An ethical dilemma is when the best course of action is unclear, and when there are adequate and compelling moral reasons supporting each position (Keatings, 2020). There have been ethical dilemmas in various areas of topics, the field, biomedical ethics is associated with healthcare ethics and dilemmas. The topic of abortion has and is currently known as an ethical dilemma. The medical definition for abortion is the premature exit of the products of conception; the fetus, fetal membranes, and placenta from the uterus (Shiel, 2018). In other words, it’s the termination of pregnancy. Controversies on abortion are either pro-choice or pro-life, I am on the side of pro-choice with supporting women’s rights. I believe women should have the right to have access to abortion services globally without any penalty, they should be entitled to make a decision that would affect their life without societies judgement. The Canadian Justice System supports the rights of abortion to a certain extent. However, I still believe with almost every topic some boundaries cannot be crossed and therefore in some situations, I am against abortions, such as; gender induced abortion, and depending on gestational age.
Abortion has been always been a debate, and many were against it during the civil war and earlier. In Canada, it wasn’t until five decades ago, 1969 that abortion became legal. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau amended the Criminal Code, allowing doctors to perform abortions only in the situation where the pregnancy threatened the health of the mother (Long, 2006) otherwise it was illegal. In 1988, abortions became legal and available for women who met the criteria of gestational age. It was R.V. Morgentaler’s case when he was arguing his case to the Supreme Court. He was the individual who was prosecuted twice for performing abortions unauthorized when abortions were illegal back in the 1970s and 80s. When defending himself the argument was based on the Charter Rights and Freedom, from that the Supreme Court noted that the Criminal Code has been violated, ‘life, liberty, and security of person” Section 7 (Long, 2006). ‘Forcing a woman, by the threat of criminal sanction to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus a violation of her security of the person.’ – Chief Justice Brian Dickenson (Long, 2006).
The ethical theory, utilitarianism is a theory that doesn’t have an “absolute principle, moral codes, duties or rules” (Keatings, 2020). It is a theory that believes that the action will have more benefits over consequences. Utilitarian’s belief regarding abortion is, pro-choice. Factors such as financial stability for the mother, health of the mother, health of the fetus, etc. are all considered. In Canada, abortion is legal but places such as the United States of America, certain states it has been banned, amongst other areas in the world. In Canada, a mother has access to funded health care access to take care of her fetus; coverage for an ultrasound, bloodwork, resources, and help. Whereas in other areas, women must pay out of pocket for routine ultrasound and bloodwork. Many women don’t have that financial stability to cover themselves financially, it makes them question how will they be able to support a child? On that note, in many countries, it’s not required to give ‘maternity leave’ so they are forced to work and care for their child if they cannot afford to take time off to care for their child. Furthermore, in third world countries, there are a lot of labour jobs, in which the environment is not suitable for a newborn and can cause many health problems for the child. Looking back to Chief Justice Brian Dickenson’s quote saying that women forced into having a child is a violation of her security of the person, supports what can happen to the mother’s health. A utilitarian believes a mother’s mental and physical health is very important to consider. A woman who is forced to have a child can overtime become resentful towards the child and it becomes a negative pregnancy experience. Disorders such as PTSD can play a role if the mother was sexually abused, having her predator’s child can be alarming and that can be a contributing factor to her mental health. Other health factors like, the mother’s life is at risk due to the pregnancy and if not terminated mother’s life is at risk is also highly supported by a utilitarian. Furthermore, not all pregnancies result in a healthy baby. There are situations where the fetus is at risk such as Trisomy 18, usually babies that are born, they don’t survive after 15 days, and therefore, women choose to terminate the pregnancy because of the chance of the fetus to pass the neonate stage is highly unlikely. A utilitarian considers these points because the benefits outweigh the consequences.
The ethical theory Deontology believes that right and wrong are based on an individual’s obligation and duty (Keatings, 2020). “Philosopher Immanuel Kant is best known for the rule-based deontology theory” (Keatings, 2020). He believes that humanity should always know what is right. Many deontologists would consider themselves religious because religion has a structure and anything that goes against it is considered wrong or morally incorrect. Christianity believes that ‘every human and implicitly each product of human conception have the right to life unconditionally’ (Stefan, 2013). Meaning that no human has the right to take another life, and deontologists believe a pregnancy equals life, taking one’s life is, therefore, a sin. A deontologist doesn’t look at the gray areas, they only see a situation black and white.
Ethical principles are in a position to structure the rules that guide moral conduct and aid in decision making. The autonomy principle means an individual is free to make decisions about their health if they are competent and capable. Having abortion not accessible to women goes against this principle. If a woman can barely provide for herself, or if she has gotten pregnant by means that weren’t in her control; sexual abuse, her right to having an abortion has interfered. Another principle that is being challenged is nonmaleficence. Nonmaleficence is a principle that follows ‘do no harm’. In situations harm can’t be avoided, choose the option that has the least harm, similarly to the idea of the utilitarian theory. Pro-life individuals would say abortion would be ‘doing harm’ because the fetus is alive. Pro-choice would say, going through with abortion would be beneficial because the woman has rights to her life, liberty, and security. Both principles are being challenged on the topic of abortion.
The act of abortion isn’t always deemed as ethically correct. There are situations where abortion should not take place, such as in certain cultures having a girl is not acceptable and families would choose a boy over a girl. In that situation, they would abort the baby because of gender. Unfortunately, these abortions are common in India and China. In their culture, having a boy means they can take over family businesses, provide for the family because a women’s role in the family is still viewed as looking over the household in many areas in those countries. Another act would be having an abortion after the fetus is well developed and can feel pain. The period from 23-25 weeks is when a fetus’ nerve endings have fully matured and the fetus feels pain (Derbyshire, 2006). In Canada, doctors cannot perform abortion services on the fetus if the gestational age is 20 weeks. Of course, there are situations such as the baby having disorders such as Trisomy 18, where if found after the 25 weeks may be necessary to resort to abortion because the life of the fetus wouldn’t likely pass the neonate stage of life.
In conclusion, I support being pro-choice in the defence that women are entitled to make decisions that they deem is the best course of action for their life. If abortion is taken place because the mother isn’t mentally or physically capable or if the fetus is in any harm after birth (Trisomy 18) it should be legal and ethically correct otherwise. The Canadian Justice System protects women in Canada who need an abortion and other countries in the world should also understand that, taking the right from an individual who is in a unintended situation does not mean they should be forced to deal with the consequences of their actions, especially if they were sexually abused and that is how they are in situation, to begin with.
- Derbyshire, S. W. G. (2006, April 15). Can fetuses feel pain? Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1440624/.
- Jr, W. C. S. (2018, December 4). Definition of Abortion. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2091.
- Long, Linda. (2006, February 6). Abortion in Canada. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/abortion.
- Keatings, M., & Adams, P. (2020). Ethical & legal issues in Canadian nursing (4th ed.). Toronto, ON: Elsevier.
- panelIonuţŞtefanab, A. links open overlay, IonuţŞtefanab, a, b, & AbstractThe most important general and theoretical horizons regarding bioethics. (2014, October 5). Arguments for and Against Abortion in Terms of Teleological and Deontological Theories. Retrieved from https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S1877042814050149?token=574F45C72A4C29230E5 B4D5A1F3A904EFE707728DA3683BEB21F592AD8D3303D8ACB4B07C0D1B06196458C34DCDB0 BEB.