Ongoing and heated debate notwithstanding, it is clear that abortion arguments invariably center on morality regarding the status of the fetus, and as applicable to each side of the issue. Both opponents and supporters of legal abortion ultimately refer to what defines the human being as a person, which is inherently a moral position. This reality is reinforced by several circumstances, and the following reinforces that the definition of the person as an innately moral issue, morality as a subjective influence, and moral thinking as linked to religious belief combine to prove that, in no uncertain terms, the debate is firmly rooted in ideas of ethics.
To begin with, it is first necessary to recognize that the abortion argument focuses on whether a fetus is a human being, or person, and this distinction between the two is both critical and often neglected. Human beings are a biological definition, whereas as personhood is a moral category (Greaseley 14), yet personhood is what most involved are discussing. This then immediately adds a moral component to the debate, in that opposition to abortion perceives the act as murdering a person, age notwithstanding. Conversely, supporters tend to hold that an unborn fetus may not be reasonably considered a ‘human being.’ It may be argued that this aspect of the debate is biological, but it clearly is not; the core matter is perception of unjust killing, so morality is irrefutably within the definition of personhood in this sub-argument.
Then, the subjectivity innate to morality affirms how it factors into the arguments, in that individuals invariably rely on personal experience as dictating what they consider right and wrong. Some evidence refutes this. For example, many assert that morality is not necessarily subjective; there are facts of pain, positive experiences, and other aspects of life which are inherently good or bad (Harris 30). What this view misses, however, is that even ‘absolutes’ exist within the sphere of morality, in that no act or thing is intrinsically good or bad. Human perspective always creates the definition, and that the perspective sometimes attaches universal moral meaning does not lessen the reality of the assessment as moral.
Lastly, there is no escaping that abortion argument typically, if not consistently, reflects how moral definitions of the fetus are generated by religious belief. There are those on each side of the debate who insist that faith plays no part in this moral thinking, and vast evidence supports that morality as such is practiced by atheists, just as science traces its evolution in humanity (Saad). Opponents express that ending the life of a fetus is wrong because ending life is wrong, as supporters claim that their moral stances are similarly based on only non-religious definitions of human life. At the same time, nonetheless, the connection between religion and morality is established: ‘More than half of those who say abortion should be illegal (53%) cite religious beliefs as the primary influence on their views’ (PRC). Similarly, supporters will state that their religion demands understanding that personhood does not exist before the child is born. In virtually all cultures, plainly morality and faith are mutually inclusive forces.
As legal abortion is debated, the primary concern is the status of the fetus as human, which is inherently a moral determination. Other factors apply to the debate, but morality is the omnipresent one, and because defining the fetus as a person then brings into play the innately moral issues of human rights. In the final analysis, matters of: the definition of the person as fundamentally a moral issue; morality as a subjective force; and moral thinking as typically connected to religious faith combine to reinforce that, in no uncertain terms, the abortion debate is argument relying on ideas of morality.
- Greasley, Kate. Arguments about Abortion:’Personhood, Morality, and Law. Oxford University
- Harris, Sam. The Moral Landscape:’How Science Can Determine Human Values. Simon &
- Pew Research Center (PRC). Abortion and Morality: Religious and Moral Influence on the
Debate. 1 Oct. 2009. Web. 5 April 2018.
- Saad, Gad. ‘Morality Exists Despite Religion.’ Psychology Today. 30 April 2012. Web. 5 April 2018. < https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/homo-consumericus/201204/morality-exists-despite-religion