next. Louise King is an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and a Brigham and Women’s Hospital physician whose practice includes abortion services. King, who is also the director of reproductive bioethics for the Center for Bioethics at the Medical School, spoke with the Gazette about ethical dimensions of abortion and how a ruling against Roe might affect providers.

Louise King

GAZETTE: In the U.S., abortion is framed in broad ethical terms: life versus death, privacy versus government intrusion, etc. From a medical ethics standpoint, what are the important concerns to be balanced on this issue?

KING: I frame the topic in the context of the patient in front of me. In other words, I look primarily to autonomy and beneficence in the context of doing good for the patient. That might mean upholding that person’s choice not to proceed with what is still a very dangerous proposition, namely carrying a pregnancy to term and delivering. If someone says to me, “I’m pregnant and do not wish to be pregnant,” for a multitude of reasons, I support that decision, because the alternative of carrying to term is risky. I want to protect that person’s bodily autonomy. From a reproductive justice standpoint, I want to support persons who have uteri in making decisions about when they wish to have a family, how they want that to look, whether they want to have a family at all, in expressing their sexuality, and in all kinds of different things.

I don’t believe that life begins at conception. Among the minority of people in this country who believe that’s the case, some are vocal and aggressive in imposing that belief on others, which may happen with this upcoming decision. But quite a number of students that I meet who believe life begins at conception still don’t believe that they have the right to impose that belief on others. To contextualize what we ask of persons with uteri when we make abortion illegal, it’s helpful to compare instances where we could ask people to undergo very risky procedures to help others. For example, we don’t demand that people give blood. It’s not a big deal and it could save lives every day, but we don’t demand that anybody donate blood or bone marrow. We don’t demand kidney donations, which are less risky than childbirth nowadays.

So we generally don’t ask one human being to give so completely of themselves to another, but we do so when it’s a pregnant person. That, I believe, does not comport with our ethics. But it also doesn’t fully address the concerns of persons who believe life begins at conception. They come to those beliefs honestly, but I think they have to explore them more deeply and figure out whether, even if true — do they hold up to the point where we require somebody to have a forced pregnancy to term? I would say, within my understanding of ethics, no.

“It’s not a big deal and it could save lives every day, but we don’t demand that anybody donate blood or bone marrow. We don’t demand kidney donations, which are less risky than childbirth nowadays.”

GAZETTE: Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in the country. Is the medical profession unified on it one way or another?

KING: That’s hard to say definitively. No study or survey exists to truly quantify this. The American Medical Association and the America College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that abortion is health care, and I agree. ACOG is very strong in their wording about supporting the right to access abortion. Unfortunately, only 14 percent of practicing OBGYNs provide abortion care. As a profession, our words and actions don’t match. I think there’s a multitude of reasons for that. One is the stigma associated with providing abortion care in some parts of the country.

I would guess that most providers feel similarly to the majority of Americans — that abortion is health care and should be available. While I’ve met some medical students and practicing physicians in all kinds of disciplines who feel strongly that abortion is unethical, the vast majority that I’ve spoken to feel as I feel: that it’s health care and should be provided.

GAZETTE: A big part of the debate over the decades has centered on viability. Is this an issue for science to determine? Is it an issue for society? Is it an issue for religion?

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KING: I don’t think that science can tell us definitively when life begins. Life is a broad term and includes a variety of living entities. I don’t think that religion can define it because we have freedom of religion and religions see this differently. Rabbis will explain that in the Torah, it’s very clear that an embryo is simply an extension of a woman’s body, like a limb, and should not be considered another person until birth. The leaked decision presumes that one version of Christianity’s assessment of this prevails, which seems to violate our understanding of freedom of religion in this country.

Ultimately, “when life begins” isn’t the right question because it’s unanswerable. The question then must be: How do we as a society come up with a compromise that upholds the autonomous rights of the persons in front of us who may become pregnant, who may have excessive risks associated with a pregnancy, or who may simply not wish to be pregnant, that also observes whatever our society’s agreed-upon understanding is of when a protected entity exists.

I think Massachusetts absolutely gets it right. If you read the Roe Act : Abortion is allowed for any reason in the first and second trimesters, and then abortion for medical reasons or lethal fetal anomalies can extend into the third trimester with careful consideration between patient and medical teams. To me, that is an exceptionally well-thought-out compromise. This is a societal decision. It shouldn’t be made by a minority of persons based on their narrow definition of “when life begins.”

GAZETTE: If something like the leaked draft decision emerges, is there a potential for medical providers to get caught in the middle?

KING: Overturning Roe would turn the question over to the states. That would mean that those providers who exist within the states that are clearly going to go forward with legislation to outlaw abortion would be in dire situations. In Massachusetts, we could provide the care we’re already providing and would expect people to travel from out of state to us. I don’t think that the long-arm statutes would reach a provider here, that somebody could come after me from Texas if somebody traveled from Texas to me and I provided care. But if I traveled to Texas, for a conference, it might. Legal experts aren’t sure.

GAZETTE: Have you ever been threatened because you’ve offered abortions?

