Abortion Bills in Missouri and Kansas: Ethical or Not?

by Project Censored

Woman’s E-News posted the article “Permission Slip Abortion Bill is Devious Strategy” on March 20th, 2015. They tell about two laws being passed in Missouri and Kansas that stand in the way of a woman’s right to abort her child or not. They refer to these bills as “attacks on woman’s rights to abortion as a matter of our constitutional right to privacy.” The bill that the state of Kansas is seeking to pass restricts second trimester abortions. This could be seen as stealing away a woman’s freedom of choice, or saving the life of an innocent, unborn child. In Missouri a bill (H.B. 131) has been introduced that prevents a woman from having an abortion unless the biological father of the child gives consent. This bill applies no matter what kind of situation the mother is in, including domestic abusive relationships. The courts say that the mother may obtain protective custody, yet many claim this is difficult to receive. This “permission slip abortion” law, as they call it, seems to protect the life of the child, but may also endanger the mother and her child as well. So are these laws restricting abortion ethical because they prevent killing of an innocent life or unethical because they strip an individual of her right to choose?


Aguirre, Edna M. “Permission Slip Abortion Bill Is Devious Strategy,”Women’s ENews, March 20, 2015.


Student Researcher: Alexandra Herrmann-Fehr, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot D. Cohen, PhD, Indian River State College

Ethics Alert

There are always many ethical questions raised when it comes to abortion. Honoring the mother’s rights versus honoring the child’s life. What about in a case of rape? Is the abortion then ethical? Or perhaps a situation where the father of the child is abusive towards the mother and keeping the child would only mean a lifelong attachment to this abusive man. This is especially true in the case of Missouri’s new law that requires the biological father’s consent to an abortion. He could refuse to give his consent so that the mother of the unborn child would have difficulty getting away from him if they have a child together. Should the United States government even have the right to take away a woman’s choice, or are they doing the right thing by preventing unborn children from being murdered? Various ethical approaches might view these ethical dilemmas differently.

Utilitarianism would say that the morally right action is the one that produces the greatest amount of happiness for all involved. If a pregnancy is against a mother’s will then it could cause a great deal of unhappiness. Especially if the mother of the child is in an abusive relationship, the child is likely to be adversely affected psychologically, or the woman is just simply not in any place in her life to mother a child. On the other hand, an abortion could decrease the potential child’s suffering by preventing it from being born to unfit parents or into a difficult lifestyle. On the other hand, at the end of the day, it is still taking an innocent life, which prevents the child from even having a life at all. Indeed, a utilitarian could also argue that keeping the child might be best on the whole. This could be due, in part, to a number of reasons such as the social stigma tied to abortion, the psychological pain of losing a child, or depriving oneself of the joy of birth giving.

A follower of Kantian ethics who considers the unborn child a person with rights would claim that certain actions, such as murder are absolutely prohibited, no matter the circumstances. Since abortion is (presumptively) murder, then even in cases where the action of aborting the child would bring more happiness than the alternative of keeping it in a difficult life situation, aborting the child would still be morally justified. The dilemma of a fetus not being considered a person might also come into play for a Kantian. For example, if the fetus is not considered a person, but the mother is a person, then the mother’s rights should be respected over that of an  a nonperson or “object.” Virtue ethics tell us to act as a virtuous person would in all situations. So is it virtuous to take an innocent life?  Or once again, is it even considered a life in the first place if it is still just a fetus?

Care based ethics could also be called into question when it comes to the doctor’s perspective. The main goal of care based ethics is for the doctor to focus on care of the patient. So should a doctor care for his or her patient by respecting the expecting mother’s wishes of aborting the child? Or should the doctor refuse to preforming the abortion due to moral conflict or knowledge of the biological father’s disagreement? The mother is also faced with care based ethical choices. Should she put her unborn child’s needs before her own?

Another conflict, brought into play by Kansas and Missouri passing laws that complicate the abortion process, is whether or not these state governments should have a say in what a woman chooses to do with her own body.  Is this not a violation of women’s right to privacy pursuant to Roe v. Wade? Legislators telling a woman when she can have an abortion, such as in Kansas, or under what circumstances as in Missouri, is also a violation of public trust between women and the state governments. Yet, one could claim that the government intervention is necessary to prevent women from taking innocent lives, and therefore their restriction of freedom is morally justified. Every woman’s situation is different, making it very difficult to say whether abortion is absolutely ethical or absolutely unethical.