Autonomy, Viability, and Moral Perspectives and Abortion Rights

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2722 |

Pages: 6|

14 min read

Published: Feb 13, 2024

Words: 2722|Pages: 6|14 min read

Published: Feb 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Philosophy:
  2. Counter Arguments: The Liberal take on Abortion
  3. Counter Argument: The Problem of “Potential” Life
  4. Conclusion:
  5. Bibliography

In America, abortion is the topic of heated debate in many women’s everyday life. Ever since the decision of Roe vs. Wade, protests have arisen against the uses of abortion. Those who protest against it were given the name “pro-life” supporters. Although a sensitive topic, the debate is brought to many areas of living. Whether aired on the news, newspapers, or congress itself, abortion is a relevant discussion that demands to be addressed. It is in my belief that women everywhere should have free and unlimited access to abortion, so long as the fetus is reliant on the mother to survive. However, there are many that will disagree with this. These arguments include that of a moderate and a conserative. These will be showcased in this argumentative essay, as I detail the fight for and against abortions.

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The right to control one’s body is an entity well respected by the constitutional laws and rights found in America. However, with the case of abortion, the right of choice over one’s body is infringed upon by those who disagree with action. The means to remove the right of choice over one’s body would lessen women as people in the eyes of the law. With males being able to make unrestricted choices regarding their persons, women would be disadvantaged compared to their gender counterparts. To disallow women from making a choice such as aborting their fetuses, one could argue we are reverting back in time. To control another’s bodily decisions is thus reflecting that of a time before women’s rights, since women have been determined as equal to men in the eyes of the law since the 19th Amendment. Everyone in America has the freedom of choice over themselves. This is especially true with the ruling of the supreme court case, Roe vs. Wade. In this case, abortion was legalized everywhere in America. Thus, allowing women to have the freedom to choose what to do with their bodies. This established women’s full and unequivocal freedom over themselves.

However, this concept is starting to change. Those who try to restrict women from abortion infringe on the basic right of control over one’s own body. This is why I argue that abortions should be allowed, for as long as the baby is dependent on the mother to survive. If the baby is not reliant on the mother to develop, then it is not a part of her body. The reliancy of the fetus on the mother’s body is the key factor here. If the fetus is growing and surviving only because the mother provides the nutrients to do so, then the fetus is apart of the mother’s body. Thus, until the fetus reaches a state of viability where it can be independent from the mother’s body; the mother has the ultimate decision over the fetus’ life. According to Embryologist Judis Venuti, a baby is fully functioning and developed at 39 weeks. Thus, abortions should be allowed up to the point of viablity of 39 weeks. This is in order to avoid infringement upon the right of choice women have over their bodies.


My argument for abortion can be supported by many philosophers, including Kant. Kant’s Ethical theory is one of the most referenced when understanding the morality of behavior and thoughts. According to the author of Doing Ethics, Lewis Vaughn, Kantian ethics are founded upon the aspects of using reason and logic to determine whether actions are morally just or not. It is with reason that Kant creates the concept of moral law derived from the categorical imperative. A categorical imperative can be described as “to act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law (Vaughn 133)”. Therefore, if an action can be applied to everyone, and doesn’t disadvantage any persons, then the act is “permissible”. This is where the aspect of consistency is important to be able to determine whether something is morally right or wrong. If an action cannot be done universally to all humans, it is not morally correct.

This concept of the catergorical imperative aligns with my view on abortion. Consistency should be one of the leading reasons why abortions should remain legal. If those who oppose abortions on the basis of protecting the life of the unborn, this would be inconsistent and thus inmoral. If the law requires a woman to carry her fetus full term, the fetus’ life would be protected, but not the mothers. She would be forced to carry a baby until birth, whether or not this would affect the quality of her life. Therefore, not allowing abortions would protect the fetus’ life, but not the mother’s. Concluding that it would be inconsistent and thus immoral to forcing a mother to carry a fetus to term, proving why abortions are determined moral.

Kant’s second version of the categorical imperative is the means-to-an-end principle. Kant demonstrates that humans are special due to their ability to make rational thoughts and have free will. Because this concept is unique to humans, the species is determined special when compared to other animals. Because Kant determines humans as special, he advises that we all must treat each other with deserving respect. In order to do that we should avoid using people as “merely a means” to get what they want. To be “merely” used as a means means to be manipulated in order to benefit others. Using people would determined as disrespectful to other human beings, making that action immoral. This shows respect of human autonomy is of high importance to Kant’s Ethical theories in what it means to be moral.

