Autonomy, Abortion and Pain Criteria: An Ethical Approach

Autonomy, Abortion and Pain Criteria: An Ethical Approach

Hasan Atilla Güngör
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-083-9.ch008
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Pro-life and pro-choice groups are the main actors in the current abortion debate. On the one hand, the defenders of women’s rights consider the issue as a matter of freedom and argue against bans on abortion practice. On the other hand, the fetal rights defenders are absolutely against abortion in any case and consider abortion a method of killing an innocent human being. Both sides use the scientific developments to influence public opinion. The core of this semi-scientific debate today depends on the question “When does human life begin?” Participants aspire to shape the law concerning abortion according to their answer to this question. Yet, this approach leads to deadlocks in theory and practice, because it is impossible to accept the legal personality of the fetus or to remove all the bans on abortion. However, it may be possible to find a solution within the legal system itself by using scientific knowledge, but without establishing it on a human “rights” base. This paper argues that using pain as a criterion may be a promising point of compromise.
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Ii.Everlasting Discussion: Abortion And The “Beginning Of Life” Criterion

The ever-fevered debate on abortion is largely based on the conflict between the moral judgments which the parties attempt to rationalize by drawing upon the scientific developments. On the one hand, there are the defenders of woman rights who contend the wrongfulness of the restrictions over abortion and consider the abortion as an indispensible part of women’s autonomy; on the other hand, there are pro-life groups which generally uphold the religious arguments and consider the abortion as an act of killing an innocent human being. Since the stands taken by each party seek to protect two opposite moral values, abortion may be understood, according to the value one chooses to protect, as a means of freedom or it may be regarded as a murder, no matter why and when it is committed.

At this point, it is needless to say that the moral approach and the values adopted by the legislators are of vital importance for the interested parties of the debate. That is because, these moral judgments are legitimized and put into effect in the society only via legislative regulation. Thus, the interested and opposed factions work in order to increase the public support for their arguments and thereby to influence the legislative process according to their preferences. That’s why the subjects of abortion and the legal status of the fetus have been brought to the public attention through a number of different, real cases. This is especially true for the USA as it may be observed in legendary court cases such as Roe v. Wade or in acts such as “The Unborn Victims of Violence Act”.

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