Abortion and Morality, Religion and Ethics

Is it the women’s right to have an abortion? What influences opinions on abortion?  See the truth of Bishop Ireton’s rules on abortion, the Episcopal Church’s view, Ethical Standpoints, and Social Justice Standpoints on this complex issue.

           Abortion: what does it mean and how is it being addressed today? In America, we value the freedom of choice, but to what extent do we have that choice? Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus. Abortion has proved to be a controversial topic throughout time, as there are two very definitive sides as to whether or not a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy. In the famous Roe V. Wade case of 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that no government could regulate a woman’s choice to have an abortion before a fetus is considered alive. Morality, religion, and social justice divide the people almost fifty years later. The issue has grown larger than a simple pro-life or pro-choice question, instead questioning the morals of a person as some consider abortion to be murder. The issue has become a large part of politics with Republicans and Democrats both using it as a political platform, either for or against women’s right to choose. 

          In order to assess the opinions of the SSSAS student body, we emailed a poll concerning their thoughts on abortion. Out of the 90 students who answered, 76% were pro-choice, 13% were pro-life, 10% were in between, and 1% had no opinion. It is important to note that the outlook of many students lined up with at least one of their parents views on abortion, according to our poll data, though not all. When asked for reasoning for their answers, pro-choice students responded:

  • Experiences of women/women’s rights

  • It’s the woman’s right to make a decision about her body

  • It’s a basic human right

  • Economics/politics

  • Morality

  • A fetus not being a child

  • Men shouldn’t be allowed to make laws for women

  • Sexualt assualt victims 

  • Being a woman

  • Wanting control of their body

  • Self freedom

  • Hearing testimonies

  • Seeing the news

   Named below are some of the answers of those who responded they were pro-life and gave their reasoning as:

  • Religion

  • Morality

  • Politics

  • Family beliefs

  • Believing a fetus is a human

          In our poll, there was a strong correlation between identifying as pro-choice and identifying as female. So it is safe to wonder, does gender play a role in one’s view on abortion? Out of the 56 females who answered, 48 were pro-choice, 3 were pro-life, and 5 were neutral. Out of the 24 males who answered, 13 were pro-choice, 6 were pro-life, and 5 were neutral. Out of the 7 individuals who identified without a specific gender, 4 were pro-choice and 3 pro-life. There were multiple male students who responded that the decision was not theirs to make because they are not the individual carrying the baby.

         Since many students noted that ethical, religious, and social justice issues impacted their views on abortion, we interviewed three teachers who specialize in those broader issues within the school system. The teachers had varying opinions depending on the role they assume within the school community. 

         Dr. Singer was the first person we interviewed as he is the Ethics teacher, giving him the prompt, “From an ethical standpoint, can you explain ethical frameworks for both a pro-life and pro-choice arguement?” He responded that it’s ultimately a debate over a medical procedure, saying that pro-life person might say, “Well, what you’re doing is prohibiting a potential life from growing up and experiencing all the joys of life” whereas a pro-choice person might say “If a child is going to be born with a horrible, horrific medical condition and [their life would be] short and miserable, maybe it would be better to terminate them in utero.” Dr. Singer included a few different moral ways to approach the abortion question, as it is not a black-and-white argument. What’s most important ethically? A woman’s life and choice or the potential for life of an unborn child? There are many different ways to approach this complex issue. 

             After Dr. Singer, we spoke to Reverend Rees who gave us religious standpoints from the overall view of the Episcopal Church. She, similarly to Dr. Singer, said there’s no one right answer. Although the church says “All life is sacred,” at the end of the day, the Episcopal Church comes out on the side of personal choice but wants to acknowledge how important the choice is. The church does oppose abortion as birth control, for convenience, or for sex selection but stresses the “unconditional love and acceptance of the church and of God for someone no matter what decision is made on this issue.” Though the Episcopal Church believes in personal choice, that is not a popular standpoint for many religious denominations. 