Kant’s second version also aligns with my views on abortion, as it protects the mother’s ability to act in full autonomy over her body. With critics of abortion threatening to make mother’s everywhere have a baby full term, this would be infringing on the mother’s autonomy. A mother being unable to make decisions regarding her body would be defined as manipulation. With laws prohibiting mothers from having abortions, the government is manipulating the free will of the mother. This is the case with Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill”, where mothers are refrained from recieving abortions after the 20th week of pregancy. The article produced by the New York Times, shows how the government manipulates a mother’s freewill. They do so by limiting the choice of when a mother can abort a fetus by producing strict legislation. Here, the government uses mother’s who want to get an abortion “merely as a means”. This can be concluded because in an effort to protect conservative beliefs that run the state legislation, they manipulate the freedom of a woman's choice over her body. Therefore showing how forcing mothers to carry a baby full term against her will would be deemed immoral. If choosing to have an abortion is her choice, other’s should respect this choice, as she is deserving because she is a fellow human being.

Counter Arguments: The Liberal take on Abortion

As many would percieve my take on abortion as moderate, there are many who may object to it for different reasons. The liberal perspective is one of the bigger critics of the argument I have presented. Liberals, as defined by Lewis Vaughn, are those who believe that a fetus is not a human until after birth. The group believes that a fetus is a part of the mother’s body. Concluding that mothers should be able to abort their fetuses all the way up to birth. In the argument displayed in Lewis Vaughn’s book Doing Ethics, liberals concede to the point that killing an innocent person is wrong. However, according to liberals, the fetus is not a person. Thus making abortion permissible at any point of the pregnancy. Liberals’ reasoning behind not acknowledging fetuses as humans is inspired by Mary Ann Warren. The criteria of what it means to be a person can be found in the philosopher's thesis, The 5 Necessary Conditions of Personhood. This list would include requirements such as “having consciousness, ability to reason, self motivated activity, the capacity to communicate, and the presence of self-concepts and self-awareness”. Because the fetus fails to do any of these things, liberals argue that they are not humans. Thus, making it capable for mother’s to abort their fetuses at any point of the pregnancy. This makes abortion permissible because if the fetus is not a person, it can’t be murder.

While these are valid points, there are many holes in this liberal argument. The way they determine what is a person is inconsistent in many ways. Take the criteria listed above, “in order to be labeled as a person, one must have the ability to communicate”. However, this is not true in many cases. For example, what happens when a person is classified as severely disabled, leaving them unable to communicate? Does society discount their personhood and allow others to kill him or her? No, they are still considered a human being. To go along with their argument would mean that liberals support the idea of being able to kill those that are severely mentally disabled, as if they can’t communicate, they’re not people according to this criteria. This would thus be inhumane, and contradict with their previous agreement that it is not right to kill innocent people. A disabled person’s inability to communicate does not disqualify their personhood, just as a fetus’ inability to speak should disable their personhood. Thus, to argue that this criteria is what truly determines personhood would be hypocritical. If it’s not right to kill disabled people for their inability to communicate, why would it be right to kill a fetus anytime through the pregnancy? The answer is that it wouldn’t be.

Instead, it would be more reasonable to determine where in the pregnancy the fetus becomes a human. Relating back to my argument defending viability, this would be at about 39 weeks. At this time of the pregnancy, the fetuses are fully developed into a baby and are just putting on weight, according to embryologist Judis Venuti. Because they are fully grown and have all the physical and chemical aspects a person has, this would thus make the fetus a person at this point. Therefore showing why a point of viability of the pregnancy is a better way to determine in what case abortion is appropriate, and when it can be classified as murder.

Counter Argument: The Problem of “Potential” Life

An argument that has gained popularity among those who oppose abortion is the issue of “potential” life. This argument is best summarized by Arizona State University’s philosophy professor Bertha A. Manninen, in her article “Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine”. According to Manninen, she defends the idea that abortion is immoral on the grounds of that the fetus has the potential to be a human being. As a human being, the fetus should be respected and given the right and protection to live.