KING: I haven’t, but many of my colleagues have. I did my training in Texas, so I lived a long time in the South. I’ve not been threatened directly, but spoken sternly to by many people who disagreed with me. I mentioned earlier that there are plenty of people who believe life begins at conception but who do not feel they should impose their viewpoints on others — those are people I met in Texas and Louisiana. There are a lot of people like that, but they can’t speak up for fear of being ostracized. The sense that I have through all the conversations I’ve had over many years is that we are all talking past each other. You started off by saying this is a topic that divides our country, but it doesn’t. The vast majority of people are settled on having abortion as an option, having contraception as an option, and having sex education available. There’s a group of politicians who make it appear that we’re divided and build their political careers off of that. It’s incredibly disheartening and unethical for them to do so.

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The Most Important Study in the Abortion Debate

Researchers rigorously tested the persistent notion that abortion wounds the women who seek it.

An exam room in an abortion clinic

The demographer Diana Greene Foster was in Orlando last month, preparing for the end of Roe v. Wade , when Politico published a leaked draft of a majority Supreme Court opinion striking down the landmark ruling. The opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, would revoke the constitutional right to abortion and thus give states the ability to ban the medical procedure.

Foster, the director of the Bixby Population Sciences Research Unit at UC San Francisco, was at a meeting of abortion providers, seeking their help recruiting people for a new study . And she was racing against time. She wanted to look, she told me, “at the last person served in, say, Nebraska, compared to the first person turned away in Nebraska.” Nearly two dozen red and purple states are expected to enact stringent limits or even bans on abortion as soon as the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade , as it is poised to do. Foster intends to study women with unwanted pregnancies just before and just after the right to an abortion vanishes.

Read: When a right becomes a privilege

When Alito’s draft surfaced, Foster told me, “I was struck by how little it considered the people who would be affected. The experience of someone who’s pregnant when they do not want to be and what happens to their life is absolutely not considered in that document.” Foster’s earlier work provides detailed insight into what does happen. The landmark Turnaway Study , which she led, is a crystal ball into our post- Roe future and, I would argue, the single most important piece of academic research in American life at this moment.

The legal and political debate about abortion in recent decades has tended to focus more on the rights and experience of embryos and fetuses than the people who gestate them. And some commentators—including ones seated on the Supreme Court—have speculated that termination is not just a cruel convenience, but one that harms women too . Foster and her colleagues rigorously tested that notion. Their research demonstrates that, in general, abortion does not wound women physically, psychologically, or financially. Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term does.

In a 2007 decision , Gonzales v. Carhart , the Supreme Court upheld a ban on one specific, uncommon abortion procedure. In his majority opinion , Justice Anthony Kennedy ventured a guess about abortion’s effect on women’s lives: “While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained,” he wrote. “Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.”

Was that really true? Activists insisted so, but social scientists were not sure . Indeed, they were not sure about a lot of things when it came to the effect of the termination of a pregnancy on a person’s life. Many papers compared individuals who had an abortion with people who carried a pregnancy to term. The problem is that those are two different groups of people; to state the obvious, most people seeking an abortion are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, while a majority of people carrying to term intended to get pregnant.

Foster and her co-authors figured out a way to isolate the impact of abortion itself. Nearly all states bar the procedure after a certain gestational age or after the point that a fetus is considered viable outside the womb . The researchers could compare people who were “turned away” by a provider because they were too far along with people who had an abortion at the same clinics. (They did not include people who ended a pregnancy for medical reasons.) The women who got an abortion would be similar, in terms of demographics and socioeconomics, to those who were turned away; what would separate the two groups was only that some women got to the clinic on time, and some didn’t.

In time, 30 abortion providers—ones that had the latest gestational limit of any clinic within 150 miles, meaning that a person could not easily access an abortion if they were turned away—agreed to work with the researchers. They recruited nearly 1,000 women to be interviewed every six months for five years. The findings were voluminous, resulting in 50 publications and counting. They were also clear. Kennedy’s speculation was wrong: Women, as a general point, do not regret having an abortion at all.

Researchers found, among other things, that women who were denied abortions were more likely to end up living in poverty. They had worse credit scores and, even years later, were more likely to not have enough money for the basics, such as food and gas. They were more likely to be unemployed. They were more likely to go through bankruptcy or eviction. “The two groups were economically the same when they sought an abortion,” Foster told me. “One became poorer.”

Read: The calamity of unwanted motherhood

In addition, those denied a termination were more likely to be with a partner who abused them. They were more likely to end up as a single parent. They had more trouble bonding with their infants, were less likely to agree with the statement “I feel happy when my child laughs or smiles,” and were more likely to say they “feel trapped as a mother.” They experienced more anxiety and had lower self-esteem, though those effects faded in time. They were half as likely to be in a “very good” romantic relationship at two years. They were less likely to have “aspirational” life plans.

Their bodies were different too. The ones denied an abortion were in worse health, experiencing more hypertension and chronic pain. None of the women who had an abortion died from it. This is unsurprising; other research shows that the procedure has extremely low complication rates , as well as no known negative health or fertility effects . Yet in the Turnaway sample, pregnancy ended up killing two of the women who wanted a termination and did not get one.

The Turnaway Study also showed that abortion is a choice that women often make in order to take care of their family. Most of the women seeking an abortion were already mothers. In the years after they terminated a pregnancy, their kids were better off; they were more likely to hit their developmental milestones and less likely to live in poverty. Moreover, many women who had an abortion went on to have more children. Those pregnancies were much more likely to be planned, and those kids had better outcomes too.

