Life Issues: Abortion

Abortion is a very real and very timely issue in the world of medical ethics and in moral philosophy in general. Because this is a medical, ethical, moral, religious, political, and personal issue, it is not easy to find objective information.

The moral and ethical side of this issue is the complex part. It depends a lot upon when one believes life begins. That’s something to think about while navigating the information below.


Verbiage related to where a person stands on the issues of abortion has become insanely politicized. Terms like “pro-life,” “pro-choice,” “anti-choice,” etc. have become lobbying brands more than moral positions. So, for the purposes of discussion in this course, let us employ simple wording: pro-abortion and anti-abortion.

Abortion: The deliberate termination of a pregnancy, usually by surgical or other medical means.

Therapeutic Abortion: An abortion performed for the sole purpose of preserving the health of life of the mother.

Indirect Abortion: An abortion which occurs as a secondary, not necessarily intended effect of a life-saving medical procedure.

Conception: The moment when a sperm cell from a male breaches the ovum, or egg, from a female. The process is also known as fertilization and is the initial stage of development for human growth (

Viability: A stage of pregnancy between 24 and 28 weeks at which the fetus can survive outside the womb.


Very few, in any, rational persons would agree that taking an innocent life is morally acceptable or that murdering a baby or a child is a good thing to do. For this reason, the morality or immorality of abortion comes down to the question of when life begins Once the unborn child is alive, it is an innocent life. If abortion is killing the unborn child and the unborn child is an innocent life and taking an innocent life is immoral, then abortion is immoral. See notes on logic.

When I survey students and ask the simple question “When does life begin,” I consistently get the same answers:

  • Conception
  • Brain activity
  • Heartbeat
  • Viability
  • Birth

Conception and viability are defined above. The United States Library of Medicine states that the brain, nerves, and heart begin development in week five. In weeks six and seven the heart beats with regular rhythm and the brain has expanded significantly into five areas.

If you don’t know what birth is, ask your mother.

A student once tried to argue that life begins when a baby gets a social security numbers. The class easily disproved this argument by pointing out that 1) By this logic, anyone who is not a U.S. citizen is not alive, and 2) This would make it legal to kill a baby after birth.

(Not and exhaustive list.)

Woman’s Right to Choose. This position asserts that a woman has a right to choose what she does with her own body and that no person or entity can infringe upon that right.

Resource and Stability Argument. This stance argues that it is morally acceptable for a woman to seek an abortion if she is not in an unstable life situation (financial or otherwise) that would result in a seriously negative environment for the child.

Rape and Incest. In this scenario, the argument is that if a woman becomes pregnant against her will, she should not be forced by any person or entity to carry a child she was forced to conceive.

(Not and exhaustive list.)

The Life Argument. This argument is central to all opposition to abortion. Regardless of circumstance, this position asserts that taking innocent life is morally wrong and that an unborn child is an innocent life.

The Father Argument. Positions supporting abortion generally consider the mother’s point of view as she is the one who will carry the child. The father argument asserts that both parents should have input into the ultimate fate of their child.

The Adoption Argument. As an alternative to abortion, this position presents offering an unwanted child for adoption.

Examine each argument and consider the question of when life begins. Is it possible to logically conclude whether abortion is morally right or wrong?


Most major world religions oppose abortion, some more strictly than others. Here are details about reasoning behind the positions of the world’s largest organized religions:


The Supreme Court case of 1973 established the following legal guidelines regarding abortion in the United States:

  • In the first trimester, a woman’s right to an abortion is unrestricted.
  • After the first trimester, the state may regulate (but not ban) abortion to protect the mother’s health.
  • After the fetus becomes viable, the state may regulate or forbid abortions except when necessary to preserve the woman’s life or health.

Note: Roe v. Wade was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 2022, turning the legal power over abortion back to the states.

It is important to understand that the overturning of Roe v. Wade did not result in a blanket restriction on abortion. It did not outlaw abortion. This act by the Supreme Court merely took the federal government out of the equation and relinquished the legal authority to the individual states.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s