There are few issues that can cause as many heated and sometimes, irrational, debates than that of abortion. The issue strikes at the very heart of an individual's religious and philosophical beliefs. Does a woman have the right to terminate a pregnancy? Is it moral to do so in any circumstance? Is a fetus a living human being? The debate has raged for nearly thirty years and there does not seem to be any end to the controversy that often results in violence. Irrational individuals who have committed murder want to make their beliefs heard and followed.
In response to the question, some people have resulted to using qualifiers: no, abortion is not moral except if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest is one response heard, in fact, some state laws contain this condition. A very large and strong contingent of people say a very loud and aggressive no, abortion is not moral, not under any circumstance and at least as many say a very loud aggressive yes, abortion is moral; it is the woman's choice regarding her own body. The issue of abortion is filled with emotion.
Despite the eloquent arguments and the seemingly reasonable reasons supporting abortion, abortion is not moral. It is taking the life of a living being and that can never be considered a moral act. There is more and more support for this opinion. As the Roe v Wade decision reached its 25th anniversary, in fact, there was a growing sentiment in this country that abortion is murder. Perhaps this swell of support against abortion is due to the realization that legal abortion has prohibited 35 million humans from being born (First Things, 1998).
In her article, A Defense of Abortion, Judith Jarvis Thomson offered a number of reasons to support abortion. She also used a number of analogies to support her opinions. Thomson conceded the point that opponents of abortion make: a fetus is a person from the moment of conception but she said that abortion is morally permissible even it means killing the fetus and offered a number of analogies and/or hypothetical situations to demonstrate her point. Some of her analogies border on the absurd such as attempting to compare a young boy who does not want to share his box of candy with his younger brother to a pregnant woman who does not want to share her body with this unwanted fetus. It is simply not a rational comparison. Equally absurd would be to counterargue that the little brother is already living, the aborted fetus has not been given the opportunity to live.
Ronald Dworkin argued that the law should not call abortion murder. For him, this is a First Amendment issue that deals with the separation of church and state. Dworkin's rationale focused on the fact that most religions do not agree on when life actually begins - at conception, as a four-month fetus or at birth. He alleged that abortion was a religious decision and as such should not be restricted by the law. Pope John Paul II, on the other hand, left no question about abortion in the Catholic Church. The Pope has often argued vigorously that abortion is murder and condemns laws that permit abortion as being intrinsically unjust, lacking in authentic juridical validity, and not being morally binding (Thomson, 1996; p. htm).
Dworkin said that there should be an agreement on the sanctity of life, that there is an intrinsic value of life regardless of how it was conceived. But, Dworkin also promotes a metric of disrespect which allows him to distinguish between better and worse abortions and to justify some of the most accepted exceptions to a moral objection to abortion, such as in the cases of incest and rape. In other words, Dworkin does not take a legal stand. He does, however, take a religious stand and bases his arguments from that point of view. He also allows himself a comfortable escape from addressing the morality of abortion by giving exceptions -- his metric of disrespect which one could also call his line of tolerance. It is like a space within which the morality of abortion has no place. If it is a