Manninen defends her belief with the following argument; “potency... the power it [actually] possesses in virtue of its specific constitution' to grow into a being of a certain sort. That is, X is a potential Y if X possesses the power to become Y; that X will become Y, if it lives long enough.” Here, she says that there is nothing to be misunderstood. If a fetus is given the chance to live long enough, he/she will become a person. It is less of a “potential” or a “possibility”- rather it is a fact of life. For example, if one allows a caterpillar to grow long enough, it will become a butterfly. There is no chance that caterpillar will be anything but a butterfly. For this reason, the fetus deserves the rights as appointed to all persons, as it is clearly a human, but in a different form. Thus, Manninen declares that because fetuses are humans, abortions should not be allowed at any point. If they are, one is able to take away the life of a human. Therefore meaning that abortion would be classified as a type of murder.

While the argument defending the “potential life theory” is applicable, there are holes that need to be addressed. One of the glaring issues is Manninen’s argument is that she places fetus’ and grown adults as deserving of equal rights. This is clearly problematic, as not even a newborn baby has the same rights as a grown person. This idea was demonstrated by philosopher Ronald Munson in his argument Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical ethics. According to Munson, it is wrong to say that because an entity has the “potential” to be something, it doesn’t mean it has equal rights to whatever it is going to be. He further explains this concept with an example of a child born in America. Technically, this child is a “potential” voter, but is still not treated as a voter because one must be 18 in order to vote. Therefore arguing that just because a fetus has the potential to be a human, does not give it rights as a human. Clearly, fetuses are not the same thing as a grown person, and due to this reason, should not be given “full and equal moral status (Vaughn 230)”.

This also goes for the case of sperm and the egg. If one were to follow Manninen’s argument, sperm can “potentially” turn to a baby, thus it should be treated with the rights as a human. The thought process would mean contraception that kills sperm would be murder. This is clearly an outlandish belief, and exposes how unreasonable the potential life theory can be when applying it to real world scenarios. Thus, discounting the defense that abortions should never be allowed in the case that is has the “potential” to be human.

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Overall, the choice to have or to not have an abortion is not an easy one. According to the Washington Post, almost half of the pregnancies that occur in America are unplanned. This leaves a lot of women in formidable predicaments. Unplanned pregnancies force mothers to make difficult choices regarding the status of their fetus. Whether a woman chooses to keep the baby or not, it is important that she has the choice to decide which is right for her. This fundamental right over her body is something that many want to take away. To have full autonomy over the decision of one’s body is a right that is granted to every human being. Falling pregnant with an unplanned baby should not determine whether they still have that freedom of choice. When the fetus is not at the appropriate level of viability (39 weeks) mothers should have every right to determine the outcome of their pregnancy. As, at the end of the day, her body belongs to her and only her. To determine that a fetus’ life is worth more than half of American women’s lives would be a massive blow to women’s rights as a whole. I fight for abortion in a bid to fight for women’s rights everywhere.


  1. Caron, Christina. “Ohio House Passes Bill to Criminalize Abortions of Fetuses With a Heartbeat.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Nov. 2018,
  2. Kant, Immanuel, and Andrews Reath. “Critique of Practical Reason.” Immanuel Kant: Critique of Practical Reason, pp. 1–2., doi:10.1017/cbo9780511809576.004.
  3. Kant, Immanuel. “Critique of the Power of Judgment.” Nov. 2000, doi:10.1017/cbo9780511804656.
  4. Kant, Immanuel. “Critique of Pure Reason.” 2007, doi:10.1007/978-1-137-10016-0.
  5. Manninen1, Bertha Alvarez. “Revisiting the Argument from Fetal Potential.” Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, BioMed Central, 17 May 2007,
  6. Marple, Kate, et al. “Fetal Development Week by Week.” BabyCenter,
  7. Blackmun, Harry A, and Supreme Court Of The United States. U.S. Reports: Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 . 1972.
  8. Warren, Mary Anne. “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion.” Applied Ethics, May 2017, pp. 360–367., doi:10.4324/9781315097176-53.
  9. Weese, Karen. “Almost Half of Pregnancies in the U.S. Are Unplanned. There’s a Surprisingly Easy Way to Change That.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 1 May 2018,
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Autonomy, Viability, and Moral Perspectives and Abortion Rights. (2024, February 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from
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