In today’s modern day society, if not the majority then certainly a very large number of people from all walks of life hold the shared belief that there exists a strong and compelling argument in favour of the safe, professional practice of abortion, such as
- women have a moral right to decide what to do with their bodies
- the right to abortion is vital for gender equality
- the right to abortion is vital for individual women to achieve their full potential
- banning abortion puts women at risk by forcing them to use illegal abortionists
- the right to abortion should be part of a portfolio of pregnancy rights that enables women to make a truly free choice whether to end a pregnancy
This argument reminds us that even in the abortion debate, we should regard the woman as a person and not just as a container for the foetus. We should, as such, give an absolute consideration to her rights and needs as well as those of the unborn.
Pro-choice women’s rights activists do not take a casual or callous attitude to the foetus; the opposite is usually true, and most of them acknowledge that choosing an abortion is usually a case of choosing the least bad of several bad courses of action.
Many people regard the right to control one’s own body as a key moral right. If women are not allowed to abort an unwanted foetus are they not being deprived of this right?
The simplest form of the women’s rights argument in favour of abortion goes like this:
- a woman has the right to decide what she can and can’t do with her body
- the foetus exists inside a woman’s body
- a woman has the right to decide whether the foetus remains in her body
- upon expert counsel a pregnant woman has the right to abort the foetus
The issues within the pro-abortion argument bring many aspects of the human rights agenda into sharp focus.
- every human being has the right to own their own body
- a foetus is part of a woman’s body
- The women’s lib movement sees abortion rights as vital for gender equality.
- They say that if a woman is not allowed to have an abortion she is not only forced to continue the pregnancy to birth but also expected by society to support and look after the resulting child for many years to come (unless she can get someone else to do so).
- They argue that only if women have the right to choose whether or not to have children can they achieve equality with men: men don’t get pregnant, and so aren’t restricted in the same way.
- Furthermore, they say, women’s freedom and life choices are limited by bearing children, and the stereotypes, social customs, and oppressive duties that went with it.
- They regard the right to control one’s own body as a key moral right, one that women could only achieve if they had were entitled to abort an unwanted foetus.
- women need free access to abortion in order to achieve full political, social, and economic equality with men
- women need the right to abortion in order to have the same freedoms as men
- women need the right to abortion to have full rights over their own bodies (including the right to decide whether or not to carry a foetus to birth) without this right they do not have the same moral status as men)