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E THICS OF A BORTION. C RITICAL S TAGES OF F ETAL D EVELOPMENT :  Day 1: Fertilization  Days 7-10: Blastocyst is in uterus and is a “ball of cells 

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Presentation on theme: "E THICS OF A BORTION. C RITICAL S TAGES OF F ETAL D EVELOPMENT :  Day 1: Fertilization  Days 7-10: Blastocyst is in uterus and is a “ball of cells "— Presentation transcript:


2 C RITICAL S TAGES OF F ETAL D EVELOPMENT :  Day 1: Fertilization  Days 7-10: Blastocyst is in uterus and is a “ball of cells  Weeks 2-8: Organs and limb buds begin to develop  Weeks 12-16: “Quickening” begins, mother can feel fetus’s movements, fetus is approx. 5 ½ inches long  Weeks 20-24: Cortex begins to develop, earliest form of electrical activity in cortex become detectable  Weeks 20-28: Fetus becomes viable depending on size (greater than 2 lbs.) and lung development.  Week 40: Birth

3 M ETHODS OF A BORTION :  Morning-After Pill – prevents blastocyst from embedding in uterine wall  RU486 – Mifepristone must be used within 7 weeks of a missed menstrual period  Uterine or vacuum aspiration  Dilation and curettage (D&C)  Saline Solution  Prostaglandin Drugs – induce early labor  Hysterectomy – uncommon, used for late-term abortions  Dilation and extraction (D&X) or Partial Birth Abortion – also uncommon, 2 nd and 3 rd trimester procedure


5 W HO HAS ABORTIONS ?  Eighteen percent of U.S. women obtaining abortions are teenagers; those aged 15-17 obtain 6% of all abortions, teens aged 18-19 obtain 11%, and teens under age 15 obtain 0.4%.  Women in their twenties account for more than half of all abortions; women aged 20–24 obtain 33% of all abortions, and women aged 25-29 obtain 24%.  Thirty percent of abortions occur to non-Hispanic black women, 36% to non-Hispanic white women, 25% to Hispanic women and 9% to women of other races.  Thirty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic.  Women who have never married and are not cohabiting account for 45% of all abortions.  About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.  Forty-two percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children).  Twenty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes between 100- 199% of the federal poverty level.


7 W HY DO WOMEN HAVE ABORTIONS ? 2004 Study – More than 1 reason may be cited:  It would dramatically change their lives, their ability to continue with work oar school, or their ability to care for others (74%)  They could not afford children (73%)  They were finished having children (38%)  They did not want to become single mothers (48%)

8 T HE L AW & P OLICY  In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court ruled that women, in consultation with their physician, have a constitutionally protected right to have an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy—that is, before viability—free from government interference.  In 1992, the Court reaffirmed the right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. However, the ruling significantly weakened the legal protections previously afforded women and physicians by giving states the right to enact restrictions that do not create an “undue burden” for women seeking abortion. Thirty-five states currently enforce parental consent or notification laws for minors seeking an abortion. The Supreme Court ruled that minors must have an alternative to parental involvement, such as the ability to seek a court order authorizing the procedure.  Even without specific parental involvement laws, six in 10 minors who have an abortion report that at least one parent knew about it.  Congress has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, except when the woman’s life would be endangered by a full-term pregnancy or in cases of rape or incest.  Seventeen states use public funds to pay for abortions for some poor women, but only four do so voluntarily; the rest do so under a court order. About 20% of abortion patients report using Medicaid to pay for abortions (virtually all in states where abortion services are paid for with state dollars).

