Ethical Responses to abortion

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  1. Utilitarian response to abortion?
    Utilitarianism is teleological, concerned with ends or outcomes.

    Utilitarians would ask whether having an abortion brings about the greatest good.

    Having an abortion because of financial pressures, other family members' needs, education, work

    - any of these reasons may be justified by the hedonic calculus.

    aA utilitarian response should accept that it may in some circumstances be right to deny a woman the right to choose to have an abortion if doing so would bring about the greatest good.
  2. Kant's ethical response to abortion?
    The best place to start with Kant is to take a maxim and universalise it.

    The maxim "You should have an abortion" becomes a self-contradictory universal maxim "Everyone should have abortions". It couldn't possibly work, as there would be no people to have abortions.

    Choose a different maxim, such as "People who have been raped should have abortions" and you no longer have a self-contradiction.

    However, this must be a contradiction of the will. Would you want to make a law of nature that ended pregnancy naturally if it arose out of rape?

    Could Kant's theory ever support abortion? It seems that even in the case of a threat to the mother's life, it would be 'using humanity merely as a means to an end' to have an abortion.

    A lot hinges on the status of the foetus. Does the foetus count as 'humanity'? For Kantians, it should.

    There are potential exceptions. For example, there are no rational agents alive after ectopic prenancies, so it wouldn't be contrary to their will to have a law of nature that prematurely ended ectopic pregnancies.
  3. Natural law response to abortion?
    One of the primary precepts is to protect and preserve the innocent. This alone leads to a secondary precept 'Do not abort.'

    Secondary precepts are absolute deontological principles - there are no exceptions.

    For many Catholics say this takes the pressure off people faced with difficult decisions, such as a woman whose pregnancy is threatening her life. Abortion is not an option.

    A transplant surgeon needs a dozen organs to save the lives of 12 people. He sees a healthy man who has all of these organs. A utilitarian calculation says the greater good would be served by secretly killing this man and saving the other 12 people with his organs. Natural Law says that killing an innocent person is not an option, so you don't have to even consider it.
  4. Situation Ethics response to abortion?
    Situation Ethics grew out of a tradition that viewed abortion as an evil act.

    Fletcher said we should not get rid of rules - they are a useful guide in most situations.

    However, the only thing good in itself is love, and we may be required to 'push our principles aside and do the right thing'.

    The Church of England's position, that abortion is evil but may be the 'lesser of two evils' is consistent with a situationist approach. If a woman has been raped, abortion may be an act of love.

    In an exam, it would be helpful to consider case studies.

    For example, where a foetus has a serious disability and the parents are worried that they would be unable to bring up the child financially, or that doing so might take time away from their other children, it may be a compassionate response to abort the foetus to take away such a great burden.
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Ethical Responses to abortion
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