Date of Award

Spring 1971

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Philosophy

Abstract

During the past few years one of the most complex moral legal problems of our history has surfaced. It is the question of whether the abortion laws currently on the state law books should be liberalized or even removed entirely. The question has been argued and discussed in probably every legislature in the land. Special public hearings on the subject have heard emotional witnesses either deploring the thought of innocent human life being taken or extolling the benefits of a liberalized law that would allow only wanted children to be born. In Montana's own emotional public hearing on House Bill 554 a packed room heard shocking stories of fetuses being aborted alive, of women dying as the result of illegal abortions and of the threat of a Nazi mentality developing in this country Although the intentions of both opponents and proponents were sincere, it is my feeling that public hearings such as the one held on HB 554 do as much to obscure the issues as they do to enlighten. Opponents and proponents come well armed with sensational reports they have picked up to buttress their arguments, the testimony becomes emotional and one-sided, the audience becomes caught up in the emotion and polarizes behind one of the sides. The end result is highly irrational. People leave thinking that they have been enlightened and that they know their own position, when actually all that has happened is that they have accepted a one-dimensional answer to a many-dimensional question. The realization that the abortion question has many dimensions all of which demand painful moral considerations is the first step in a meaningful analysis. As Daniel Callahan says, "Abortion is at once a moral, medical, legal, sociological, philosophical, demographical, and psychological problem, not readily amenable to one-dimensional thinking."1 In view of this fact, this paper will try to deal with the many dimensions of the abortion question. It will focus primarily on what the law has said about abortion. To limit the consideration solely to the legal side would, however, be meaningless. Attention must also be given to why people are demanding the right to abortion, what are the arguments for and against, and what does medical science have to offer on this difficult question. These are the basic dimensions that will be treated with the purpose always being to determine if abortion laws should be removed or liberalized.

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