Online College Courses for Credit

3 Tutorials that teach Case study: Abortion
Take your pick:
Case study: Abortion

Case study: Abortion

Author: Glenn Kuehn

Recognize and analyze ethical considerations for abortion and related topics

See More
Fast, Free College Credit

Developing Effective Teams

Let's Ride
*No strings attached. This college course is 100% free and is worth 1 semester credit.

29 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

312 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 27 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


Source: Image of Socrates, Creative Commons,

Video Transcription

Download PDF

Hello. I'm Glen. And this ethics tutorial is on the case study of abortion. A key term for this tutorial is going to be abortion. And it is defined as the termination of a fetus prematurely by ending pregnancy.

In this tutorial, we are going to first look at some basic statements regarding abortion. And then we will be covering a range of ethical considerations about abortion. This will come in the form of a basic list. Some of these will really relate directly to some of the topics we have covered in previous tutorials, and some don't. But they are still very relevant ethical considerations that are part of the overall dialogue surrounding this particular topic.

First. Let's look at a couple basic statements about abortion, and these are simply to establish a baseline for us to work off of. We have the definition as given in the key terms. Also, it's generally agreed that probably the most significant ethical issue regarding abortion has to do with whether a fetus has the moral status, and therefore the equal value, as a human.

And in this case, we mean a full human, whether they are equal. And the US Supreme Court has decided that a fetus is not a full human until it can survive outside of the mother, which is generally considered to be passed the second trimester. And so those are the starting points that we'll use in the rest of the discussion for this tutorial.

There are four ethical considerations that we're going to look at briefly, here in this tutorial, regarding abortion. The first is personhood, the second is the connection of legality, the third is how different situations can bring about different considerations regarding abortion, and how verdicts and reasoning on abortion differ according to varying frameworks.

So first let's look at personhood. Personhood is a tricky topic because personhood is what grants us full status as human beings and full rights. A fully human person has all of the rights and privileges of a rational adult. So a lot of possible legislation is put forth, particularly in election years, for consideration of a fetus to be determined to be a full person, to be fully human in legal consideration.

If this were to happen, if a fetus were given status as something fully human, then most likely, every ethical system that there is would most likely reject abortion and consider it to be immoral and impermissible. The idea of personhood is that powerful. Similar reasoning along these lines applies to the issues of embryonic stem cell research. So personhood is a major ethical consideration for abortion.

Another consideration has to do with legality and the types of arguments that are put forth. It's important to remember that whether abortion is morally permissible and whether it should be legal are two distinct discussions. They involve different languages, they involve different methods of reasoning, and they involve different belief systems. So we don't want to necessarily mesh the two together into one. They are influential on each other, of course, but they are, in fact, different discussions.

Third, different situations can bring about different ethical considerations and verdicts regarding abortion. For example, a situation of health concerns for the fetus and the mother, health concerns specifically, bring about a given range of considerations. Let's say the pregnancy is the result of rape, that consideration would bring about a different range of ethical issues. And another example is that if the abortion was desired, in terms of inconvenience, and that was the primary motivation, then another range of ethical considerations would come into play.

So the different considerations do have a very clear effect on the ethical valuation that is going on. And then our last issue that we're going to address is that verdicts and reasoning on abortion do vary according to different frameworks. For example, a deontologist, someone coming, perhaps, from Kantian deontology will consider whether or not if having an abortion is a mere means to an end. How is this fetus being treated, is it being treated as a mere means, and is that permissible?

A character ethicist, someone focusing on virtue-based ethics, might wonder about what kind of a person gets an abortion at all. That might be a prominent question in that person's mind. What kind of a person gets an abortion and why? And does that person want to be that kind of person? So this is a range of different ethical considerations that surround the topic of abortion.

In this tutorial, we have looked at a few basic statements regarding abortion, and then examined a range of ethical considerations that are relevant to the discussions surrounding the topic of abortion.

Terms to Know

The termination of a fetus prematurely ending pregnancy