- Awards Season
- Big Stories
- Pop Culture
- Video Games
These Abortion Funds & Orgs Are Helping People Access Safe Healthcare
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturned Roe v. Wade . The Supreme Court’s reversal had been anticipated for weeks after Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson made headlines. At the time of the leak, you may have donated to abortion funds and found ways to support those who’d be impacted most. Now, it’s time to lend support again.
The Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade
Since 1973, the decision made in Roe v. Wade provided federal, constitutional protection for a person’s right to have an abortion. SCOTUS, however, undid decades of legal precedent. For many reasons, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing in September 2020 signaled a shift in the court; the former president, Donald Trump, appointed his third Supreme Court Justice, for instance.
Given the Supreme Court’s unequivocally conservative majority, many Americans voiced concern about the future of federally protected abortion access. While on the campaign trail, now-President Joe Biden even promised to codify the Roe v. Wade decision into law. Now, with the Supreme Court’s 6–3 decision coming to pass, Americans are facing a new reality.
But the discussion around abortion access hasn’t just been happening at a federal level. To be clear, overturning Roe means abortion access is no longer legally protected on the federal level. While this SCOTUS reversal doesn’t ban safe and legal abortion access on the federal level, it has certainly opened the doors for such bans in many, many states across the country.
According to the Guttmacher Institute , 22 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place — some are pre- Roe laws and others are newly passed — that ban abortion without Roe in place. Four others — Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska — are likely to ban abortions now that there aren’t federal protections in place. Even before Roe was overturned, some states have found ways to complicate and restrict abortion access. For example, Texas, in passing its six-week abortion ban, has created a model for other states, like Alabama and Mississippi, to follow.
Robin Marty, the operations director for the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, says that overturning Roe means the end of legal abortion , because people “will still seek ways to end pregnancies.” For folks living in rural areas, or in states bordered by others with restricted access, traveling to seek healthcare services could become even more challenging . Not to mention, some states are pushing to make providing an abortion a felony offense, and considering banning medications that induce abortions.
All of this to say, people who are pregnant, or who could become pregnant, are facing real obstacles when it comes to accessing necessary healthcare services. For some, the difficulty is looming, while, for others, it’s already a reality that may worsen.
How to Lend Support to Those Who Need It Most
When life-altering events happen, many of us feel the urge to do something . Maybe you recently supported Ukrainian refugees , or aided trans youth and their families . There are many meaningful ways to lend support: protesting in person, contacting lawmakers, spreading information and resources online, for example. Sometimes, though, one of the best ways to lend a hand is by supporting organizations and individuals doing on-the-ground, grassroots work.
We’ve already mentioned how “ 75% of people who have abortions are classified as either poor or low-income, according to data from 2014.” We’ve also written about how people of color are disproportionately affected , and have a much higher share of abortions than of rest of the population at large. And, for trans and nonbinary folks, just being part of the conversation — let alone having access to (inclusive) abortion services — is rare.
Even if you’re thousands of miles away, you can help others who are living through the consequences of these history-making decisions. Maybe you’re a so-called “ rage donor ” — someone who has the reactionary urge to donate, to take action. If so, it’s important to really consider where , and to whom , you’re lending support.
Mutual Aid, Abortion Funds & Reproductive Justice Organizations That Need Your Support the Most
While supporting your local Planned Parenthood center or American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter is crucial, those big-name organizations are often the ones who see a large influx of “rage donors”.
Instead, consider supporting organizations and abortion funds that center Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, trans and nonbinary people, low-income people, people living in rural areas, undocumented people and survivors of sexual assault. After all, abortion services are healthcare — and there are many other healthcare inequities that impact folks’ healthcare access in the U.S.
- National Abortion Access Fund for Survivors, GoFundMe : Supports survivors of gender-based violence by covering the costs associated with accessing safe abortion services.
- Yellowhammer Fund : A reproductive justice organization and abortion fund that serves people living in Alabama and the Deep South, including Mississippi and Florida.
- Indigenous Women Rising : Supports Indigenous and Native Peoples’ access to equitable and culturally safe healthcare by providing education and resources as well as promoting advocacy.
- The SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective (or SisterSong) : In addition to aiding with abortion access, this collective aims to “strengthen and amplify the collective voices of Indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice by eradicating reproductive oppression and securing human rights.”
- Access Reproductive Care (ARC) — Southeast : Whether someone needs funding or logistical support when it comes to having an abortion, ARC supports Southerners in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
- National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) : In addition to aiding with abortion access, NAPAWF “works to build a movement for social, political and structural change for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls.”
- Magic City Acceptance Center : This Alabama-based organization helps trans and nonbinary people access safe abortion services.
- Mariposa Fund : Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mariposa Fund aims to help undocumented people who are trying to obtain reproductive healthcare. Undocumented people often face additional obstacles, ranging from a lack of insurance to linguistic barriers and a fear of criminalization.
- New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF) : If you live in New York, or travel to the state, NYAAF provides financial assistance and other resources to folks who can’t cover the costs of an abortion.
- West Fund : A Texas-based organization that not only helps cover abortion costs, but fights for reproductive justice in all forms by engaging in community issues ranging from gentrification to sex education and immigration. Other Texas-based funds include: Fund Texas Choice , Texas Equal Access Fund and Support Your Sistah .
- Abortion Fund of Arizona : This organization aims to help people who face the greatest barriers receive access to safe and legal abortions.
- Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project : A Virginia-based and volunteer-run grassroots abortion fund.
- Cobalt Abortion Fund : This Colorado-based fund helps all people access abortions by helping to defray any associated costs.
- The Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF): This fund, which “boldly affirms a person’s right to bodily autonomy,” provides not just financial assistance but logistical and emotional support to people seeking abortion care in Chicago, the state of Illinois and the greater Midwest.
Having trouble locating grassroots efforts in a state you’re concerned about? Consider using these resources and aiding their efforts:
- National Network of Abortion Funds: By donating here, you’ll split your gift between more than 80 abortion funds, ensuring people can afford safe abortions.
- National Abortion Federation Hotline Fund: NAF operates the largest national, toll-free, multilingual hotline for abortion referrals and financial assistance in the U.S. and Canada.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of funds and organizations. In addition to using the resources provided by the National Network of Abortion Funds , find other means of aiding your community — or other, specific communities that could really benefit from your support . And don’t forget to maximize your efforts. For example, if you work for a company that matches donations, check to see if they’ll match your donation to one of these specific organizations or funds.
And, yes: even though the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the ACLU are generally well-funded — and the first places “rage donors” think of — they’re also, in some cases, the only groups some people know about, so supporting them remains vitally important.
MORE FROM ASK.COM
To revisit this article, select My Account, then View saved stories
Find anything you save across the site in your account
Is Abortion Sacred?
By Jia Tolentino
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? ♦
More on Abortion and Roe v. Wade
In the post-Roe era, letting pregnant patients get sicker— by design .
The study that debunks most anti-abortion arguments .
Of course the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion .
How the real Jane Roe shaped the abortion wars.
Black feminists defined abortion rights as a matter of equality, not just “choice.”
Recent data suggest that taking abortion pills at home is as safe as going to a clinic.
When abortion is criminalized, women make desperate choices .
Sign up for our daily newsletter to receive the best stories from The New Yorker .
By Benjamin Wallace-Wells
By Susan B. Glasser
By Peter Slevin
- Clerc Center | PK-12 & Outreach
- KDES | PK-8th Grade School (D.C. Metro Area)
- MSSD | 9th-12th Grade School (Nationwide)
- Gallaudet University Regional Centers
- Parent Advocacy App
- K-12 ASL Content Standards
- National Resources
- Youth Programs
- Academic Bowl
- Battle Of The Books
- National Literary Competition
- Discover College and Careers (DC²)
- Youth Debate Bowl
- Immerse Into ASL
- Got Skills?
