Bioethics Blogs

The New Abortion Issue: The Moral Status of Women

Let me emphatically state at the outset of this short blog:
I have always thought the elective termination of pregnancy (ETOL) was a
serious moral issue. As I have taught students over the years on this topic, to
fully appreciate the moral conflict around abortion (or any other moral
conflict) one must be willing to put oneself in the middle of two important
value positions. In other words, one must be willing to hold and take seriously
in one’s mind simultaneously two opposing thoughts or value positions in order
to weigh them fairly.

Though I don’t think that a fetus is a person with a
personal or social identity, it is biologically human—and that alone is a
relevant piece of moral information. The fetus has a unique genetic code and
has the potential to grow to full term into a new baby and eventually grow into
a child, adolescent, and adult human being. Because a fetus has the potential
to become a full-fledged member of the human community, all things equal, we
should not destroy it. But rarely in human life are all things equal.

Recognizing the moral value of fetal life alone is neither a
sufficient condition for fully appreciating the gravity of the moral issue of
abortion nor for claiming one is pro-life.  One must also recognize other important value
considerations, viz. the obvious biological and physical reality that the fetus
is living inside a human being who unquestionably is a person with full moral
and legal rights. So in taking measures to protect the fetus there is the
inevitable risk of wrongfully imposing on and usurping the rights and liberties
of another human being.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.