Abortion And Dignity Of Human Life: A Moral Consideration

Abortion And Dignity Of Human Life: A Moral Consideration



“Abortion is the removal of the product of human conceptus [foetus or non-viable human being] whether before or after implantation in the womb”[1]. It is any act of the removal of the unborn baby from the moment of fertilization to the time of birth. Traditionally, it is   removal of the preborn child from the uterus before he/she has reached the age of viability [i.e. at the point when a




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After payment, text the name of the project, email address and your names to 08064502337 preborn child can survive outside the womb with or with out medical assistance]. According to Brain Clowes, ‘‘ it is the intentional or unintentional expulsion of the preborn child at any time after fertilization and before the natural birth process is completed’’[2]. Abortion is equally taking to be “the termination of pregnancy by loss or destruction of a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus before birth”3.

Earlier before the enlightenment period (18th century), it was a serious crime to indulge in an abortion after the age of viability. Ipso facto, abortion was permitted before the viability of the foetus and viability as we mentioned above ‘‘can be reached between twenty and twenty-eight weeks, depending on the level of available medical technology’’

Accruing from the definition of abortion given above, are certain issues, which needed clear definitions. Firstly, the direct object of the act is the removal of the conceptus from the womb. Its morality is determined by the interiority or intentionality of the subject. Abortion is a human act only if it comes from free choice or will. That is an action done out of free will and knowledge. Consequently, this is the type of abortion [intentional abortion] that intend to investigate in this thesis. Therefore missed abortion or septic abortion, as such does not concern us here.

Furthermore, in an effort to give abortion a definition, the above proponents of abortion brought some emotional words in mentioning the foetus. Such uncritical emotional words, bar one from the use of his rationality in judgment making on such aforementioned words like embryo, blood tissue, preborn or unborn, zygote and words like that. So the correct word I would want to use are foetus or conceptus [that which is conceive] through out this little discourse. Therefore, what is ejected from the womb as direct object of the act of abortion is the child [foetus or conceptus]

Equally, any deliberate act, which expels the foetus from the womb from the moment of fertilization and the point of actual birth, is called abortion. Whether wanted or unwanted as the radial feminist believed that ‘‘the value of an unborn baby is determined by whether a woman wants him or her or not’’[3]. The consequences, moral justifications and whether at all the foetus is a living being or organism shall be duly explicated.


There are a number of medical and legal terminologies for the different kinds of abortion, both intentional/unintentional. Unintentional abortion is a spontaneous abortion that is not intentional because it is not within one’s constraint. It is the evacuation of baby that cannot survive outside the womb. It is not intended or directly willed but as a result of some legal procedures.

But intentional abortion is a direct intent on killing the foetus either as an end in itself or a means to an end. And of course, this is where we are concerned and shall pitch the tent of our discussion. The intentional abortions are as follows: criminal abortion, complete abortion and therapeutic abortion. Now we shall look at them in details.


Since abortion has been legalized in many states, any abortion that is committed outside the parameters set by law is a Criminal abortion. For instance, an abortionist commits a criminal abortion if he aborts a minor without the parents permission in a state with parental consents laws or if he commits a D&X abortion on a woman at 28weeks gestation for convenience purposes in a state where third-trimesters abortion are banned except in the case of several fetal anomalies. This is intentional as such an abortion.


This is a situation where by all the content of the uterus are expelled, both placenta and the pre-born child. This is a voluntary act.


The term  “therapeutic” means treatment of disease. It is a word use by abortionists in an attempt to sanitize their evil or expulsive act. It is a type of abortion carried out under the guise that foetus is harmful to the health of a woman. At this point, the life of the foetus is destroyed under the claim of women’s freedom of choice and right.

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Abortion at this point could be direct or indirect. It could be direct when it is intended either as an end in itself or as a means to an end so that any removal of foetus [whether viable or not] becomes a conscious act. It is indirect when foetus, which cannot survive outside the womb, is evacuated. The expulsion is not intended or directly desired but the outcome of some legitimate procedure applying the principle of double effect. However, there are some other classifications for ways adopted in operating abortion.


Depending upon the gestational age of the unborn and physical nature of the mother, intentional or induced abortionist has much method in his arsenal. The analysis of the various method of abortion is meant to lay bare the nefarious activities of the abortionists. This is because the method of abortion boils down to portray the inherent features of abortion as human act.


This method is mostly use during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is done by inserting into the wall of uterus, a looped knife [curette] and a complete scraping is done. The unborn is cut in parts and is removed as such to make sure nothing is left or forgotten in the stomach.


