Argumentative Essay on Abortion: Pro-choice or Pro-life

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Wesleyan University
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Argumentative essay
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Abortion refers to the willful termination of pregnancy. For the past several decades, the ethicality, morality, and legality of abortion have always been a controversy. However, following the decision of the US Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade in 1973 granting women the right to choose whether to undergo abortion or not, abortion has become a particularly divisive, polarizing, and controversial issue both in the US and globally. Hence, many people hold very strong views about the issue of abortion. The issue of abortion is a controversial one because two main rival arguments have emerged since the Roe v. Wade decision: the pro-choice and the pro-life arguments. According to the pro-choice group, women should be afforded an unrestricted right to choose whether or not it is in their best interest to abort an unborn child and to be able to decide on their own about their reproductive rights. On the other hand, the pro-lifers argue that a fetus is a human being carrying life and hence should not be killed through abortion. The issue of abortion is important and relevant because it raises weighty legal, moral, political, and ethical issues that are worth investigating and in which the general public has an interest. It is also important because it concerns human life and appeals to emotions. This paper, while acknowledging but at the same time refuting and countering the opposing arguments, advances and defends the thesis that the pro-choice argument about abortion is the stronger one because it is based on scientifically proved facts and recognizes that in certain circumstances, abortion is justified on both legal and moral grounds.

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To begin with, as Kaczor (2013) argues, abortion should be legal under certain circumstances when the life of the mother is in danger. In such situations, the life of the pregnant mother and that of the fetus has to be carefully balanced and the best decision that is in the interest of the mother arrived at by medical doctors. Where the mother's life is saved through a legal abortion procedure, the mother can live to bring forth other babies, and hence in such situations, it is morally and legally justified to procure an abortion. Also, there at times arise circumstances beyond the control of a pregnant woman that makes abortion justified. For instance, in cases of a woman who is too old to have a child, a lady who is too young to be a mother, a woman with a terminal disease, or a woman who has been raped, it is legally and ethically justified for them to obtain an abortion (Kaczor, 2013). In these situations, the choice to undergo an abortion is not only in the best interest of the pregnant mother but also good for the unborn child. It would thus be morally wrong for the potential mother to be denied the right to abort the pregnancy under such unavoidable circumstances. In these conditions and situations, there is a moral and ethical obligation to assist pregnant women to undergo an abortion to ensure their well-being and good health. Legal abortion is also safer for women.

Another argument in defense of the pro-choice side of the debate on abortion is that every woman should have an inherent and inalienable right to make decisions on matters that pertain to their own body. According to Denbow (2013) argues, allowing a woman to choose between giving birth to a baby and having an abortion is a way of respecting her personal autonomy and right to determine what happens to her body and when to bear a child. As the court succinctly held in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), denying a woman the right to undergo an abortion before her second trimester is a violation of their Constitutional right to personal dignity, autonomy, and liberty. Given that an unborn child has no ability to self-awareness and reason, the potential mother's right to decide what is best for herself should be respected and hence she should not be denied the right to abort when it is reasonable and justified to do so. According to Jones (2007), a careful comparison between maternal and fetal rights shows that a pregnant mother has a moral right of choosing what happens to her own body since it is hers. The right to choose is thus closely connected to one's personal autonomy and liberty which are fundamental rights protected by the constitution. Moreover, as Jones (2007) argues, being a personal matter that affects individual privacy and raises issues of consent and confidentiality, it is necessary for women to be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to undergo an abortion. In City of Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reprod. Health Inc. (1983), the Supreme Court recognized the fundamental right of every woman to make a personal choice in relation to the termination of pregnancy. The position of the courts on abortion in itself indicates that women should have a choice whether to terminate their pregnancy or not.

On the other hand, the pro-life side of the abortion debate usually advances the argument that abortion is moral, religiously, and legally wrong because it is tantamount to murdering a human being. While this argument may seem tenable at face value, it does not really hold water because research has shown that before 16 weeks of pregnancy or during the second trimester, the fetus does not still possess the features of a human being. Normally, murder must be proved by establishing both men’s rea and actus reus of the crime. It has also been argued by Jones (2007) that at this stage of pregnancy, the fetus lacks reasoning and self-awareness which are the main features that define a human being. However, because scientifically the fetus cannot be said to be human during this stage of pregnancy, it cannot be argued that performing an abortion procedure constitutes the murdering of a human being. According to Jones (2007), the common anti-abortion argument obtained from the deductive reasoning that it is morally wrong to kill a fetus because it is an innocent human being may also be used to support the pro-abortion perspective that since a fetus has no moral status, it is not morally wrong for it to be destroyed.

In addition, the pro-lifers often advance the argument that since life begins at conception, a fetus has human rights including the right to life, and hence abortion represents a violation of this right. Such an argument, however, can only be maintained or survive legal and scientific scrutiny if it can be proved that life really begins at conception. Several studies have proved to the contrary that life does not actually begin at conception as many people believe. According to Swartz et al. (2013), for instance, even early philosophers and theologians like Thomas Aquinas believed that during the early stages of pregnancy, the fetus lacks the moral consciousness and hence is not to be regarded as a human being at this stage. Hence, Thomas Aquinas is differing from the position taken by the Catholic Church that life begins at conception by pointing out that an early fetus is merely an animal or plant and hence no human life is killed during the early stages of abortion. Instead, murder is only possible post-mid-pregnancy during which the fetus has acquired human features such as rationality and intellect (Swartz et al., 2013). Moreover, a fetus is not considered a human being unless and until it acquires a human soul which only happens during the later stages of pregnancy. Hence, terminating a pregnancy at the early stages as advocated for by the pro-abortion camp does not necessarily mean killing a human being, and hence it is not right to argue that the human rights of the fetus are violated through abortion.


In summary, therefore, it flows from the above discussion that the pro-choice argument in favor of women's right to choose to undergo abortion offers better insight and understanding than the arguments made by the pro-lifers or the anti-abortion camp. One of the reasons for such a conclusion is that unlike the pro-life side of the abortion debate, the pro-choice camp's arguments are supported by law, morality, and science. The pro-choice argument also recognizes the fact that it may not be justified or even possible to completely prohibit women from undergoing abortion since there are certain circumstances beyond their control that compels them to abort their pregnancies, including old or young age, rape, ectopic pregnancy, and terminal illness. Moreover, the pro-choice side of the abortion debate acknowledges that women are endowed with certain inalienable rights and freedoms such as personal autonomy and liberty and hence permitting them to undergo a legal abortion under restricted situations is a way of upholding and respecting this right. While the pro-life camp makes some potentially valid arguments regarding abortion, their claims that human life begins at conception and that a fetus is a human being with human rights that are violated during abortion are untenable and hence cannot be maintained as they are based on scientifically unproven facts.


Denbow, J. (2013). Abortion: When choice and autonomy conflict. Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, 20 (1), 216-232

Jones K, C.C. (2007). Ethics of abortion: the arguments for and against. Nursing Standard.

Kaczor, C. (2013). The Ethics of Abortion: Women's Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice. New York: Routledge

Swartz, N.P., Itumeleng, O.O., Kumar, R., Segokgo, R., Jeelabdeen, W., &amp Jeelabdeen, A.(2013). Does abortion take a human life? Thomas Aquinas answers. Review of European Studies, 5(4), 88-98

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