human values and ethics vs philisophical ethics


“They had discussed it, but not deeply, whether they wanted the baby she was now carrying. ‘I don’t know if I want it,’ she said, eyes filling with tears. She cried at anything now, and was often nauseous. That pregnant women cried easily and were nauseous seemed banal to her, and she resented banality” (p. 389 Alice Walker The Abortion). It could sound familiar to many of us. Either in personal life or while discussing and debating, whether during college courses or encircled by close friends, I am sure that each and everyone of us has come across with the issue of abortion, developing a distinct, individual opinion about that particular subject. What we think about abortion will be a function of what we think about sex, about reproduction, about the beginning of human life, about responsibility, about killing, about sexual equality, and about religion. Actually, there is little in life to which the issue of abortion is not in some way related. It is not surprising, then, that there is so much disagreement about what abortion is and whether of not it is good, bad, or neither. At the root of the controversy is a basic value judgment about the human status of the fetus; does it have any rights, and should the fetus be considered a person. The question of abortion is compounded by a related issue -- the right of a woman to control her own body.
First, I would like to say a few words about the legal issues of abortion. We all know that abortions were prohibited many years ago by various cultures and countries. Pregnant women, not having a choice, were forced to perform illegal abortions, sometimes done not by doctors but by herbalists. Without much of technology, they tried to induce the bleeding, scraping off the walls of the uterus in attempt to remove the fetus. As a result of internal and external bleeding, blood infection and other side effects, many women died. Not only through some historical periods, but during the twentieth century it continued to happen. Even here, in the United States, in 1969, most state laws prohibited abortion, unless the life of the pregnant woman was threatened. In the mid-1960s, the estimated death rate for abortions performed in hospitals was 3 deaths per 100,000 abortions; the rate for illegal abortions was guessed to be over eight times higher than that -- 30 deaths per 100,000 abortions was a rough estimate and almost certainly conservative. For minority and poorer women, it was certainly very much higher (statistics are taken from “Moral Revolution” by Kathryn Pyne Addelson, from Twenty Questions: . . .). My point is that “abortions will surely continue, as they have through human history, whether we approve or disapprove or hem and haw” (Barbara Ehrenreich, Is Abortion Really a “Moral” Dilemma? p. 425 Twenty Questions: . . .) Therefore, it is much better for abortions to take place legally and under proper medical supervision. I think that here, a person committed to utilitarian ethical theory would agree with me because according to my conclusion it would produce more amount of good for the greater number of people -- by doing abortions legally, more women could afford it and less of them would die. As a result of my little discussion, I believe that performing abortions should remain legal as it is of 1973. However, whether the issue of abortion is ethical or not, is the subject of the following discussion.
In order to discuss the ethical issue of abortion, first of all, I would like to turn to and illustrate the central factors, which might lead a woman, or a married couple, to the decision concerning the termination of her pregnancy. It could be one (or a few put together) of the following circumstances: 1) a woman got pregnant due to rape; 2) the health of the woman or the unborn child was at a serious risk; 3) a woman did not plan her pregnancy; it was “accidental”; 4) a woman changed or was persuaded by others to change her mind about having a baby.
I don’t think that many people would oppose the moral status of abortion