Essay Sample: Ethics in Abortion Laws

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Harvey Mudd College
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The topic of abortion has, for many years, been the source of considerable debates. More specifically, this has brought about the ongoing controversy surrounding the moral, legal, and religious status of induced abortion. Thus, for the sake of this discussion, abortion, is by definition, the deliberate removal or expulsion of a fetus from a womans womb. In a majority of the modern day abortion discussions, abortion is primarily considered as a moral issue that concerns the rights of the fetus, the womans rights over her own body, as well as the commencement of human personhood. Besides, abortion laws considerably vary between jurisdictions and have since ranged from prohibition to public funding of the act. The core intent of this essay is to bring about a better understanding that legalizing access to safe abortion can help to reduce the increased number of abortion-related maternal deaths significantly.

With regard to the ethical considerations of abortion, different people take one of the three most important stances on abortion. This includes the anti-abortion stance, pro-abortion and the middle ground where people argue that abortion can be accepted in some circumstances. Nonetheless, abortion practice is considered an activity that arises from the moral imperatives in respect of the patient and also to alleviate suffering. Therefore, within the healthcare provider-patient relationship, the very first obligation of the provider is the medical duty to protect as well as to advocate for both the wellbeing and the health of the patient. However, with modern day laws that compromise safe abortion care, healthcare providers often find themselves in ethical dilemmas (Santpur & Sheikh, 2015).

The modern-day laws which legalize abortion are based on the premise that the embryo starts off without any rights. Therefore, the notion of the developing rights of the fetus alongside practical factors such as the risk of death or possible distress of the mother or other children in the family brings about the standard view that early abortion is more acceptable than late abortion.

Owing to the fact that abortion is one of the most controversial issues in the modern day today, people tend to turn to the law when to trying to decide the best possible solution for unwanted pregnancies. More so, with the change in time, although abortion is deemed unethical, various laws have been implemented, and various societies have since accepted abortion with the health of the mother being the most important consideration. In cases where abortion laws are firmly applied, the abortion act requires that doctors and other medical care professionals make the proper assessment in the context of each presented case. According to Santpur and Sheikh (2015) health care professionals ought to access the potential impact of the pregnancy as well as birth on the womans mental and physical health. Therefore, based on the fact that the decision to procure an abortion is not an easy one, both the patient and the doctors should ensure that relevant information and counseling support the decision.

Evidence in Ethics in Abortion Laws

In many countries, today, cases of abortions, and especially the unsafe abortions continue to be one of the leading causes of maternal death. According to a 2015 study done by Faundes and Shah, cases of unsafe abortion account for an approximate of 14.5% of the total number of maternal deaths that occur at a global level. While most people may argue that laws set aside to prohibit abortion are overly beneficial for the sake of the fetuss life, research has it that a majority of the annual maternal deaths occur in those countries with very restrictive abortion laws (Faundes & Shah, 2015). This being the case, a strong body of accumulated literature argues that the only way to mitigate or even to reduce the increased number maternal deaths, which are as a result of unsafe abortion, is by legalizing abortion and also making the institutional terminations of pregnancy broadly accessible to mothers.

In a similar regard, although multiple scholars contend that the primary prevention of unintended pregnancies is through the use of contraceptives, critics of contraceptives, on the other hand, point out that no contraceptive is 100% efficient. This, in essence, leads to unwanted, or rather accidental pregnancies. According to a 2015 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), an approximated value of about 33.5 million pregnancies are as a result of failed results of contraceptives (WHO, 2015). Besides, in a majority of the developing countries, most women, especially girls aged 14-25 years are victims of sexual violence and rape. Faundes and Shah (2015) highlight that most of these sexual abuse victims end up pregnant and hence contributing to a significant number of unwanted pregnancies.

Nonetheless, despite the evidence of the alarming increase of maternal deaths and abortion-related complications, abortion remains to be a highly stigmatized issue in many countries. In countries such as India, China and Malaysia still have harsh abortion laws which strictly prohibit any form of pregnancy termination, except for cases where the womans life is being saved. Moreover, there also are those countries that deprive women of the legal access to safe abortion even when the individual meets all the legal conditions for abortion. Owing to the numerous abortion-related ethical dilemmas for healthcare practitioners, scholars substantiate that one of the primary barriers to accessing safe abortion in some countries is the fact that most health care providers live in fear of being stigmatized by the society for offering legal abortion services. Another key barrier to accessing safe abortion in various countries is the resistance of healthcare professionals to provide safe abortion practices, citing conscientious objection.

Countries such as South Africa, have less strict abortion laws. However, a majority of the maternal abortion-related deaths are highly attributed to the fact that fear of stigmatization. According to Adler, Filippi, Thomas & Ronsmans (2012) although women in South Africa are aware of the legal status that entitles them to safe abortion, an approximate of one in every five women do not seek the proper medical procedure to procure these abortions. Studies substantiate that, although a majority of the women in South Africa are aware that they are entitled to safe, legal abortion, they fail to seek these legal services due to the anticipated fear of harsh treatment by the healthcare professionals.

In conclusion, although different kind of people holds varying perceptions relating to abortion and the moral and ethical opinions surrounding the issue, it is evident that criminalizing abortion only causes suffering and deaths. A significant percentage of the abortion-related deaths are particularly recorded in the developing countries, less privileged communities and also the less marginalized sectors of the society. Therefore, to mitigate the number of maternal related deaths, safe pregnancy termination should be made broadly available across the globe.



Adler, A. J., Filippi, V., Thomas, S. L., & Ronsmans, C. (2012). Incidence of severe acute maternal morbidity associated with abortion: a systematic review. Tropical Medicine & International Health, 17(2), 177-190. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3156.2011.02896.x

Faundes, A., & Shah, I. H. (2015). Evidence supporting broader access to safe legal abortion. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 131, S56-S59. doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2015.03.018

Santpur, M. U., & Sheikh, N. A. (2015). Is Safe Abortion Really Safe? Medico-Legal Update, 15(2), 86. doi:10.5958/0974-1283.2015.00052.3

WHO. (2015). WHO | Facts on induced abortion worldwide. Retrieved from

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