This method of abortion is equally used during the most first trimester abortions but can be use up to sixteen weeks. It is starts by widening the cervix and inserting a suction curette (which has a hollow tube with a sharp tip) into the uterus. The suction machine turns the preborn apart.  The pieces are suck and deposited into a bay through the tube. At the end a check is conducted to make sure that abortion is completed.


This method is mostly used during first half of the second trimester [13-20 weeks] but can be extended up to twenty-eight weeks. The preborn is dismembered with the help of forceps and the pieces are gentle removed one after another, and in most cases the baby’s limbs are cut off and he or she is allowed to bleed to death. For the larger babies, the heads must be crushed so that the pieces can pass the cervix. Warren Hern, an abortionist maintained, “a long curved Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the foetus”[4]


This method of abortion is mostly used when the preborn baby has reached seven to eight months [up to 32 weeks] as such has developed toughened muscles and cartilage. Consequently, abortion at this point is more cruel, painful and disastrous to the unborn. Thus an abortionist Martin Haskell observed that, ‘‘ most surgeons find dismemberment [D&E] at twenty weeks and beyond to be difficult due to toughness of the fetal tissues at this stage of development’’[5]


This method is used mostly during the late second trimester and third trimester of pregnancy. About eight milliliters of prostaglandin hormones is introduced into the uterine muscle, which contracts to eject the foetus with extremely violent premature labor that can last for 18-20 hours. Sometimes saline or urea and prostaglandin are combined for injection. “This method is rarely used because up to seven percent of preborn babies are born alive during the procedure.’’[6] In such situations, the abortionists must clandestinely kill the baby or risk a so-called ‘wrong life’.


This method of abortion is used for second trimester and early third trimester abortion. This method of abortion can be very dangerous to the mother just like the prostaglandin procedure. In this method of abortion, saline solution is introduced into the blood vessel of a mother. About 200 milliliters of amniotic fluid is withdrawn and replaced with saline or urea solution, and once the foetus breathes this, he/ she dies painfully over a period of hours. As a result of salt poisoning, dehydration, brains hemorrhage and convulsion and is delivered within 24 to 48 hours.



Presently, people are never interested in discussing the moral implications of abortion owing to their claims that it is exclusively a matter for one’s conscience. But the existential fact and the fundamental evil of abortion lie on the intent to destroy the innocent foetus. “Therefore there is no justification for direct abortion, no matter the motive; hence every direct abortion is always an grace objective evil’’[7] in this chapter, the intent is to explore various arguments concerning abortion either for or against.

Furthermore, in this reflection, every argument hinges directly or indirectly on morality or legality of abortion. In other words, arguments for abortion are put up either to establish the fact that abortion should be legally permissible or that it is morally justifiable. On the other hand, arguments against abortion seek to prove the moral or legal impermissibility of abortion. But we must not fail to observe that there is a dichotomy between the views that abortion is immoral and that abortion is moral or that it is legal. However, the grounds for or against the legality of abortion are most often established on the grounds for or against its morality.

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Many attempt have been made by a lot of people to justify the morality of abortion. Arguments have also been put forward to support the legality of abortion. Very pertinent to observe is the fact that some of these arguments in support of abortion have moderation per say, in the sense that for some abortion is not morally permissible after the third trimester [at about seven- eight months]


Nevertheless, owing to the limitedness of this discourse, I wish to limit myself to the three arguments, which form the mainstay of the major proponents of the pro abortionists. They are women’s right, Humanists and population control arguments. Other arguments are minor ones, which seeks to support or refute the arguments therein.


Argument like this in support of abortion is based on freedom and rights especially that of women. The right is dependent on three main aspects of women’s lives, the women’s privacy, autonomy and mental health against any legal restrictions of abortion.

In the defense of right to privacy and autonomy the proponents of this arguments hold that it is exclusively the right of the mother to choose whatever she considers fit for her body without constraint or coercion. Thus C. Ekwutosi states:

It is claimed that the continued presence of the foetus within the womb is completely dependent on the discretion of the pregnant women, for the woman has right to determine her own life. The feotus has no rights. And even if it has, the right of the mother takes precedence[8]

In addition the contenders hold equally that women have right to mental health as a means of life sustenance. From their point of view, abortion is a therapy for mental health support and rejuvenation especially when the pregnancy is unwanted.