- Deaf Youth Pride
- Alumni Relations
- Alumni Association
- Homecoming Weekend
- Class Giving
- Get Tickets / BisonPass
- Sport Calendars
- Cross Country
- Swimming & Diving
- Track & Field
- Indoor Track & Field
- Winter Cheerleading
- Human Resources
- Plan a Visit
- Request Info
- Areas of Study
- Accessible Human-Centered Computing
- American Sign Language
- Art and Media Design
- Communication Studies
- Data Science
- Deaf Studies
- Early Intervention Studies Graduate Programs
- Educational Neuroscience
- Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences
- Information Technology
- International Development
- Interpretation and Translation
- Philosophy and Religion
- Physical Education & Recreation
- Public Affairs
- Public Health
- Sexuality and Gender Studies
- Social Work
- Theatre and Dance
- World Languages and Cultures
- B.A. in American Sign Language
- B.A. in Art and Media Design
- B.A. in Biology
- B.A. in Communication Studies
- B.A. in Communication Studies for Online Degree Completion Program
- B.A. in Deaf Studies
- B.A. in Deaf Studies for Online Degree Completion Program
- B.A. in Education with a Specialization in Early Childhood Education
- B.A. in Education with a Specialization in Elementary Education
- B.A. in English
- B.A. in Government
- B.A. in Government with a Specialization in Law
- B.A. in History
- B.A. in Interdisciplinary Spanish
- B.A. in International Studies
- B.A. in Interpretation
- B.A. in Mathematics
- B.A. in Philosophy
- B.A. in Psychology
- B.A. in Psychology for Online Degree Completion Program
- B.A. in Social Work (BSW)
- B.A. in Sociology
- B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology
- B.A. in Theatre Arts: Production/Performance
- B.A. or B.S. in Education with a Specialization in Secondary Education: Science, English, Mathematics or Social Studies
- B.S in Risk Management and Insurance
- B.S. in Accounting
- B.S. in Biology
- B.S. in Business Administration
- B.S. in Information Technology
- B.S. in Mathematics
- B.S. in Physical Education and Recreation
- B.S. In Public Health
- Honors Program
- M.A. in Counseling: Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- M.A. in Counseling: School Counseling
- M.A. in Deaf Education
- M.A. in Deaf Education Studies
- M.A. in Deaf Studies: Cultural Studies
- M.A. in Deaf Studies: Language and Human Rights
- M.A. in Early Childhood Education and Deaf Education
- M.A. in Elementary Education and Deaf Education
- M.A. in International Development
- M.A. in Interpretation: Combined Interpreting Practice and Research
- M.A. in Interpretation: Interpreting Research
- M.A. in Linguistics
- M.A. in Secondary Education and Deaf Education
- M.A. in Sign Language Education
- M.S. in Accessible Human-Centered Computing
- M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology
- Master of Social Work (MSW)
- Au.D. in Audiology
- Ed.D. in Transformational Leadership and Administration in Deaf Education
- Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
- Ph.D. in Critical Studies in the Education of Deaf Learners
- Ph.D. in Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences
- Ph.D. in Linguistics
- Ph.D. in Translation and Interpreting Studies
- Ph.D. Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN)
- Individual Courses and Training
- Certificate in Sexuality and Gender Studies
- Educating Deaf Students with Disabilities (online, post-bachelor’s)
- American Sign Language and English Bilingual Early Childhood Deaf Education: Birth to 5 (online, post-bachelor’s)
- Peer Mentor Training (low-residency/hybrid, post-bachelor’s)
- Early Intervention Studies Graduate Certificate
- Online Degree Programs
- ODCP Minor in Communication Studies
- ODCP Minor in Deaf Studies
- ODCP Minor in Psychology
- ODCP Minor in Writing
- PK-12 & Outreach
- NSO Schedule
Comparison/Contrast Essays: Two Patterns
First Pattern: Block-by-Block
By Rory H. Osbrink
Abortion is an example of a very controversial issue. The two opposing viewpoints surrounding abortion are like two sides of a coin. On one side, there is the pro-choice activist and on the other is the pro-life activist.
The argument is a balanced one; for every point supporting abortion there is a counter-point condemning abortion. This essay will delineate the controversy in one type of comparison/contrast essay form: the “”Argument versus Argument,”” or, “”Block-by-Block”” format. In this style of writing, first you present all the arguments surrounding one side of the issue, then you present all the arguments surrounding the other side of the issue. You are generally not expected to reach a conclusion, but simply to present the opposing sides of the argument.
Introduction: (the thesis is underlined) Explains the argument
The Abortion Issue: Compare and Contrast Block-by-Block Format
One of the most divisive issues in America is the controversy surrounding abortion. Currently, abortion is legal in America, and many people believe that it should remain legal. These people, pro-choice activists, believe that it is the women’s right to chose whether or not to give birth. However, there are many groups who are lobbying Congress to pass laws that would make abortion illegal. These people are called the pro-life activists.
Abortion is a choice that should be decided by each individual, argues the pro-choice activist. Abortion is not murder since the fetus is not yet fully human, therefore, it is not in defiance against God. Regardless of the reason for the abortion, it should be the woman’s choice because it is her body. While adoption is an option some women chose, many women do not want to suffer the physical and emotional trauma of pregnancy and labor only to give up a child. Therefore, laws should remain in effect that protect a woman’s right to chose.
Abortion is an abomination, argues the pro-life activist. It makes no sense for a woman to murder a human being not even born. The bible says, “”Thou shalt not kill,”” and it does not discriminate between different stages of life. A fetus is the beginning of life. Therefore, abortion is murder, and is in direct defiance of God’s will. Regardless of the mother’s life situation (many women who abort are poor, young, or drug users), the value of a human life cannot be measured. Therefore, laws should be passed to outlaw abortion. After all, there are plenty of couples who are willing to adopt an unwanted child.
If we take away the woman’s right to chose, will we begin limiting her other rights also? Or, if we keep abortion legal, are we devaluing human life? There is no easy answer to these questions. Both sides present strong, logical arguments. Though it is a very personal decision, t he fate of abortion rights will have to be left for the Supreme Court to decide.
Second Pattern: Point-by-Point
This second example is also an essay about abortion. We have used the same information and line of reasoning in this essay, however, this one will be presented in the “”Point-by-Point”” style argument. The Point-by-Point style argument presents both sides of the argument at the same time. First, you would present one point on a specific topic, then you would follow that up with the opposing point on the same topic. Again, you are generally not expected to draw any conclusions, simply to fairly present both sides of the argument.
Introduction: (the thesis is underlined)
Explains the argument
The Abortion Issue: Compare and Contrast Point-by-Point Format
Point One: Pro-life and Pro-choice
Supporters of both pro-life and pro-choice refer to religion as support for their side of the argument. Pro-life supporters claim that abortion is murder, and is therefore against God’s will. However, pro-choice defenders argue that abortion is not murder since the fetus is not yet a fully formed human. Therefore, abortion would not be a defiance against God.
Point Two: Pro-life and Pro-choice
Another main point of the argument is over the woman’s personal rights, versus the rights of the unborn child. Pro-choice activists maintain that regardless of the individual circumstances, women should have the right to chose whether or not to abort. The pregnancy and labor will affect only the woman’s body, therefore it should be the woman’s decision. Pro-life supporters, on the other hand, believe that the unborn child has the right to life, and that abortion unlawfully takes away that right.
Tutorial & Instructional Programs
At a Glance
- Quick Facts
- University Leadership
- History & Traditions
- Consumer Information
- Our 10-Year Vision: The Gallaudet Promise
- Annual Report of Achievements (ARA)
- The Signing Ecosystem
- Not Your Average University
- Library & Archives
- Technology Support
- Interpreting Requests
- Ombuds Support
- Health and Wellness Programs
- Profile & Web Edits
- Explore Our Campus
- Virtual Tour
- Maps & Directions
- Shuttle Bus Schedule
- Kellogg Conference Hotel
- Welcome Center
- National Deaf Life Museum
- Apple Guide Maps
- Work at Gallaudet / Clerc Center
- Social Media Channels
- University Wide Events
- Sponsorship Requests
- Data Requests
- Media Inquiries
- Gallaudet Today Magazine
- Giving at Gallaudet
- Financial Aid
- Registrar’s Office
- Residence Life & Housing
- Safety & Security
- Undergraduate Admissions
- Graduate Admissions
- University Communications
- Clerc Center
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
Copyright © 2023 Gallaudet University. All rights reserved.
- Cookie Consent Notice
- File a Report
800 Florida Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002
Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.
Abortion is often in the news. In the course of writing this essay in early 2019, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and Louisiana passed legislation to outlaw and criminalize abortions starting at six to eight weeks in pregnancy, with more states likely following. Federal law, however, generally permits abortions, so it is unclear what the legal outcome here will be.
Abortion is a political issue—with different political parties tending to have different perspectives on the issue—because abortion is a moral or ethical issue. (These two words, “moral” and “ethical,” mean the same thing.)
Some believe that abortions are typically morally permissible, or not wrong, and so believe that abortions should be legal. If doing something isn’t wrong, it shouldn’t be illegal: criminalizing actions that aren’t wrong is a form of injustice.
Others believe that abortion is morally wrong, that it’s often wrong, maybe nearly always or even always.
