The contemporary society is characterized by the powerful and divisive ethical issue of abortion. Jones (2007) defines abortion as the deliberate termination of an unwanted pregnancy before the embryo reaches viability into the uterus. The practice of abortion continues to create heated debates concerning the legal rights of the mother or fetus and also elicit concerns over the ethics of abortion. The debate of abortion remains inconclusive because opponents and proponents of abortion present valid arguments that justify their reasons (Choe, Song and Kang, 2013). In practice, individuals may seek abortion after cases of rape or incest, health conditions of the mother or of the unborn child, socioeconomic reasons, or because they do not want to keep pregnancies that resulted from known sexual pleasures and escapades. Accordingly, the cause of an unwanted pregnancy and the reasons that justify an abortion act always creates an ethical dilemma for doctors and other medical practitioners involved in procuring an abortion to women and girls. Many physicians and medical personnel continue to provide abortion services to all clients regardless of the cause and reason to terminate a pregnancy (Barry, 1989). Today, the ethics of medical abortion depend on the necessity of the procedure with close considerations to the ethical ideologies that surround unwanted pregnancies. Even though the abortion debate is irresolvable, the ethical viability of abortion remains complicated because of a lack of consensuses of whether a developing embryo is equivalent to human life (Jones, 2007).
Firstly, the medical ethics allows physicians to perform an abortion in accordance with good medical practices and situations that do not contradict the law (Barry, 1989). Accordingly, doctors should carry out abortion procedures whenever it is medically necessitated but not for commercial purposes (Levy, 2013). For instance, some doctors may practice abortion because the clients have made a choice and have the finances to pay the bill. In most cases, these pregnancies result from deliberated sexual activities (Choe, Song and Kang, 2013). Therefore, the mother has a moral responsibility to care for the resulting child. Accordingly, medical personnel should not procure abortion services for mothers and girls who expected pregnancies when engaging in sexual acts.
Secondly, the need to procure an abortion should be necessitated with an occurrence that is not ethical, correct, or immoral (Choe, Song and Kang, 2013). For example, victims of rape or incest should have access to abortion procedures whenever they decide to terminate the pregnancy that results after rape or forced sexual intercourse with a close relative. In these cases, doctors should establish the authenticity of rape or incest claims before they provide abortion services to clients (Jones, 2007). The establishment of a rape or incest claim is significant because it ensures that doctors do not terminate pregnancies that resulted from other usual sexual activities. Rape and incest are immoral acts that traumatize victims for a long time (Levy, 2013). In most cases, abortion is advisable in these cases because the resulting baby may become a stark reminder of the ordeal that a person underwent in the past. This remembrance may cause psychological or mental torture to the victim and can sometimes endanger the life of the resulting child (Barry, 1989). Accordingly, there is no rationale for refusing an abortion in these cases because the child will cause trauma to the parent. Moreover, parents can kill or torture born children thus resulting in more unethical acts. Therefore, doctors have an ethical responsibility to advise rape or incest clients on the dangers of keeping a resulting pregnancy. Thereafter, they have the moral responsibility to carry out a safe abortion for these clients (Gillon, 2001).
Thirdly, a pregnancy may endanger the life or health of a mother. Whenever the life of a mother is endangered by a pregnancy, doctors have a moral obligation to save the life of the mother (Barry, 1989). Therefore, doctors must ensure that their diagnosis is highly accurate and indicative that the mothers life is endangered if the pregnancy is kept (Choe, Song and Kang, 2013). Often, this situation presents a dilemma, but most cases often end in favor of the mother. Ethically, the mother may have other children to take care of thus the life of an unborn child may not be saved at the expense of other younger ones (Gillon, 2001). Moreover, the child can survive when born but under great oIDs of having cost the life of a mother or having grown up in the absence of a mother. However, the unknown health status of the born baby may also cause early death thus society or a family would have lost two members instead of one. It is often ethical for doctors to conduct medical procedures that prove that one of the pair must die for the other to live (Barry, 1989; Jones, 2007). Therefore, the life or health of the mother often outweighs that of the baby because the mother has other children or family and responsibilities. Practically, the mother can always have another chance for another baby unless she is not medically fit to carry a pregnancy (Levy, 2013).
Fourth, in some rare cases, mentally ill or unstable individuals may become pregnant in unexplainable or unknown circumstances (Choe, Song and Kang, 2013). Practically, mentally ill persons cannot care for young ones. It is the professional duty of a doctor to carry out tests that rule out the possibility of the mother being the caregiver of the child. For instance, the doctors should conclude that the degree of mental illness cannot allow her to care for the child (Jones, 2007). From an ethical point of view, medical doctors should ascertain whether the pregnancy can survive to term or not. For example, as a mentally ill person, the mother can risk the life of the unborn child or the child can risk the life of the mentally ill mother (Barry, 1989). Therefore, doctors must ascertain this before advising for an abortion. Otherwise, if the mental condition can allow for a full term pregnancy, the child can be delivered then put in foster care whenever appropriate (Levy, 2013).
Lastly, medical screening can sometimes reveal birth defects or disabilities in unborn children. In the medical profession, it is not ethical for doctors to recommend for an abortion on the basis of birth defects (Choe, Song and Kang, 2013). If the mother can deliver safely, then the child should be given an opportunity to live until it dies naturally from the defects or disabilities. Abortion of an unborn child with disabilities sends unethical signals to people who live with disabilities. For example, this act may portray them as inferior people who came into existence by chance and do not deserve to live (Gillon, 2001). Moreover, an abortion on the grounds of disabilities or defects constitutes an attack on the most vulnerable people who need the highest level of protection from others. Therefore, doctors should not guide mothers to abort their unborn babies because they will have birth defects or disabilities. The defects can be treated while disability is not inability to live up to adulthood. These children should a chance on earth and live fulfilling lives unless natural or unpreventable death snatches them away at tender ages (Levy, 2013).
From a legal and ethical standpoint, the debate on abortions remains unconcluded and far from over (Choe, Song and Kang, 2013; Gillon, 2011). The federal government does not outlaw abortion while the Hippocratic Oath requires doctors to uphold human life under all circumstances. This conflict in medical ethics and legal requirement often put doctors at the crossroads because of the need to remain ethical and to provide services to needy clients. Regardless of the federal stance on abortion, doctors should exercise a moral obligation and responsibility to uphold life whenever it is necessary (Barry, 1989). Therefore, it is not ethical for doctors to carry out abortions unless the life or health of the mother is in danger. Similarly, pregnancies from rape and incest should be terminated because mothers and children may never live stable lives if the event keeps on resounding in their minds (Jones, 2007). Children from teenage pregnancies, mentally ill mothers, or children with defects should be put under foster care if the parents cannot fulfill their role adequately (Levy, 2013).
Barry, R. L. (1989). Medical ethics: Essays on abortion and euthanasia. New York: P. Lang.
Choe, K., Song, E., & Kang, Y. (2013). Recognizing bioethical issues and ethical qualification in nursing students and faculty in South Korea. Nursing Ethics, 20 (2), 213-225. doi:10.1177/0969733012472734
Gillon, R. (2001). Is there a new ethics of abortion?. Journal of medical ethics, 27 (Suppl 2), ii5-ii9.
Jones, K. (2007). Ethics of abortion: the arguments for and against. (Cover story). Nursing Standard, 21 (37), 45-48.
Levy, N. (2013). The moral significance of being born. Journal Of Medical Ethics, 39 (5), 326-329. doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100734