Abortion is a heavily debated and controversial topic in today’s climate. While it has been going on for several years, abortion and abortion laws have quickly become popular, primarily in topics involving women’s rights, human rights, as well as becoming a dominant talking point for many political campaigns. For a majority of people, the debate comes down to ethics, which is the systematic study of what is right and what is wrong, as well as the two ethical theories that will be discussed in the paper which include Deontology and Utilitarianism.
A few more important aspects to include when studying abortion are the laws and procedures that encompass what abortion is as well as how it is carried out ethically and lawfully. As a woman, I strongly agree with the practice of abortion and see it as ethical. In this however, it’s important to discuss the opposite side of the debate in which it sees abortion as unethical due to its outcome and consequence. In agreement with abortion, it’s also important to discuss individual morals as well as personal views on the subject, in that one can eventually fully understand why abortion is such an important topic to most, if not every, woman in Canada and even the world as a whole.
In modern day Canada, abortions are legal across the country and at all stages of the pregnancy, however it didn’t always start like this as it took many years for legislations and bills in support of abortion to pass through the government. It started in 1969 when abortion was permitted in certain circumstances, primarily if the mother’s life was in danger, and eventually in 1988 a bill was passed that allowed for abortion to be legal in any circumstances, making Canada the first country to make it fully legal and for whatever reason. (Berer, Marge 2017) “Chief Justice Brian Dickson wrote: “Forcing a woman, by 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.”” (National Abortion Federation, Canada) This was a major step for abortion laws and women’s rights, and therefore set the foundation for what makes Canada the leader in fully decriminalizing abortion.
While in Canada the law is fairly straight forward in terms of total decriminalization, there are still discrepancies when dealing with access and health care coverage for an abortion. For example, the introduction of the new drug known as Mifegymiso costs about $350-$450 per package, and in some provinces like Ontario that have certain healthcare policies cover the full amount which makes it free of charge, however in Newfoundland there is little to no coverage and women must pay that hefty amount out of their own pockets. Therefore while Canada may have no law on abortion, access to it both medically and internally vary across the nation, which is a challenge for thousands of women.
However as that being said, Canada is number one in terms of abolishing abortion laws, when compared to the United States, where some states want to ban abortion and some countries as a whole still have it banned, Canada is definitely at the top in terms of accessibility and legality in comparison to other countries.
There are two separate ways in which an abortion can be conducted. These include medical and surgical processes, where medical consists of two separate pills takes (Mifepristone and Misoprostol) and surgical which is a process, depending on how far in the pregnancy is, where either a suction is applied or an actual surgery is needed. The medical procedure is relatively easy, as it consists of taking one pill of Mifepristone, then continued by one pill of Misoprostol 24-48 hours after the Mifepristone. (Dr. Ellen Wiebe, Willows Clinic)
“Mifepristone is an orally administered antiprogestin that blocks the action of progesterone, causing degeneration of the endometrial lining, softening of the cervix and sensitization to prostaglandins.” (S. Dunn R. Cook, 2014) Mild to strong cramps may be experienced shortly after taking the first pill, where mild cramps could last about 7 days after the abortion. Heavy bleeding and clotting will be experienced during the abortion as well. The advantages of using the medical process include the following: safe and effective for early pregnancies, being at home may be more comfortable for the woman, and it avoids having to use instruments or anesthesia for the surgical process. Some of the disadvantages include; unpredictability, bleeding and cramping may last longer compared to a surgical abortion, and the failure rate is higher than a surgical abortion.
As mentioned, the cost for the medical procedure varies across the country depending on if insurance is provided or not, in the case it isn’t, the cost is around $400. (Dr. Ellen Wiebe, Willows Clinic) On the other side, surgical abortion is/was very popular due to its extremely high success rate of 99%, as this is a physical procedure that includes a doctor surgically aborting the pregnancy with various tools and technology available to them. It is usually performed using a suction in the uterus which removes the pregnancy and most of the bleeding. It is a far more effective and predictable process, however it does come with a bit more pain, as well as the very low possibility of complications, as it is a surgical procedure. As with the medical procedure, the cost is about $500 depending on insurance coverage in the province. Both of these procedures are safe and effective at aborting the pregnancy, and hopefully with technological advancements, continue to become more effective and painless.
The study of Deontology ethics was first brought to light by Immanuel Kant. A prominent philosopher who preached the idea that there are a set of principles we are morally obligated to follow in accordance with human nature. What this means in relation to ethics is that there are certain things that are just wrong or just right, and the outcome plays no role in anything. Some things are just wrong if they go against human nature or an established set of principles. Kant believes that human emotion or consequences don’t matter when considering an act ethical or not, which is why he states that there is a pre-determined set of principles that if broke, are considered unethical and if they are followed, the act is considered ethical. When looking at abortion using deontological ethics, the simple answer is that its wrong. This is due to the main reason that killing a life is considered morally unjust and goes against human nature as well as breaking the universally shared principles.
