Life and Death: Abortion and the Death Penalty
Though Abby rejects the application of the death penalty in all instances, she does
advocate the permissibility of abortion in the early stages. Despite the seeming
contradiction of ethics or morals in these views, Abby's views on abortion and the death
penalty are more congruent than they might initially appear. This is because abortion is
part of a woman's overall reproductive rights, guaranteed by law; while the death penalty
is often applied in a biased manner and represents state-sanctioned homicide. The fact
that Abby can consistently accept the permissibility of abortion in the early stages of
pregnancy while rejecting the death penalty will be addressed in this analysis.
The ethical and moral deliberations involved in the decision of abortion and capital
punishment are basically the same, especially with respect to defining personhood and
the right to life. As Thomson (p. 66) argues, unless we define the "fetus" as a "human
being" from the "moment of conception," then a "very early abortion is surely not the
killing of a person." While Thomson is arguing overall that Pro-Life and Pro-Choice
arguments are incompatible by nature, this description of early-stage abortion shows that
Abby's view on abortion is not advocating the taking of the life of a "person." In defining
"personhood," we see the conflict between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice supporters that
presents the biggest obstacle with respect to granting right to life.
According to Marquis (p. 184) the typical Pro-Life or anti-abortion argument views the
fetus as a "person" from the moment of conception. From this perspective of personhood,
anti-abortionists argue 1) the truth of these claims, and 2) establishing any of these claims
is sufficient to show that abortion is morally akin to murder, (Marquis, p. 184). However,
just because the fetus is programmed with the potential to become a "person" in the
people community as we know of human beings, many argue the fetus is not a "person"
at the moment of conception and, subsequently, does not have the typical "right to life"
associated as a primary right of human beings, (Bedau, p. 177). If a fetus does not have
such rights, then Abby's views on early-stage abortion are not in jeopardy of being
considered "murder," are no life is taken in such procedures due to this definition.
In the typical Pro-Choice or pro-abortion argument, it is asserted that the fetus is not a
person from the moment of conception and, therefore, is not "a rational agent" or a
"social being," (Marquis, p. 184). This argument, like the Pro-Life argument, makes two
primary assumptions: 1) the truth of any of these claims is quite obvious, and 2)
establishing any of these claims is sufficient to show that an abortion is not a wrongful
killing, (Marquis, p. 184). One can readily see that the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice
perspectives of abortion are polar opposites, revolve around the definition of when the
fetus represents a "person," and seem incompatible from a moral or ethical perspective.