Utilitarian and kantian perspectives on abortion essay examples

The issue of abortion has been a subject of debate in many social and political discussions in addition to generating varied interpretations from many a person. It has reached an extent where abortion has become one of the most bitterly disputed ethical issues with neither side convincing the opponent to alter its opinions. Other than seeming as an insoluble issue, the morality surrounding abortion represents a situation where the problem in question is wrongly posed. Analyzing abortion from a moral perspective goes beyond the analysis of the issue beyond the idea that the process involves just the elimination of the embryo. This can be attributed to the fact that abortion is a complex issue that is composed of other complicated issues revolving around morals, choices, and sex (Hursthouse 99). It is emphatically crucial that such issues be examined from different perspectives in order to determine the level of ethical considerations that guide choices on abortion. Pro-choice reasons for supporting abortion concerns with the rational and positive matters of abortion such results of rape, lifelessness of the embryo, financial pressures, education, and medical reasons while anti-abortionists argue for the negative aspects such as murder, natural instincts, and taking liability for lack of exercising protection (Hursthouse 99).

The subject of legalizing abortion is so crucial that many a philosopher have discussed it from different moral perspectives. This includes discussing the issue of abortion from the frameworks of Kantian or Utilitarian points of view. In both situations, supporters of Kantian or Utilitarian philosophies can define abortion in a manner that renders it morally permissible or impermissible. For instance, Kantians base their arguments on the aspect of moral duty while Utilitarian views are based on the notion of having the greatest good for the mother (more or less concerned with the result of the process). Irrespective of the controversial views surrounding the concept of abortion, it is important to examine abortion from the views that qualify it as a moral dilemma. This entails allocating substantial moral attention to the moral value of abortion.

Utilitarianism Perspectives

The utilitarian approach revolves around the examination of abortion from the ability equate pain and pleasure to the process of abortion (whether to maximize pain over pleasure) (Crome 2; Riley 286). As such, the utilitarian theory measures the level of rightness or wrongness of abortion and the consequences it brings to the community. According to the greatest happiness principle by J. S. Mill, actions leading to abortion will be righteous if such actions are likely to promote happiness and equally, such actions will be wrong if they prevent the process of attaining happiness(Crome 3).


Utilitarian views regarding the moral spectrum regarding the pro-life argument suggest that abortion should, under no circumstance, be accepted because it defies the sacredness and right to life (Crome 3). The other argument regarding the support to life according to the utilitarian approach is that abortion is moral only if the mother’s life is in danger. In such a situation, the mother’s life is allocated more weight when compared to the life of the fetus. Third, utilitarian theorists argue that the act of abortion is right if the pregnancy happened because of rape (Crome 6). Since the child was unplanned and unwanted, keeping it puts the mother at a risk of mental complications.


Utilitarian views on pro-choice views argue that despite it being immoral, abortion should still be legalized and the governing authorities have not right to interfere with the integrity of the woman’s body. Indifferences regarding immorality or morality also make utilitarian to suggest the righteousness of abortion. The woman’s right to integrity should allow her to consider undergoing an abortion or not.


Several advantages can be deduced from the utilitarian perspective on abortion (Riley 287). First, it provides the ability to recognize the life of the mother and the child and weigh the options. For instance, the pro-life premise of not allowing abortion to occur irrespective of the circumstance means that this view values the life of the child over that of the mother. The second pro-life premise that considers the health situation of the mother allows the evaluation of the risks that the mother is subjected because of carrying the baby. The other advantage is that it supports abortion from the medical point of view, just in the case of rape. Lastly, the pro-choice arguments give the mother the advantage over any legal morals of integrity.


Encouraging abortion based on the health situation of the mother or rather based on the mother’s level of integrity denies the fetus the right to life. Another disadvantage of the Utilitarian approach is evident in the ambiguity to the pro-choice views it supports abortion on ambiguous ground; immoral, indifferent, and moral grounds. Similarly, allowing a woman to use her integrity in making decisions regarding abortion does not provide sufficient reasons to support the act of abortion. It also denies the opinions of other responsible individuals such as the father and the community as a whole to contribute their views concerning the aspect of abortion. Other disadvantages of the Utilitarian perspective includes the difficulty in measuring the exact amount of pain or pleasure that the mother or the child suffers during the entire process.