The interviews made clear that women, far from taking a casual view of abortion, took the decision seriously. Most reported using contraception when they got pregnant, and most of the people who sought an abortion after their state’s limit simply did not realize they were pregnant until it was too late. (Many women have irregular periods, do not experience morning sickness, and do not feel fetal movement until late in the second trimester.) The women gave nuanced, compelling reasons for wanting to end their pregnancies.

Afterward, nearly all said that termination had been the right decision. At five years, only 14 percent felt any sadness about having an abortion; two in three ended up having no or very few emotions about it at all. “Relief” was the most common feeling, and an abiding one.

From the May 2022 issue: The future of abortion in a post- Roe America

The policy impact of the Turnaway research has been significant, even though it was published during a period when states have been restricting abortion access. In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a law requiring a 72-hour waiting period between when a person seeks and has an abortion, noting that “the vast majority of abortion patients do not regret the procedure, even years later, and instead feel relief and acceptance”—a Turnaway finding. That same finding was cited by members of Chile’s constitutional court  as they allowed for the decriminalization of abortion in certain circumstances.

Yet the research has not swayed many people who advocate for abortion bans, believing that life begins at conception and that the law must prioritize the needs of the fetus. Other activists have argued that Turnaway is methodologically flawed; some women approached in the clinic waiting room declined to participate, and not all participating women completed all interviews . “The women who anticipate and experience the most negative reactions to abortion are the least likely to want to participate in interviews,” the activist David Reardon argued in a 2018 article in a Catholic Medical Association journal.

Still, four dozen papers analyzing the Turnaway Study’s findings have been published in peer-reviewed journals; the research is “the gold standard,” Emily M. Johnston, an Urban Institute health-policy expert who wasn’t involved with the project, told me. In the trajectories of women who received an abortion and those who were denied one, “we can understand the impact of abortion on women’s lives,” Foster told me. “They don’t have to represent all women seeking abortion for the findings to be valid.” And her work has been buttressed by other surveys, showing that women fear the repercussions of unplanned pregnancies for good reason and do not tend to regret having a termination. “Among the women we spoke with, they did not regret either choice,” whether that was having an abortion or carrying to term, Johnston told me. “These women were thinking about their desires for themselves, but also were thinking very thoughtfully about what kind of life they could provide for a child.”

The Turnaway study , for Foster, underscored that nobody needs the government to decide whether they need an abortion. If and when America’s highest court overturns Roe , though, an estimated 34 million women of reproductive age will lose some or all access to the procedure in the state where they live. Some people will travel to an out-of-state clinic to terminate a pregnancy; some will get pills by mail to manage their abortions at home; some will “try and do things that are less safe,” as Foster put it. Many will carry to term: The Guttmacher Institute has estimated that there will be roughly 100,000 fewer legal abortions per year post- Roe . “The question now is who is able to circumvent the law, what that costs, and who suffers from these bans,” Foster told me. “The burden of this will be disproportionately put on people who are least able to support a pregnancy and to support a child.”

Ellen Gruber Garvey: I helped women get abortions in pre- Roe America

Foster said that there is a lot we still do not know about how the end of Roe might alter the course of people’s lives—the topic of her new research. “In the Turnaway Study, people were too late to get an abortion, but they didn’t have to feel like the police were going to knock on their door,” she told me. “Now, if you’re able to find an abortion somewhere and you have a complication, do you get health care? Do you seek health care out if you’re having a miscarriage, or are you too scared? If you’re going to travel across state lines, can you tell your mother or your boss what you’re doing?”

In addition, she said that she was uncertain about the role that abortion funds —local, on-the-ground organizations that help people find, travel to, and pay for terminations—might play. “We really don’t know who is calling these hotlines,” she said. “When people call, what support do they need? What is enough, and who falls through the cracks?” She added that many people are unaware that such services exist, and might have trouble accessing them.

People are resourceful when seeking a termination and resilient when denied an abortion, Foster told me. But looking into the post- Roe future, she predicted, “There’s going to be some widespread and scary consequences just from the fact that we’ve made this common health-care practice against the law.” Foster, to her dismay, is about to have a lot more research to do.

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Persuasive Essay Guide

Persuasive Essay About Abortion

Caleb S.

Crafting a Convincing Persuasive Essay About Abortion

Persuasive Essay About Abortion

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Are you about to write a persuasive essay on abortion but wondering how to begin?

Writing an effective persuasive essay on the topic of abortion can be a difficult task for many students. 

It is important to understand both sides of the issue and form an argument based on facts and logical reasoning. This requires research and understanding, which takes time and effort.

In this blog, we will provide you with some easy steps to craft a persuasive essay about abortion that is compelling and convincing. Moreover, we have included some example essays and interesting facts to read and get inspired by. 

So let's start!

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  • 1. How To Write a Persuasive Essay About Abortion?
  • 2. Persuasive Essay About Abortion Examples
  • 3. Examples of Argumentative Essay About Abortion
  • 4. Abortion Persuasive Essay Topics
  • 5. Facts About Abortion You Need to Know

How To Write a Persuasive Essay About Abortion?

Abortion is a controversial topic, with people having differing points of view and opinions on the matter. There are those who oppose abortion, while some people endorse pro-choice arguments. 

It is also an emotionally charged subject, so you need to be extra careful when crafting your persuasive essay .

Before you start writing your persuasive essay, you need to understand the following steps.