In these principles it is stated that killing a life is wrong, everyone knows that and it is illegal to murder or take another life, so following Kant’s deontological perspective, abortion is wrong as it is seen as taking another life. As an example seen in popular media, taking the life of one person to save the lives of a million goes against Kant’s ethics, as the outcome (1 million people dying) is not thought about, only taking the life of that one person is considered. Studying deontology, whether in agreement or not, is important because it allows for multiple viewpoints on the same topic. When abortion is brought into the discussion, it is seen as unquestionably wrong, despite the consequence or reasoning. Unlike utilitarianism, which will be discussed shortly, a women could be raped and terminating the pregnancy is still seen as unethical because of the notion that it is morally wrong no matter what. A lot of these ideologies stemmed from religions, primarily Christianity. The idea that murder is wrong no matter the reason is a prominent Christian belief, in which Kant morphed into his Deontological ideology.
On the other side of the debate, in which I am in agreement with as it does not go against abortion, an ideology known as Utilitarianism is introduced. This is the belief that the ethical choice is the one with the best outcome, or even whatever the person considers as the ‘happy ending.’ “They reject moral codes or systems that consist of commands or taboos that are based on customs, traditions, or orders given by leaders or supernatural beings. Instead, utilitarian’s think that what makes a morality be true or justifiable is its positive contribution to human (and perhaps non-human) beings.” (S. Nathanson)
The person making the choice can factor in the possible risk factors, consequences and benefits, and make a decision based on what they believe will have the best outcome for themselves and that’s it. This means that the consequences have an effect on the choice one makes, instead of just deciding if an act is ethical based on universal moral principles. What this does is it allows for many factors to be taken into consideration. For example, if a woman is raped, and isn’t prepared to bear a child and she believes she will be happier without the pregnancy, then the abortion is considered ethical because it was the best outcome for the mother alone. This is what I believe is important in todays society. To allow for people, more specifically women, to be able to make their own choices about their future and not have to worry about being judged on the morality of the action, but instead praised for doing what makes them happy is what utilitarianism encompasses and which is what I believe in.
Utilitarianism creates this sense that women can worry about their own future and what they want to do with it, without it being stopped by whatever may be in their way. If a woman simply believes she will live a better life without a baby then the abortion is ethical, if one believes she/they can’t afford a child, then aborting the pregnancy is ethical as well. The possibilities are endless, as long as the outcome proves positive for the woman.
Throughout all this, my opinion is made clear. Being a woman I strongly believe that in what Utilitarianism states, and that woman can make their own decisions on abortion based on what’s best for them and them only. By allowing for woman to base their choices of what they believe to be the best outcome for themselves, it gives them a chance to finally take their lives into their own hands. I also believe that access to abortion clinics should be nationwide and universal, instead of it being free in some places and very expensive in others.
All woman should have equal access as well as acceptable education on abortion and the processes that come along with it. I am extremely happy and grateful to live in a country that is so accepting towards abortion, as it truly makes me feel empowered as well as autonomous whenever I choose. By allowing for woman to make their choices based on their own happiness, abortions don’t need to be thought about as a big ethical debate anymore because it’s just a woman’s right to choose and that’s it, and that is why the Canadian government hasn’t brought up the topic of abortions since they got rid of it in 1988.
In conclusion, I agree with the Utilitarianism approach to ethical abortions and morals, as it takes into account a woman’s happiness and not her moral duty in society to follow shared principles. While following the law is quite important, universal principles aren’t laws and that means woman will always have the right to choose their future and what makes them contribute to society as a whole in a good way.
Moreover, abortion itself is a complicated process with many decisions to choose from, however continuing education as well as educated staff in clinics makes for a clear understanding of the choice as well as the way in which one goes about it. By studying the laws, procedures, as well as the different sides of the debate in terms of ethics, one can only begin to understand the complexities of the processes as well as the complexities of others’ opinons when it comes to such a debated topic. Abortion will always be a controversial topic, however I believe with more time and studies, it will eventually become something everyone can agree on one day.
- Berer, M. (2017, June). Abortion Law and Policy Around the World: In Search of Decriminalization. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5473035/.
- National Abortion Federation (Canada)
- Willows Women Clinic, Dr. Ellen Wiebe http://www.willowclinic.ca/?page_id=9
- Dunn, S., & Cook, R. (2014, January 7). Medical abortion in Canada: behind the times. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from http://www.cmaj.ca/content/186/1/13.
- Nathanson, S. (n.d.). Act and Rule Utilitarianism . Retrieved September 20, 2019, from https://www.iep.utm.edu/util-a-r/.
- Ştefan, I. (2014). Arguments for and Against Abortion in Terms of Teleological and Deontological Theories. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 149, 927–935. doi: 10.1016/ j.sbspro.2014.08.301