Abortion / Abortion Debate in the United Term Paper

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Abortion / Abortion Debate

In the United States, an individual's rights are guaranteed by law and the National Constitution. Laws encompass all aspects of the cultural definition and are likely to change over time as the social, political and religious foundations of the culture change. Abortion is a religious issue as well as a medical, social and legal issue. The debate over abortion is centered, naturally, on the moral issues of taking a human life and the consequences of such acts for the individual and social well being of society.

Autonomy and the rights of the individual play a large role in the argument for pro-choice. It is argued that having an abortion is a personal and moral decision, not to be delegated to the state or to be mandated by law. For the most part, Americans seem to feel that the issue of abortion is one where both the personhood of the fetus and the individual's right to choose are issues that must be considered in legislating for or against abortion.

An argument for individual rights can go both directions. Abortion is viewed as 'murder' by those who view the fetus as an individual. Early American law reflected this belief by declaring abortion as a lesser crime than homicide until 'the quickening' of the fetus and as a felony thereafter. These are strong opinions that have, in the past, been validated by the laws of the land. The early courts entertained the distinction between the death of the fetus while in the womb as opposed to those in which the baby was expelled before dying - another reflection of the belief that the child is an individual with rights under the law.

Both sides of the argument also call on the humanist principle of life as an intrinsic, innate value or that human life is sacred in and of itself. From this perspective abortion is wrong not because it violates the rights or interests of the fetus; it is wrong because it offends or demeans the sacred value of life. Those unable to make choices for themselves are thought of as 'vulnerable' and include the unborn fetus, victims of war and the elderly (Horn, 2001).

Richard McCormick, in his essay, Abortion: A Middle Ground, he presents the argument that…

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The extreme range of emotions that are involved in the debate concerning abortion can be difficult for the woman in a situation where she must choose. In Milwaukee there exists a program where Catholic women who choose to have an abortion can go for counseling, to accept the sacrement and to enter into the process of reconcialiation after the abortion has been performed. A woman must be referred by a priest but any services and all interactions are confidential. While the Cathiolic church is, basically, opposed to abortion, it also teaches that a person may choose to follow their conscience after consideration, study and prayer. The right to autonomy is recognized by the Church in matters of morality when one considers the Church to be a 'guiding influence' rather than an arbiter of the moral. In this instance, disallowing legal abortions is not the issue. Allowing for free choice and providing moral guidance and support is the issue. The alienation felt by a Catholic woman in this situation involves an element of is self-division. The process of reconciliation is between the individual and God but also reconciliation of the self to itself (Matthewes, 1998). Such a program becomes a valuable resource for the health care provider is able to refer a patient for continued care.

REFERENCE

Matthewes, Charles T. (1998, Jan). Pluralism, Otherness, and the Augustinian Tradition. Modern Theology, 83-113.

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