Abortion Debate

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Abortion is defined as the medical termination of pregnancy, according to Statistics Canada. This excludes illegal abortions and spontaneous abortions (i.e. miscarriages) [1]. The abortion debate is the argument of whether or not abortion should be legal. It consists of a pro-choice group which advocates that abortion is a right that shouldn't be limited by governmental or religious authority, and a pro-life group that argues that abortion is the immoral killing of an innocent human being. Each side both touches on the ideas of morality, bodily rights and the definition of personhood. However, there is a continuum of both sides of the debate [2]. Ambiguity of an individual’s ideology occurs when controversial topics are involved, such as rape and teenage pregnancy.

Abortion in Canada

Also see: Abortion in the USA

Access to Abortion in Canada

Laws in Canada

Prior to the 1960s abortion in Canada was a criminal act. The Justice Minister of Canada first presented a bill for liberalized law against abortion in 1967, and then made it legal in 1988. [3] Canada is now one of the few countries with no legal restriction on abortion, however, there are still problems with funding and accessibility, which vary from province to province. [4] Funding of abortion can be seen in Figure 1.

Abortion Statistics

As per Statistics Canada’s definition, The Canadian Institution for Health Information (CIHI) has a total number of 64, 641 reported abortions that were performed in Canada in 2010, though this number is underreported. According to Statistics Canada, there has been 2,838,328 recorded abortions between 1974 and 2006, and CIHI has reported a number of 353, 034 abortions between 2007 and 2010. This means that a total of reported abortions in Canada is 3, 191, 362 between 1974 and 2010 [5].

Pro-choice arguments

See full article: Pro-choice Argument

The pro-choice position advocates a woman's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, and hence supports legalization of the procedure. Under women's right umbrella are some arguments as to why abortion should be a choice.

Bodily rights

The pro-choice ideology is centered around the idea that the person having the abortion has the right whether or not to terminate their pregnancy. A woman holds ownership of all parts of her body, including the fetus within her and shall not be seen as two entities[6]. The pro-choice argument also deems that women should have control over her reproductive choices. Just as a woman has her right to abstain from sexual activity or to conceive, a woman should have the right to abortion [7]. Judith Jarvis Thompson argues that even if the fetus has a right to life, it shouldn't mean that a woman is forced to use her body to sustain its life [8].


Personhood, defined by the Oxford Dictionary is the quality or condition of being an individual person. In mainstream language, it is the definition of and at what point a person is considered a human being or a life. Pro-choice advocates do not see the status of an unborn as the decisive factor as to whether or not abortion is morally justified. Francis J. Beckwith argues that removing a fetus from a pregnant mother and hence resulting in its death is no different than a person refusing to donate their kidney to another person in need when it would cause the other person death. [9]

Abortion as population control

Abortions in Canada alone totalled over 64,000 in 2010 [10] and over 765,000 in the United States[11]. The United Nations estimated that the world population would reach 9.3 billion by 2050 [12] at this rate, and therefore legal abortion would help dampen the increase of population.

Abortion in Canada 2010

China established the one child policy in 1970 in order to limit the country's population growth. This policy pressures women to abort pregnancy after having her first child in order to avoid being fined. [13] The one child policy has estimated to reduce the population growth by 300 million people over the first 20 years of its enforcement. The reproductive rate in China fell from 2.63 births per woman in 1980 to 1.61 by 2009 [14]. On October 29th 2015 China decided to end its one child policy due to fears that an ageing population could hinder their economic growth. The choice to end the one child policy came as a result of several reasons, one of them being the skewed sex ratio between male and females in the country. Chinese families typically prefer to have a boy as they believe that the son will be able to work and support the parents when they are older, this meant that there was a strong preference for families to have boys. Over the period that the one child policy was enforced the male population in China has been growing at an alarming rate (in relation to the female population growth rate), this in turn has left many single men who are unable to find wives. [15].

Pro-life arguments

See Full Article: Pro-Life Argument

The pro-life position opposes the legalization of abortion and focuses on the value of life.

Personhood and murder

The pro-life argument often views that the fetus fully qualifies as a human and entirely separate from the mother's body because it carries its own set of DNA, blood type, and bone structure [16]. Since no one has access to the rights of the fetus, abortion would be viewed as morally wrong.

Fetal Viability

A fetus become viable when it is believed to be able to survive outside of the womb. Many pro-life activists believe that the moment a fetus becomes viable, it becomes a person and at that point abortion becomes murder. The chance of a fetus surviving outside of the womb starts increasing from zero after twenty weeks, which is why many US states have introduced a 20-week ban on abortions. David Pomeranz writes in [17] that "only at viability does fetal survival depend upon the method of fetal removal. Only at viability does the fetus have a physiological, rather than a merely developmental, potential for independent existence." He, and many other pro-life activists believe that "these two turning points are reasons enough to give fetal viability its moral, and legal, significance."

