Defending Singers Position on Abortion

Abortion has been one of the most debatable issues of human existence. It is a social concern that troubles many nations because of the sensitivity of the topic. The ethical implications of the act has been one of the biggest concerns when it comes to debates and contentions against this procedure. Historically, the world has witnessed that there has been a rising trend on the number countries legalizing abortion. America have given women the constitutional right to abort during the first months of pregnancy while some  western European nations, including Roman Catholic countries like Italy, Spain, and France  have also liberalized their laws on abortion. The issue on abortion is controversial because it involves the protection of human lives, this includes both of the childs and of the mothers. And it remains an important topic for discussion that consistently arouses defenses from both the camp of those pro it and the camp of those against it.

This essay aims to have a substantial analysis on Peter Singers stand on the issue of abortion in his work Taking Life The Embryo and the Fetus, by highlighting his arguments and critically reviewing the rationality of his premises that counters the premises of those people that are anti-abortion. His view of abortion is quite controversial but his article significantly well-presented a good defense for all his arguments. Singer began his article through a scientific discussion on the formation of a fetus then he examined the ethical and moral objections of what he refers to as the conservatives, before he pushed through his perspective on  what could make the dilemma on abortion possibly morally acceptable.   Singers controversial position on abortion is ideologically important in educating the people on the gravity of the issue and what tenable reasons exist behind the tenability of the act.

Singer on Abortion
To start of the discussion on abortion, Singer began by presenting the common central argument against the act. Usually, the conservative argument in attacking abortion is 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.

The usual defenses for the act usually rely on objecting the second premise. Singer feels that to defend the occurrence of abortion, it is best to challenge the the first premise for it can also be the source of weakness for the defense against abortion. He presented in his work his idea on how the first premise  is less secure than many people think. He asserted his position by detailing how the flaw of the first premise emanates from its dependence on what definition does the term human life connote. He presented on the vagueness of the first premise, lacking definition on what is the scope of human life.

Singer argued that if people accept the notion that the definition of life embraces all forms things alive and not just those from our own species, then we can draw a conclusion that  those who protest against abortion but dine regularly on the bodies of chickens, pigs, and calves, show only a biased concern for the lives of members of our own species. This is based on his point that the life of a fetus has the equal value of other living things such as nonhuman animals. Therefore, a fetus could not have the same claim on life as the first premise presents. He added that conservatives  have yet to consider at what point the fetus is likely to become capable of feeling pain  because until such capability exist, then there will be no liability for those women who wants to abort (Singer, 1993, p. 151). Singer focused on discussing the difference of an embryo to a human life, stating that the uncertainty of what the outcome of the embryo would be forfeits its claim of being a human life already. Therefore, if an embryo or a fetus does not count as a human, then it hold no claim on the sanctity of life and aborting it would have no moral consequences. He also argued on the concept of utilitarianism where by the aspect of choice arises and people would face the need to consider of how killing is going to be beneficial for both  the perpetrator and to the victim.

Critics of Singer have argued on his position on abortion by stating that fetus are potential human being. He defends himself in his work by saying 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 also expressed the reality that this criticism on his work  does not stand up as a reason for objecting to all abortions  because  not all forms of abortion are done to deprive the world of an existence a rational and self-conscious being. In this defense, Singer placed great consideration on the opinion of the women carrying the child and what they deemed necessary.

Singers arguments also touched on the scientific issue of the act of aborting a baby. In the beginning of his work, he had already emphasized on the reality that making the act illegal does not suppress it, rather only takes it underground and thus resulting to more harm also to the woman carrying the fetus. Also, Singer significantly highlighted in his work the positive contributions of fetal tissues to science. But he specifically highlighted on the fact that this should be done prior to the boundary of 18 weeks of gestation. This is the only allowable time where the fetus  cannot be harmed  by whatever scientific research is being done, unlike of those animals being used for experiments who are capable of feeling pain and getting hurt.

Its not always that you find works that are in favor of abortion and have substantial evidences or discussions to support its claim. One of the strengths of Singers work is the lack of ambiguity or uncertainty in his position. From beginning until the end, he was very loyal to his idea on countering the first premise. He structured his defenses well, countering all criticisms possible in all aspects of discussion that could be questioned of him. He reiterated several times in his work the differences of an embryo to an alive newborn baby, thus proving that  it is permissible to kill an embryo or fetus but not a baby. He also stuck to his argument that a fetus equates the same value as an nonhuman animal, therefore it has no same claim to life as a person. And he also presented a reasonable, but highly controversial, argument if killing a baby would equate to killing a person when a baby still has no autonomy or capability to keep himself alive. The implication of this position would be a questioning of how abortion would be related to the practice of infanticide.

Towards the end of the discussion, Singer discussed the difference of abortion to infanticide. Differentiating these two acts is important in emphasizing the explanations presented by Singer against abortion and reduce the criticisms on his work who see it as a promotion of killing babies. He wrapped his work by emphasizing that in the case of abortion,  the people most affected  the parents-to-be or at least the mother-to-be   want to have the abortion  for some important reason. By concluding his work this way, he significantly addressed the most important implication of his support to abortion.

Singer s argument on abortion is controversial to many people not only because of the sensitivity of the topic but also because of its strong inclination to promote the act. He has evidently come up  with a strong support for abortion, basing all his arguments on solid foundations. More significantly, he challenged the first premise opposing abortion rather than the second premise which other proponents had often attempted to challenge. Singers work also reflects his support of utilitarianism, a concept that dominates several parts of the discussion. And to make his position firmer, he also challenged some of the criticisms that have been leveled against him. Singer supported abortion, not by claiming that it cannot be equated to destruction of life but by considering the individual preferences of the parties involved. This was his main point in his article. His argument appears to be in strong contradiction to virtue ethics and would be continuously debated against by the conservatives, but with all the defenses he presented and in line with the concept of utilitarianism, Singers work remains plausible and tenable for the debate on the legality of abortion.


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