Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Jess and Jeff discuss abortion

What is the issue?

Controversy surrounds the topic of abortion. For some, it’s been a tool of great social change, reducing crime-rates while inducing other beneficial effects. To others, it can’t be sugarcoated and is simply murder of the most innocent, defenseless members of our society. Evaluating this issue with a variety of different perspectives is integral in order to find the ‘right’ way to approach it. With a tie-in to subjects such as religion and ethics, evaluating the ethical implications of abortion can allow one to see the different viewpoints that people see the world through.

photo taken from the conversation.com

How can it approached?


  • Women who have had abortions
  • Women who will/may get pregnant in future
  • Men whose SO’s may get an abortion

Categorical Imperative:  

People who both a) do not agree with murder and b) do not agree with abortion would be agree with the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative would see abortion as bad because if you see murder as a negative or something completely unjustifiable, then abortion would, in terms of the categorical imperative, be seen as just as bad as, say, shooting someone on the street.


Utilitarianism is for the benefit of the whole. An article was cited in saying,

“The reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman’s education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%). Nearly four in 10 women said they had completed their childbearing, and almost one-third were not ready to have a child. Fewer than 1% said their parents’ or partners’ desire for them to have an abortion was the most important reason. Younger women often reported that they were unprepared for the transition to motherhood, while older women regularly cited their responsibility to dependents.”

Many of these reasons are ones that we, if we were a utilitarian society, could approve of. To bring a child into the world when the financial situation of the parent(s) would not guarantee them a good life would mean that the child would have a higher likelihood of growing up and being imprisoned, homeless, impoverished, or a number of other things. Ultimately, to bring a child into a scenario where the parents are unable to care for them as they should would be seen as a negative thing, if viewed in a utilitarian sense.

photo taken from cbc.ca


Ignoring the fact that Rawls’ theory requires you to be behind the veil of ignorance and therefore a fetus (and thus, very much not in favour of being aborted), this theory still has the possibility of going in either direction. Perhaps it is more likely that one would be in favour of abortion if they were able to be put in the situation of having to decide — ergo, if they were born an impoverished woman — but it is still quite subjective.

How can it be addressed?

Abortion can only really be addressed on an individual level. Viewing it through a variety of different perspectives only enlightens the person further into which direction would be the ‘ethical’ way. Whereas utilitarianism would welcome abortion if it were done to people who could not raise their children in a safe environment, the categorical imperative would argue that there is no way to justify murder and that abortion is ethically wrong no matter what the circumstance. With Rawl’s theory, however, it all comes down to personal preference, and in the end, isn’t that all that it is?




Leanne- Abortion

I am one of those people who is rather neutral on many issues, but is strongly opinionated on others. Abortion is one of those. I do understand both sides of the argument and I can identify with those on each side, but I also believe that, on my side, the rewards outweigh the rest. I’m going to try to keep this post at least mostly neutral, but I will discuss my position at the end.

Firstly, abortion has been legalized in different societies for different reasons:

  • abortion for the sake of the mother’s health (including her mental health)
  • abortion where a pregnancy is the result of a crime such as crimes like rape, incest, or child abuse
  • abortion where the child of the pregnancy would have an ‘ unacceptable quality of life’ such as cases where the child would have serious physical handicaps, serious genetic problems, serious mental defects
  • abortion for social reasons, including: poverty,mother unable to cope with a child (or another child), mother being too young to cope with a child
  • abortion as a matter of government policy: as a way of regulating population size, as a way of regulating groups within a population, as a way of improving the population

Some people chose to abort their unborn children because of gender or abnormalities. This is called selective abortion and is generally considered “wrong.” Female infanticide is a widely debated issue that can be pursued in Keagan’s post.   Others abort for health reasons, as mentioned above. Even those strongly opposed to abortion can see the other side when presented with the scenario in which the pregnancy is a serious threat to the mother’s health or life. It’s known that a person has the right to defend themselves when in danger, and that violence (which may potentially maim or kill the person from which defense is needed) is acceptable in order to protect oneself from physical harm. This presents the logical conclusion that if the unborn fetus is endangering the life of the mother, she has the right to abort it. Many would argue, however, that the child is not to blame and therefore is undeserving of such a cruel fate.

What if the person causing danger is entirely innocent of any bad intent? What if they are completely unaware that they are posing a threat to someone? What if they aren’t at all responsible for the danger, and are, in fact, not even considered a human being yet?