Some people argue that even though they believe abortion is wrong, it should remain legal: after all, if every morally wrong action was illegal, we would all be in jail! Seriously though, there are many actions that are morally wrong, even really hurtful, that the government shouldn’t try to prevent or punish. (You can supply the potential examples to make the point.) People who think abortion is wrong might also think that, for a variety of other reasons, their personal moral views on the issues shouldn’t be made into law for all.
Others argue that abortions are wrong and should be illegal. What types of wrongdoing should be illegal? This question isn’t easy to answer: it’s abstract and general. One answer is that seriously, extremely wrong actions should be illegal. This might seem plausible, since many illegal actions are seriously wrong. But since there are other very wrong actions that shouldn’t be illegal, this answer isn’t perfect.
We argue, however, that abortion should not be illegal because most abortions are not morally wrong (and so they are not seriously or extremely wrong). So the states above are making bad moral and legal moves, to say the least, in trying to criminalize abortions, at least when they are done early in pregnancy, as they usually are. And if federal law changes towards prohibiting abortions, that would be another, more profound step towards injustice.
There is a lot to discuss. Here’s the plan:
- First, we define “abortion.” There are controversies even in stating our topic.
- Second, we give some brief factual, scientific information about how fetuses develop, in terms of the emergence of consciousness, awareness and feeling, briefly explain the moral significance of these psychological characteristics, and review the evidence on when most abortions occur, and why.
- Third, we discuss some common, but bad, arguments. First, we review many common what are called “question-begging” arguments. This type of argument assumes the conclusion it is trying to support, instead of giving genuine reasons to support that conclusion. These arguments are a type of circular reasoning and are no good from the perspective of people who want to think critically and base their beliefs and actions on good arguments.
- Next, we discuss arguments that you’d often see as comments on newspaper stories and editorials, and even in those writings themselves. We call these “everyday arguments.” Seeing why these arguments are bad will help us all shift the focus to better arguments.
- Finally, we discuss some of the most important better arguments on the issues, focusing on arguments that professional philosophers tend to focus on. Here we argue that the most influential arguments “against” abortion are weak: they don’t provide good reasons to believe that most abortions are wrong. And we argue that there are good positive reasons to believe that abortion is usually not wrong. These arguments are based on facts about early fetuses completely lacking any consciousness, awareness or feeling, and the insight that the “right to life” is not a right to anyone else’s body. So, we argue that there are good arguments to justify a broadly “pro-choice” perspective.
People often begin discussions of abortion with a lot of “what ifs”: “What if an abortion is wanted because of rape?” “What if it’s needed to save a woman’s life?” “What if there are fetal abnormalities?” “What if …?”
We want to initially set aside these “what ifs?” to focus on more “ordinary cases” (if there is such a thing) where abortion is considered, not cases like these. We should acknowledge though that even most people who call themselves “pro-life” think that abortion can be permissible if it is genuinely needed to save the woman’s life. This is because if she dies, then the fetus dies also, and so an abortion—which saves one life—would be more “pro-life” than allowing two deaths. We will return to the ethics of abortions due to rape at the end of the essay and briefly discuss the ethics and legality of rare abortions done later in pregnancy, far past the first trimester.
In reading this essay, we encourage trying to think about the issues with an “open mind.” What we mean is to try to consider and evaluate the arguments as if you didn’t already have strong views on the issue that you are committed to. (Maybe you are like this, which can be good: you shouldn’t have firm opinions on issues if you aren’t well-informed on them).
Critical thinking often involves defining words and giving and evaluating reasons: asking questions like “what do you mean?” and “why think that?” It involves stating arguments in their full pattern of reasoning and rigorously evaluating all premises. It involves identifying differing explanations of various moral and scientific facts and trying to determine which explanations are best. It involves thinking about thinking.
Most importantly though, good critical thinking isn’t done with an agenda or to support a point of view: it’s to find a point of view that’s worth supporting. Our perspectives on abortion didn’t develop (we hope!) with an “agenda” in mind beyond believing what’s supported by good arguments, and neither should yours. And views can and should change, in response to understanding better arguments, so our conclusions here are not “set in stone.” New arguments, including responses to the arguments presented here, might change our minds for the better—and the same should be true for all critical thinkers.
Thinking Critically About Abortion Copyright © 2019 by nathannobis and Kristina Grob is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Share This Book
- Feminist Studies
On Abortion: Introduction
- Feminist Studies, Inc.
- Digital Special Re-issue: On Abortion
- View Citation
Project MUSE Mission
Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.
2715 North Charles Street Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21218
+1 (410) 516-6989 [email protected]
©2023 Project MUSE. Produced by Johns Hopkins University Press in collaboration with The Sheridan Libraries.
Now and Always, The Trusted Content Your Research Requires
Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus
An Argument That Abortion Is Wrong by DON MARQUIS
Don Marquis is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas. He defends the view that, except in unusual circumstances, abortion is seriously wrong.
The purpose of this essay is to set out an argument the claim that abortion, except perhaps in instances, is seriously wrong. One reason for these exceptions is to eliminate from consideration cases whose ethical analysis should be controversial detailed for clear-headed opponents of abortion. Such cases include abortion after rape and abortion during the first fourteen days after conception when there is an argument that the fetus is not definitely an individual. Another reason for making these exceptions allow for those cases in which the permissibility of abortion is compatible with the argument of this essay. Such cases include abortion when continuation of a pregnancy endangers a woman's life and when the fetus is anencephalic. When I wrongness of abortion in this essay, a reader she presume the above qualifications. I mean by an abort ion an action intended to bring about the death of a fetus for the sake of the woman who carries it. (Thus, as is standard on the literature on this subject, I eliminanate spontaneous abortions from consideration.) I mean by a fetus a developing human being from
time of conception to the time of birth. (Thus, as is standard, I call embryos and zygotes, fetuses.)
The argument of this essay will establish that abortion is wrong for the same reason as killing a reader of this essay is wrong. I shall just assume, rather than establish, that killing you is seriously wrong. I shall make no attempt to offer a complete ethics of killing. Finally, I shall make no attempt to resolve some very fundamental and difficult general philosophical issues into which this analysis of the ethics of abortion might lead.
WHY THE DEBATE OVER ABORTION SEEMS INTRACTABLE
Symmetries that emerge from the analysis of the major arguments on either side of the abortion debate may explain why the abortion debate seems intractable. Consider the following standard anti-abortion argument: Fetuses are both human and alive. Humans have the right to life. Therefore, fetuses have the right to life. Of course, women have the right to control their own bodies, but the right to life overrides the right of a woman to control her own body. Therefore, abortion is wrong.
Judith Thomson (1971) has argued that even if one grants (for the sake of argument only) that fetuses have the right to life, this argument fails. Thomson invites you to imagine that you have been connected while sleeping, bloodstream to bloodstream, to a famous violinist. The violinist, who suffers from a rare blood disease, will die if disconnected. Thomson argues that you surely have the right to disconnect yourself. She appeals to our intuition that having to lie in bed with a violinist for an indefinite period is too much for morality to demand. She supports this claim by noting that the body being used is your body, not the violinist's body. She distinguishes the right to life, which the violinist clearly has, from the right to use someone else's body when necessary to preserve one's life, which it is not at all obvious the violinist has. Because the case of pregnancy is like the case of the violinist, one is no more morally obligated to remain attached to a fetus than to remain attached to the violinist.
It is widely conceded that one can generate from Thomson's vivid case the conclusion that abortion is morally permissible when a pregnancy is due to rape (Warren, 1973, p. 49; and Steinbock, 1992, p. 79). But this is hardly a general right to abortion. Do Thomson's more general theses generate a more general right to an abortion? Thomson draws our attention to the fact that in a pregnancy, although a fetus uses a woman's body as a life-support system, a pregnant woman does not use a fetus's body as a life-support system. However, an opponent of abortion might draw our attention to the fact that in an abortion the life that is lost is the fetus's, not the woman's. This symmetry seems to leave us with a stand-off.
Thomson points out that a fetus's right to life does not entail its right to use someone else's body to preserve its life. However, an opponent of abortion might point out that a woman's right to use her own body does not entail her right to end someone else's life in order to do what she wants with her body. In reply, one might argue that a pregnant woman's right to control her own body doesn't come to much if it is wrong for her to take any action that ends the life of the fetus within her. However, an opponent of abortion can argue that the fetus's right to life doesn't come to much if a pregnant woman can end it when she chooses. The consequence of all of these symmetries seems to be a stand-off. But if we have the stand-off, then one might argue that we are left with a conflict of rights: a fetal right to life versus the right of a woman to control her own body. One might then argue that the right to life seems to be a stronger right than the right to control one's own body in the case of abortion because the loss of one's life is a greater loss than the loss of the right to control one's own body in one respect for nine months. Therefore, the right to life overrides the right to control one's own body and abortion is wrong. Considerations like these have suggested to both opponents of abortion and supporters of choice that a Thomsonian strategy for de-
fending a general right to abortion will not succeed (Tooley, 1972; Warren, 1973; and Steinbock, 1992). In fairness, one must note that Thomson did not intend her strategy to generate a general moral permissibility of abortion.
