Different Views on Abortion

This week’s readings shed light on a very controversial topic in our world today.  In Hadley Arkes’ piece, he writes about abortion in an instructive manner that touch upon key elements of argumentation.  Early on in the reading, Harkes declares that the human life, and the right to law, are a matter of theology (360).  He furthers this by saying that, “it has become common public figures to declare in public that “they personally disapprove” of abortion, but that abortion is a “deeply religious and moral question,” and therefore that the laws should not impose an official policy on this matter” (361).  I found this to be quite interesting and prevalent to our world today, since the topic of abortion poses both a political and religious problem for high-up officials.  Although it is unproductive for the progression of whether abortion should be legal or illegal, it is advantageous for politicians to place the power in the hands of the mother and her religious values.  Instead of implementing something that changes the lives of all people, both good and bad, politicians declare the right to choice.


When discussing the case of Roe vs. Wade, Arkes breaks down the decision that was made in regards to when a human life begins.  More over, the fact that a human’s beginning means the ability for protection by law, and the effect that this has on abortion.  With the technology that we currently have, it is possible to save the lives of many of these embryos that will become humans with the proper, continuous process of growth. Another interesting point that Arkes brings up is the “benchmark of twenty-four weeks” that Blackmun set when specifying the viability and recognition of a child.  Consequently, “Blackmun and his colleagues had framed a momentous decision without even bothering to draw on the most informed technical understanding available to them”(376).  This decision and the technology at hand create a technological fallacy when speaking of viability.  He mentions that if the Roe vs. Wadecase, “really accepted the notion that fetuses may be protected by the law when they are “viable,” then that decision contains the grounds for its own dissolution as our technology makes it possible to rescue these threatened fetuses almost at the very beginning” (377). Modern-day technology has created the possibility for a human life to be established through other means at a very early stage in the pregnancy.  The takeaway here is the questioning of when a fetus gains the equal rights as the mother. This is seen in Judith Jarvis Thompson’s work, “A Defense of Abortion.”


Thompson does say that a fetus does become a person prior to the birth, but there is no specific point in which it can be marked simply because the process is nonstop.  One thing is for certain and that is a fetus is a person, and a person has rights. Both the mother and the child have the right to life, but there are instances in which one must sacrifice the other.  With the example of the woman who would die due to her cardiac condition if she gave birth to her child, Thompson poses some thought-provoking questions.  Her conclusion from these questions was that a mother is performing an abortion on herself, and therefore has the right to do what she sees fit.  Thompson states that, “it cannot seriously be thought to be murder if the mother performs an abortion on herself to save her life.  It cannot seriously be said that she must refrain, that she must sit passively by and wait for her death” (52).  It would be one thing if a person murdered a completely separate individual, but the idea of an abortion creates much more room for debate since it is the woman who is housing the fetus.


In Ginsburg’s reading, we are able to get some clarification on the difference between pro-life and pro-choice, something that is crucial in the debate on abortion.  Pro-choice activists see abortion as an, “essential safeguard against the differential effects of pregnancy on men and women” (7).  As seen in her example of rape, Thompson cites that abortion is beneficial in that aspect. This counteracts the view of the pro-life activist, who preach that women are distinguished from men due to their ability to become pregnant and assume the role of mother.  As we have seen in prior week’s readings, becoming a mother is an extremely coveted position in certain religions, and it is clearly wrong from these perspective to abort a child as that would take away this role.  In the end, for Ginsburg, she notes that pro-life and pro-choice activists come together at the end of the day to support the livelihood and well-being of women regardless of the view on abortion.  The opening of the Women’s health organization is a great example of both sides coming together.