Step 1: Choose Your Position

The first step to writing a persuasive essay on abortion is to decide your position. Do you support the practice or are you against it? You need to make sure that you have a clear opinion before you begin writing. 

Once you have decided, research and find evidence that supports your position. This will help strengthen your argument. 

Check out the video below to get more insights into this topic:

Step 2: Choose Your Audience

The next step is to decide who your audience will be. Will you write for pro-life or pro-choice individuals? Or both? 

Knowing who you are writing for will guide your writing and help you include the most relevant facts and information.

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Step 3: Define Your Argument

Now that you have chosen your position and audience, it is time to craft your argument. 

Start by defining what you believe and why, making sure to use evidence to support your claims. You also need to consider the opposing arguments and come up with counter arguments. This helps make your essay more balanced and convincing.

Step 4: Format Your Essay

Once you have the argument ready, it is time to craft your persuasive essay. Follow a standard format for the essay, with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. 

Make sure that each paragraph is organized and flows smoothly. Use clear and concise language, getting straight to the point.

Step 5: Proofread and Edit

The last step in writing your persuasive essay is to make sure that you proofread and edit it carefully. Look for spelling, grammar, punctuation, or factual errors and correct them. This will help make your essay more professional and convincing.

These are the steps you need to follow when writing a persuasive essay on abortion. It is a good idea to read some examples before you start so you can know how they should be written.

Continue reading to find helpful examples.

Persuasive Essay About Abortion Examples

To help you get started, here are some example persuasive essays on abortion that may be useful for your own paper.

Short Persuasive Essay About Abortion

Persuasive Essay About No To Abortion

What Is Abortion? - Essay Example

Persuasive Speech on Abortion

Legal Abortion Persuasive Essay

Persuasive Essay About Abortion in the Philippines

Persuasive Essay about legalizing abortion

You can also read m ore persuasive essay examples to imp rove your persuasive skills.

Examples of Argumentative Essay About Abortion

An argumentative essay is a type of essay that presents both sides of an argument. These essays rely heavily on logic and evidence.

Here are some examples of argumentative essay with introduction, body and conclusion that you can use as a reference in writing your own argumentative essay. 

Abortion Persuasive Essay Introduction

Argumentative Essay About Abortion Conclusion

Argumentative Essay About Abortion Pdf

Argumentative Essay About Abortion in the Philippines

Argumentative Essay About Abortion - Introduction

Abortion Persuasive Essay Topics

If you are looking for some topics to write your persuasive essay on abortion, here are some examples:

  • Should abortion be legal in the United States?
  • Is it ethical to perform abortions, considering its pros and cons?
  • What should be done to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortions?
  • Is there a connection between abortion and psychological trauma?
  • What are the ethical implications of abortion on demand?
  • How has the debate over abortion changed over time?
  • Should there be legal restrictions on late-term abortions?
  • Does gender play a role in how people view abortion rights?
  • Is it possible to reduce poverty and unwanted pregnancies through better sex education?
  • How is the anti-abortion point of view affected by religious beliefs and values? 

These are just some of the potential topics that you can use for your persuasive essay on abortion. Think carefully about the topic you want to write about and make sure it is something that interests you. 

Check out m ore persuasive essay topics that will help you explore other things that you can write about!

Tough Essay Due? Hire Tough Writers!

Facts About Abortion You Need to Know

Here are some facts about abortion that will help you formulate better arguments.

  • According to the Guttmacher Institute , 1 in 4 pregnancies end in abortion.
  • The majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester.
  • Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with less than a 0.5% risk of major complications.
  • In the United States, 14 states have laws that restrict or ban most forms of abortion after 20 weeks gestation.
  • Seven out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • In places where abortion is illegal, more women die during childbirth and due to complications resulting from pregnancy.
  • A majority of pregnant women who opt for abortions do so for financial and social reasons.
  • According to estimates, 56 million abortions occur annually.

In conclusion, these are some of the examples, steps, and topics that you can use to write a persuasive essay. Make sure to do your research thoroughly and back up your arguments with evidence. This will make your essay more professional and convincing. 

Need the services of a persuasive essay writing service ? We've got your back! that provides help to students in the form of professionally written essays. Our persuasive essay writer can craft quality persuasive essays on any topic, including abortion. 

So, just ask our experts ' do my essay ' and get professional help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should i talk about in an essay about abortion.

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When writing an essay about abortion, it is important to cover all the aspects of the subject. This includes discussing both sides of the argument, providing facts and evidence to support your claims, and exploring potential solutions.

What is a good argument for abortion?

A good argument for abortion could be that it is a woman’s choice to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It is also important to consider the potential risks of carrying a pregnancy to term.

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The morality of abortion and the deprivation of futures

In an influential essay entitled Why abortion is wrong, Donald Marquis argues that killing actual persons is wrong because it unjustly deprives victims of their future; that the fetus has a future similar in morally relevant respects to the future lost by competent adult homicide victims, and that, as consequence, abortion is justifiable only in the same circumstances in which killing competent adult human beings is justifiable. 1 The metaphysical claim implicit in the first premise, that actual persons have a future of value, is ambiguous. The Future Like Ours argument (FLO) would be valid if "future of value" were used consistently to mean either "potential future of value" or "self-represented future of value", and FLO would be sound if one or the other interpretation supported both the moral claim and the metaphysical claim, but if, as I argue, any interpretation which makes the argument valid renders it unsound, then FLO must be rejected. Its apparent strength derives from equivocation on the concept of "a future of value".

