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Legalizing abortion has been one of the most controversial issues for decades. According to WHO, there are approximately 125,000 abortions per day because of different reasons: age, financial capability, tradition, family pressure and so on. It is supported by a large number of people and already become legal in many countries. However, the trend of anti-abortion has risen recently with strong arguments. This essay will focus on the most popular arguments against abortion and analyse the validity of them.
The first and also the most common reason is “abortion is murder”.
The legal definition of murder under the common law of England and Wales is 'the unlawful killing of a human being in the Queen's peace, with malice aforethought' (Hughes, 2005), which can be explained as one person kills another with the intention to unlawfully cause either death or serious injury. Analysing whether or not abortion is murder involves two aspects: first, whether or not a foetus in utero is a person, and, second, if a foetus is a human being, whether or not abortion can be appropriately called murder since it is legitimate in numerous countries.
From biological, or scientific point of view, it is generally agreed that life begins at conception. This has been proved by many doctors and medical experts as showed here:
“The life cycle of mammals begins when a sperm enters an egg.” (Okada, 2010) or “Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote.” (Moore, 2003).
A United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee invited world’s most respectable scientists and physicians to testify on the question of when life begins, the National Association for the Advancement of Preborn Children quotes some, from the official government record of their testimony: Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni, professor of paediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, stated: “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.” Dr. Jerome LeJeune, professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, the discoverer of the chromosome pattern of Down syndrome: “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being.” Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard University Medical School: “It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…. It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception….”
From religious point of view, the beginning of life is known as ensoulment. The Bible constantly mentions children before birth as simply very small/young children. In Luke's Gospel, Jesus and John the Baptist 'greet' one another whilst they are still in the wombs of their mothers. Verse 41 of the first chapter says: "It happened, when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” In Hinduism, according to Hinduism Today, Vedic literature states that the soul enters the body at conception. Islam does not traditionally hold that ensoulment occurs at the point of conception. In fact, they place the point of ensoulment anywhere between fourteen and one hundred and twenty days after conception (Zindani, Ahmed and Leigh Simpson 1994) based on a Hadith of the Prophet Muhammed narrated in Saheeh Muslim: “When 42 nights have passed over the conceptus, God sends an angel to it, who shapes it (into human form) and makes its hearing, sight, muscles and bones…”. Buddhism is a highly diverse religion, with different schools often having conflicting views. However, Buddhists generally consider that a new human being is created at conception (Keown, 2004). This is based on an Iron Age view of Human biology as represented in the earliest Buddhist texts. “When there is a union of the mother & father, the mother is in her season, and a gandhabba is present, then with this union of three things the descent of the embryo occurs.”
From the above evidences, it can be concluded that a foetus is generally considered as a human. Therefore, when a woman abort her baby, it means she intentionally kills another human or cause serious injury, which is the definition of murder.
The second popular against abortion is the pain of the foetus. The pro-life (anti-abortion side) believes that the foetus can feel pain during the abortion procedures. Ashley Morrow Fragoso from Family Research Council, a Masters graduate from Harvard University conducted a paper revealing the myth. Her result showed a mix conclusions where it was proved that unborn babies react strongly to harmful stimulation by sixteen weeks after fertilization, but many experts who specialize in foetal pain believe that the capacity for physical suffering sets in between eleven and eighteen weeks of life. Psychologist Stuart Derbyshire from University of Birmingham, who denies the possibility of foetal pain, suggests that the undisputed discovery that the neonate and foetus launch a hormonal and neural response to aggressive practice cannot be considered evidence that they are capable of feeling pain. Derbyshire and his colleagues suggest that “real” psychological pain, as experienced by adults, should thus be distinguished from nociception, the brain’s physiological response to invasive stimuli, which is generally present by 18 weeks of gestation.
While science at the moment does not have a concrete and definite evidence proving whether foetus can feel pain or not, the wise move can be, as the foetal medicine professor Kypros Nicolaides of Kings College told the British Commission of Inquiry into Foetal Sentience, that foetus should be treated as capable of experiencing pain, Dr. C.J. Hull, former Vice President of Britain’s Royal College of Anaesthetists, has also stated that “the foetus should be given the benefit of the doubt.”
