This section of the guide explores the arguments against abortion. It discusses abortion from the ‘pro-life’ stance and looks at the various religious, philosophical, ethical and moral issues involved.
The opposite side of the debate is discussed in our pro-abortion section.
Opponents of abortion cite several reasons for their opposition which include the killing of an innocent human being, the foetus’s right to life, the responsibility of the woman towards the foetus and respect for all forms of life.
In the latter case that especially applies to vulnerable or weak human beings which includes unborn babies.
As with the pro side of the debate, this issue includes various legal, moral, religious, philosophical and ethical arguments. These are all opposed to abortion except
We may assume that people opposed to abortion are intolerant and backward in their thinking. That they are opposed to modern medicine, women’s rights and freedom of choice, but, this is not always the case.
There are people who are against abortion on principle but do recognise that there are situations in which abortion may be the only rational alternative. This does not mean that they have discarded their beliefs or attitudes; rather that they accept that life is not black and white and that there may be a case whereby an abortion can mean the difference between life and death for the woman.
So, what are the main arguments against abortion?
These include objections on religious, philosophical, ethical and moral grounds.
Religious arguments against abortion
Many forms of religion are opposed to abortion. In their eyes, abortion is a form of murder in that it involves the taking of an innocent life. Issues of life and death are closely linked to spiritual issues and should be decided by a higher being.
Abortion is not only a matter of conscience but is something which affects the relationship between human beings and God.
However, there are followers within the various religions who accept that there may be a few exceptional circumstances in which abortion is allowed. These include the risk of serious damage to the woman’s health or if the unborn baby is unlikely to survive.
Even then consent is only given as a last resort.
The following religions are ideologically opposed to abortion:
- Roman Catholic Church
- The Church of England
These religions have strong views on abortion and see it as much more than an intellectual issue.
The Roman Catholic Church sees abortion as morally wrong and that a life can be defined at that exact moment when a sperm fertilises an egg from the woman’s ovaries. In their eyes the foetus is a sentient human being and as such is subject to the same rights and treatment as the rest of us.
Their opposition to abortion is based upon their belief that all life is sacred which includes the foetus.
The Church of England adopts a similar attitude towards abortion and views it as a matter of conscience. However they do argue that there are a few (and very few) situations in which abortion is allowed. One such example is where the foetus is severely disabled and is unlikely to survive for much longer.
Judaism is also concerned with the preservation of human life and in that aspect is opposed to abortion. It views abortion as going against God’s will and morally wrong. To terminate a pregnancy means that one is killing something which is made in God’s image.
But Judaism is not opposed to abortion per se except that it views it as permissible only if the woman’s life is under threat.
Islam also considers abortion to be wrong. It is against abortion on demand and argues that choosing to terminate a pregnancy as a career choice is not allowed. Islam believes in the sanctity of human life which extends to the unborn baby.
But it does permit abortion in extenuating circumstances such as a serious health risk to the woman or if the baby is likely to have a short and painful life after birth.
Hinduism takes the same approach to abortion. It also opposes it except on one principle - if the woman is at serious risk of a disease or losing her life altogether.
Sikhism is completely opposed to abortion on the grounds that it is a violation of the rights of the unborn baby. Their belief is that life begins at the moment of conception and must be cherished throughout pregnancy. To terminate a pregnancy is to commit a mortal sin.
So, the common theme here is that all these religions oppose abortion on the grounds that it is morally wrong to destroy human life. This equally applies to an unborn baby as much as a living, breathing adult.
Women’s rights and arguments against abortion
It is easy to assume that those who are in favour of women’s rights, support abortion as well but this is not always the case. There are plenty of people who are advocates for gender equality but are opposed to abortion for several reasons.
- Abortion forces women to adapt to what society wants rather than society helping and supporting women.
- Abortion causes long term physical and mental damage to women.
- Abortion allows men to have sex without any responsibilities
They also argue that the right to life overrides other considerations such as the freedom to control one’s own sexuality and to terminate a pregnancy on demand.
Abortion as a method of social control
Opponents of abortion state that abortion does not free women but instead forces them to conform to society’s norms and values. What society should do is to help and accommodate women in this situation. This means providing facilities such as affordable childcare and flexible working.
Plus some feminists argue that abortion violates many of their principles such as non-violence and freedom from discrimination. This also extends to the unborn baby. They argue that the unborn baby should be treated equally as well as being in control of its own destiny. Any female being, whether she is inside or outside of a woman’s body has the right to life.
Abortion as a form of male domination
Another feminist argument is that abortion is a form of male control. They argue that far from freeing women from the restrictions of pregnancy it actually does the opposite.
It enables men to have sex whenever they want without the worry of using contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy as there is always abortion â€“ which the woman has the responsibility of arranging.
In other words, the onus is on the woman to prevent a pregnancy rather than it being a joint responsibility. This enables men to have complete sexual freedom which is not fully extended to women.