Key Words: Abortion • Future Like Ours • Donald Marquis • potentiality • pro-choice

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (2.4M).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.

  • Marquis Don. Why abortion is immoral. J Philos. 1989 Apr; 86 (4):183–202. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Cudd Ann E. Sensationalized philosophy: a reply to Marquis's "Why abortion is immoral. J Philos. 1990 May; 87 (5):262–264. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Norcross Alastair. Killing, abortion, and contraception: a reply to Marquis. J Philos. 1990 May; 87 (5):268–277. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Flower MJ. Neuromaturation of the human fetus. J Med Philos. 1985 Aug; 10 (3):237–251. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]

Why Abortion is Seriously Wrong: Two Views

  • First Online: 22 October 2010

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abortion is wrong essay

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Part of the book series: Philosophy and Medicine ((PHME,volume 110))

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The purpose of this essay is to compare the substantial identity argument for the wrongness of abortion to the future of value argument for its wrongness. Both arguments take for granted the standard moral judgment that it is wrong intentionally to end the lives of innocent post-natal children and adults.

This essay was begun while I was Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University and was motivated by discussions with Robert George and Patrick Lee while I was there. I am deeply indebted to Princeton University for the opportunity provided by that appointment and to Pat and Robby for prodding me intellectually.

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One Week That Revealed the Struggles of the Anti-Abortion Movement

The movement looks for a path forward: “Is the goal the absolute abolition of abortion in our nation?”

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An anti-aborton demonstrator with signs. One reads: The Future Is Anti-Abortion.

By Elizabeth Dias

Elizabeth Dias has reported on the anti-abortion movement for more than a decade and is the co-author of “The Fall of Roe: The Rise of a New America.”

The Southern Baptist Convention voted to condemn in vitro fertilization at its annual meeting in Indianapolis this week, over the objections of some members.

Conservative lawyers pushing to sharply restrict medication abortion lost a major case at the Supreme Court, after pursuing a strategy that many of their allies thought was an overreach.

Former president Donald J. Trump told Republicans in a closed-door meeting to stop talking about abortion bans limiting the procedure at certain numbers of weeks.

In one chaotic week, the anti-abortion movement showed how major players are pulling in various directions and struggling to find a clear path forward two years after their victory of overturning Roe v. Wade.

The divisions start at the most fundamental level of whether to even keep pushing to end abortion or to move on to other areas of reproductive health, like fertility treatments. A movement that once marched nearly in lock step finds itself mired in infighting and unable to settle on a basic agenda.

In some cases, hard-liners are seizing the reins, rejecting the incremental strategy that made their movement successful in overturning Roe. Other abortion opponents are backing away, sensing the political volatility of the moment.

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  • America’s Abortion Quandary

1. Americans’ views on whether, and in what circumstances, abortion should be legal

Table of contents.

  • Abortion at various stages of pregnancy 
  • Abortion and circumstances of pregnancy 
  • Parental notification for minors seeking abortion
  • Penalties for abortions performed illegally 
  • Public views of what would change the number of abortions in the U.S.
  • A majority of Americans say women should have more say in setting abortion policy in the U.S.
  • How do certain arguments about abortion resonate with Americans?
  • In their own words: How Americans feel about abortion 
  • Personal connections to abortion 
  • Religion’s impact on views about abortion
  • Acknowledgments
  • The American Trends Panel survey methodology

A chart showing Americans’ views of abortion, 1995-2022

As the long-running debate over abortion reaches another  key moment at the Supreme Court  and in  state legislatures across the country , a majority of U.S. adults continue to say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. About six-in-ten Americans (61%) say abortion should be legal in “all” or “most” cases, while 37% think abortion should be  illegal  in all or most cases. These views have changed little over the past several years: In 2019, for example, 61% of adults said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 38% said it should be illegal in all or most cases.    Most respondents in the new survey took one of the middle options when first asked about their views on abortion, saying either that abortion should be legal in  most  cases (36%) or illegal in  most  cases (27%). 

Respondents who said abortion should either be legal in  all  cases or illegal in  all  cases received a follow-up question asking whether there should be any exceptions to such laws. Overall, 25% of adults initially said abortion should be legal in all cases, but about a quarter of this group (6% of all U.S. adults) went on to say that there should be some exceptions when abortion should be against the law.

Large share of Americans say abortion should be legal in some cases and illegal in others

One-in-ten adults initially answered that abortion should be illegal in all cases, but about one-in-five of these respondents (2% of all U.S. adults) followed up by saying that there are some exceptions when abortion should be permitted. 

Altogether, seven-in-ten Americans say abortion should be legal in some cases and illegal in others, including 42% who say abortion should be generally legal, but with some exceptions, and 29% who say it should be generally illegal, except in certain cases. Much smaller shares take absolutist views when it comes to the legality of abortion in the U.S., maintaining that abortion should be legal in all cases with no exceptions (19%) or illegal in all circumstances (8%). 

There is a modest gender gap in views of whether abortion should be legal, with women slightly more likely than men to say abortion should be legal in all cases or in all cases but with some exceptions (63% vs. 58%). 

Sizable gaps by age, partisanship in views of whether abortion should be legal

Younger adults are considerably more likely than older adults to say abortion should be legal: Three-quarters of adults under 30 (74%) say abortion should be generally legal, including 30% who say it should be legal in all cases without exception. 

