A virtue refers to a quality that a person needs to live well and attain a state of well-being (Shaw, 2008). Rosalind Hursthouse suggests that virtue ethics evaluates actions as right or wrong, devises moral values that guide actions and helps human beings to settle practical issues (Shaw, 2008). For instance, virtue ethics enables human beings to determine whether abortion is a morally permissible action. According to Hursthouse, people’s actions will be right and morally acceptable if virtuous agents would do such actions in similar circumstances (Shaw, 2008). Therefore, virtue ethics focuses on what people should prefer for their own character instead of depending solely on customs and laws. This paper considers how virtue ethics helps in discussing abortion, which is a challenging issue.
Abortion refers to the expulsion of a fetus from the mother’s womb before maturity with the purpose of terminating pregnancy. People have different perceptions on the morality of abortion (Shaw, 2008). Some people consider that the unborn baby has the right to stay alive. On the other hand, other people consider that it is the moral right of women to do whatever they wish with their bodies, including aborting their unborn babies. A virtuous person may consider abortion as morally wrong or right depending on the conditions that lead to abortion (Shaw, 2008). Virtuous human beings share the character traits such as self-determination, responsibility, resoluteness, self-confidence, decisiveness, strength and responsibility. People, who are not virtuous, share character traits such as being unjust, callous and light-minded. Virtue ethics will enable people to determine the morality of doing abortion. This is because it has been evident that what virtuous people do is always morally right. Therefore, abortion will be considered morally right when a virtuous person aborts an unborn baby (Shaw, 2008).
Virtuous and wise people cannot support abortion based on the fact that women have a right to do whatever they wish with their bodies. This is because virtuous people have the same attitudes to fetuses, family relationships, parenthood, death and human life. Light-minded and callous people consider abortion or miscarriage as nothing to make a person worry (Shaw, 2008). The thinking capacity of light-minded, unjust and callous individuals does not go beyond believing how the life of the unborn baby would influence the entire world. The light-minded people may decide to do abortion because of minor reasons such as avoiding the shame of raising a bastard child and maintaining a small number of dependants. According to the virtuous people, abortion may possibly terminate the life of an unborn baby, who would solve family conflicts, treat complicated diseases, preach the word of God and do many other significant things on the Earth. Therefore, by carefully thinking, a virtuous person will regard doing abortion as morally wrong because such people value the significance of human life (Shaw, 2008).
However, the virtuous people may also consider abortion as morally right if the pregnancy puts the mother’s life at risk of dying (Shaw, 2008). It may be justifiable to terminate the life of the fetus and save the pregnant woman’s life. A virtuous woman may wish to terminate pregnancy when she got it through the rape. Psychologically, this woman may not comfortably raise a child of an irresponsible rapist. Therefore, virtuous people choose to do things in justifiable, wise, thoughtful and responsible way (Shaw, 2008).
In conclusion, virtue ethics aids people in discussing issues such as morality of abortion. It has been evident that virtuous people consider abortion as a moral or immoral action depending on the conditions that lead to its execution. Virtuous people are always against doing things in unjustifiable, unwise or light-minded manner. Virtue ethics defines what a person can do to attain the state of well-being or happiness (Shaw, 2008).