Over the last several decades, the topic of abortion has become an increasingly controversial and heated argument in popular culture, press, and medical fields. The process of the abortion as defined by Merriam-Webster is “the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, resulting in death of the embryo or fetus”. This process has been thoroughly discussed in a number of fields ranging from medical ethics to Christian journalism, in which it has both been defended and attacked.
The main focus of the controversy seems to be determining at what point a fetus is considered a human being and therefore t what point abortion becomes murder. Some argue this occurs at the moment of conception while others believe this does not argue until the fetus develops fingers and vital organs around the tenth week of pregnancy. Some, such as medical ethics author Judith Jarvis Thompson, take a different stance all together and argue that drawing a line between being considered a person and not a person is an illogical argument without purpose.
Thompson claims that calling a fetus at the moment of conception a human is like calling a freshly fallen acorn an oak tree, however, she does agree that the transition room fetus to human being occurs a long time before birth. Judith Jarvis Thompson is an author within the medical ethics field who wrote an article defending abortion for several medical journals in the sass. Her article attempts to avoid the abortion v. Murder argument, and defends medical abortion by accepting for the sake of the argument that a fetus has a right to life.
Through the acceptance of this assumption, she discusses the flaws within the claims of those who argue that abortion is impermissible; she claims that just because a fetus has a right to life this does not rule out the reactive of abortion entirely. Thompson uses the metaphorical situation of a forced kidney donation to a famous violinist to make this point: “You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help.
They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as our own… To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you”. This metaphor is used to show how Thompson belief that it is foolish to think a fetus’ right to life trumps the mother’s right to her own body.
Thompson continues on in the article to discuss the ways in which forcing a woman to carry a baby to term against her wishes violates that woman’s right to control what happens to her body as well as her right to choose when to become a parent. While I admire Thompson for defending abortion in a manner that addresses the methods right to her own body without ignoring the rights of the fetus, disagree with her choice to ignore the main controversy. If the moral permissibility of abortion is to ever be determined and clearly defined, we must set an exact point at which the fetus gains the right to life.
For example, a possible marker for the transformation of a fetus (a grouping of cells) into a human being could be the first sign of brain activity from within the womb. This marker would set a defining moment for when the grouping of cells begins to transform into a person palpable of thought and activity, and from a spiritual standpoint this could be the point at which a soul enters the body. Another possible way to define the moment when a fetus is considered to be a child is to monitor the growth of the tissues and cells to determine the viability of the fetus (I. . When the fetus could live successfully outside the womb). This indicator seems to be the most used in regulating and drafting abortion laws, and provides an easily determined sign that a fetus has received the right to life as it no longer needs its mother to survive. Possibly a combination of these two methods would be the most beneficial in determining the transition from fetus to baby; together they could conclude when the body and mind are both capable of independent life.
However, both Of these methods can be inconclusive and are more dependent on medical technology than the fetus’ growth/ capability. Using brain activity to gauge the development of a fetus seems like a logical step at first, but after doing some research I learned that the brain activity shown in the womb is a pre-condition of the fetus’ development and does not signify actual consciousness. The next method, measuring viability, seems like the easiest indicator and that’s why its use is so widespread but the results of measuring a fetus’ viability are easily compromised.
The ability of a fetus to survive outside the womb is dependent on the mother’s health before and during pregnancy as well as the medical technology and services available to the fetus. The medical treatment plays a large role as a fetus who could have survived given proper care could easily pass away due to lack of proper immunization or nutrition; therefore measuring viability can produce incorrect results and compromise laws or decisions based on those results.
Overall, Judith Jarvis Thompson did an excellent job of explaining the mothers rights, however think her defense of abortion would have been stronger if she had addressed the issue of at what point the fetus’ rights are determined. I believe that medical abortion is morally permissible but I think that its permissibility is dependent on clarifying the moment at which a fetus becomes a baby and only allowing termination before that point. Terminating the pregnancy after this transition occurs violates the child’s right to life and is orally impermissible.
Nonetheless, am unsure of the role the mothers right to her own body plays in this; I don’t believe it is right to kill an unborn child after they have developed enough to be considered a human being but I don’t believe it is right to force a woman to give up control Of her body for nine months against her wishes. Thompson only addressed the rights of the mother given the fetus has already obtained right to life, and her argument could have been more persuasive had she included a discussion of the mothers rights before the rights of the fetus are determined.