A Defense of Singers position on abortion

Abortion remains one of the most contested issues as far as its ethical implications are concerned. The proponents as well as the critics have done very little in terms of changing their opinions as far as this issue is concerned. Most countries had never allowed abortion in their societies, except a few like Denmark and Sweden. Many countries have since allowed abortion to crop up in their societies. Many nations especially, those from Western Europe like France, Spain and Italy have since liberalized abortion laws. Only very few countries like Ireland, still maintain stringent rules as far as abortion is concerned. Many countries have since changed many of their restrictions about abortion with some of them tightening the rules as some loosen them. In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a procedure that involves the transfer of a fertilized embryo to a womans womb. The actual fertilization of the embryo takes place outside the maternal womb. With the advancement in technology, the embryos can now be stored for a very long time without the fear of destruction. There is a possibility that some of these embryos may be destroyed in the embryo banks. That poses a serious ethical challenge (Singer, 1993). Since human development occurs in stages, a fertilized embryo can just be considered as destruction of human life. Embryo destruction and abortion pose a very serious challenge and has been a bone of contention to many ethicists and philosophers (Singer, 1993). This essay is going to examine Peter Singers argument on abortion and establish if it is well based. It will demonstrate that his argument is tenable. His argument about abortion has been a very controversial subject and he has come out strongly in support of it. This article is further going to show that he has been able to comprehensively address criticisms that have been leveled upon his argument. The article first going to highlight his argument based on the premises that had been formulated by opponents of abortion. It will examine how he challenged the premises and how his challenges are plausible.

Singers position on abortion
The argument which has been put forward in attacking abortion can be summarized in two premises and a conclusion.
First premise It is wrong to kill an innocent human being.
Second premise A human fetus is an innocent human being.
Conclusion Therefore it is wrong to kill a human fetus. (Singer, 1993, p.138).

Singer expresses the opinion that most proponents of abortion usually attack the second argument. Singer feels that it is best to challenge the first argument. He feels that life begins at conception and hence attacking the second argument does not lead to viable conclusion. Killing a human being may sometimes be appropriate. He bases himself on the concept of utilitarianism where by the aspect of choice arises. We need to consider how killing is going to be beneficial both to the perpetrator and to the victim. He feels that a fetus of less than eighteen weeks does not feel pain and cannot experience the sense of satisfaction. In this context, Singer feels that the preferences of the mother outweigh those of the fetus and as such abortion can be morally permissible if the mother has a reason to engage in it (Singer, 1993).

Singer has been challenged about the concept of killing a fetus because it is irrational and lacks consciousness. His critics feel that the fetus has the potential and as such is bound to have both rationality as well as consciousness. Singer defends himself by stating that the potential is not necessarily endowed to the fetus but may be equated to the deprivation of the existence of a rational being in future. He feels that not all cases of abortions deprive the existence of such a being. A pregnant woman who realizes early enough that her pregnancy may deny her some preferences may choose to abort. After attending to those preferences, the woman may become pregnant again and thus the world would not be deprived of the existence of such a rational being. Only the time will have been altered in this context. Abortion opponents will not take such an act in good light (Singer, 1993).

Singers argument is logically strong. He has been able to address the challenges posed by his critics. He expressed the opinion that the first premise has not been challenged by opponents of abortion because many people believe in the concept of sanctity of life. They instead, prefer to challenge the second premise which accords the fetus with the rights that are supposed to be accorded to a new born. Singer refutes their claims by stating that it is not possible to draw a distinct line about the onset of human life. Human life develops in a continuous manner. He feels that we can recognize that the fetus is living and so the best way to support abortion is through challenging the first premise (Singer, 1993).

Singers views on abortion are plausible. He bases himself on utilitarianism. Rationality and consciousness are key elements of his argument. His argument has a logical foundation. His assumptions are plausible. He recognizes that a fetus is living. Proposing abortion on the concept that life begins after birth will be a fiction. We have to contend with the fact that life begins at the moment an egg is fertilized. Human development occurs in stages and any stage of human development can be perceived to be different from human nature. The best ways to support abortion is by challenging the concept about the sanctity of life. Human life can be taken away in some instances. Utilitarianism demands that we should measure the benefits and costs of a given action to the parties involved. Taking the life of a grown person or a new born is seen to be going against their desire and possibly preference to continue living. For the fetus that is still irrational and lacking conscience, there is nothing like desires and preferences. The preferences of the mother thus take precedence (Singer, 1993).

Singers argument does not exhibit any form of ambiguity. It is well structured and has a strong basis. His assumption, that a fetus of less than eighteen months does not feel pain may be debatable. When we examine the development of the fetus in the mother womb we realize that the nervous system are not usually well integrated and as such the fetus is thus irrational and may not experience pain as would a fully developed fetus. This is a strong point that refutes such kind of criticism. Singers argument remains valid as far as utilitarianism is concerned. One key challenge that has not been adequately addressed by Singers argument is that of morality of abortion. From the utilitarian point of view, Singer is right in terms of the reasons he cites in support of abortion. However when we consider abortion from the moral perspective, we realize that it is selfish in its nature. Utilitarianism is criticized for ignoring certain intrinsic values associated with some actions (Singer, 1993).

Singers argument has been controversial to many people. This is because he has come out in strong support of abortion basing his arguments on solid foundations. He challenged the first premise opposing abortion rather than the second premise which other proponents had attempted to challenge. He is in support of utilitarianism. He also skillfully challenged some of the criticisms that have been leveled against him. He supported abortion, not by claiming that it cannot be equated to destruction of life but by considering the individual preferences of the parties involved. His argument appears to be in strong contradiction to virtue ethics. His argument is plausible.


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