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The abortion debate deals with what people think about terminating a pregnancy before the normal birth and whether abortion can be morally right. The main groups in the abortion debates are divided into the pro-choice movement, who supports the abortion rights and believes that abortion should be permissible in some circumstances, and the pro-life movement who supports that abortion is always wrong, no matter what. Abortion was legalised in 1967 in the United Kingdom and is allowed up to 24 weeks but after the 24 weeks, abortion is allowed in some circumstances such as when there is a grave risk to the life of the woman.
The most important difference between pro-choice and pro-life movements’ beliefs is the question when life really begins and when the foetus becomes a person. Pro-life movement believe that life begins at conception and for that reason abortion generally is murder and should be prohibited. On the other hand pro-choice movement support the belief that life begins at birth or somewhere the ninth month. A 1938 case was the cause for a limited number of abortions to be carried out legally. In that case the judge ruled that the doctor performed the abortion tried to “preserve the life of the mother” as the victim was a fourteen year old girl who had been raped by several soldiers.
From the side of morality, because it is difficult to decide at what stage a foetus becomes a human being with the right to life, some people argue that “we should always err in favour of an earlier date”. They are of the opinion that from the time there is no agreement between medicine, philosophy and theology as to whether a foetus has attained a stage where it has the right to life; we should believe that the foetus has the right to life.
In United Kingdom the law for abortion requires that a pregnant woman can only have an abortion if two doctors sign and support her view for wanting a termination however it should be in the woman’s hands to choose. Ann Furedi said that it is “ludicrously anachronistic” that two doctors should certify that a woman meets the legal grounds for abortion” because following the belief of all people who agree with abortion, women have the right to choose what they want to do with their body. Following a research made in 1991 found that “the 81% of the public agreed that women should have the right to choose an abortion in the first three months of the pregnancy”.
In the meantime a UK group, for abortion rights, campaigned for abortion on demand. Pro abortion groups support that abortion on demand would make sure that most women will have a termination earlier as compared to today, reducing the risks and if a woman wants an abortion, then it should be better to be an early and medical abortion than to be later and surgical. They believe that if abortion is not approved on demand, then there is a high possibility that women will use illegal abortionists and put their health at risk or to have their child for adoption which is also difficult for a single woman who will stigmatised and prejudiced.
Moreover religion plays a big role on pro-life where abortion is against the bible. However most people who are against abortion believe that in some cases where the mother puts in danger her life by carrying the foetus, abortion could be morally acceptable. Nowadays, efforts to lower the 24 weeks abortion limit from 12 to 22 weeks has been rejected by the MPs and the closest vote of a 22-week limit, was defeated by 304 to 233”. On the other hand pro-choice say ‘no attack on the time limit, they defend a woman’s right to choose’ and ‘more abortion rights, not less. On the other hand, The Royal College of Psychiatrists recently acknowledged that having an abortion can damage women’s mental health.
Some people argue that the foetus can feel, suffer and leap in the womb when it hears its mother speaking. According to scientific evidence at 16 weeks unborn children do feel pain and babies born at 24 weeks were increasingly likely to survive, and it should therefore not be permitted to abort pregnancies at this stage. A good example that babies born before the abortion limit can survive is a case of a girl born before the 24 week limit where the mother commented that: “When I gave birth at 23 weeks, my daughter looked like a baby, not a foetus, a fully-developed baby”.
Some mothers-to-be would be able to legally terminate their pregnancy at 23 weeks, however that baby is a living proof that babies can survive being born too soon and that babies do have the right to life. Right-to-life groups add that efforts should be made to save every life. However some pro life people believe that in some cases such as in rape cases, the victims should have the chance and the right to choose abortion.
Father’s duties? Anti-abortion deontologists centre on rights and duties and they believe that the foetus as a person has unchallengeable rights which are fundamentally valuable. Following Kant’s (an anti-abortion deontologist) words, we have a duty to preserve life, not to destroy it as in the case of abortion. On the other hand, pro-abortion deontologists argue that the mother’s life is more essentially valuable than the foetus, at least until it can survive outside the womb.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children makes the point that ‘…abortion of the handicapped is both a reminder of the inhumanity of abortion, attacking the most vulnerable, those most in need of help, and an offence to the disabled, sending them the message that they are inferior and of less value than the able bodied.’ On the other hand pro choice argued that Abortion on grounds of fetal abnormality it is a means to extend women’s control over their lives and futures.
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