Ethical Health-care issue – Abortion Essay

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Abortion is the induced termination of a pregnancy after conception. There are different ways in which an abortion can occur. Spontaneous abortions are usually termed as miscarriage. Miscarriage that happens between 8 to 22 weeks is due to incorrect replication of chromosomes, and it can be caused by environmental factors. Stillbirth and premature-birth are not considered miscarriage and it happens after 22 weeks and before 37 weeks of gestation. Therapeutic abortion is another type. It is an abortion induced to preserve the health of the pregnant female or avoid any complication that might happened to fetus during the gustation or thereafter.

Therapeutic abortions are two types: Medical abortion and surgical abortion, while an abortion induced for any other reasons is termed and elective abortion. Abortion allows women to put an end to their pregnancies, but involve destruction of the under-developed embryo or fetus. For this reason, it is a controversial subject not only in America but also all over the world and stand divided calling themselves as pro-life, and pro-choice. In America, it has become so indoctrinated that one political party identify itself with pro-life, while the other party identify it with pro-choice.

History of abortion:

In Persian Empire abortifacients were known, and criminal abortions were severally punished there. Abortions were practiced in Greek and in Roman Empire. The Ephesian, appears to have been opposed to Rome’s free-abortion practice. This is a contra indication to the Hippocratic oath that stood so long as the ethical guide of medical profession that bears the name of great Greek. The content of the oath is this: I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to the effect. Similarly, I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. Even now it represent the highest of the development of strict ethical concept in medicine.

That brings-up a question, why then it did not dissuade the abortion practice in his -own time and that of the Roman Empire. Late Dr. Edelstein is the one who shed light into this confusion. According to him only one school of thinking, out of many in existence, known as Pythagorean school thought that embryo was animate from the moment of conception, and an abortion meant destruction of a living being. However, most Greek thinkers, on the other hand, did not think so, and commended abortion and practiced it. The conclusion of Dr. Edelstein is that the oath did not represent the whole section of the society, nor did it was accepted by all ancient physicians. Medical writing down to Galen (A.D130-200) give evidence of the violation of almost every one of its injunctions, and it is very convincing.

Development of Abortion Law

The common law practiced prior to 1803, did not consider abortion performed before quickening-the first recognizable movement of the fetus in utero, appearing usually from 10th to the 18 weeks of pregnancy, as an indictable offence. Keep in mind English Statutory Law had a slow progression. The first criminal abortion act came into being in 1803, which made it a capital crime, but lessor punishment was awarded, if it is done before quickening. It continued to be so in the general revision of 1828. The criminal abortion act disappeared together with the death penalty in 1837, and did not reappear in the offences against person act of 1861.

In 1929, the infant life preservation act came into being. It made an intentional act performed with the motivation, a felony. However, it contained a proviso that a person was to be found guilty of the offence only if it is evidentially found that the act that caused the death of child was not done in good faith for the purpose only of preserving the life of the mother. In 1967, the parliament enacted the Abortion Act of 1967. It allowed abortions, if two physicians agree: That the pregnancy is a risk to the life or of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant women or any children of her family, greater than if the pregnancy was terminated. 2. Or there was a substantial risk that the child will be born with physical or mental abnormalities.

Development of abortion Law in America

Until the mid 19th century, English law was practiced in America. In 1821 Connecticut enacted the first abortion legislation in line with English law, but abortion before quickening was made a crime only in 1860. In 1829, New-york enacted a legislation, barring unquicken fetus as well as quicken fetus. It made the former a misdemeanor, and the later second-degree manslaughter. It also introduced a new concept of therapeutic abortion by which abortion will be excused if it is done to preserve the life of the mother. After the war between states legislation began to replace the common law. All these laws retained the quickening distinction, and maintained the punishment on that basis. Gradually in the middle of the 19th century, the quickening distinction disappeared from most of the state legislation and penalties were increased.

By the end of 1950, a large majority state banned abortion, unless done to save or preserve the life of the mother. However, the state started to liberalize abortion statute after the ALI model penal code s230.3, set forth as Appendix B to the opinion in Doe V Botton, post, p.205. various courts in the country found various abortion laws unconstitutional while at the same time some courts found them constitutional and legal. In 1973, the Supreme Court of America, in Roe v Wade entered a finality of decision by interpreting the laws with respect to abortion in the light of the various provision of the Constitution of America, which even today is considered a land mark decision that provides the guide line to the principles of abortion and the rights and duties of the individual and the state.

Ethical principles as the foundation of Law

Respect for individual autonomy, beneficence (helping others), Non maleficence (not harming others), and Justice and fairness are some of the Ethical principles that form the very basis for the foundation of law in the society. It will be interesting to analyze as to how the ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, and justice and fairness have influenced the issue of Abortion in this contemporary society.

