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Abortion, the termination of pregnancy before birth, resulting in, or accompanied by, the death of the fetus (Webster Dictionary). Some abortions occur naturally because a fetus does not develop normally or because the mother has an injury or disorder that prevents her from carrying the pregnancy to term. This type of spontaneous abortion is commonly known as a miscarriage. Other abortions are induced—that is, intentionally brought on—because a pregnancy is unwanted or presents a risk to women's health (Day, 1995).
Induced abortion, the focus of this paper and has become one of the most intense and polarizing ethical and philosophical issues of the late 20th century. Modern medical techniques have made induced abortions simpler and less dangerous. But in the United States, the debate over abortion has led to legal battles in the courts, in the Congress of the United States, and state legislatures. It has spilled over into confrontations, which are sometimes violent, at clinics where abortions are performed (Lowenstein, 1996).
As noted earlier, abortion has become one of the most widely debated ethical issues of our time. On one side are pro-choice supporters—individuals who favor a woman's reproductive rights, including the right to choose to have an abortion. On the other side are the pro-life advocates, who oppose abortion except in extreme circumstances, as when the mother's life would be threatened by carrying a pregnancy to term. At one end of this ethical spectrum are pro-choice defenders who believe the fetus is only a potential human being until it is viable. Until this time the fetus has no legal rights—the rights belong to the woman carrying the fetus, who can decide whether or not to bring the pregnancy to full term. At the other end of the spectrum are pro-life supporters who believe the fetus is a human being from the time of conception (Day, 1995). As such, the fetus has the legal right to life fro...
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