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is ethically and capital punishment

In the following pages, I will discuss the history, debate, past and current public opinion, and how it applies to American ideology and opposing values.  Both sides have a fair amount of support and I have included direct quotes and paraphrasing from authors, celebrities, journalists, and ordinary people arguing both sides.  

The history of the death penalty goes back to the earliest civilizations where it was used to punish all sorts of crimes from robbery, to murder, to different forms of heresy.  In the United States it evolved to just punish murder, treason, and some cases of rape.  It has been an issue that has sparked a never ending debate that goes back to colonial times.  The general public traditionally supported the death penalty in a majority with only a few politicians speaking out against it (i.e., Benjamin Rush, Ben Franklin and later on Horace Greeley).  Once the U.S. gained independence, each state went back and forth in abolishing and reinstating the death penalty and methods of execution.  
The 1960s saw many trials concerning capital punishment cases that led to a ten year halt in executions.  In 1965, the American Civil Liberties Unions (ACLU) announcement of their anti-death penalty stance was a sign of things to come.  It was particularly important because the ACLU had always neglected to have an opinion on the issue because they believed it was not a civil rights issue.  They now determined that capital punishment was inconsistent with underlying values of a democratic system.  They explained that it discriminated against blacks and other minorities and did not comply with the eighth amendment of the constitution, in other words, it was cruel and unusual punishment (Vila, Morris:127).  The National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples Legal Defense Fund (NAACP-LDF) also began to speak out in the mid-sixties.  They agreed that the death penalty discriminated against blacks and launched a campaign against the death penalty around the same time.  The LDF poured its resources into aiding death row prisoners which tied up the capital punishment cases for years allowing them to achieve their goal of a moratorium on the death penalty (Vila, Morris:131).  From 1967 to 1977, there were no executions anywhere in the United States because of groups like these that rallied to oppose it, the particularly low public support of it, and a number of supreme court cases that decided in the favor of the abolitionist movement.
One crucial case was Witherspoon v. Illinois in 1968.  The supreme court ruled that prospective jurors who oppose the death penalty can not automatically be excluded from juries in possible capital punishment cases.  The court said that having jurors that oppose the death penalty is part of a fair, impartial jury as dictated by the Sixth Amendment.  Some dissenters claimed that people who were ethically opposed to the death penalty were biased because they would never vote to give the death penalty to people who deserved it.  Some historians say that this marked the first time that the supreme court was persuaded by public opinion against capital punishment.  The following statement was made by Justice Potter Stewart who spoke for the majority, In a nation less than half of whose people believe in the death penalty, a jury composed exclusively of such people cannot speak for the communityIn its quest for a jury capable of imposing the death penalty, the State produced a jury uncommonly willing to condemn a man to die (Gottfried:60).  Scholars and lawyers also thought this would be the end of capital punishment for good because the courts willingness to accept people who fundamentally opposed the death penalty, but this turned out not to be true because of details in the decision that allowed courts and legislatures to work around it.
The 1972 case of Furman v Georgia was seen as a complete victory for abolitionists at the time, but proved to be more complicated than it appeared.  It said that the death penalty, as it was administered, violated the Eighth Amendments because it was cruel and unusual punishment and violated the Fourteenth Amendment because it did not guarantee equal protection under the law (Costanzo:18).   The crucial part of this statement was ..as it was ... more

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Abortion

When does life actually begin? When, if ever, is it right to terminate a
pregnancy? These are some of the moral dilemmas that are faced when dealing with
the issue of abortion. Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. There are
many different stands held on the issue of abortion. For those holding a
conservative view on abortion, abortion is never acceptable except when
necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. In contrast, the liberal view
believes that abortion is always ethically acceptable at any point of fetal
development, and for any reason. Finally, there are those in the middle, that
hold the moderate view. They believe that abortion is ethically acceptable up to
a certain point of fetal development and that some reasons are acceptable. Mary
Anne Warrens Argument for Abortion Mary Anne Warrens stand on abortion is
that of a liberal one. In her article, On the Moral and Legal Status of
Abortion, she concludes that a womens right to protect her health,
happiness, freedom, and even her life, by terminating an unwanted pregnancy,
will always override whatever right to life it may be appropriate to ascribe to
a fetus, even a fully developed one. (pg.16, Mappes) Warren believes that
abortion is permittable because the fetus is not a fully developed person with
moral characteristics; they are human beings that are not yet a person. She
contends that in order to be considered a human, we must satisfy five traits.
These five traits are: 1 consciousness (of objects and events external and/or
internal to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain: 2 reasoning
(the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems); 3
self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively independent of either
genetic or direct external control); 4 the capacity to communicate, by whatever
means, messages of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an
indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinitely many possible
topics; 5 the presence of self-concepts and self-awareness, wither individual or
racial, or both. (pg.12, Mappes) And since a fetus does not possess these five
characters, she believes that they are not entitled to have full moral status,
and may be terminated during any stage of pregnancy. To support her conclusion
she uses creative stories, such as a story about if we landed on a planet how
would we be able to distinguish the aliens as those holding morals such as
ourselves, or things in which we could eat. She also uses another story about if
we were captured by aliens who wanted to make genetic copies of ourselves, by
which we would actually loose our life. She says that no matter how many lives
would be made out of us, we should not have to give up our freedom for others.
These stories are also the main strengths in her argument because it makes the
reader look at the issue of abortion in a different light. By using these
stories, the reader is convinced to take a deeper look into his or her opinion.
The weaknesses to her argument is that if we were to support her argument, that
pregnancy should be able to be terminated at any stage, then we could fall into
a slippery slope. Another weakness to this argument is that abortion could end
up being another form of birth control for those who are irresponsible. Instead
of it being for those who actually have valid reasons, it becomes available to
anyone for any reason, therefore simply becoming another form of birth control.
Finally, she fails to mention that abortions can be damaging to a womens
health. She talks about how it is our bodies and that we have a right to do what
we want to, to keep them healthy, but fails to bring to our attention that
abortions are not healthy for us. Don Marquis Argument against Abortion In
contrast to Marry Anne Warren, Marquis holds a conservative view on abortion. In
the article, Why Abortion is Immoral, Marquis concludes that This essay
sets out an argument that purports to showthat abortionis seriously
immoral, that it is in the same moral category as killing an innocent adult
human being.(pg.27, Mappes) The main reasons backing up his argument are, for
one, simply that it is wrong to kill us. When we are killed we suffer the
greatest loss of all, our life. Second, killing us deprives us of our future
experiences; depriving us of our future deprives us of more than perhaps any
other crime. And ... more

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