The Morality Of Abortion Through The Lens Kantian Ethics And Utilitarianism Essays Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Morality, Ethics, Pregnancy, Abortion, Social Issues, Actions, Immanuel Kant, Enlightenment

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/01/09

Question #4:

Consider a moral issue or dilemma that has great interest for you. Compare what a utilitarian would advise and why, with what a Kantian would advise and why. Who do you think offers the best advice and why? Argue for your position, giving reasons why one of these ethical approaches is superior in your mind, entertain objections, and reply showing why your argument stands. (Note: Also, the focus should be on applying and critically analyzing these moral theories and NOT discussion of the issue). 


Abortion is a moral dilemma that has been in existence for centuries. The issue receives differing views from health care practitioners, moral philosophers, ethicists and the general public. While the impact of industrialization, modernism and other pro-mother philosophies have urged the state to implement its legalization, the morality of killing a fetus remains a controversial national issue. The recent statistics from CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that every year, roughly 1.2 million of women in America undergo abortion procedure. This cases are due to varying reasons such as single parenthood, teen pregnancy and economic problems. There are also some cases that are caused by personal choice to attain a desired end. The laws governing the citizens are anchored on moral values; thus, some individuals perceive abortion as an act that is morally permissible. Ideals that are against abortion are now perceived by some people as a result of religious dogma. But what would Kant and Mill say about the moral worth of aborting a child? To answer this question, this paper will explore the moral theories of the two philosophers and analyse their stand on the moral controversy of abortion. To note, this project will only discuss the different perspectives of Kantian ethics and Utilitarianism and analyse their position on the morality of killing a fetus base on their individual moral views. This paper will not however offer a subjective recommendation on whether abortion is moral or not.
Kant and Mill would give differing advises on the morality of aborting an innocent child. This is because the moral theories of these philosophers are based on different grounds that are used in determining the wrongness or rightness of an action or behavior. For Kant an action is moral if it is done in fulfillment or adherence to his duty while Mill says that an act is morally right if it promote the greatest happiness of the greater number. Looking at this moral grounds, it is imperative to assume that Kant would say that abortion is immoral while Mill would note that the morality of this act will depend on the nature of its consequences or results.
According to Mill, when an action is done to deliver happiness of the greater number of people who are involved or affected by the issue it is considered as moral. Utilitarianism means that moral actions promotes a great deal of “utility” that means pleasure, satisfaction, happiness or benefits of the majority. Actions that promote the contrast of happiness are therefore wrong. Mill argues that actions have no intrinsic moral property; rather, their morality are consequential. Meaning, actions will only be considered moral if they are done to promote satisfying and beneficial results. With this moral principles, Mill would say that abortion in itself is neither moral or wrong. Thus, it would gain moral worth if it successfully promote a pleasurable end to more people.
For Utilitarian perspective, morality is an end. Mill believes that abortion is only a means to either a moral or immoral end. Therefore, abortion have different moral worth according to the moral status of its results. For instance, if the infant is diagnosed of birth defects, it is moral for the mother to abort the child given the desired end of saving the child from having to live a life of misery. The action would also prevent the mother, father and relatives from enduring a heart-breaking condition every day- seeing her child suffer and worrying about his future without them. When abortion is done in order to attain this ends that promote the happiness of the majority of the people involved, the act according to the theory of Utilitarianism will be moral. Same verdict goes to a teenage who chooses not to continue with her pregnancy for the sake of promoting the good of more people. If she comes from a very poor family, abortion would mean that she will save her parents from furture economic dilemma. Furthermore, she can continue with her studies. These cases of abortion that aim to promote happiness will be considered moral in the Utilitarian perspective.
While Mill looks at the consequences of abortion before claiming that it is either moral or not, Kant would say that abortion is morally wrong regardless of how good the consequences are. According to the definition of abortion, it refers to the medical procedure of terminating pregnancy before the fetus reaches viability. In a non-technical context, abortion is killing a “potential being” and taking its life. This definition that involves the word “killing” renders abortion immoral through the lens of Kantian ethics. Unlike Mill, Kant believes the nature and not the outcome of an action determines its morality. According to the German philosopher, man’s actions only become moral if it obeys his duties. These duties are called Categorical Imperatives. These Imperatives are natural laws that are unconditional and should be obeyed by man without considering any extrinsic features such as a desired end, and good intention. This principle means that when a man neglects or disobeys these commands even if he acts in order to gain a favorable outcome, the action will remain immoral. For Kant, the morality of an act is defined by its nature. Therefore, any action that is immoral in itself is wrong. Killing a potential person in order to promote greater happiness of the majority does not alter the moral worth of abortion.
Kant argues that morality contains three elements- moral worth, duty and goodwill. Initially, man must have goodwill in order to attain morality in his behavior or actions. Second, the nature of the action should have moral worth. Again, the moral worth of an action is intrinsic that the greatness of purpose does not alter its worth. Third, it should be an adherence to his duties that are stated in the Categorical Imperatives. The lack of any of these three elements would deny an action of its morality.
Some pregnant women are victims of the immorality of other people. Victims of rape and incest have to undergo miserable pregnancy while dealing with tragic memory. To save the mother from having to sacrifice their own happiness, abortion would be a moral option based on the concept of Mill. However, Kant would disapprove the idea. Abortion is still a crime of murder. Even it the intention of killing the child is to save the victim from suffering negative consequences. Killing a fetus for the sake of sparing oneself from emotional pains and financial struggles does not change the moral worth of abortion. Majority of women choose abortion because of financial problems. Teenagers, especially those who are under the poverty line, have no adequate financial resources. This reality means that they would not be able to pay for the expenses during pregnancy, hospitalization during conception and maintenance for child care. Since the teenagers have no means to cover these expenses, their parents have to shoulder the burden. Considering these circumstances, Mill would say that it is moral for the mother to undergo abortion as such decision would promote beneficial results both to her to her family. However, abortion lacks all the three elements of the Kantian ethics. First, it is unclear whether it is goodwill to kill a potential person for the sake of the happiness of more people. Thus, the goodwill of the mother is still questionable. Secondly, abortion is killing- an act that has no moral worth by nature. Lastly, killing (regardless whether the one being killed is a complete being or a potential being) is a violation of Categorical Imperatives.
Kant and Mill have different views regarding the morality of abortion. Since Kant believes that the morality of man’s actions and behavior are defined by their very nature, he would advise that it is immoral to undergo abortion. On the other hand, Mill would first analyse the results of abortion. If he finds out that the act serves the benefits of the majority, Mill would conclude that abortion is moral.

Works Cited

Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism. Oxford University, 2006. Ebook.
Sullivan, Roger. Immanuel Kant’s Moral Theory. Cambridge University Press, 1989. Ebook.

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