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Abortion through the Lens of Act Egoism

Updated on March 2, 2018
Joshua Crowder profile image

Joshua has work experience in manufacturing, distribution, and aerospace. He received his BBA in accounting from Kent State University.

Human fetus in the womb.
Human fetus in the womb. | Source

Abortion is a very sensitive issue for “pro-life” (against abortion) and “pro-choice” (for the right to choose abortion) advocates. Since the day that “the 1973 supreme court declared abortion a constitutionally protected privacy right in the first trimester of pregnancy,” many people have devoted their lives to the abolition of such a law (Weston, 2013, p.323). Many of these pro-life activists may claim that the fetus is an innocent life and does not deserve to be put to death by the mother holding a fetus. They may just be following their religion and think their beliefs should be reflected on all of society. In contrast, some women embrace the law and enjoy their constitutional right. These pro-choice advocates may argue that if abortion became illegal that they would occur anyway and an operation is more suitable. They may stand for all women's rights to do what they wish to do with their body. Some pro-choice advocates are more concerned with allowing abortions when a woman becomes pregnant unwillingly or if there is a prediction that the fetus will experience a low quality life in it's future.

Could ending abortion be near?

The Importance of Abortion

Abortion is a very important topic for us to study. Looking at perspectives of abortion through different ethical theories may be the only way that pro-life and pro-choice groups can find ways to come to agreements on public policy. The popular debates are usually black and white where the argument is over whether abortion should be legal or not. There are gray areas where the two groups can agree. Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice common ground can be met. “Around the country, pro-life and pro-choice people in local communities are coming together in a number of different ways – in small informal groups, in workshops, in structured dialogues with facilitators, in retreats, in joint endeavors to solve real problems [concerning abortion]” (Weston, 2013, p.295). This article will be looking at arguments for and against abortion. While analyzing the debate on abortion, I will be using the following perspective that persons could embrace while considering this topic: Women should be able to have abortions if they have good reasons for doing so. This statement will be observed through the act-egoism theory in support and in opposition of this perspective.

Act Egoism

In the text "Doing Ethics," ethical egoism says that "the morally right action is the one that produces the most favorable balance of good over evil for oneself” (Vaughn, 2013, p.70). An ethical theory that can describe this perspective for discussion is act egoism, a branch of ethical egoism. “Act egoism says that to determine the right action, you must apply the egoistic principle to individual actions” (Vaughn, 2013, p.78). Depending on the situation on at hand, the act egoist will make a choice that depends on the specific outcome of each act. The outcome of one act will prevail over another act to enhance an individual in contemplation. When someone considers abortion there is really only two alternatives you have the abortion or you don’t. The act-egoist will look at the consequences to decipher what to do. It seems simple, but there are plenty of gray areas due to the varying situations when it comes to abortion.

Abortion Kills


An act-egoist against abortion may take “the conservative case [which] is built on a proposition about the moral status of the fetus” (Vaughn, 2013, p.169). Some women that think that they have good reasons for wanting to have abortions. These reasons can be struck down by conservatives with them saying that taking a human life is wrong. Excluding the divine command theory, a theory that says God’s word rules (Vaughn, 2013) from our discussion, act-egoism may be applied with respect to religious beliefs. An act-egoist may think that since abortion is killing a baby with a beating heart, they are against it because they are only thinking about what is good for them and that is following ‘their’ religion. The act-egoist may say that even though the baby has disabilities that it would be good for them if everyone (women considering abortion) followed their (the act-egoist against abortion) religious views.

Pro-choice banner


An act egoist for abortion may consider “one common case for legal abortion [which] rests on the claim that fetal human life is less important“(Weston, 2013, p.258). An act-egoist for abortion may argue that it is in their best interest to have an abortion because of the struggle that they would have raising a child that is not a fully functional human being. The same person may have different feelings over a slightly different outcome. Say a women for example, would have an abortion for a child with no arms and no legs. The same women may not have an abortion if the baby just had no arms. She may think that if the child had mobility that having the child would be less of a burden on her. Moreover, people for abortion might have an understanding that women have something at stake here without thinking about the fetus and its life. It maybe the burden of having to give constant care for a child or the mother’s own life if having the baby means complications that may lead to her death.

Pro-choice people find other solutions

Wait a Second

After my analysis, I have one insight and one unanswered question I would like to address. One insight I had about this topic is concerned with how people for and against abortion can come together to agree on certain issues. A revelation occurred with me and gave me insight that this is actually possible. To most people the issue of abortion is a black and white issue. Even though personal views differ, there are people for and against abortion in the gray area. These people exist in the gray area because not everyone against abortion thinks that every human life has to live. Additionally, just because someone stands for a woman's right to have an abortion doesn't mean they recommend abortion in any situation. A question that I did not answer while conducting my analysis was: Is ethical egoism a good a approach to use while analyzing this perspective? It may not be. It is plain to see that an ethical egoist can be seen as pro-choice. Someone that is pro-choice has something at stake while the pro-life person against abortion is just sharing their view. It’s really unclear whether act-egoism can accurately support the pro-life side of the argument that I gave earlier.



My Personal View

Putting the act-egoism discussion to the side, I think that women should have the right to have abortions. Although, I also believe that you should have very good reasons for doing so. If I were ever in the situation where a women (girlfriend or wife) in my life became pregnant, abortion would not be considered under most circumstances. I would not be able to live with the guilt of aborting a child. The only way I could is if the child would be born without brain function or if the birth of the child would kill the mother. When it comes to my family and immediate family, I would like to steer them away from the the act of of abortion under most circumstances. When it comes to the women down the street, I’m not going to argue. If they feel abortion is best for them and their family, then I say let them do what they need to do on the grounds that they have good reasons for doing so. I really hope more pro-choice and pro-life advocates can come together to discuss when abortions should and shouldn't be used. A woman's choice is important, but more times than not, a life is more valuable.

In Addition

Thanks for reading my first hub. I really can't believe I did it on a topic that I really try to avoid talking about. I wrote this yesterday for an ethics class that I'm taking this semester. Please feel free to comment.


Vaughn, L. (2013). Doing ethics: Moral reasoning and contemporary issues (3rd ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Weston, A. (2013). A 21st century ethical toolbox (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

© 2014 Joshua Crowder


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