In this context the argument is made from a moral and religious point-of-view that the unborn child is alive and that abortion is tantamount to murder. As Bohan (1999) states in the House of Atreus: Abortion as a Human Rights Issue, "No society that truly believes in human rights can fail to recognize the right to life of the unborn. Human rights are, by definition, rights, which inhere in one simply by virtue of being a human "(Bohan, 1999, p. 64).
From the religious perspective the main argument against abortion revolves around the view of the religious and spiritual value of human life. In Christianity this refers to the Commandant, "Thou shall not Kill." The sanctity of life applies as well to the unborn child and in many religions life begins at the moment of conception. Form this normative perspective the murder of a human being is seen to be more significant than any debate about human rights. There has been esteem criticism from the mainstream western churches of any ate top to justify or rationalize abortion. The Catholic church has condemned abortion as well as stem-cell research as it, "... involves the destruction of human embryos. Pope John Paul II says embryonic stem-cell research is related to abortion, euthanasia and other attacks on innocent life." (Stem-cell Research and the Catholic Church)
5. Discussion and analysis
The question of abortion is a very emotional and incendiary social issue. The reason for the intensity of his debate has been referred to in the above sections. The central point that has been made is that abortion must be seen in relation to other societal issues and conflicts. Abortion therefore is related to there way in which values and norms are constructed and maintained in society by religious or secular groupings.
The question of abortion is also related to other areas of societal stratification and structure, which create different value systems and viewpoints - such as the issue of gender prejudice and the way in which a societies values are determined by predominantly male prejudices and preferences. Religious views and perception also generate values and norms that run counter to the secular rationale given for the legalization of abortion.
This also relates to the fact that different societies have different views and societal response to the question of abortion. There are many countries where abortion is completely forbidden and seen to be against the dominant social norms. In some countries women can be imprisoned if they are found to have had an abortion.
Approximately 25% of the world population lives in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, mostly in Latin America, Africa and Asia. These are the countries where abortion is most restricted according to the law. In some countries, such as in Chili, women still go to prison for having an illegal abortion
Abortion Laws Wordwide)
4. Analysis: conflict theory
As stated, the arguments both for and against abortion are related to larger issues in society that are all interconnected and affect productive and gender rights. As one study suggests, the legalization of abortion rights is closely linked to issues such as class, race and economic discrimination. One study suggests that, "Abortion should remain legal in the near future... because statutory bans on abortion during the twentieth century were selectively or arbitrarily enforced in ways that intentionally discriminated against poor persons and persons of color" (Graber, 1996, p. 6).
On the other hand, the norms that are maintained by the religious components of society maintain the exact opposite point-of-view; namely, that abortion is an infringement of the essential human right to life and therefore is morally and socially reprehensible. As has been referred to obliquely throughout this paper, this boils done to a conflict between more then just two different groups but is in fact representative of a division in society between a religious and a secular vision of life and reality.
In terms of the above analysis, conflict theory in sociology is a useful model for analyzing the debate about abortion in terms of social norms. Conflict theory in sociology is usually associated with theorists like Mark and Coser. Both theorists see conflict as an endemic and even necessary part of social functioning. From a Marxian perspective social conflict is evidence of dysfunction and error in the society and its structure. Coser has a somewhat different view of conflict as a necessary and even positive factor in maintaining balance in a society between the various views and ideologies. (Three Different Versions of Conflict Theory)
In terms of the present discussion of abortion and the division in modern society between the religious and secular viewpoints, it becomes clear that a Marxian analysis of this conflict is more appropriate. From the classical Marxist perspective, society is evolving and changing and conflict is a necessary part of this process. Modern western society is also changing and the secular aspects in society are tending to dominate over the more religious perspectives in society. Therefore, one could use a Marxist analysis to suggest the view that society is changing with an inclination towards the secular and a concern with human rights - and therefore towards a greater general acceptance of abortion as a social norm.
6. Conclusion: possible solutions
In conclusion, the sociological analysis of this issue does not from a broader perspective not provide much hope for a short terms solution that will solve the central areas of contention. In terms of the deep-rooted norms and values involved there can be little compromise between the overtly secular and religious views of life and the problem of abortion.
On the other hand there is the possibility that less extreme views may provide avenues of compromise. This has already been seen in short -term discussion on issues such as when the fetus is deemed to be alive and human and when not - thereby opening up avenues for a discussion of a morality legitimate time for abortion to occur.
Yet, in the longer terms and in terms of the rigid normative structures of the society, there can be no real debate or compromise until one side becomes dominant in terms of the larger society. In relation to the above analysis it seems at present that the secular view and the emphasis on human and women's rights has become more predominant in many societies and countries. However, it should also be pointed out that this is by no means the case in all societies and even in advanced and developed societies like the United States there is a strong lobby against the legalization of abortion
On the one hand the human rights movement has a valid stance and represents popular social norms such as freedom from oppression and the right of women to choose and control their own bodies. However, on the other hand there is also the very cogent view to contend with in the religious and ethics objections to abortion. The unnecessary termination of human life is very hard to rationalize and accept. While one may talk of attempts to deal rationally with the abortion issue in society, when abortion is seen in terms of the larger normative structures and influences in society, the issue of abortion then becomes representative of a greater struggle or conflict between the secular and religious worldviews in contemporary societies.
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