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Women's rights to abortion are one of the most contentious problems in modern bioethics. Abortion campaigners claim that abortion is a fundamental woman's right, while religious and other conservative groups criticize abortion as barbaric and a violation of the unborn child's rights. As a result, there is a struggle over where the rights of women end and those of the impacted unborn children begin when it comes to abortion. As a result, most social scientists disagree whether abortion should be recognized universally as a women's right. This argument proposes that access to abortion should be adopted as a global woman right as abortion is a health and personal issue to affected women not bound to control by any faction of society.
There are different theories in bioethics that support the right of access to abortion by women globally. Some of the identified theories in bioethics are voluntarist and realism. The salient features about voluntarist are that governments should remain neutral to facilitate the autonomous existence and enjoyment of life by different individuals. If authorities maintain neutrality on the issue of abortion and refute any coercion to follow various moral orientation, then access to abortion rights will become a global phenomenon. The neutrality of governments in abortion matters will ensure that women's rights to privacy and autonomy are safeguarded. As a result, governments should permit the right of women to access abortion facilities. Realism theory arguments for abortion are anchored on the notion of relativity of morality and, therefore, no law should be rooted in them. The relative nature of moral issues surrounding abortion should guarantee that no law should be based on any moral position regarding access to abortion. As a result, various laws should provide for the right of women to abort which like other freedoms and rights can be exercised at the discretion of specific agent without the interference of government or other factions of the society. Realism theory thus cements the privacy freedoms of women that are curtailed by different antiabortion laws and regulations.
Closely related to voluntarist arguments for access to abortion rights is the bioethics theory of libertarianism. In this theory, arguments are fronted that people should be granted the freedom to choose how they live as long as there is no violation of other people's rights (Brennan 1). Libertarianism is an extreme theory that advocates for the non-existence of any government control in people's ways of life. The theory champions the idea that people should be free to live their lives without the influence of the society through tolerance and mutual respect of individuals in society. From the arguments of the theory, there should be no judgment passed regarding actions of persons in the community as long as the activities do not adversely affect other people. Consequently, the argument infers that women should be left to live their lives as they see fit which means that they retain the right to access abortion facilities. However, critics can question this theory citing the violation of the rights of the fetus.
Another theory that supports the global adoption of abortion as a right accruing to women is Kantianism. Widdows (99) argues that Kantianism is the best argument for any rights argument. From Kantian ethics, rationality is the primary goal of any actions by humans, and abortion rights should be based on rationality. As a result, Kantian ethics demand that human women will do the logical thing either to keep a baby or to abort if faced with the scenario. The rationality argument of abortion thus prevents governments to institute on the preordained conduct regarding abortion. However, Kantian arguments can be challenged that their assumptions of rationality among humans are not always the case.
Apart from above theoretical arguments for rights to access abortion facilities by women, utilitarian views form the backbone of different propositions in support of abortion rights. Utilitarianism proposes that government neutrality in the affairs of the society results in better welfare and happiness in the society in the long run. Utilitarian arguments center on the need for satisfaction and enjoyment of life. As Sandel (16) notes, "The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." Women should, therefore, retain the right to abortion because the right is inherently conjoined with their ability for success and happiness in the society and that of the unborn children. Some of the utilitarian arguments that can be fronted include conducting an abortion to enable progress in careers and schooling. Furthermore, allowing abortion allows for easy financial and welfare planning by families in the society which allows for the improvement of living standards of both women and their families leading to happiness and enjoyment of life. Moreover, abortion helps remove unwanted pregnancies that can result in a strain on families to provide the basic needs, thus jeopardizing the welfare of other children.
To extend the arguments of utilitarianism theory about happiness, consider the case in the United Kingdom where a lady, Omodele Meadows, was awarded damages of nine million British pounds for a child she felt that he should not have been born.Realizing that she did not want her child to suffer from a hereditary genetic condition, Meadows was prepared to terminate the pregnancy (The Guardian). The ruling, in this case, presents utilitarian evidence why access abortion should be made a fundamental women health right. Abortion reduces the costs involved in raising children who are likely to be born with genetic and other defects and would have increased happiness of the mother. The basis of the high damages awarded to Meadows is the notion that she is incurring costs and unhappiness to raise a son who she could have saved from various sufferings. Evidently, abortions can lead to better welfare and happiness for both parents and children in the long run.
Despite the advantages of utilitarian arguments, Widdows (99) argues that "Utilitarians will support human rights only as far as they believe they lead to the best consequences, not because they believe there is any intrinsic value in rights themselves." This argument indicates that Utilitarians are only interested in the end product of happiness but not the value of rights of access to abortion facilities. Evidently many critics can accuse Utilitarians of applying mantras of achieving happiness through all means available which can lead to destructive tendencies. Despite these reserves, Utilitarianism remains one of the best theories to support the women rights of access to abortion facilities.
In conclusion, it is clear from different theoretical points of view that abortion should be a basic global woman right. Kantianism and utilitarianism present issues of rationality and happiness that are useful in anchoring different arguments for abortion. Furthermore, utilitarianism argues for government neutrality to ensure maximum pleasure as individuals enjoy different rights.
"Woman Awarded £9M Damages for Care of Son Who 'Should Not Have Been Born'." The Guardian, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/nov/25/woman-awarded-9m-damages-for-care-of-son-haemophilia-omodele-meadows?CMP=fb_gu.
Brennan, Jason. Libertarianism: What everyone needs to know. Oxford University Press, 2012.
Sandel, Michael J. Justice: What's the right thing to do? Macmillan, 2010.
Widdows, Heather. Global ethics: An introduction. Routledge, 2014.
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