Do Fetuses Have the Right to Life?
The above considerations suggest that whether abortion is morally permissible boils down to the question of whether fetuses have the right to life. An argument that fetuses either have or lack the right to life must be based upon some general criterion for having or lacking the right to life. Opponents of abortion, on the one hand, look around for the broadest possible plausible criterion, so that fetuses will fall under it. This explains why classic arguments against abortion appeal to the criterion of being human (Noonan, 1970; Beckwith, 1993). This criterion appears plausible: The claim that all humans, whatever their race, gender, religion or age, have the right to life seems evident enough. In addition, because the fetuses we are concerned with do not, after all, belong to another species, they are clearly human. Thus, the syllogism that generates the conclusion that fetuses have the right to life is apparently sound.
On the other hand, those who believe abortion is morally permissible wish to find a narrow, but plausible, criterion for possession of the right to life so that fetuses will fall outside of it. This explains, in part, why the standard pro-choice arguments in the philosophical literature appeal to the criterion of being a person (Feinberg, 1986; Tooley, 1972; Warren, 1973; Benn, 1973; Engelhardt, 1986). This criterion appears plausible: The claim that only persons have the right to life seems evident enough. Furthermore, because fetuses neither are rational nor possess the capacity to communicate in complex ways nor,possess a concept of self that continues through time, no fetus is a person. Thus, the syllogism needed to generate the conclusion that no fetus possesses the right to life is apparently sound. Given that no fetus possesses the right to life, a woman's right to control her own body easily generates the general right to abortion. The existence of two apparently defensible syllogisms which support contrary conclusions helps to explain why partisans on both sides of the abortion dispute often regard their opponents as either morally depraved or mentally deficient.
Which syllogism should we reject? The anti-abortion syllogism is usually attacked by attacking its major premise: the claim that whatever is biologically human has the right to life. This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of the biologically human includes too much: human cancer-cell cultures are biologically human, but they do not have the right to life. Moreover, this premise also is subject to moral-relevance problems: the connection between the biological and the moral is merely assumed. It is hard to think of a good argument for such a connection. If one wishes to consider the category of "human" a moral category, as some people find it plausible to do in other contexts, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is fully human without begging the question. Thus, the classic anti-abortion argument appears subject to fatal difficulties.
These difficulties with the classic anti-abortion argument are well known and thought by many to be conclusive. The symmetrical difficulties with the classic pro-choice syllogism are not as well recognized. The pro-choice syllogism can be attacked by attacking its major premise: Only persons have the right to life. This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of persons includes too little: infants, the severely retarded, and some of the mentally ill seem to fall outside the class of persons as the supporter of choice understands the concept. The premise is also subject to moral-relevance problems:
Being a person is understood by the pro-choicer as having certain psychological attributes. If the prochoicer questions the connection between the biological and the moral, the opponent of abortion can question the connection between the psychological and the moral. If one wishes to consider "person" a moral category, as is often done, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is not a person without begging the question.
Pro-choicers appear to have resources for dealing with their difficulties that opponents of abortion lack. Consider their moral-relevance problem. A pro-
choicer might argue that morality rests on contractual foundations and that only those who have the psychological attributes of persons are capable of entering into the moral contract and, as a consequence, being a member of the moral community. (This is essentially Engelhardt's  view.) The great advantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it seems far more plausible than any approach the anti-abortionist can provide. The great disadvantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it adds to our earlier scope problems by leaving it unclear how we can have the duty not to inflict pain and suffering on animals.
Contractarians have tried to deal with their scope problems by arguing that duties to some individuals who are not persons can be justified even though those individuals are not contracting members of the moral community. For example, Kant argued that, although we do not have direct duties to animals, we "must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men" (Kant, 1963, p. 240). Feinberg argues that infanticide is wrong, not because infants have the right to life, but because our society's protection of infants has social utility. If we do not treat infants with tenderness and consideration, then when they are persons they will be worse off and we will be worse off also (Feinberg, 1986, p. 271).
These moves only stave off the difficulties with the pro-choice view; they do not resolve them. Consider Kant's account of our obligations to animals. Kantians certainly know the difference between persons and animals. Therefore, no true Kantian would treat persons as she would treat animals. Thus, Kant's defense of our duties to animals fails to show that Kantians have a duty not to be cruel to animals. Consider Feinberg's attempt to show that infanticide is wrong even though no infant is a person. All Feinerg really shows is that it is a good idea to treat with care and consideration the infants we intend to keep. That is quite compatible with killing the infants we intend to discard. This point can be supported by an analogy with which any pro-choicer will agree. There are plainly good reasons to treat with care and consideration the fetuses we intend to keep. This is quite compatible with aborting those fetuses we intend to discard. Thus, Feinberg's account of the wrongness of infanticide is inadequate.
Accordingly, we can see that a contractarian defense of the pro-choice personhood syllogism fails. The problem arises because the contractarian cannot account for our duties to individuals who are not persons, whether these individuals are animals or infants. Because the pro-choicer wishes to adopt a narrow criterion for the right to life so that fetuses will not be included, the scope of her major premise is too narrow. Her problem is the opposite of the problem the classic opponent of abortion faces.
The argument of this section has attempted to establish, albeit briefly, that the classic anti-abortion argument and the pro-choice argument favored by most philosophers both face problems that are mirror images of one another. A stand-off results. The abortion debate requires a different strategy.
THE "FUTURE LIKE OURS" ACCOUNT OF THE WRONGNESS OF KILLING
Why do the standard arguments in the abortion debate fail to resolve the issue? The general principles to which partisans in the debate appeal are either truisms most persons would affirm in the absence of much reflection, or very general moral theories. All are subject to major problems. A different approach is needed.
Opponents of abortion claim that abortion is wrong because abortion involves killing someone like us, a human being who just happens to be very young. Supporters of choice claim that ending the life of a fetus is not in the same moral category as ending the life of an adult human being. Surely this controversy cannot be resolved in the absence of an account of what it is about killing us that makes killing us wrong. On the one hand, if we know what property we possess that makes killing us wrong, then we can ask whether fetuses have the same property. On the other hand, suppose that we do not know what it is about us that makes killing us wrong. If this
is so, we do not understand even easy cases in which killing is wrong. Surely, we will not understand the ethics of killing fetuses, for if we do not understand easy cases, then we will not understand hard cases. Both pro-choicer and anti-abortionist agree that it is obvious that it is wrong to kill us. Thus, a discussion of what it is about us that makes killing us not only wrong, but seriously wrong, seems to be the right place to begin a discussion of the abortion issue.
Who is primarily wronged by a killing? The wrong of killing is not primarily explained in terms of the loss to the family and friends of the victim. Perhaps the victim is a hermit. Perhaps one's friends find it easy to make new friends. The wrong of killing is not primarily explained in terms of the brutalization of the killer. The great wrong to the victim explains the brutalization, not the other way around. The wrongness of killing us is understood in terms of what killing does to us. Killing us imposes on us the misfortune of premature death. That misfortune underlies the wrongness.
Premature death is a misfortune because when one is dead, one has been deprived of life. This misfortune can be more precisely specified. Premature death cannot deprive me of my past life. That part of my life is already gone. If I die tomorrow or if I live thirty more years my past life will be no different. It has occurred on either alternative. Rather than my past, my death deprives me of my future, of the life that I would have lived if I had lived out my natural life span.
The loss of a future biological life does not explain the misfortune of death. Compare two scenarios: In the former I now fall into a coma from which I do not recover until my death in thirty years. In the latter I die now. The latter scenario does not seem to describe a greater misfortune than the former.
The loss of our future conscious life is what underlies the misfortune of premature death. Not any future conscious life qualifies, however. Suppose that I am terminally ill with cancer. Suppose also that pain and suffering would dominate my future conscious life. If so, then death would not be a misortune for me.
Thus, the misfortune of premature death consists of the loss to us of the future goods of consciousness.
