The Abortion Debate
One of today's most controversial topics, the abortion debate pits the rights of a mother against the rights of a fetus. The most common stances on the issue are 'pro-choice' and 'pro-life." These two viewpoints hinge on legal and moral considerations. Another common viewpoint is a more blended pragmatist view, which states that abortion should be prohibited except for specific cases.
"Pro-choice" advocates stress a woman's right to choose whether and when to terminate her pregnancy. In their view, a woman should have absolute control over her own body and, by extension, over the survival of the fetus within her. The "pro-life" camp argues that life begins at conception and any termination of pregnancy after the formation of the embryo is equivalent to murder.
There is an underlying and significant legal debate raging, especially in the United States. Roe v. Wade was a landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that is still relevant today. The Court voted 7-2 to overturn all state laws banning abortion. The Justices concluded that such laws violate a woman's constitutional right to privacy. Since then, the moral debate has taken on political significance.
There exist other viewpoints in addition to the clear cut 'pro choice' and 'pro life' positions. For example, some pro-choice advocates believe abortion is no longer morally permissible after the second trimester. Similarly, some pro-lifers allow abortion in extreme cases, such as rape or incest. Roughly two percent of pregnancies occur under these conditions.
The debate over abortion introduces a larger, overriding question: When must the government intervene in citizens' personal lives, and when must it avoid doing so?