Utilitarianism - Abortion

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  • Utilitarianism Abortion
    • Against Abortion
      • Utilitarianism challenged traditional views that abortion was an 'evil' act
      • The concept of absolute rights isn’t compatible with utilitarianism
      • It could be easy for the happiness of the baby to be overlooked.
      • It doesn’t distinguish between 'good' or 'bad' motives for abortion so women might use it at their own convenience! E.g. to have an abortion so she can wear a bikini.
      • You also don’t know what the outcome of a situation will be. E.g. A woman may choose to have an abortion because she has too many children and knows it would affect them.  After having an abortion she may become depressed and will be in no better state to look after them.
      • Wrong using the Principle of Utility because it produces unhappiness even though it also prevents unhappiness.
      • Up to 24 weeks the baby has developed a primitive streak and can therefore feel pain - This is a higher pleasure as they have parts of a brain
    • For Abortion
      • Having an abortion because of financial pressures, other family members' needs, education, work - any of these reasons may be justified by the hedonic calculus.
      • Utilitarianism generally supports pro-choice
      • Mill strongly believed in individual sovereignty: “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”  
      • Mill can be seen as arguing for rule utilitarianism, saying we should give freedom of choice to all people.  
      • It’s flexible.  Each situation can be measured using the Hedonic Calculus the mother can reach a decision by herself.
      • It also gives room for compassion for the mother and the baby when taking decisions.
      • It looks at the family situation a baby would be born into.
      • It takes into account the fathers feelings, other family members etc.
      • Morally right because it produces the most happiness
      • Bentham would believe that the woman had the right to abort at this time.
      • If it effects the Mother's mental state then it effects her higher pleasures
    • Hedonic Calculus - 15 year old girl who gets pregnant
      • Richness
        • More choices and freedom in life
        • Joy of being a mother; many joys experienced by the baby
      • Purity
        • May lead to regret; possibly inability to have children in the future
        • Could fail exams - not get a good job - have a poor quality of life (mother and baby)
      • Intensity
        • Having a child might bring intense feelings of joy repeatedly; the child itself may experience intense pleasure throughout its life; the child may cause equally intense pain
        • You might argue that a person without a child can enjoy a wide range of intense pleasures
      • Certainty
        • The freedom from the pain of an unwanted child is certain
        • It is uncertain what pleasures continuing with the pregnancy might bring
      • Remoteness
        • The relief is immediate
        • Any benefits/pleasures are a long way away
      • Duration
        • The child will bring pleasure (and pain) for a lifetime
        • The freedom might last a long time (even for the rest of the girl's life, although if she were to get pregnant again, it may be wrong to consider her free)
      • Extent
        • Having the baby will affect a vast number of people, but many cancel each other out as each life brings pleasure and pain
        • The mother and her immediate family are most directly affected
  • Have an Abortion
  • Mill
  • Bentham


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