Religious views


See Full Article: Buddhism and Abortion

In Buddhism, life does not simply just begin or end, rather it is a never ending cycle of life and death. The beginning of a new cycle is the point of conception, where the fetus would be considered life. There is no general consensus on the abortion debate in Buddhism, however abortion is generally indeed considered murder, but there are circumstances where exceptions may apply. In situations where the unborn child is mentally handicapped or the pregnancy could cause significant harm to the parent, abortion may be the exception [18].


See Full Article: Christianity and Abortion

Abortion is not explicitly mentioned in the Christian Bible. However, the conclusion that abortion is wrong is based on two premises.

Premise 1: It is wrong to murder a person Premise 2: The unborn is a person Conclusion: Therefore, it is wrong to murder the unborn.

The Bible also addresses the unborn with personal pronouns. In Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” [19]. Psalm 139:13 says God created a fetus in a mother’s womb and verse 16 indicates God’s foresight and plan was on the fetus’ unformed body. The apostle Paul said, God set him apart from his mother’s womb (Galatians 1:15) John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born (Luke 1:15) and he leaped for joy in her mother’s womb after Mary’s greeting who became the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:44). Taken together, these phrases demonstrate that human life is created by God’s plan before taking its form in mother’s womb and the fertilization is practically the beginning of a new life. With the Christian viewpoint, the argument that the baby’s life starts after parturition does not stand up and this suggests the unborn claims personhood and therefore abortion is considered murder even the Bible does not mention about abortion explicitly.


See Full Article: Hinduism and Abortion

Hindus base their medical decisions based on the principle of Ahimsa, the principle of non-violence. Decisions are based on doing what would cause the least amount of harm for the parents, the fetus, and society, hence abortion is generally condemned unless the life of the mother is in danger. Hindus believe that all life is sacred, including all that is unborn.[20] The principle of non-violence is also related to the belief of karma and reincarnation. Hinduism teaches to accumulate good karma to pass on to the next life. The fetus also claims personhood at the point of conception in Hinduism [21]


See Full Article: Judaism and Abortion

Judaism does not forbid act of abortion but also does not encourage it. It is believed that every case has its own circumstances and considerations. In situations where pregnancy may cause harm to the mother, abortion is insisted since the mother's life is considered more valuable than the fetus. Abortion is considered more acceptable during early stages of pregnancy since the fetus slowly gains life value throughout the pregnancy. However, traditional or strict Judaism may be less lenient on the debate of abortion. [22]


See Full Article: Islam and Abortion

According to majority of scholars, abortion is permitted in Islam, until a certain stage, where it is believed to become a living soul. However, there is a difference of opinion on what stage of the fetal development that abortion becomes prohibited[23]. Majority of the opinion follow that abortion is permitted until after the first trimester. Abortion is permissible in Islam in a number of exceptional circumstances, such as when there is a threat to a women’s life, when the women is rape, or when there is a fetal deformity[24] [25].

Ambiguous situations

Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy is considered a significant issue in the world. The causes for teenage conception are numerous and may vary depending on culture and background. Some examples are low socioeconomic status, early marriage and lack of education and access to contraceptives. [26] The consequences are many, with problems surfacing for the mother and child. There are many prevention methods put in place. There are 2 main types of sexual education programs, ones that promote abstinence only, and other that are comprehensive sex education. Comprehensive sex education has been proved to be more efficient in preventing teen pregnancies than abstinence only and no sex education. [27] In order to prevent unwanted pregnancies, there are many different contraceptive methods such as oral hormonal contraceptives (the pill), barrier contraceptives (condoms), Intrauterine devices, surgical means (tubal ligation, vasectomy) and emergency contraceptive if no other contraceptive was used during sexual intercourse. [27] In recent years there has been a decline in both teenage pregnancy and teenage abortion in Canada. The teen abortion rate decreased from 22.1 in 1996 to 14.2 in 2006 in Canada [28].


The discussion about whether abortion is justified in the context of rape generally revolves around whether or not an innocent unborn child should pay for the incident, or if the mother should be able to get rid of all traumatic memories associated with the incident. The argument and ambiguity exists because it is unjust to force a mother to carry a rape child to term but it seems to some to be a greater injustice to kill the unborn child [29].


In the United States, states such as Arkansas, Idaho, Texas, and Wisconsin have included incest as a feasible reason for a legal abortion when abortions for personal reasons (such as not wanting to become a mother) are not legal. This is mainly due to the fact that children born from incest (also called Inbreeding [30]) are at a much higher risk of being born with congenital birth defects [31] that could be fatal for the child.