Furthering this position, women have right to terminate pregnancies for any purpose since such a right lies in the confinement of right over one’s body and health. The advocates of abortion hold that direct abortion is not only reasonable but also necessary when the mother is very ill and her life is in serious danger because of the pregnancy. In this situation, the offspring becomes unwanted as such is considered as a disease to be diagnosed, the preborn becomes an unjust aggressor and is therefore morally justifiable that the mother should in self- defense have the pregnancy diagnosed. And the diagnosis is abortion. Consequently, Warren Hern observed;

‘It appears that ‘unwantedness’ may be regarded as a major complications of pregnancy, with surgical intervention in the form of abortion as the indicated treatment…in fact a woman seeking an abortion is making a circumstantial self definition of pregnancy as an illness for which she considers the appropriate treatment to be abortion’’[9]

But is it right to think that the womb and all it contains belong to the woman as part and parcel of her body as such she has the right to deal with it any how? I think it will be monstrous to say that because foetus is not like any other cell organ or tissue in the body

it is not a living  organism. But it is a human organism biologically separate from the mother composite of a 50 percent from the mother and a 50 percent from the father. Therefore, it holds no sway to maintain that foetus is a being part of the mother alone.


For the humanists, abortion is the right option if the preborn is going to be a handicap or a liability to the family. So abortion becomes a way out, a means of eradicating economic problem if a child (foetus) were to create an economic burden to the family and society at large. “ Humanists regard abortion as better than bringing unwanted babies to the world”[10] Thus if an unborn is going to be severely handicapped, the parents are permitted to make a choice, either to abort or allow the baby to live. Hence for the humanists, “an individual has a right to a sound physical and mental constitution and thus … the failure to prevent the birth of a child known to be defective is a violation of that child’s rights.”[11]

For them, this is a good means of checking abortion; but does this argument hold water? Anyway we shall talk on that later.

More so, the humanists believe that abortion is a means of fostering human dignity by preventing human suffering that will result from a preborn that that is physically, mentally etc deformed. For them, it is therefore morally right and should be legally permissible to terminate the life of a disfigured preborn (deformed) than allowing him/her to a life full of misery and uncomfortably. Another serious argument in a way is based on social aspect of the parents. For instance, if a child is conceived through incest or rape, the child, which is unwanted, cannot but create unwanted social image, therefore the best option is to terminate the baby and save the parents form embarrassments.

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Abortion is seen as a good method of checking population growth. Due to increase in the global population, many country have suffered hunger, overcrowding and environmental pollution; thus making abortion illegal would contribute to the eradication of the above problems. Hence the difficulties experienced by parents and children as a result of over-population will definitely lead to an increase in the social ills, immorality, lack of basic needs, lack of sufficient education etc. as such abortion can serve as a means of moderation. To further strengthen this argument, they uphold that the lower birth rates brought about by abortion result in fewer people competing for the jobs that are available, hence reducing unemployment, many get educated, creating labour shortage that drew up the wages especially for the low earn workers. Therefore, for them abortion is less vulnerable than these social ills, as such abortion for them becomes a veritable instrument for checking population and should be allowed legally.


Abortions being a human act with an intent to kill an unblemished life; is condemned by many people especially by the prolifers. Therefore for them, they uphold two main tenets; that foetus has the right to live and that abortion is a threat to this right. Thus, the need to expose the loopholes that are evident in their arguments.


This argument is based on the fact that the foetus is a living organism. Right from the moment the ovum is fertilized, the life begins neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new living human organism with his own growth. For some proponents human life begins when an embryo is no longer capable of forming twins, that is about 10 to 12 days after fertilization. Hence, the amount of right ascribed to the foetus at any stage of its development depends on the view held about the inception of human life in the course of pregnancy. Nevertheless, the conventional stand of this argument holds:

As a human being…it (the foetus) possesses an unalienable right to life. The age or condition of this human being does not militate against its right[12].

The argument here is that life begins at conception. And according to Dr. Le Jeune the very first cell of the fertilized egg is “the most specialized cell under the sun. No other cell will ever again have the same instructions in the life of the individual being created. Hence, the right to life at any stage of its parental development should not be played with. Otherwise the agent becomes guilty of an immortal act, if the action is directly done as an end in itself.



The proponents of this argument abhor abortion on the ground of its comparison with other morally contemptible acts, which, though not of greater moral evil than abortion, are not permissible. It moves thus: if abortion is permitted, then why are homicide, infanticide, genocide and all other inhumane practices the same level with abortion not morally permissible? This argument asserts that abortion is immoral and condemns it on the ground of having the same moral status with its

Abortion And Dignity Of Human Life: A Moral Consideration


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