Kantian Perspective

There is no doubt that majority of moral questions regarding abortion are developed based on the moral status of the woman to exercise control over her body or the moral status of the fetus to enjoy life. Unlike utilitarianism, Kantian ethics are opposed to the idea of considering the consequences of actions on matters related to abortion. In fact, Kant’s deontological theory argues that the end fails to justify the means (Lara 117). As such, all good consequences arising from moral acts are purely caused by incidences of moral action and hence, they ought not to be considered in any decision making process. Kant’s perspectives to the issue of abortion entails the inclusion of categorical imperatives that absolute, objective, and universal morality(Lara 117). Simply put, all reasons must be tied to the sake of duty for duty. For this reason, Kantian perspectives on abortion will involve the employment of universal ideas that guides the process of discovering categorical imperatives.

The first moral law involves asking universal questions of placing oneself in the situation of the fetus and asking oneself how it will feel to be aborted. The second universal principle involves using common humanity principles and asking oneself whether aborting the fetus would be doing any respect, justice, or violating any of its rights(Lara 118). The third universal idea to be considered is the applicability of the law and the examination of therationality of the decision to abort with respect to the laws governing the land. Therefore, the Kantian perspective regarding abortion depends on the nature of perspective undertaken because the answer to each metaphysical question will predate the aspect of either being wrong or right.


The Kantian perspective supports the rights to protect the life of the unborn fetus irrespective of the immature development level and the consequences that might happen to the mother. Equally, the Kantian perspective recognizes the rights of the mother because the decision to terminate the pregnancy constitutes the reproductive rights of the mother. The Kantian perspective allows the examination of abortion from permissible, obligatory, and right or wrong moral terms. This allows the opportunity to link the inalienable rights in which every human being is entitled. By arguing that every human being was at one point a fetus, the Kantian perspective argues that abortion fails the universality test thereby rendering it immoral. Additionally, arriving at this decision follows a logical consistency procedure and the universality test because by placing themselves in the shoes of the fetus, nearly all individuals will agree that abortion is morally permissible.


The morality of abortion according the Kantian perspective is subject to the rationality of the mother and hence, a mother who considers abortion problematic in moral terms will go ahead and undertake it based on permissible grounds. Second, people have different degrees of determining rationality and what seems rational to one person may appear irrational to another person. Equally, a section of Kantians assume that the fetus should not be taken as being a rational being, and this might affect individuals’ level of morality regarding its abortion.


When viewing abortion from utilitarianism and a Kantianism point of view, they both have different conclusions. On one hand, utilitarianism supports the idea of moral worth determined by exclusively its ability to provide happiness. It considers the impact the abortion would have on the individuals involved. If it would put them in crushing poverty, endless trips to the doctor and therefore make them lead a miserably life then the utilitarian thing to do would be to have an abortion. On the other hand, Kantianism emphasizes on ethics and morality. It gives the idea that if the woman had an abortion it means that all women should have an abortion, which is clearly a bad thing. However, I believe having an abortion is no simple decision. For a morally upright woman to even consider abortion must have been a decision for a greater good and must have carefully deliberated and weighed all her options. Such cases must be viewed with compassion and sensitivity. In most cases, they would be doing the child a favor for instance if they were to be born disabled.

Therefore, the key to ethical decision making must consider the hurdles to execute them besides ethical behavior. Many issues remain vague but all of us have different values and beliefs that have evolved through time and therefore what is right or wrong may vary among different persons and cultures. The concept of right or wrong is the application of these principles that are made harder by personal pressures. However, an individual’s ability to balance personal interests and ones duty to the society as its member in order to justify morality is what makes a decision right or wrong.

Work Cited

Lara, Denis. “ Animality and Agency: A Kantian Approach to Abortion.” Philosophy and
Phenomenological Research. 76. 1 (2008): 117-137
Crome, K. Is Peter Singer’s Utilitarian Argument about Abortion Tenable?
Journal of Philosophy. 17 (2008): 1-9.
Riley, J. The Interpretation of Maximizing Utilitarianism. Social Philosophy and Policy,
26. 1. (2008): 286-326.
Hursthouse, R., ‘ Virtue Theory and Abortion’, in Ethics in Practice: An

Anthology, ed. H. LaFollette. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. Print