The basis of this assignment is to outline, explain and examine one normative moral theory, which will be deontology with reference to abortion. Academic resources will be used as evidence to support this assignment and the Harvard reference system to acknowledge where information has been found.
According to The Ethics Centre (2016), deontology is defined as a normative moral theory that proposes moral or immoral actions in accordance to a clear set of rules. Therefore, a person’s action that follows these sets of rules are known as ethical. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is one of the philosophers closely associated with creating deontology, the word “deon” meaning duty. Kant’s main belief was that individuals who had the ability to use reason is what truly defined them. Kant’s personhood reflects on deontology as it shows the choice of rights, duties and characterised dignity. As dignity is central to deontology and apprehended in equivalent measure by every individual, it prevents those from behaving in certain ways. This can be towards other individuals or towards ourselves. Kant also believed that we should never use an individual for selfish reasons such as a ‘resource’ (The Ethics Centre 2016). The overall summary of deontology is that we should do something because it is good and the morally right thing to do, even if the consequences are negative. This is known as the maxim. (All about Philosophy 2019).
Kant’s personal beliefs is not the only model of deontology. Another example of deontology is The Ten Commandments, as it evidently illustrates a system that implicates a clear set of rules (The Ethics Centre 2016). There are two ethical duties that split up deontology known as perfect duties and imperfect duties. A perfect duty is defined as a strict rule that you either obey or you do not. For example, the rule do not steal, the individual will either steal or not, there is no in-between. An imperfect duty is different as it allows an in-between ground and is about individual learning.
An example of deontology in relation to abortion:
A young female became pregnant from wearing protection during intercourse. She decides to get an abortion because she does not want the child at such a young age. Deontologists would see this as selfish, even though having an abortion is the right thing for that individual to do and her choice.
It is not a self-centred theory as it involves and stresses the worth of each individual on earth and pays attention to treating all humans with equality such as respecting everyone the same. Deontology also provides individuals with a system of human rights to follow which could lead to positive behaviours towards each other or ourselves. Deontology also states that some actions are always immoral such as “killing another innocent human being”. Also, it states that some acts should never be done even if the consequences are good such as stealing food because you cannot afford to buy food and eat. Stealing is seen as wrong, deontology can help shape the way individuals think and behave leading to more positive outcomes around the world e.g. less shoplifting, and less crime. Deontology is also easier to follow than other ethical theories, as it clearly states that if an action is right then it should be done, if it is wrong then it should not be done. This way individuals following duty-based ethics will not be confused of how it works and can make better choices with more understanding of the consequences and if it is good or bad. Even though deontology includes two intentions it allows human beings to make mistakes. For example, if someone did something morally wrong without meaning to then this would be seen as a mistake and that individual would not be criticised for their actions (BBC 2014).
Deontology promotes moral absolutism. This means that the action is either right or wrong, there is no in-between or sympathy for the situation. This can allow certain acts that have a negative influence on the world such as abortion being illegal in Northern Ireland. The negative impact is that women are not allowed by law an abortion even depending on their personal circumstances such as being raped. Deontology does not focus on the result of action therefore, it can create an increase in unhappiness around the world. For example, if a woman decides she cannot afford to have a child but is not allowed to have an abortion then she is forced into doing something she does not want to do. This then will lead to her, the child and her family suffering making them unhappy in their life. Other negative things may arise from this situation such as the mother becoming depressed and attempting suicide because of the situation she is in from being forced to keep that child. A lot of individuals would not agree with deontology as their general thoughts would not fit in with this idea of ethics (BBC 2014).
Deontology and abortion
Deontologists believe that abortion is a morally wrong action for various reasons. For example, a rule of deontology is that killing an innocent person is considered a wrongful act. Human life begins when the sperm fertilises the egg and a foetus begins to grow. The foetus depends on the mother for survival and cannot do anything for oneself therefore, it is considered innocent. As the foetus has a distinctive genetic code it is classed as a person. A woman having an abortion is seen as murdering an innocent child and a wrong act in deontology. Abortion in deontology will always be considered wrong as terminating the foetus is ending a potential human life, this is not seen as a good act with any positive consequence. Deontologists also view causing intentional pain as wrong. Having a termination causes pain and suffering to the foetus which sets the rule as abortion being wrong. However, if the foetus is less than 18 weeks then it is not fully developed and cannot feel anything but deontologists would still consider this wrong as it is stopping a foetus from having a life like ours. Deontologists see aborting as killing an innocent child therefore, it is legalising killing. This then reduces respect for that foetus's life which reduces respect for other human life in a society which can lead to more negative things such as an increase in murder cases. This is the reason for deontology stating abortion is wrong (BBC 2014).
Arguments against deontology in relation to abortion is that the foetus is just a collection of cells that deontologists state should have the right to life because it is of the “human species”. This then means removing of anything with human cells would be considered as murder such as amputation. Other ethical theories would consider abortion wrong if the foetus was at a certain stage of development where it can be classed as a baby, such as 18 weeks where it can feel pain. Other arguments against deontology would be that ending a life is not always wrongdoing due to having a positive outcome. For example, a young female became pregnant due to being raped and with reasoning could not mentally raise that child. Abortion was her only option of not being reminded of the rape and was the right thing to do for herself promoting personal choice. She was able to choose the abortion in believing this would have a better impact on her life than keeping the baby. If the young female was forced to keep the baby then this could negatively impact her life by reminding her of the terrible incident that happened, causing her to become depressed and potentially harm or commit suicide. The young female should have moral rights as much as the foetus as it is her own body, she should decide her future, and this decision will impact her life more and potential human rights should not be prioritised over her own. The young female should have the right to make a decision without moral judgement from other individuals. Also, the mother of the foetus has a right to life as much as the foetus itself therefore, if the pregnancy was to put her in danger then she should be able to have the abortion in order to save her own life. Deontology would consider this a selfish way to act. (BBC 2014).
Overall deontology has “black and white” rules with no “grey” known as in-between choice. It states that you should do a good act and do what is right even if the outcome is bad for that individual. In my opinion, this can be conflicting with controversial topics, such as abortion, as it does not give individuals a choice to their own rights and to make decisions without being judged by others. I believe that deontology does not care about the individual itself but others instead which I see as being selfish.