Is Natural Law the Best Approach to Abortion?
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Natural Law says that abortion is wrong because life is a valuable gift from God and therefore only he can take it away. A believer of the natural law would say that the unborn foetus should have the same status as a born human being because life starts at the moment of conception which means that no matter how long the foetus has been growing, abortion is murder. This point ties in with the right to life and other religious approaches. Under Natural Law, abortion is the stealing of innocent life – going against one of the Primary precepts. Abortion undermines the Primary precept which encourages society to reproduce and grown. All these objections come down to one point. Man’s ultimate purpose is to live in a way which glorifies God. Abortion cannot further this primary aim. Natural law could be used as an approach to abortion as It protects society from an attitude in which human life can be seen as disposable, It makes a woman think of the implications before having sex because they know that a termination will not be an option for them and it affirms the continuance of human life and respect for human life.
However, it simplifies abortion because it doesn’t take into account the circumstances of the mother or the child- it simply makes the decision that abortion is wrong. It also doesn’t take into consideration things like rape, Aids or a child being born into an abusive family and can therefore appear a harsh and judgemental approach to an agonising dilemma by forcing a woman into keeping an unwanted baby and also taking away her responsibility and power. Utilitarianism is another approach to abortion; it is a teleological approach to ethics. A utilitarianist would say whether a woman should have an abortion or not depending on what is the best outcome for as many people as possible. Act Utilitarlianism would be a more appropriate system to apply to individual dilemmas of whether to have an abortion. Act Utility sees the greatest good as that which brings most happiness and least pain. There would be plenty of time to apply the Hedonic Calculus to any individual situation to try to work out whether abortion would be the right action. This approach is strong as it’s flexible; each situation can be measured using the Hedonic Calculus.
The mother can reach a decision by herself, she becomes independent. But it also takes into account the fathers feelings, other family members etc – it looks at the family situation a baby would be born into. However, you also don’t know what the outcome of a situation will be. E.g. A woman may choose to have an abortion because she has too many children and knows it would affect them. After having an abortion she may become depressed and will be in no better state to look after them. Kant was a deontological thinker and according to his theory of the Categorical Imperative, one must find a maxim in respect to abortion which they could universalize in order to discover what to do when faced with unwanted pregnancy. He doesn’t tackle this problem but he could have argued that abortion is immoral in all circumstances as he strongly believed that human life was of infinite value and that it should be protected. Furthermore, he also believed that one of the universal laws was ‘do not murder.’
Having an abortion would break this universal law and end a valuable life. However, he might also have argued that all people should have the right to determine what happens to their own body. In this case, a universal maxim might permit abortion on the grounds that the woman has the right to self determination over her body. Likewise, his reliance on human reason as a tool for finding out moral truth could lead to a universal maxim in which each person directly affected by unwanted pregnancy would make their own decision as to whether to abort or not. Kant’s theory is a good approach as a universal maxim on abortion would mean that decision making would be simple. The argument could be taken both ways and so, we can’t know his real view. However, it could be argued as weak because Kant’s philosophy does not give any definite insight into what a universal maxim about abortion should be. In addition to this, Kant’s insistence upon human reason as a key factor in human worth might mean that the mother’s preference would take unreasonable precedence over the welfare of the unborn child.