What are these goods? Much can be said about this issue, but a simple answer will do for the purposes of this essay. The goods of life are whatever we get out of life. The goods of life are those items toward which we take a "pro" attitude. They are completed projects of which we are proud, the pursuit of our goals, aesthetic enjoyments, friendships, intellectual pursuits, and physical pleasures of various sorts. The goods of life are what makes life worth living. In general, what makes life worth living for one person will not be the same as what makes life worth living for another. Nevertheless, the list of goods in each of our lives will overlap. The lists are usually different in different stages of our lives.
What makes the goods of my future good for me? One possible, but wrong, answer is my desire for those goods now. This answer does not account for those aspects of my future life that I now believe I will later value, but about which I am wrong. Neither does it account for those aspects of my future that I will come to value, but which I don't value now. What is valuable to the young may not be valuable to the middle-aged. What is valuable to the middle-aged may not be valuable to the old. Some of life's values for the elderly are best appreciated by the elderly. Thus it is wrong to say that the value of my future to me is just what I value now. What makes my future valuable to me are those aspects of my future that I will (or would) value when I will (or would) experience them, whether I value them now or not.
It follows that a person can believe that she will have a valuable future and be wrong. Furthermore, a person can believe that he will not have a valuable future and also be wrong. This is confirmed by our attitude toward many of the suicidal. We attempt to save the lives of the suicidal and to convince them that they have made an error in judgment. This does not mean that the future of an individual obtains value from the value that others confer on it. It means that, in some cases, others can make a clearer judgment of the value of a person's future to that person than the person herself. This often happens when one's judgment concerning the value of one's own future is clouded by personal tragedy. (Compare the views of McInerney, 1990, and Shirley, 1995.)
Thus, what is sufficient to make killing us wrong,
in general, is that it causes premature death. Premature death is a misfortune. Premature death is a misfortune, in general, because it deprives an individual of a future of value. An individual's future will be valuable to that individual if that individual will come, or would come, to value it. We know that killing us is wrong. What makes killing us wrong, in general, is that it deprives us of a future of value. Thus, killing someone is wrong, in general, when it deprives her of a future like ours. I shall call this "an FLO."
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF THE FLO THEORY
At least four arguments support this FLO account of the wrongness of killing.
The Considered Judgment Argument
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing is correct because it fits with our considered judgment concerning the nature of the misfortune of death. The analysis of the previous section is an exposition of the nature of this considered judgment. This judgment can be confirmed. If one were to ask individuals with AIDS or with incurable cancer about the nature of their misfortune, I believe that they would say or imply that their impending loss of an FLO makes their premature death a misfortune. If they would not, then the FLO account would plainly be wrong.
The Worst of Crimes Argument
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing is correct because it explains why we believe that killing is one of the worst of crimes. My being killed deprives me of more than does my being robbed or beaten or harmed in some other way because my being killed deprives me of all of the value of my future, not merely part of it. This explains why we make the penalty for murder greater than the penalty for other crimes.
As a corollary the FLO account of the wrongness of killing also explains why killing an adult human being is justified only in the most extreme circumstances, only in circumstances in which the loss of life to an individual is outweighed by a worse outcome if that life is not taken. Thus, we are willing to justify killing in self-defense, killing in order to save one's own life, because one's loss if one does not kill in that situation is so very great. We justify killing in a just war for similar reasons. We believe that capital punishment would be justified if, by having such an institution, fewer premature deaths would occur. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not entail that killing is always wrong. Nevertheless, the FLO account explains both why killing is one of the worst of crimes and, as a corollary, why the exceptions to the wrongness of killing are so very rare. A correct theory of the wrongness of killing should have these features.
The Appeal to Cases Argument
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing is correct because it yields the correct answers in many life-any-death cases that arise in medicine and have interested philosophers.
Consider medicine first. Most people believe that it is not wrong deliberately to end the life of a person who is permanently unconscious. Thus we believe that it is not wrong to remove a feeding tube or a ventilator from a permanently comatose patient, knowing that such a removal will cause death. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing explains why this is so. A patient who is permanently unconscious cannot have a future that she would come to value, whatever her values. Therefore, according to the FLO theory of the wrongness of killing, death could not, ceteris paribus, be a misfortune to her. Therefore, removing the feeding tube or ventilator does not wrong her.
By contrast, almost all people believe that it is wrong, ceteris paribus, to withdraw medical treatment from patients who are temporarily unconscious. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing also explains why this is so. Furthermore, these two unconsciousness cases explain why the FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not include present consciousness as a necessary condition for the wrongness of killing.
Consider now the issue of the morality of legalizing active euthanasia. Proponents of active euthanasia argue that if a patient faces a future of intractable pain and wants to die, then, ceteris paribus, it would not be wrong for a physician to give him medicine that she knows would result in his death. This view is so universally accepted that even the strongest opponents of active euthanasia hold it. The official Vatican view (Sacred Congregation, 1980) is that it is permissible for a physician to administer to a patient morphine sufficient (although no more than sufficient) to control his pain even if she foresees that the morphine will result in his death. Notice how nicely the FLO account of the wrongness of killing explains this unanimity of opinion. A patient known to be in severe intractable pain is presumed to have a future without positive value. Accordingly, death would not be a misfortune for him and an action that would (foreseeably) end his life would not be wrong.
Contrast this with the standard emergency medical treatment of the suicidal. Even though the suicidal have indicated that they want to die, medical personneI will act to save their lives. This supports the view that it is not the mere desire to enjoy an FLO which is crucial to our understanding of the wrongness of killing. Having an FLO is what is crucial to the account, although one would, of course, want to make an exception in the case of fully autonomous people who refuse life-saving medical treatment. Opponents of abortion can, of course, be willing to make an exception for fully autonomous fetuses who refuse life support.
The FLO theory of the wrongness of killing also deals correctly with issues that have concerned philosophers. It implies that it would be wrong to kill (peaceful) persons from outer space who come to visit our planet even though they are biologically utterly unlike us. Presumably, if they are persons, then they will have futures that are sufficiently like ours so that it would be wrong to kill them. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing shares this feature with the personhood views of the supporters of choice. Classical opponents of abortion who locate the wrongness of abortion somehow in the biological humanity of a fetus cannot explain this.
The FLO account does not entail that there is another species of animals whose members ought not to be killed. Neither does it entail that it is permissible to kill any non-human animal. On the one hand, a supporter of animals' rights might argue that since some non-human animals have a future of value, it is wrong to kill them also, or at least it is wrong to kill them without a far better reason than we usually have for killing non-human animals. On the other hand, one might argue that the futures of non-human animals are not sufficiently like ours for the FLO account to entail that it is wrong to kill them. Since the FLO account does not specify which properties a future of another individual must possess so that killing that individual is wrong, the FLO account is indeterminate with respect to this issue. The fact that the FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not give a determinate answer to this question is not a flaw in the theory. A sound ethical account should yield the right answers in the obvious cases; it should not be required to resolve every disputed question.
A major respect in which the FLO account is superior to accounts that appeal to the concept of person is the explanation the FLO account provides of the wrongness of killing infants. There was a class of infants who had futures that included a class of events that were identical to the futures of the readers of this essay. Thus, reader, the FLO account explains why it was as wrong to kill you when you were an infant as it is to kill you now. This account can be generalized to almost all infants. Notice that the wrongness of killing infants can be explained in the absence of an account of what makes the future of an individual sufficiently valuable so that it is wrong to kill that individual. The absence of such an account explains why the FLO account is indeterminate with respect to the wrongness of killing nonhuman animals.
If the FLO account is the correct theory of the wrongness of killing, then because abortion involves killing fetuses and fetuses have FLOs for exactly the same reasons that infants have FLOs, abortion is presumptively seriously immoral. This inference lays the necessary groundwork for a fourth argument
in favor of the FLO account that shows that abortion IS wrong.
The Analogy with Animals Argument
Why do we believe it is wrong to cause animals suffering? We believe that, in our own case and in the case of other adults and children, suffering is a misfortune. It would be as morally arbitrary to refuse to acknowledge that animal suffering is wrong as it would be to refuse to acknowledge that the suffering of persons of another race is wrong. It is, on reflection, suffering that is a misfortune, not the suffering of white males or the suffering of humans. Therefore, infliction of suffering is presumptively wrong no matter on whom it is inflicted and whether it is inflicted on persons or nonpersons. Arbitrary restrictions on the wrongness of suffering count as racism or speciesism. Not only is this argument convincing on its own, but it is the only way of justifying the wrongness of animal cruelty. Cruelty toward animals is clearly wrong. (This famous argument is due to Singer, 1979.)
