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Law and Abortion - Essay Example

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A characteristic feature of Bentham's theory is the idea that the rightness of an action entirely depends on the value of its consequences. This is why the theory is also described as consequentialist. Bentham's theory differs from certain other varieties of utilitarianism (or consequentialism) by its distinctive assumption that the standard of value is pleasure and the absence of pain; by being an act-utilitarian; and by its maximising assumption that an action is not right unless it tends towards the optimal outcome.
There are many philosophers that support the theory of Utilitarianism and have added their own contributions. These include David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, William Godwin, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, R.M. Hare, and Peter Singer (Utilitarian.net, 2008).
Intuitionists will predictably take this as "proof" of the "inadequacy" of utilitarianism. The utilitarian, however, after noticing the various muddles produced by the intuitionist - the arguments over whether the fetus is a "person", whether one person has the "right" to the use of another's body and/or whether someone has the "right" to determine what occurs in their own body (and in the case of both, the interminable debates as to what is to be done about the dilemma), and whether having sex in the first instance amounts to an "invitation" and the effects of this - might take this issue to be a good example of the inadequacy of intuitionism.
One of the disadvantages of Utilitarianism is that it avoids one of the moral issues that have been brought to the forefront of many skeptics. This is, according to Utilitarianism.org (2008, pg. 1), "If it is sometimes permissible to kill a fetus, where is the dividing-line between this and killing a normal baby (or adult)" The reason why Utilitarianism avoids the issue is because it says that it is wrong to kill a baby except in the case where the mother is in immediate danger for her life (Utilitarianism.org, 2008).
The concept of Utilitarianism takes the fetus into its main consideration. The theory expects that the future life of a baby will be happy, or at least reasonably happy. Furthermore, it considers abortion to be painful for the baby, especially late in pregnancy. Utilitarianism is not outright against abortion; it is simply against abortion late in pregnancy, if it is not absolutely necessary, or via painful means. It, therefore, supports abortion only if it absolutely must be done to protect the mother, early in the pregnancy, and via painless or near painless means.
According to Mel Thompson (2008, pg. 1):
As is the case with many issues in a utilitarian system, the rightness or wrongness of the act in question turns mainly not on the effects of the act on the agent, nor on the being(s) directly affected by the act, but on the less direct effects on the community at large. The issue of abortion, stripped of the language of "rights" and emotional sway over ...Show more
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Summary

The law relating to abortion has two approaches. These are Utilitarianism and Liberalism. Both approaches have the potential to present moral dilemmas. The purpose of this paper is to discuss both approaches, mention the founders being the two theories, and support any claims made by presenting a few law cases that relate to the subject at hand.
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