Unexpected Pregnancy

Beckwith's paper provides an example where the moral standing in the issue of abortion becomes unsteady. This includes a situation where pregnancy is completely unplanned for. Consider a man and woman who engages sexual intercourse where they used more than one form of birth control, such as the pill and a condom, but nonetheless still gets pregnant [32], the woman now has to debate whether or not to sacrifice education, work, and dreams due to this accidental pregnancy. Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights notes that the contraceptive pill accounted for an increase of women who became doctors and lawyers [33]. In Canada, about half of the women with an unexpected pregnancy choose abortion, and the other half choose to keep the child. Fewer than 1% of unplanned pregnancies offer the baby for adoption. [34]

See also


Abortion debate

History of abortion

Unsafe abortion

Medical abortion

Abortion in North American film

Late termination of pregnancy

Fetal viability

Abortion in Hong Kong

Abortion in the Philippines


  1. http://statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-223-x/2008000/5202030-eng.htm
  2. Background: "Should Abortion Be Legal?" (2014, December 1). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://abortion.procon.org/#Background
  3. http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/canada.shtml.
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Canada
  5. http://abortionincanada.ca/stats/annual-abortion-rates/
  6. Lazarus, L. (2006, January 1). Has a woman sole rights over what to do with her own body? Considerer this question in relation to abortion. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from http://www.academia.edu/863008/Has_a_woman_sole_rights_over_what_to_do_with_her_own_body_Considerer_this_question_in_relation_to_abortion
  7. Vieira, E. (1978, January 1). The statement "A Woman Has the Right to Control Her Own Body" enhances the ideology that the person receiving the abortion are ultimately the one making the decision, Retrieved November 28, 2014, from http://www.l4l.org/library/rightbeg.html
  8. Beckwith, F. (1992). Personal bodily rights, abortion, and unplugging the violinist. International Philosophical Quarterly, 32, 105-105. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from https://bearspace.baylor.edu/Francis_Beckwith/www/Sites/Thomson.pdf
  9. Beckwith, F.J. (1992). Personal bodily rights, abortion, and unplugging the violinist. International philosophical quarterly, 32, 105.
  10. Annual Abortion Rates. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://abortionincanada.ca/stats/annual-abortion-rates/
  11. Beckwith, F.J. (1992). Personal bodily rights, abortion, and unplugging the violinist. International philosophical quarterly, 32, 105.
  12. Pro & Con Arguments: "Should Abortion Be Legal?" (2014, December 1). Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://abortion.procon.org/#Background
  13. Rosenberg, M. (2014, January 1). China's One Child Policy One Child Policy in China Designed to Limit Population Growth. Retrieved from http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/onechild.htm
  14. "World Development Indicators". Google Public Data Explorer. 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2013-10-04. Data from the World Bank.
  15. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/16/world/asia/china-to-loosen-its-one-child-policy.html
  16. Beckwith, F.J. (1992). Personal bodily rights, abortion, and unplugging the violinist. International philosophical quarterly, 32, 105.
  17. The Hastings Center Report "A Rational for Fetal Viability" by David Pomeranz and David Winkler
  18. Religious views on abortion. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.spuc.org.uk/youth/student_info_on_abortion/religion
  19. Turner, R. (n.d.). What does the Bible say about abortion? Retrieved from http://carm.org/bible-abortion
  20. Hinduism and abortion. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/hinduethics/abortion_1.shtml
  21. Meehan,M. (2013). Rape and Abortion: a double injustice. The Human life review, 2, 31.
  22. Judaism and abortion. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/jewishethics/abortion_1.shtml
  23. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_and_abortion
  24. http://www.islamawareness.net/FamilyPlanning/Abortion/abortion3.html
  25. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_and_abortion
  26. Gillham, Bill (1998). The Facts About Teenage Pregnancies. London: Continuum International Publishing.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Neinstein, Lawrence (2008). Adolescent health care : a practical guide (5th ed. ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 624. ISBN 9780781792561.CS1 maint: extra text (link)
  28. http://www.sexualityandu.ca/sexual-health/statistics1/statistics-on-canadian-teen-pregnancies
  29. Meehan,M. (2013). Rape and Abortion: a double injustice. The Human life review, 2, 31.
  30. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbreeding
  31. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congenital_disorder
  32. Beckwith, F.J. (1992). Personal bodily rights, abortion, and unplugging the violinist. International philosophical quarterly, 32, 105.
  33. Valenti, J. (2014, October 14). Abortion isn't about the right to privacy. It's about women's right to equality. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/14/abortion-right-to-privacy-women-right-to-equality
  34. http://www.campaignlifecoalition.com/index.php?p=Abortion