The FLO account of the wrongness of abortion is analogous. We believe that, in our own case and the cases of other adults and children, the loss of a future of value is a misfortune. It would be as morally arbitrary to refuse to acknowledge that the loss of a future of value to a fetus is wrong as to refuse to acknowledge that the loss of a future of value to Jews (to take a relevant twentieth-century example) is wrong. It is, on reflection, the loss of a future of value that is a misfortune; not the loss of a future of value to adults or Joss of a future of value to nonJews. To deprive someone of a future of value is wrong no matter on whom the deprivation is inflicted and no matter whether the deprivation is inflicted on persons or nonpersons. Arbitrary restrictions on the wrongness of this deprivation count as racism, genocide or ageism. Therefore, abortion is wrong. This argument that abortion is wrong should be convincing because it has the same form as the argument for the claim that causing pain and suffering to non-human animals is wrong. Since the latter argument is convincing, the former argument should be also. Thus, an analogy with animals supports the thesis that abortion is wrong.
REPLIES TO OBJECTIONS
The four arguments in the previous section establish that abortion is, except in rare cases, seriously immoral. Not surprisingly, there are objections to this view. There are replies to the four most important objections to the FLO argument for the immorality of abortion.
The Potentiality Objection
The FLO account of the wrongness of abortion is a potentiality argument. To claim that a fetus has an FLO is to claim that a fetus now has the potential to be in a state of a certain kind in the future. It is not to claim that all ordinary fetuses will have FLOs. Fetuses who are aborted, of course, will not. To say that a standard fetus has an FLO is to say that a standard fetus either will have or would have a life it will or would value. To say that a standard fetus would have a life it would value is to say that it will have a life it will value if it does not die prematurely. The truth of this conditional is based upon the nature of fetuses (including the fact that they naturally age) and this nature concerns their potential.
Some appeals to potentiality in the abortion debate rest on unsound inferences. For example, one may try to generate an argument against abortion by arguing that because persons have the right to life, potential persons also have the right to life. Such an argument is plainly invalid as it stands. The premise one needs to add to make it valid would have to be something like: "If Xs have the right to Y, then potential Xs have the right to Y." This premise is plainly false. Potential presidents don't have the rights of the presidency; potential voters don't have the right to vote.
In the FLO argument potentiality is not used in order to bridge the gap between adults and fetuses as is done in the argument in the above paragraph. The FLO theory of the wrongness of killing adults is
based upon the adult's potentiality to have a future of value. Potentiality is in the argument from the very beginning. Thus, the plainly false premise is not required. Accordingly, the use of potentiality in the FLO theory is not a sign of an illegitimate inference.
The Argument from Interests
A second objection to the FLO account of the immorality of abortion involves arguing that even though fetuses have FLOs, non sentient fetuses do not meet the minimum conditions for having any moral standing at all because they lack interests. Steinbock (1992, p. 5) has presented this argument clearly:
Beings that have moral status must be capable of caring about what is done to them. They must be capable of being made, if only in a rudimentary sense, happy or miserable, comfortable or distressed. Whatever reasons we may have for preserving or protecting non sentient beings, these reasons do not refer to their own interests. For without conscious awareness, beings cannot have interests. Without interests, they cannot have a welfare of their own. Without a welfare of their own, nothing can be done for their sake. Hence, they lack moral standing or status.
Medical researchers have argued that fetuses do not become sentient until after 22 weeks of gestation (Steinbock, 1992, p. 50). If they are correct, and if Steinbock's argument is sound, then we have both an objection to the FLO account of the wrongness of abortion and a basis for a view on abortion minimally acceptable to most supporters of choice.
Steinbock's conclusion conflicts with our settled moral beliefs. Temporarily unconscious human beings are nonsentient, yet no one believes that they lack either interests or moral standing. Accordingly, neither conscious awareness nor the capacity for conscious awareness is a necessary condition for having interests.
The counter-example of the temporarily unconscious human being shows that there is something internally wrong with Steinbock's argument. The difficulty stems from an ambiguity. One cannot take an interest in something without being capable of caring about what is done to it. However, something can be in someone's interest without that individual being capable of caring about it, or about anything. Thus, life support can be in the interests of a temporarily unconscious patient even though the temporarily unconscious patient is incapable of taking an interest in that life support. If this can be so for the temporarily unconscious patient, then it is hard to see why it cannot be so for the temporarily unconscious (that is, non sentient) fetus who requires placental life support. Thus the objection based on interests fails.
The Problem of Equality
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing seems to imply that the degree of wrongness associated with each killing varies inversely with the victim's age. Thus, the FLO account of the wrongness of killing seems to suggest that it is far worse to kill a five-yearold than an 89-year-old because the former is deprived of far more than the latter. However, we believe that all persons have an equal right to life. Thus, it appears that the FLO account of the wrongness of killing entails an obviously false view (Paske, 1994).
However, the FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not, strictly speaking, imply that it is worse to kill younger people than older people. The FLO account provides an explanation of the wrongness of killing that is sufficient to account for the serious presumptive wrongness of killing. It does not follow that killings cannot be wrong in other ways. For example, one might hold, as does Feldman (1992, p. 184), that in addition to the wrongness of killing that has its basis in the future life of which the victim is deprived, killing an individual is also made wrong by the admirability of an individual's past behavior. Now the amount of admirability will presumably vary directly with age, whereas the amount of deprivation will vary inversely with age. This tends to equalize the wrongness of murder.
However, even if, ceteris paribus , it is worse to kill younger persons than older persons, there are
good reasons for adopting a doctrine of the equality of murder. Suppose that we tried to estimate the seriousness of a crime of murder by appraising the value of the FLO of which the victim had been deprived. How would one go about doing this? In they first place, one would be confronted by the old problem of interpersonal comparisons of utility. Second place, estimation of the value of a would involve putting oneself, not into the shoes of the victim at the time she was killed, but rather into the shoes the victim would have worn had the victim survived, and then estimating from that perspective the worth of that person's future. This task difficult, if not impossible. Accordingly, there are reasons to adopt a convention that murders equally wrong.
Furthermore, the FLO theory, in a way, explains why we do adopt the doctrine of the legal equity of murder. The FLO theory explains why we murder as one of the worst of crimes, since depriving someone of a future like ours deprives more than depriving her of anything else. This gives us a reason for making the punishment for younger victims very harsh, as harsh as is compatible with civiliazed society. One should not make the punishment younger victims harsher than that. Thus, the doctrine of the equal legal right to life does not seem incompatible with the FLO theory.
The Contraception Objection
The strongest objection to the FLO argument immorality of abortion is based on the claim that, because contraception results in one less FLO, the FLO argument entails that contraception, indeed, abstention from sex when conception is possible, is immoral. Because neither contraception nor abstention from sex when conception is possible is immoral, the FLO account is flawed.
There is a cogent reply to this objection. If argument of the early part of this essay is correct, then the central issue concerning the morality of abortion is the problem of whether fetuses are individuals who are members of the class of individuals whom it is seriously presumptively wrong to kill. The properties of being human and alive, of being a person, and of having an FLO are criteria that participants in the abortion debate have offered to mark off the relevant class of individuals. The central claim of this essay is that having an FLO marks off the relevant class of individuals. A defender of the FLO view could, therefore, reply that since, at the time of contraception, there is no individual to have an FLO, the FLO account does not entail that contraception is wrong. The wrong of killing is primarily a wrong to the individual who is killed; at the time of contraception there is no individual to be wronged.
However, someone who presses the contraception objection might have an answer to this reply. She might say that the sperm and egg are the individuals deprived of an FLO at the time of contraception. Thus, there are individuals whom contraception deprives of an FLO and if depriving an individual of an FLO is what makes killing wrong, then the FLO theory entails that contraception is wrong.
There is also a reply to this move. In the case of abortion, an objectively determinate individual is the subject of harm caused by the loss of an FLO. This individual is a fetus. In the case of contraception, there are far more candidates (see Norcross, 1990). Let us consider some possible candidates in order of the increasing number of individuals harmed: (1) The single harmed individual might be the combination of the particular sperm and the particular egg that would have united to form a zygote if contraception had not been used. (2) The two harmed individuals might be the particular sperm itself, and, in addition, the ovum itself that would have physically combined to form the zygote. (This is modeled on the double homicide of two persons who would otherwise in a short time fuse. (1) is modeled on harm to a single entity some of whose parts are not physically contiguous, such as a university. (3) The many harmed individuals might be the millions of combinations of sperm and the released ovum whose (small) chances of having an FLO were reduced by the successful contraception. (4) The even larger class of harmed individuals (larger by one) might be the class consisting of all of the individual sperm in an ejaculate and, in addition, the individual ovum released at the time of the successful contraception. (1) through (4) are all candidates for being the subject(s) of harm in the case of successful contraception or abstinence from sex. Which should be chosen? Should we hold a lottery? There seems to be no non-arbitrarily determinate subject of harm in the case of successful contraception. But if there is no such subject of harm, then no determinate thing was harmed. If no determinate thing was harmed, then (in the case of contraception) no wrong has been done. Thus, the FLO account of the wrongness of abortion does not entail that contraception is wrong.