In addition to the above arguments, there are several more arguments against abortion. One of the arguments is known as deprivation, which claims that by aborting an unborn baby, we are depriving a human from potential future of values. The argument suggests that a foetus in its future can have similar activities, projects and experience of an adult or young child. This theory is also known as “future like ours” or simply FLO, invented by Don Marquis. This argument was strongly disagreed by many experts and the public. Mark T. Brown in his article “The Morality of Abortion and the Deprivation of Futures” makes a comparison between depriving someone “potential future of value” with refusing someone to have access to something that he or she needs to live. According to Marquis’s definition, both of such cases are homicides. If it were true, Brown argues that it would also be a murder “when a homeless man dies due to exposure, when an elderly woman suffers from fatal pneumonia due to unheated apartment, and when an injured child dies since he could not receive right blood transfusion on time.”
Another argument is that abortion can increase the risk of breast cancer. This myth was quickly denied by WHO in 2000. The last famous argument against abortion is the argument from uncertainty. This argument suggests that if there is an uncertainty whether or not a foetus has the right to live, then killing it is equivalent to taking the risk of killing another human. David Boonin in his book “A Defence of Abortion” argues that if this kind of argument were correct, then the killing of animals plants or any other nonhuman life forms would also be morally wrong, because it is not known for certain that such beings lack a right to life. The pro-life replies that plants and animals are not and never will be human, they are a different case from the foetus case.
This essay only focuses on analysing the argument against abortion, or the anti-abortion side. In order to fully understand the debate, analysing the support-abortion side is critically needed. Despite that, this essay can give you a glance that there is no correct answer for the question should abortion be legal. It depends on countries’ culture and people’s beliefs. Even though there are scientific facts which are stated in the essay that can support or oppose abortion, they are not enough to fully deny the other side.
ALCORN, R., 2010. Why life begins at conception [viewed 17 January 2017]. Available from: http://naapc.org/why-life-begins-at-conception/
BOONIN, D. and D. MACLEAN, 2002. A defense of abortion. New York: Cambridge University Press
BROWN, M.T., 2000. The Morality of Abortion and the Deprivation of Futures. Journal of Medical Ethics, 2(26), 103–105
FRAGOSO, A., 2010. Fetal Pain Can Unborn Children Feel Pain in the Womb?. United States: Family Research Council [viewed 17 January 2017]. Available from: http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF10H06.pdf
GOTQ, 2016. Is abortion murder? [viewed 11 November 2016]. Available from: https://gotquestions.org/is-abortion-murder.html
HIMALAYAN ACADEMY, 2016. Hindus in America speak out on abortion issues - magazine web edition > September 1985 - publications - Hinduism today magazine [viewed 9 December 2016]. Available from:
HUGHES, D., 2005. The law commission A NEW HOMICIDE ACT FOR ENGLAND AND WALES?. [viewed 11 November 2016]. Available from: https://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/cfinkels/workingpapers/Report%20for%20British%20Law%20Commission%20cp177.pdf
IRVING, D.N., 1999. When do human beings begin? [viewed 11 November 2016]. Available from: https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/wdhbb.html
Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. pp. 16, 2.
ANON., 2011. Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta: The greater craving-destruction discourse [viewed 9 December 2016]. Available from: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.038.than.html
Okada et al., A role for the elongator complex in zygotic paternal genome demethylation, NATURE 463:554 (Jan. 28, 2010)
PROCON, 2016. Abortion ProCon.org [viewed 11 November 2016]. Available from: http://abortion.procon.org/
SIMONS, S.H.P., 2003. Do we still hurt newborn babies? A Prospective Study of Procedural Pain and Analgesia in Neonates [viewed 17 January 2017]. Available from: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/481472
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION , 2007. Induced abortion does not increase breast cancer risk [viewed 17 January 2017]. Available from: https://web.archive.org/web/20071214064635/http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs240/en/index.html
ZINDANI, A.-M., M.A. AHMED and J.L. LEIGH SIMPSON, 1994. Human Development in the first 40 days. [viewed 9 December 2016]. Available from: https://islampapers.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/thefirst40days_opt.pdf