            This being said, this is only the opinion of the Episcopal Church. We interviewed an anonymous Bishop Ireton student who answered some more abortion-related questions for us. When asked what BI teaches about abortion, the student responded, “Bishop Ireton teaches that abortion is wrong… Specifically, if a woman supports an abortion or has an abortion herself, as says in the handbook, that she committed a grave offense. The school would schedule a conference with the girl and have to offer her spiritual direction counseling. If they don’t comply with this then they can’t attend anymore.” Our next question concerned the range of opinions on abortion at BI, wondering if the students shared the beliefs of their school. The student stated, “I don’t think there is a range of opinions on abortion at Ireton because either people are indifferent or just want what is best for the woman making the choice. There were a large percent of students not attending the March for Life this year and most attending were just there for service hours and students that are pro-life certainly make up a smaller percentage of the school.” Overall, they said that the school doesn't really support the choice to have an abortion but if one does chose the get one, they must seek counseling.  

            The last perspective we got was a social justice viewpoint from Ms. Davis who is the Director of Institutional Equity and Diversity at the Upper School. She said there were also a few different social justice issues that play into this issue. She said there’s an argument for who has control over the body because of a long history of men making decisions for women. “And looking at the historical context of often times men making decisions for women that were not always in their best interest, right, or that help them maintain a sense of power.” Ms. Davis said looking at it from a social justice standpoint, it’s a woman’s right but “the opposite side of that is that it's like the right of the unborn child” and a man's right because the fetus is half of their DNA too. She also said it was an equity issue relating to socioeconomic status and life after the birth of a child. Basically, if people don’t want women having abortions, what are they doing to help the children after like providing food stamps or giving aid to dependent children. “So, what happens after the baby is born? Who helps take care of the baby?” Ms. Davis also posed the question, “Is there something about, you know, exerting your power over a person's body when…you're not actively in the life of that person after the child is born?” Basically, what are the intentions of the person forcing the mother to have the child. Is it because they care about life or want to assert dominance and control a woman?

              So, what does this all mean for high school students and the greater American population? Interestingly enough, in the past thirty years, abortion rates have dropped by 50% according to The New York Times. This is due to less sex among teenagers and better contreceptive use. Also, six out of ten women who have an abortion are already mothers who want to be a good parent for the kids they already have. According to ACLU, about 350,000 teenagers in the US get pregnant every year and 31% of them have abortions. Many states have also considered making laws to make it harder for teens to get abortions without a parent. For example, Virginia state law requires women under 18 to have one parent, grandparent, or adult sibling that you live with to give you permission for your abortion and also another parent, grandparent, or adult sibling that you live with to be informed of your decision 24 hours before the abortion takes place(Aclove Health). But in DC, there is no parental consent involved. But as our government and culture continues to evolve and change, so do abortion laws and regulations as more states make abortion illegal. So should women keep the choice to have an abortion or should states regulate the choice to terminate a pregnancy?

              On Wednesday September 1, 2021 the state of Texas passed a law banning the procedure to abort a fetus in utero after 6 weeks of pregnancy. Texas became the first state to implement this specific law and the country has not remained silent with their opinions on the issue. Other states like Nebraska, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and several others have bans on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but not 6 weeks like Texas. This decision has enraged several political leaders that have spoken out directly on the issue. Vice President Kamala Harris is quoted in a CNN article saying “ The Supreme Court's ruling is an attempt to undo 50 years of precedent.” Harris also stated that ​​“As far as I'm concerned, and as far as our administration is concerned, a woman's right to make decisions about her own body is non-negotiable. We will continue to fight for the constitutional rights of all women to make decisions about their own body without interference by some legislative group of people that think that they can replace their judgment with hers.” The passing of the law in Texas has increased purchases of birth control methods exponentially since the said incident and abortions have gone down by 60%. The law has no exeptions for rape or incest or any incident similar to which may exempt a woman from the terms.