To what extent is utilitarianism a useful method of making decisions about abortion?
Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory that, as suggested, looks at the consequences of the satiation and what the outcome is most likely to be. Therefore, this theory does not uphold the idea that no matter what the situation all life is sacred; it focuses on maximizing happiness for the individual.
Some may argue that utilitarianism is useful because the woman is given the choice. This promotes women’s rights as, ultimately, the woman is who will carry the child and primarily care for the child, if not fully care for the child, in the first years of its life. After childbirth, which for some women is an incredibly daunting prospect, many omen suffer from depression and bodily complications.
Therefore, some would argue that utilitarianism is a good approach because the woman can make the conscious and rational decisions to either undergo pregnancy or not. Some women may also feel that they are not prepared to be a mother and that it is not fair for them to bring a child into an unhealthy environment where she is struggling. This then means that the theory can be used to prevent an unprepared mother form being forced to have a child, therefore, creating happiness.
However, some would disagree with utilitarianism because it allows for a quick fix solution to short term happiness. Christians believe that every child is a gift from the Lord and the bible states that “man was made in God’s image” – Genesis. Furthermore, every child is a potential life that is there to be cared for a cherished which, if aborted, will never have the opportunity to flourish in society. Some may argue that if the woman is given all the rights over whether the child is aborted or not, the father and the families of the parents may also be heavily affected by the loss of a potential family member, which can lead to depression.
In addition, some may agree that utilitarianism is a useful method because it looks at the circumstances of the abortion. Traumatic experiences, including rape or molestation, can all lead to an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. Utilitarianism allows the situation of the individual to be taken into account and so abortion would be seen as acceptable if the woman has had her rights abused and is, in turn, pregnant.
This is because, those that follow the theory can foresee that due to the child being unwanted, the mother may feel hatred towards the child because of the circumstances that she was placed in, also leading to resentment. The mother may also be in an unfit emotional state to properly take care of a child, which is unfair as every child has the right to be loved and looked after by its parents. Furthermore, the greatest happiness is achieved because the woman can then reevaluate her situation and overcome the pain she has been forced to experience, before having a child.
Lastly, some would argue against this point because it cannot predict the long-term consequences of abortion. There is no guarantee that if a woman has been raped she will resent and hate her child, and there is no saying that the child may in fact aid her emotional recovery and will be very much loved. There are also physical problems. If a woman has an abortion when she is young, she may try to conceive years later only to find that she is infertile from the abortion that she previously had. An abortion can also be a very traumatic experience than can lead to potential emotional damage and regret.
To conclude, these points show both sides of the argument that utilitarianism is a useful approach to abortion, showing that in some cases looking at the situation allows for a slippery slope of acceptability when considering abortion.