Feminist objections to abortion can be traced back to the 19th Century. They argued that abortion enabled men to have their pleasure whenever they wanted but it forced many women to undergo a backstreet abortion instead of an unwanted pregnancy.
Not to mention the stigma against women who became pregnant outside of marriage.
The result of this was that many women put their lives at risk rather than endure society’s condemnation.
Philosophical arguments against abortion
One of the main philosophical arguments against abortion is that of the status of the foetus. Many people argue that the unborn baby is a ‘person’ and should be afforded the same rights and treatment that any one of us expects.
They also argue that the foetus should be entitled to the same life as anyone else. It must be allowed to have a future and gather experiences as it progresses through life.
Life consists of activities, experiences, certain landmarks, e.g. growing up and projects which are unique to each individual. But abortion would deprive the unborn baby of these experiences which is the wrong thing to do.
It can be compared to premature death in a person which deprives them of living a full and meaningful existence. So, in this sense, abortion does the same to the unborn baby.
Ethical arguments against abortion
These include the responsibility of the pregnant woman, being consistent (i.e. favouring abortion but being opposed to the death penalty) and disability.
Opponents of abortion argue that the woman has a responsibility for her own actions. This means if she engages in sex will the full knowledge of what the consequences may be then she has to accept those consequences.
So, if she willingly has sexual intercourse which results in a pregnancy then she has a responsibility to her unborn baby. She cannot terminate its life on a whim or because she feels she made a ‘bad choice’.
She has the right to decide whether to become pregnant or not and with the easy availability of contraception, this should be a straightforward decision to make. To suddenly decide to have an abortion, as a form of contraception is both immoral and unacceptable.
If she is willing to take the risk then she has to accept the consequences.
A counter argument to this is if the woman has sex unwillingly; say for example she has been raped. It is understandable that she would not want to see the pregnancy through and in a sense, has no responsibility to the unborn baby.
However, the foetus cannot be blamed for the manner of its conception and must be afforded the same rights and consideration as any other unborn child.
Opposing all actions which cause a loss of life
This means that if you are opposed to torture, genocide and the death penalty on moral grounds then this should also be applied to abortion.
If you oppose these actions because they cause suffering and a loss of life then abortion should not be any different. Abortion results in a termination of a life which is no different to someone being hanged or a group of people being murdered as part of ethnic cleansing.
The argument is that respect for life must be universal and that includes the life of any unborn baby. We have a duty to protect those who are vulnerable, exploited, brutalised or helpless and this is a basic human right.
Disability and abortion
Abortion is often carried out if the baby has a severe disability but opponents of this argue that a disabled person has the same rights as an able bodied person.
Terminating a pregnancy on the grounds that the baby is less valued than someone without a disability or will prevent them from a poor quality of life is spurious.
It is seen as sending a clear signal that the life of someone who is disabled is of less value than someone who is able bodied which is offensive to disabled people everywhere.
People against abortion on these grounds also state that many disabled people go on to live fulfilling and rewarding lives and why should they be denied this opportunity.
They also argue that no-one has the right to make a decision about who lives and who dies, especially in regard to disability. Being disabled does not mean that someone is inferior or less than human. They are entitled to be treated fair and equally by society and to helped to live a normal life.
Moral arguments against abortion
Moral arguments usually rest on the definition of a ‘human being’. Opponents of abortion claim that the foetus is a ‘person’ and shares the same characteristics as everyone else. This means that it has the same status as any other human being.
Those in favour of abortion argue that the foetus is a collection of cells but opponents counter this by stating that the foetus is a living, breathing being which is capable of thoughts and emotions.
The sticking point here is at what point does life begin? Does life begin at the moment of conception or at some particular stage in its development? What is argued is that the foetus is an innocent being which should not be terminated on a whim.
These are some of the main arguments against abortion. In many cases, abortion may be preferable to the alternatives; but even those people who would acknowledge this, are still opposed to abortion.
The core of the issue is that of the unborn baby’s right to life. What you have to ask yourself is this: are there any circumstances in which it is acceptable to have an abortion, even if you are uncomfortable with the thought of terminating your pregnancy?
If, after examining these arguments you are still happy to proceed then do so.
One area of the debate which isn’t always touched upon is that of ‘father’s rights’. This is discussed in greater detail in the next section.
Guide to Abortion
- Abortion Intro
- What is abortion?
- Later term abortion
- History of abortion
- Abortion debate
- Father’s rights
- Selective abortion
- Reasons for abortion
- Abortion facts
- Where to get an abortion
- NHS abortion
- Private abortion
- Preparing for an abortion
- Methods of abortion
- Surgical abortion
- Vacuum aspiration
- Dilation and evacuation
- Late abortion
- Risks of an abortion
- Coping after an abortion
- Teenagers and abortion
- Abortion FAQs