Also, in some cases, the mother has brought the danger upon herself by becoming pregnant. Does this change the moral argument? Practically, no. If pregnancy kills the mother, chances are that it will kill the fetus as well. The mother, in this case, though, could argue that though she consented to becoming pregnant, she did not consent to having a life-threatening pregnancy.

The fetus could also pose a threat to the mother’s mental health, family, future career(s), financial stability and life plans. Are these as important as her health? You make the call.

BUT- even people who are strongly opposed to abortion can sometimes consider it as an option in cases such as these:

-If there is a serious medical problem (endangers life of the mother or child, there are too many fetuses in the womb, the child will not survive birth)

-the child is so “defective” that its quality of life will be altered

-cases where pregnancy was unintentional (rape, failed contraceptive, pregnancy caused by a couple not knowing that sexual intercourse causes pregnancy, i.e.  people who are not mentally capable of understanding this.)

-cases where the pregnancy will be life-altering for the mother in a negative way (if the mother is incapable of sustaining the child)

Even choosing to abort because of a serious disability brings up an argument.

Side 1:

Allowing disability as a reason for abortion implies that disabled people, or the lives of disabled people, are less worthwhile than the lives of “normal” people. This is untrue and offensive to disabled people.  Most people with disabilities say that they would much rather be alive than have been killed in the womb. Allowing abortion on the grounds of disability therefore preempts the choice of the individual concerned.

Side 2:

Allowing abortion of a fetus with a disability permits eugenic abortion – abortion to eliminate disabling genes from the human race. (This is harsh sounding, so I like to replace side 2 with “those with serious disabilities are unable to live a full life and add challenges to not only their own lives, but to those around them.”)

Now. The most prominent part of the abortion debate is that ‘ending a life is bad.’ If we consider murder to be ‘bad,’ isn’t abortion pretty much the same thing, and therefore worthy of the same punishment?

…. I’m not going to answer that question.

When people talk about ‘human life’ they may mean a being that is a member of the biological ‘human’ species that has the human genetic code. They also may mean a being that possesses certain human characteristics in addition to the human genetic code, such as the ability to think and communicate. When does a fetus have the rights to life? When does life begin? One of my friends gave me an example a while ago that I think applies perfectly to this. If you  have one grain of sand sitting in front of you, would you call that a pile of sand? Probably not. How about two? Three? Forty five? When does the cluster of grains of sand become a pile? Is your unborn child alive when it’s born? How about the day before it’s born? Or the day before that? Etc.

I did some research on that and there’s actually no answer, so I will just leave that up to your personal thoughts. You can read a bit about it here, if you like.

Anyway. I’ve presented both sides of the argument, so now I will give my personal opinion. I think that abortion is a good option to have available to all women. I think that women have the right to control their own body and decide whether they would like a potentially health-threatening creature live inside them for forty weeks. Banning abortion puts women at risk, because this will force them to visit illegal abortion centres. I found a website with a nice syllogism on exactly this:

  • a woman has the right to decide what she can and can’t do with her body
  • the foetus exists inside a woman’s body
  • a woman has the right to decide whether the foetus remains in her body
  • therefore a pregnant woman has the right to abort the foetus.

There was a guy in my socials class who was talking to me about abortion about a week ago. He was against abortion. His argument was that the child’s existence was not its fault, therefore it doesn’t deserve to be killed.    He was very devout in this and actually turned away when I tried to present my argument. Now, I totally understand his side, but will HE ever get pregnant? No! He’s a guy. Yes, his opinion is valid and appreciated, (don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favour of killing babies, just preserving health and safety) but personally, I think that if a person is voicing an opinion on a subject that refers to the health of the opposite gender, they should stop talking unless they are willing to see both sides. 

Pregnancy is dangerous and really, really uncomfortable. (I had to be fake pregnant for a day for a class last year and it was possibly the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever experienced ever. I can’t imagine doing it for the greater part of a year.) I love children. Babies are great. Just, sometimes other considerations need to be made when it comes to something as serious as they are. Having a baby isn’t like getting a puppy. I know that some people use abortion as a method of birth control. I do not approve of this, but I think that it’s the mother’s choice. For those people that argue solely that killing children is wrong, keep in mind that it is the mother who will keep this on her mind for her whole life. She knows what she is getting into.

So. After possibly the longest blog post I’ve ever written, I hope that you have gained a new opinion on this very touchy issue. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/ has a lot of great information, if you’d like to see more, as well as Misha ‘s post here.