But there is an even larger gap in views toward abortion by partisanship: 80% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 38% of Republicans and GOP leaners.  Previous Center research  has shown this gap widening over the past 15 years. 

Still, while partisans diverge in views of whether abortion should mostly be legal or illegal, most Democrats and Republicans do not view abortion in absolutist terms. Just 13% of Republicans say abortion should be against the law in all cases without exception; 47% say it should be illegal with some exceptions. And while three-in-ten Democrats say abortion should be permitted in all circumstances, half say it should mostly be legal – but with some exceptions. 

There also are sizable divisions within both partisan coalitions by ideology. For instance, while a majority of moderate and liberal Republicans say abortion should mostly be legal (60%), just 27% of conservative Republicans say the same. Among Democrats, self-described liberals are twice as apt as moderates and conservatives to say abortion should be legal in all cases without exception (42% vs. 20%).

Regardless of partisan affiliation, adults who say they personally know someone who has had an abortion – such as a friend, relative or themselves – are more likely to say abortion should be legal than those who say they do not know anyone who had an abortion.

Religion a significant factor in attitudes about whether abortion should be legal

Views toward abortion also vary considerably by religious affiliation – specifically among large Christian subgroups and religiously unaffiliated Americans. 

For example, roughly three-quarters of White evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. This is far higher than the share of White non-evangelical Protestants (38%) or Black Protestants (28%) who say the same. 

Despite  Catholic teaching on abortion , a slim majority of U.S. Catholics (56%) say abortion should be legal. This includes 13% who say it should be legal in all cases without exception, and 43% who say it should be legal, but with some exceptions. 

Compared with Christians, religiously unaffiliated adults are far more likely to say abortion should be legal overall – and significantly more inclined to say it should be legal in all cases without exception. Within this group, atheists stand out: 97% say abortion should be legal, including 53% who say it should be legal in all cases without exception. Agnostics and those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular” also overwhelmingly say that abortion should be legal, but they are more likely than atheists to say there are some circumstances when abortion should be against the law.

Although the survey was conducted among Americans of many religious backgrounds, including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, it did not obtain enough respondents from non-Christian groups to report separately on their responses.

As a  growing number of states  debate legislation to restrict abortion – often after a certain stage of pregnancy – Americans express complex views about when   abortion should generally be legal and when it should be against the law. Overall, a majority of adults (56%) say that how long a woman has been pregnant should matter in determining when abortion should be legal, while far fewer (14%) say that this should  not  be a factor. An additional one-quarter of the public says that abortion should either be legal (19%) or illegal (8%) in all circumstances without exception; these respondents did not receive this question.

Among men and women, Republicans and Democrats, and Christians and religious “nones” who do not take absolutist positions about abortion on either side of the debate, the prevailing view is that the stage of the pregnancy should be a factor in determining whether abortion should be legal.

A majority of U.S. adults say how long a woman has been pregnant should be a factor in determining whether abortion should be legal

Americans broadly are more likely to favor restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy than earlier in pregnancy. Many adults also say the legality of abortion depends on other factors at every stage of pregnancy. 

Overall, a plurality of adults (44%) say that abortion should be legal six weeks into a pregnancy, which is about when cardiac activity (sometimes called a fetal heartbeat) may be detected and before many women know they are pregnant; this includes 19% of adults who say abortion should be legal in all cases without exception, as well as 25% of adults who say it should be legal at that point in a pregnancy. An additional 7% say abortion generally should be legal in most cases, but that the stage of the pregnancy should not matter in determining legality. 1

One-in-five Americans (21%) say abortion should be  illegal  at six weeks. This includes 8% of adults who say abortion should be illegal in all cases without exception as well as 12% of adults who say that abortion should be illegal at this point. Additionally, 6% say abortion should be illegal in most cases and how long a woman has been pregnant should not matter in determining abortion’s legality. Nearly one-in-five respondents, when asked whether abortion should be legal six weeks into a pregnancy, say “it depends.” 

Americans are more divided about what should be permitted 14 weeks into a pregnancy – roughly at the end of the first trimester – although still, more people say abortion should be legal at this stage (34%) than illegal (27%), and about one-in-five say “it depends.”

Fewer adults say abortion should be legal 24 weeks into a pregnancy – about when a healthy fetus could survive outside the womb with medical care. At this stage, 22% of adults say abortion should be legal, while nearly twice as many (43%) say it should be  illegal . Again, about one-in-five adults (18%) say whether abortion should be legal at 24 weeks depends on other factors. 

Respondents who said that abortion should be illegal 24 weeks into a pregnancy or that “it depends” were asked a follow-up question about whether abortion at that point should be legal if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or the baby would be born with severe disabilities. Most who received this question say abortion in these circumstances should be legal (54%) or that it depends on other factors (40%). Just 4% of this group maintained that abortion should be illegal in this case.

More adults support restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy, with sizable shares saying ‘it depends’ at multiple points in pregnancy

This pattern in views of abortion – whereby more favor greater restrictions on abortion as a pregnancy progresses – is evident across a variety of demographic and political groups. 

Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say that abortion should be legal at each of the three stages of pregnancy asked about on the survey. For example, while 26% of Republicans say abortion should be legal at six weeks of pregnancy, more than twice as many Democrats say the same (61%). Similarly, while about a third of Democrats say abortion should be legal at 24 weeks of pregnancy, just 8% of Republicans say the same. 

However, neither Republicans nor Democrats uniformly express absolutist views about abortion throughout a pregnancy. Republicans are divided on abortion at six weeks: Roughly a quarter say it should be legal (26%), while a similar share say it depends (24%). A third say it should be illegal. 

Democrats are divided about whether abortion should be legal or illegal at 24 weeks, with 34% saying it should be legal, 29% saying it should be illegal, and 21% saying it depends. 

There also is considerable division among each partisan group by ideology. At six weeks of pregnancy, just one-in-five conservative Republicans (19%) say that abortion should be legal; moderate and liberal Republicans are twice as likely as their conservative counterparts to say this (39%). 

At the same time, about half of liberal Democrats (48%) say abortion at 24 weeks should be legal, while 17% say it should be illegal. Among conservative and moderate Democrats, the pattern is reversed: A plurality (39%) say abortion at this stage should be illegal, while 24% say it should be legal. 

A third of Republicans say abortion should be illegal six weeks into pregnancy; among Democrats, a third say abortion should be legal at 24 weeks

Christian adults are far less likely than religiously unaffiliated Americans to say abortion should be legal at each stage of pregnancy.  

Among Protestants, White evangelicals stand out for their opposition to abortion. At six weeks of pregnancy, for example, 44% say abortion should be illegal, compared with 17% of White non-evangelical Protestants and 15% of Black Protestants. This pattern also is evident at 14 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, when half or more of White evangelicals say abortion should be illegal.

At six weeks, a plurality of Catholics (41%) say abortion should be legal, while smaller shares say it depends or it should be illegal. But by 24 weeks, about half of Catholics (49%) say abortion should be illegal. 

Among adults who are religiously unaffiliated, atheists stand out for their views. They are the only group in which a sizable majority says abortion should be  legal  at each point in a pregnancy. Even at 24 weeks, 62% of self-described atheists say abortion should be legal, compared with smaller shares of agnostics (43%) and those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” (31%). 

As is the case with adults overall, most religiously affiliated and religiously unaffiliated adults who originally say that abortion should be illegal or “it depends” at 24 weeks go on to say either it should be legal or it depends if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or the baby would be born with severe disabilities. Few (4% and 5%, respectively) say abortion should be illegal at 24 weeks in these situations.

Majority of atheists say abortion should be legal at 24 weeks of pregnancy

The stage of the pregnancy is not the only factor that shapes people’s views of when abortion should be legal. Sizable majorities of U.S. adults say that abortion should be legal if the pregnancy threatens the life or health of the pregnant woman (73%) or if pregnancy is the result of rape (69%). 

There is less consensus when it comes to circumstances in which a baby may be born with severe disabilities or health problems: 53% of Americans overall say abortion should be legal in such circumstances, including 19% who say abortion should be legal in all cases and 35% who say there are some situations where abortions should be illegal, but that it should be legal in this specific type of case. A quarter of adults say “it depends” in this situation, and about one-in-five say it should be illegal (10% who say illegal in this specific circumstance and 8% who say illegal in all circumstances). 

There are sizable divides between and among partisans when it comes to views of abortion in these situations. Overall, Republicans are less likely than Democrats to say abortion should be legal in each of the three circumstances outlined in the survey. However, both partisan groups are less likely to say abortion should be legal when the baby may be born with severe disabilities or health problems than when the woman’s life is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape. 

Just as there are wide gaps among Republicans by ideology on whether how long a woman has been pregnant should be a factor in determining abortion’s legality, there are large gaps when it comes to circumstances in which abortions should be legal. For example, while a clear majority of moderate and liberal Republicans (71%) say abortion should be permitted when the pregnancy is the result of rape, conservative Republicans are more divided. About half (48%) say it should be legal in this situation, while 29% say it should be illegal and 21% say it depends.

The ideological gaps among Democrats are slightly less pronounced. Most Democrats say abortion should be legal in each of the three circumstances – just to varying degrees. While 77% of liberal Democrats say abortion should be legal if a baby will be born with severe disabilities or health problems, for example, a smaller majority of conservative and moderate Democrats (60%) say the same. 

Democrats broadly favor legal abortion in situations of rape or when a pregnancy threatens woman’s life; smaller majorities of Republicans agree

White evangelical Protestants again stand out for their views on abortion in various circumstances; they are far less likely than White non-evangelical or Black Protestants to say abortion should be legal across each of the three circumstances described in the survey. 

While about half of White evangelical Protestants (51%) say abortion should be legal if a pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health, clear majorities of other Protestant groups and Catholics say this should be the case. The same pattern holds in views of whether abortion should be legal if the pregnancy is the result of rape. Most White non-evangelical Protestants (75%), Black Protestants (71%) and Catholics (66%) say abortion should be permitted in this instance, while White evangelicals are more divided: 40% say it should be legal, while 34% say it should be  illegal  and about a quarter say it depends. 

Mirroring the pattern seen among adults overall, opinions are more varied about a situation where a baby might be born with severe disabilities or health issues. For instance, half of Catholics say abortion should be legal in such cases, while 21% say it should be illegal and 27% say it depends on the situation. 