This essay contains an argument for the view that, except in unusual circumstances, abortion is seriously wrong. Deprivation of an FLO explains why killing adults and children is wrong. Abortion deprives fetuses of FLOs. Therefore, abortion is wrong. This argument is based on an account of the wrongness of killing that is a result of our considered judgment of the nature of the misfortune of premature death. It accounts for why we regard killing as one of the worst of crimes. It is superior to alternative accounts of the wrongness of killing that are intended to provide insight into the ethics of abortion. This account of the wrongness of killing is supported by the way it handles cases in which our moral judgments are settled. This account has an analogue in the most plausible account of the wrongness of causing animals to suffer. This account makes no appeal to religion. Therefore, the FLO account shows that abortion, except in rare instances, is seriously wrong.
Beckwith, F. J., Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1993).
Benn, S. 1., "Abortion, Infanticide, and Respect for Persons," The Problem of Abortion, ed. J. Feinberg (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 1973), pp. 92-104.
Engelhardt, Jr, H. T., The Foundations of Bioethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).
Feinberg, J., "Abortion," Matters of Life and Death: New Introductory Essays in Moral Philosophy, ed. T. Regan (New York: Random House, 1986).
Feldman, F., Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
Kant, I., Lectures on Ethics, trans. L. Infeld ( New York: Harper, 1963).
Marquis, D. B., "A Future like Ours and the Concept of Person: a Reply to Mcinerney and Paske," The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, ed. L. P. Pojman and F. J. Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994), pp. 354-68.
---, "Fetuses, Futures and Values: a Reply to Shirley," Southwest Philosophy Review II (1995): 263-5.
---, "Why Abortion Is Immoral," Joumal of Philosophy 86 (1989): 183-202.
McInerney, P., "Does a Fetus Already Have a Future like Ours?," Journal of Philosophy 87 (1990): 264-8.
Noonan, J., "An Almost Absolute Value in History," in The Morality of Abortion, ed. J. Noonan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970).
Norcross, A., "Killing, Abortion, and Contraception: a Reply to Marquis," Journal of Philosophy 87 (1990): 268-77.
Paske, G., "Abortion and the Neo-natal Right to Life: a Critique of Marquis's Futurist Argument," The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, ed. L. P. Pojman and F. J. Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994), pp. 343-53.
Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia (Vatican City, 1980).
Shirley, E. S., "Marquis' Argument Against Abortion: a Critique," Southwest Philosophy Review II (1995): 79-89.
Singer, P., "Not for Humans Only: the Place of Non humans in Environmental Issues," Ethics and Problems of the 2 I st Century, ed. K. E. Goodpaster and K. M. Sayre (South Bend: Notre Dame University Press, 1979).
Steinbock, B., Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
Thomson, J. J., "A Defense of Abortion," Philosophy and Public Affairs I (1971): 47-66.
Tooley, M., "Abortion and Infanticide," Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (1972): 37-65.
Warren, M. A., "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion," Monist 57 (1973): 43-61.
Abortion Essay Introduction
Introduction For Abortion Essay
Abortion Introduction Many views have been considered towards abortion. It is regarded as one of the most crucial issues to be discussed. I have chosen this topic since it represents a heated debate that involves lots of views and perspectives. Also, this topic has been at the top of many agendas for discussion to reach somewhere between the two extremes those who adopt abortion as an option and others who oppose tis belief. In this research, I will be presenting views regarding abortion and thoughts of concerned people will be considered and further discussed; for those who believe that abortion is legal and opponents to these views are presented, and a third team who tries to strike the balance between the two extremes and a conclusion could be…
Abortion Introduction Essay
Introduction Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability (Statistic Brain). Abortions have become one of the most common ways to end pregnancy. Three out of ten women in the United States have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old (Planet ParentHood). There are two different types of abortions women can have. The first is a clinic abortion and the second is the abortion pill. Abortion became…
Mrs. S. Wade Case: An Introduction To Abortion
Introduction Abortion is considered to be one of the most controversial issues worldwide. Millions of people are not alive today because they were never given a chance at life. The word abortion is derived from the Latin word “abortio,” which means to abort, miscarry, or deliver prematurely. Abortion is defined by Dictionary.com as the “removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy” and occurs especially during the first six months. An abortion is performed about…
Awkward Elevator Ride Essay
An Awkward Elevator Ride Norms are established rules of behavior or standards of conduct that prescribe limits of acceptable behavior according to the definition that you have given us. We were given an assignment that requires us to choose a norm and violate it. We had to choose between the following: Sing loudly (solo) on a UNA bus or in an elevator with strangers on it, position ourselves six inches from an acquaintance 's nose during a conversation, stand on a chair in a restaurant and…
Renaissance Music Research Paper
Music has been a part of our lives ever since recorded history has taken place. It evolves with society to help build our culture. Just imagine not having any music or art in the Renaissance era. How would our society have looked today without the important influences? My research question for this project was How does music helps expand our interaction in society by being taught in our school system? The first thing I looked at in doing my research was Johns Hopkins School of Education…
Wikipedia Comparison Essay
to any subject, which in turn can lead to a lack of, or worse yet, false information. The validity and organization of an article is of supreme importance on Wikipedia, especially when comparing two articles, such as the two cities of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Homyel, Belarus. Any city article’s introductory paragraphs usually focus on unique aspects that best exemplify that city. Albuquerque 's article uses population figures, physical landscape, and regional events. A large part of the…
Li Chonguye's Essay 'The Story Of An Hour'
interpretation and analysis of “The Story of An Hour” by Kate Chopin (1984). This essay’s purpose was to seek for the story’s strengths and/or weaknesses. Chonguye used systematic format for her analysis and she followed the structure of the original story to ensure a progressive and logical discussion that Chonguye has created. The essay has three parts. It started with the introduction, which I think it is her “They say” part, where she put all of the previous studies about the story.…
Argument Peer Review Essay
Step #4: Evaluating an Argument Peer Review Instructions: Please answer each question in detail. I expect at least three to four sentences per question. Does the author present the issue in his or her introduction? Suggestions? I think their intro is pretty decent. It starts off qith a questions then goes on to answer them. Starting off with a catching question is a good start in my book. Does he start from general information and move to specifics? Suggestions? I believe so. They starts off…
Ap Language Reflection
Taking AP classes usually require numerous amount of work. However, the AP Language course has made available to me an intriguing experience. As my journey in the class continues, I realize several misconceptions about our popularly spoken language, and various interesting facts as well. To close the gap between my experiences and the manner by which these experiences are expressed, the word “wahala” will be utilized. Wahala is a fabricated word by me, with a meaning that comes from my own…
My Informative Speech: My Importance Of Speech
In my first speech, I was very nervous to get up in front of the class and present. I also did not have a very structured speech and it was a bit all over the place in my delivery. This time around, I felt I delivered my speech more clearly and slowly, allowing the audience to understand it better. I tried to make the most eye contact I could and used my visual aid timely and how I had planned. I also feel that I remembered and hit all my points and supporting details in my delivery. My points…
- 2005 albums
- 2006 albums
- 2007 singles
- 2008 singles
- Birth control
- Classical music
- Debut albums
- English language
- English-language films
- French language
- Johns Hopkins University
- Advertisement Essays
- Evolution Essay
- Advertisement Analysis Essay
- I Want to Become a Teacher Essay
- Why Education Is Important Essay
- Write My Essay Free
- Medical Marijuana Essay
- Body Image Essay
- Causes of the Great Depression Essay
- Example of Exemplification Essay
- Sachin Tendulkar Essay
- To Kill a Mockingbird Theme Essay
- Essay on Nelson Mandela
- Allegory of the Cave Essay
- Brain Essay
- Swot Analysis Essay
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essay
- Love Definition Essay
- Myself Essay in English for Students
- Personal Challenge Essay Examples
- Alexander the Great Essay
- Process Analysis Essay Examples
- White Privilege Essay
- China Essay
Ready To Get Started?