9 M ORAL A RGUMENTS : Two basic categories of arguments:  Moral arguments that do not depend on the moral status of the fetus  Utilitarian reasoning  Rights arguments  Moral arguments that depend on the moral status to the fetus  Method I – Fetal development  Method II – Ontological status of fetus as a human

10 U TILITARIAN R EASONING :  Considerations of harmful consequences to the mother & family of continuing pregnancy  May include suffering of future child & burden of caring for child under particular circumstances  May also include considerations of loss of future happiness & future contributions of the being aborted

11 N OAM C HOMSKY & P ETER S INGER ON A BORTION  Lake of Fire (2006), writer, director Tony Kaye2006  watch?v=rzY0L2g1f64&feat ure=related watch?v=rzY0L2g1f64&feat ure=related

12 S OME R IGHTS A RGUMENTS :  Argument rejecting woman’s presumed obligation to sustain/nurture the life of the fetus  Relevant considerations include:  Distinctions between what is morally praiseworthy vs. what is morally obligatory  Issues of consent – particularly in cases of rape  A woman’s right to bodily integrity

13 M ORAL A RGUMENTS  Arguments that do depend on the moral status of the fetus

14 M ETHOD I:F ETAL D EVELOPMENT  Conception or Fertilization  Proponents argue that zygote is same entity as the human child that would be born => zygote has the same moral status as the human child  Critics argue that cells at this stage lack structure or differentiation =.> no individual is present

15 M ETHOD I:F ETAL D EVELOPMENT  Detectable Brain Waves  Argues that beginning of human status as a living being occurs at beginning of brain wave activity – usually between 6-8 weeks  Cites support from cessation of brain wave activity as criterion for death  Opponents argue that it is critical to distinguish early brain function from later cortex development – between 20-24 weeks

16 M ETHOD I:F ETAL D EVELOPMENT  Quickening – movement begins (between 16 – 25 weeks)  Movement is self-initiated & stems from new level of brain activity  Argument founded on idea that this is the beginning of the being’s new life because it is moving about on its own  Critics argue that criteria should be based on sentience and at this stage there is no significant moral distinction between the being and animals or even plants that can move about on their own.

17 M ETHOD I:F ETAL D EVELOPMENT  Viability – around 26 weeks – fetus is capable of separate existence from the mother  Focuses on idea that fetus is more clearly distinct from mother  Argues that though incapable of sustaining its own existence outside of the womb, it is sufficiently complete to warrant its existence as a separate being  Opponents argue no fetus would be capable of independent existence at this stage and that this is an arbitrary point along a continuum of development

18 M ETHOD II: O NTOLOGICAL S TATUS OF FETUS  Five Arguments:  Being Human  Being Like Human Beings  Potentiality  Actuality  Evolving Value

19 M ETHOD II: B EING H UMAN  Structure of argument:  All humans are equal  Human fetuses are human from the moment of creation.  Therefore human fetuses have equal moral status with all other humans

20 M ETHOD II: B EING L IKE H UMAN  Structure of Argument:  Humans have the capacity to communicate, reason and plan  Humans have high moral status because of these capacities  If any human has this moral status then all of them do  Implies any other being with these capacities would have equal status with humans 3 Versions of this Argument: 1.Potentiality 2. Actuality3. Evolving Value

21 M ETHOD II: P OTENTIALITY The Argument:  is based on the claim that the fetus has the potential/power to develop key characteristics that are the hallmarks of beings with full moral worth.  would not apply to fetus that does not have this status Some Concerns:  Judith Jarvis Thompson: “An acorn is not an oak tree” (p.187)  Would we treat potential surgeons as surgeons, potential criminals as criminals or potential presidents as presidents?

22 M ETHOD II: A CTUALITY  This version of the argument requires that the being in question actually exhibits the requisite characteristics to qualify for moral status  There is a moral significance placed on the distinction between high and low manifestation of these characteristics  Argument implies that not only fetuses but also infants and young children, lacking a high level of reasoning, would not be considered full members of the moral universe

23 M ETHOD II: E VOLVING V ALUE The Argument:  Occupies a middle ground between potentiality and actuality  Argues that as the potential characteristics evolve so grows the moral status of the being  Allows for resolution of competing moral claims between beings whose status or value is unequal A Concern:  “It would be difficult to use in legal contexts in which claims and interests would need to be publicly weighed and compared.” (Text, p.184)

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