Autonomy and Abortion

Autonomy means the right to decide about something. Autonomy includes informed consent, confidentiality of information, truth telling and promise keeping. Reproductive autonomy means the right of the woman in taking part or participating in the process of decision making relating to the family planning matters, instead of the men, religious authorities or the state deciding it for them. Reproductive autonomy has also relevance in the context of social development and changes in the family structure for over 50 years.

Autonomy means the right to have a choice without any external influence or interference by another person or institution, but also the moral responsibility. The moral responsibility does not interfere with freedom of choice but rather it is the approach to freedom. Freedom without responsibility is egoism, but responsibility without freedom is force. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution Guarantee this autonomy by introducing the concept of due process of law. This is the foundation upon which the court embarked upon when the court said that the right of privacy/autonomy is broad enough to encompass a women’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

Beneficence and Abortion

By beneficence, it means happiness to many. Abortion can be viewed from different ethical -standpoint. One of such view is utilitarianism. The morale behind the rule of utilitarianism is the highest amount of happiness for the largest amount of people. Based on the empirical evidence, utilitarianism support wide spread happiness of many. Analyzing abortion in this context, one can see the medical, social, and economic benefit, it brings to the great amount of people in the society. The following is some of the statistics: * Half of all the pregnancies in the U.S are unintentional and ½ of these are terminated by medically safe legal abortions.

* From 1973 to 2000, more that 39 million legal abortions occurred * By legalizing abortion, the largest decline in birth rate were seen among women over 35 years, teenagers, and unmarried women (Levine, et. el,1999) * Today 30% of abortions are done on women over 35 years. * If legal abortions were not available, more women would experience of unwanted child bearing, which will affect the entire family. Their emotional and psychological life will be affected. * Couples become willing to conceive without fear of genetic disorders. In such an even, they can avail the process of safe legal abortion. * Most women report a sense of relief after the abortion, although a few would report depression.

Justice & fairness and Abortion

Justice is the establishment of the principles of fairness. When one think about justice, in terms of equality, it has to be speaking about equal economic rights, equal educational and employment opportunities, equal divorce and child custody laws, and a uniform standard of sexual behavior as also the suffrage. The reasons for this call for justice is the understanding that men and women were invested with the same capabilities and the same consciousness of responsibility for their existence. When one think about justice in terms of abortion, the following facts are pertinent.

* The woman enjoyed better right to terminate a pregnancy than she does in most state prior to 1970s, at least with early stage of pregnancy and why it need be restricted later. * American Medical Association was partially responsible for the anti abortion mood prevalent in the country in the late 19th century, especially in 1967, when the committee on human reproduction urged the adaptation of a stated policy of opposition to the induced – abortion when it is a threat to the mother or child, does not support reason or ethics. * In 1n 1970, APHA recommended 5 standards for abortion. 1. Rapid and simple abortion procedure. 2. Simplifying counseling service.

3. Avoiding psychiatric consultation. 4. A variety -of trained professionals. 5. Awareness about contraceptives and sterilization. Conflicting decision on abortion law by various courts in the country * Those trained in medicine, philosophy and theology are unable to arrive a consensus as to when life begins. * Constitution does not include the unborn as person. In areas other than criminal abortion, the law has been reluctant to endorse any theory that life begins before birth or to accord legal rights to the unborn. * The right of privacy is broad enough to encompass a women’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

However, the state has interest in the 3 areas: health of its subject, a valid medical standard, and legitimate interest in potential life. They are distinct. Each grows as the women approaches term and at a point during pregnancy, each becomes compelling. In the light of the present day medical knowledge the compelling point begins by the end of the 1st trimester. * The state’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the compelling point is viability because the fetus has the capacity of a meaningful life outside of the mothers womb at this point. * The pregnancy prior to the compelling period can be terminated by the attending physician in consultation with his patient, and upon his or medical judgment, without regulation from the state.


Given the right to decide about the fate of pregnancy, every woman should be able to decide to terminate the pregnancy within a few weeks from the pregnancy. Woman need not have to prolong that period to 4th week, 9th week, 14th week, 19th week, 24th week, or29th week and so on to decide whether it is an unwanted pregnancy. Every man’s and woman’s right over his or her body does not mean, it is absolute; the exercise of this right should not damage the moral fiber of the community, instead it should bring-about great happiness to great number of its subject. Finally, abortion bring with it physical, emotional, and moral effects or complications which need to be addressed by her together with the help of her strong support system, which could be her friends, group support, work with the counselor, or her supportive family.

Christensen, T. E., & Wallace, O. (September 2012). The Effects of Abortion. Retrieved from http:// Legal Information Institue, .. (January 1972). Roe v Wade (No 70-18). Retrieved from http://

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