- Create Flashcards
- Mobile apps
- Cookie Settings
60 Abortion Essay Topics
Students will often need to demonstrate their ability to comment on, analyze, and interpret various types of information to write an abortion essay. These skills are important in academic settings and the real world. In many ways, being able to critically engage with different social issues is what defines an educated person.
When it comes to writing about abortion, it’s safe to say that there are many avenues you can take. For example, you might choose to discuss the ethical implications of abortion, or you could look at the issue from a medical standpoint. Perhaps you want to analyze how different countries approach abortion differently, or you might want to focus on a specific case study.
No matter what angle you choose to take, we’ve provided some essential tips to help you write an essay about abortion and included 60 abortion essay topics to help get you started.
Tips for Writing an Abortion Essay
Before we get into the different types of abortion essays, let’s first go over some tips on how to write this type of essay. Essentially, any essay about abortion will require the same basic structure as an essay on any other kind of social issue. Your essay will need a thesis, an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Abortion Essay Thesis
Depending on the argument or angle of your essay, your thesis statement about abortion will need to state more than just whether you think abortion should be legal or not. Here are some examples of potential thesis statements for an abortion essay:
“Abortion should remain legal because it provides women with a choice in difficult situations.”
“Because life technically begins at conception, abortion is equivalent to murder and should therefore be illegal.”
“The mental health ramifications of forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term are significant, and abortion should be legal in order to protect the mother’s well-being.”
Each of these abortion-related statements offers an opinion that can be backed up with concrete evidence. The key is to make sure that your thesis statement makes a clear argument that can be supported throughout the body of your essay.
Abortion Essay Introduction
Your abortion essay introduction should grab your reader’s attention and give them a good sense of what your paper will be about. In general, you’ll want to start with a brief overview of the issue of abortion, then move on to your specific thesis statement.
One effective way to begin an essay is by providing a thought-provoking or surprising statistic related to your topic. For example, you might start your introduction to an essay on abortion like this:
“In the United States, 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by the age of 45.”
“While choosing to have an abortion is a personal one, the decision is often made under difficult circumstances.”
“Abortion is a complex issue with many different stakeholders involved.”
These opening statements, combined with other pieces of background information in your introduction, such as definitions of key terms, can help set the stage for your argument.
Abortion Essay Body Paragraphs
The body paragraphs of your abortion essay should present different points or arguments that support your thesis statement. Each body paragraph should focus on a single point, and you’ll want to make sure to include evidence from research or real-world examples to back up your claims.
When it comes to structuring your body paragraphs, you might want to start with the strongest point first and then move on to the weakest point. Or, you could organize your paragraphs chronologically or by order of importance.
Whichever structure you choose, just make sure that each body paragraph flows smoothly into the next and that your points are clearly connected to your thesis statement.
Abortion Essay Conclusion
The final paragraph of your essay on abortion should briefly summarize the main points of your argument and leave your reader with a strong conclusion. In general, you’ll want to restate your thesis in your conclusion and remind your reader of the evidence that you presented in your essay.
A good conclusion might also offer some recommendations for further research or action on the issue of abortion. For example, you could end your essay with a call to action for pro-choice activists or a plea for more support for women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term.
Whatever you choose to include in your conclusion, make sure it is concise and clear. You don’t want to leave your reader with any unanswered questions or confusion about your position on the issue of abortion.
Final Thoughts on Abortion Essay Writing
Be sure that when writing your essay on the topic of abortion, you present your points clearly and concisely. The goal is to communicate your position on the issue in a logical and easy way for your reader to understand.
It is crucial to avoid overly discriminatory language or making any unsubstantiated claims in your essay. Remember that you are trying to persuade your reader to see things from your perspective, so it is important to present a well-reasoned argument backed up by facts and evidence.
By following these suggestions, you can ensure that your abortion essay will make a solid and convincing argument.
With the handy writing guide above and the 60 abortion essay topics below, you’ll have no trouble writing an excellent abortion essay that will impress your professor.
Abortion Essay Topics About Pro-Choice
- Compare and contrast the pro-choice and pro-life positions on abortion.
- What are the most common reasons women choose to have abortions?
- How does the availability of abortion services impact women’s health?
- Analyze data regarding the biological growth of a fetus and whether or not it can be considered a human life.
- Discuss the potential psychological impact of being forced to carry a pregnancy to term.
- Should government funding be used to support abortion services?
- How does access to safe and legal abortion impact women’s economic empowerment?
- What are some of the most common myths about abortion?
- Persuade the reader that abortion can be considered a form of birth control.
- How does the pro-choice movement work to advance women’s rights?
Abortion Essay Topics About Pro-Life
- Discuss the health implication of having an abortion at any stage of the pregnancy.
- Examine the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade and subsequent court cases regarding abortion.
- What is personhood, and when does it begin?
- How do pro-life activists work to advance their cause?
- What are some of the most common arguments made by pro-life advocates?
- Create a narrative essay about a woman who is considering having an abortion.
- What are the potential legal implications of overturning Roe v. Wade?
- Would making abortion illegal impact women’s health?
- Would a ban on abortion disproportionately impact low-income women and women of color?
- Write an argumentative essay in which you take a pro-life position.
Abortion Essay Topics About Religion and Abortion
- What role does religion play in the abortion debate?
- How do different religions view abortion?
- Would outlawing abortion violate the separation of church and state?
- Does the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion impact women’s health?
- How does the Mormon Church’s stance on abortion impact women’s health?
- Would making abortion illegal in the United States impact women’s health globally?
- What is the impact of religion on women’s access to abortion services?
- How do the religious beliefs of medical professionals impact their provision of abortion services?
- Would a ban on abortion impact women’s religious freedom?
- Should doctors be allowed to refuse abortion services based on their religious beliefs.
Abortion Essay Topics About Legislation
- What legislation do you think would best accommodate both pro-choice and pro-life positions on abortion?
- Would a ban on abortion impact women’s reproductive rights?
- Should abortion be governed on a state or federal level?
- Should voters or the judicial system be the ultimate deciding factor in the legality of abortion.
- Analyze arguments in Roe v. Wade and subsequent court cases that have impacted abortion legislation
- Should there be mandatory waiting periods or parental consent laws for abortions?
- Should doctors who perform abortions be penalized?
- Are there any other similar cases to Roe v. Wade?
- Would a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion be effective?
Abortion Essay Topics About Ethics
- Is it ethical to have an abortion?
- Is it ethical to force women to carry a pregnancy to term?
- Considering the potential socio-economic impact of having a child, is it ethical to have an abortion?
- Is it ethical for the government to fund abortion services?
- Is it ethical for doctors to refuse to provide abortions based on their personal beliefs?
- Is it ethical to perform research on aborted fetuses?
- Is it ethical to use abortion as a form of birth control?
Abortion Essay Topics About the Process of Abortion
- Discuss the different ways an abortion can be performed.
- How do abortion pills work?
- What is a dilation and evacuation abortion?
- What are the risks of having an abortion?
- Are there any long-term effects of having an abortion?
- How does the experience of having an abortion differ for women who have them in different stages of their pregnancies?
- How do the emotions a woman experiences after an abortion differ depending on her circumstances?
- What are some of the most common reasons women have abortions?
- What are some of the most common misconceptions about the abortion process?
Abortion Essay Topics About Fetuses
- Analyze the different stages of fetal development and discuss the ethical implications of abortion at each stage.
- Should aborted fetuses be considered human beings?
- What rights, if any, do fetuses have?
- How does a woman’s relationship with her fetus change throughout her pregnancy?
- What medical advancements could be made with aborted fetuses?
With these topics, you’ll have plenty of material to work with when crafting your abortion essay. Be sure to focus on one particular angle and back up your claims with evidence from reliable sources. With a well-written and researched essay, you’ll be able to make your case and persuade others of your point of view.
- 165 Fun Essay Topics
- 105 Educational Essay Topics
- 120 Exploratory Essay Topics
- 75 Critical Thinking Essay Topics
- 120 Argumentative Essay Topics
- Essay Samples
- Essay Topics
- Essay Writing Guides
- 170 Ethics Essay Topics
- 160 Satire Essay Topics
- 160 Rhetorical Essay Topics
- 155 Criminal Justice Essay Topics
- 150 Political Essay Topics
- 145 Classification Essay Topics
- 140 Sociology Essay Topics
- 140 Opinion Essay Topics
- 140 Environmental Essay Topics
- 135 Controversial Essay Topics
- 125 Classification and Division Essay Topics
- 120 Literary Essay Topics
- 100 Profile Essay Topics
- 90 Heart of Darkness Essay Topics
- 80 Holocaust Essay Topics