Ethical, Medical, and Legal Aspects of Abortion

August 26, 2022
“Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions” by Finer
August 27, 2022

Ethical, Medical, and Legal Aspects of Abortion

Spontaneous and Procured Abortion: Difference and Ethical Impact

Abortion is a medical procedure aimed at termination of pregnancy. It is defined as interruption of pregnancy “before the fetus can live independently in the extrauterine environment” (Nita & Ilie, 2020, p.283). Abortion can be induced, or, in other words, procured, which means that it is carried out intentionally. On the contrary, a natural loss of pregnancy is called a spontaneous abortion. From the ethical point of view, there is a big difference between these two types of abortion.

Although procured abortion is disapproved in all religions, and spontaneous is not, spontaneous abortion has the same negative impact on the woman’s psychological state. According to Jacob et al. (2019), both induced and spontaneous abortion can have a negative impact on women’s mental health. They can cause such negative psychiatric effects as depression, adjustment disorder, and anxiety.

Contraceptive Pill, the IUD and the “Morning After” Pills as Alternative Abortifacients

Many women do not fully understand how to use emergency contraceptives safely or even do not know about their existence. Some of them try to terminate the pregnancy using emergency contraception, although it is impossible. According to the website (2021), dedicated to the information about the methods of contraception, post-coital contraceptives “cannot end a pregnancy that has already happened” (Brook, 2021, para. 7). They cannot become a reason of miscarriage and cannot harm the foetus if taken during the pregnancy already.

However, some pro-life and religious organizations tend to debate against these contraceptive methods. It is connected with their belief that “the morning-after” pill prevents implantation of a fertilized egg” (Brook, 2021, para. 13). Nevertheless, it is a mistake, and emergency contraceptives cannot be considered as abortifacients. These medicaments prevent pregnancy instead of terminating it.

Abortion Methods

Abortion can be induced by different methods, which can be divided into two major groups: medical and surgical. Surgical methods include such types of pregnancy termination as dilation, evacuation, uterine aspiration, and manual or electric vacuum (Kapp & Lohr, 2020). Dilation and evacuation can be applied from 14 to approximately 24–26 weeks’ gestation. Aspiration techniques, evacuating the foutus from the uterus with the vacuum, can be applied up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Medical methods include the usage of “mifepristone, a progesterone receptor antagonist, followed by misoprostol, and a prostaglandin analog” (Kapp & Lohr, 2020). Medical abortion can be carried out in the period up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. However, misoprostol can be applied up to 20 weeks gestation with repeat doses (Kapp & Lohr, 2020). Medical methods are also considered quite safe in case of carried out by professionals and according to instructions.

Cases: Roe vs. Wade, Norma McCorvey

Several historical cases changed the legal foundations regulating the attitude of the law to the abortion. One of them, Roe vs. Wade case, issued in 1973, stated that a pregnant woman has a right to choose whether to make an abortion or to save the foetus (Legal Information Institute, 2021). Thus, the Supreme Court of the US has stated that banning abortions is against the Constitution. Norma McCorvey, a woman of a difficult fate, was a plaintiff in that case. During her life she was often abused, she drank a lot of alcohol and led anti-social life. Her two first children were adopted, and when she got pregnant with the third one, she decided to lie to the court that she had been raped to get the right for an abortion. However, due to the lawyers, she has won the case. Later on, that she said that her defence of abortion rights was a mistake. Nevertheless, during an interview before her death, she confessed that she was paid for protesting against abortions (Legal Information Institute, 2021). Thus, this is a controversial case, which, however, became a turning point into the society’s attitude to abortions.

Better Alternatives to Abortion

Some organisations offer better alternatives to abortion in case if the pregnancy is unwanted. For example, Open Arms Adoption Network (2021) suggests giving the baby to its father or family members. There are also options for an adoption – open, semi-open, or confidential (Open Arms Network, 2021). Besides, some organisations provide mothers and fathers with financial and material support, encouraging them to raise their child. For example, Children’s Connections, Inc. supports the parents of unwanted children, providing them with counselling and support. The organization also assists the victims of crimes, receives donations, and implements other programs. Thus, there is a flexible range of alternatives for the mothers who do not plan to raise the child.

Ethical and Religious Directives on Abortion

According to Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (2018) have a number of strict rules considering abortion. According to it, abortion is never permitted, and the Catholic health care institutions should not carry out such procedures and should support the women who have undergone abortion. If a pregnant woman is seriously ill, she can be treated despite the risk for the child. In case of extrauterine pregnancy abortion is also not permitted. If a future child has a serious diagnosis, it is not permitted to make abortion. Nontherapeutic experiments over the future child are forbidden, whereas therapeutic experiments are allowed only in case there is a proportional reason. Catholic health care institutions should not use the tissue obtained through abortion even in research aims. Thus, these rules are based on the religious belief that abortion is a sin, and demand to be strictly followed.


Catholic Church. (2018). Ethical and religious directives for Catholic health care services. Washington, D.C: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Children’s Connections, Inc. (n.d.) Unplanned pregnancy birth fathers. Web.

Jacob, L., Gerhard, C., Kostev, K., & Kalder, M. (2019). Association between induced abortion, spontaneous abortion, and infertility respectively and the risk of psychiatric disorders in 57,770 women followed in gynecological practices in Germany. Journal of affective disorders, 251, 107–113. Web.

Kapp, N., & Lohr, P. A. (2020). Modern methods to induce abortion: Safety, efficacy and choice. Best practice & research. Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology, 63, 37–44. Web.

Legal Information Institute (n.d.). Jane ROE, et al., Appellants, v. Henry WADE. Web.