Most religiously unaffiliated adults – including overwhelming majorities of self-described atheists – say abortion should be legal in each of the three circumstances. 

White evangelicals less likely than other Christians to say abortion should be legal in cases of rape, health concerns

Seven-in-ten U.S. adults say that doctors or other health care providers should be required to notify a parent or legal guardian if the pregnant woman seeking an abortion is under 18, while 28% say they should not be required to do so.  

Women are slightly less likely than men to say this should be a requirement (67% vs. 74%). And younger adults are far less likely than those who are older to say a parent or guardian should be notified before a doctor performs an abortion on a pregnant woman who is under 18. In fact, about half of adults ages 18 to 24 (53%) say a doctor should  not  be required to notify a parent. By contrast, 64% of adults ages 25 to 29 say doctors  should  be required to notify parents of minors seeking an abortion, as do 68% of adults ages 30 to 49 and 78% of those 50 and older. 

A large majority of Republicans (85%) say that a doctor should be required to notify the parents of a minor before an abortion, though conservative Republicans are somewhat more likely than moderate and liberal Republicans to take this position (90% vs. 77%). 

The ideological divide is even more pronounced among Democrats. Overall, a slim majority of Democrats (57%) say a parent should be notified in this circumstance, but while 72% of conservative and moderate Democrats hold this view, just 39% of liberal Democrats agree. 

By and large, most Protestant (81%) and Catholic (78%) adults say doctors should be required to notify parents of minors before an abortion. But religiously unaffiliated Americans are more divided. Majorities of both atheists (71%) and agnostics (58%) say doctors should  not  be required to notify parents of minors seeking an abortion, while six-in-ten of those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular” say such notification should be required. 

Public split on whether woman who had an abortion in a situation where it was illegal should be penalized

Americans are divided over who should be penalized – and what that penalty should be – in a situation where an abortion occurs illegally. 

Overall, a 60% majority of adults say that if a doctor or provider performs an abortion in a situation where it is illegal, they should face a penalty. But there is less agreement when it comes to others who may have been involved in the procedure. 

While about half of the public (47%) says a woman who has an illegal abortion should face a penalty, a nearly identical share (50%) says she should not. And adults are more likely to say people who help find and schedule or pay for an abortion in a situation where it is illegal should  not  face a penalty than they are to say they should.

Views about penalties are closely correlated with overall attitudes about whether abortion should be legal or illegal. For example, just 20% of adults who say abortion should be legal in all cases without exception think doctors or providers should face a penalty if an abortion were carried out in a situation where it was illegal. This compares with 91% of those who think abortion should be illegal in all cases without exceptions. Still, regardless of how they feel about whether abortion should be legal or not, Americans are more likely to say a doctor or provider should face a penalty compared with others involved in the procedure. 

Among those who say medical providers and/or women should face penalties for illegal abortions, there is no consensus about whether they should get jail time or a less severe punishment. Among U.S. adults overall, 14% say women should serve jail time if they have an abortion in a situation where it is illegal, while 16% say they should receive a fine or community service and 17% say they are not sure what the penalty should be. 

A somewhat larger share of Americans (25%) say doctors or other medical providers should face jail time for providing illegal abortion services, while 18% say they should face fines or community service and 17% are not sure. About three-in-ten U.S. adults (31%) say doctors should lose their medical license if they perform an abortion in a situation where it is illegal.

Men are more likely than women to favor penalties for the woman or doctor in situations where abortion is illegal. About half of men (52%) say women should face a penalty, while just 43% of women say the same. Similarly, about two-thirds of men (64%) say a doctor should face a penalty, while 56% of women agree.

Republicans are considerably more likely than Democrats to say both women and doctors should face penalties – including jail time. For example, 21% of Republicans say the woman who had the abortion should face jail time, and 40% say this about the doctor who performed the abortion. Among Democrats, far smaller shares say the woman (8%) or doctor (13%) should serve jail time.  

White evangelical Protestants are more likely than other Protestant groups to favor penalties for abortions in situations where they are illegal. Fully 24% say the woman who had the abortion should serve time in jail, compared with just 12% of White non-evangelical Protestants or Black Protestants. And while about half of White evangelicals (48%) say doctors who perform illegal abortions should serve jail time, just 26% of White non-evangelical Protestants and 18% of Black Protestants share this view.

Relatively few say women, medical providers should serve jail time for illegal abortions, but three-in-ten say doctors should lose medical license

  • Only respondents who said that abortion should be legal in some cases but not others and that how long a woman has been pregnant should matter in determining whether abortion should be legal received questions about abortion’s legality at specific points in the pregnancy.  ↩

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    believe that whether or not abortion is morally permissible stands or falls on whether or not a fetus is the sort of being whose life it is seriously wrong to end. The argument of this essay will assume, but not argue, that they are correct. Also, this essay will neglect issues of great importance to a complete ethics of abortion.

  25. One Week That Revealed the Struggles of the Anti-Abortion Movement

    For decades, the movement had honed a strategy to achieve a singular goal: ending a constitutional right to an abortion. But after that win, the anti-abortion movement has suffered a series of ...

  26. Views on whether abortion should be legal, and in what circumstances

    As the long-running debate over abortion reaches another key moment at the Supreme Court and in state legislatures across the country, a majority of U.S. adults continue to say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.About six-in-ten Americans (61%) say abortion should be legal in "all" or "most" cases, while 37% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.