Illusion or Reality: Emotional Effects of Abortion

Cate DeMetrovich – Period 1

If you have previously read John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism, then you probably realize that his idea of happiness varies from other philosophers. He exaggerates the importance of the absence of pain in all situations of life, which can clearly be related to many controversial topics in current society. One of the most debated issues in society today is abortion. In some ways, you could argue that Mill’s teachings agree with the idea of abortion, but on the other hand, he believes that the main cause of unhappiness is selfishness, which in my opinion, is the primary motivation for abortion. Before we discuss Mill in greater detail, let’s discuss how abortion is viewed in today’s society.

Many people in current society do not know what is involved in an actual abortion. I won’t dive into the gory details of what an abortion entails, but I will list a few statistics that will give you a greater sense of how much abortion actually affects society:  almost 95% of all abortions are for reasons of convenience, four in ten unintended pregnancies end in abortion, and a staggering total of 1.21 million abortions were performed in 2005.[1] After hearing these statistics, we must look at Mill’s beliefs to see if he would support or reject the idea of abortion.

On one hand, some arguments made by women supporting the pro-choice movement correspond with John Stuart Mill’s definition of happiness. He defines utility, the Greatest Happiness Principle, as pleasure and the absence of pain.[2] By arguing that having an unwanted child will bring them pain, many women believe that the abortion will bring them pleasure. One source that I uncovered in my research describes some of the hardships endured by having an “unwanted child.” The author describes the incredible stress levels that women and their families endure when they lack the resources to properly care for their child. Also in her article, she references studies that many unwanted children have displayed not only developmental and social problems, but also are frequently abused and neglected. Lastly, the author discusses the feeling of relief the mother may feel after receiving an abortion.[3] The author’s idea corresponds with Mill’s definition of utility or happiness. Women believe that they remove pain from their lives by aborting their unborn children, reducing their stress, responsibility, and physical hardship for themselves, their families, and their child.

Not only does Mill’s definition of happiness correspond with abortion, but also his idea that “a pleasure is of higher quality if people would choose it over a different pleasure even if it is accompanied by discomfort, and if they would not trade it for a greater amount of the other pleasure.”[4] In this instance, women are choosing to have abortions rather than to raise their child, meaning they are choosing short-term discomfort rather than a lifetime of responsibility. Mill argues that making a choice that could cause temporary discomfort may end up being the better choice. Many women could use this idea to argue that abortion could cause temporary guilt and distress, but they will be happier in the long run since they do not have to care for an unwanted child. Women choose abortion not only because it reduces their responsibilities, but also because it presents them with more freedom and the opportunity to continue their lives without the burden of having to care for a child. Although raising the child may result in pleasure over time, women choose abortion despite the short-term pain it causes them.

Mill’s main point that argues against abortion is his belief that selfishness is the primary cause of unhappiness.[5] In my opinion, abortion consists only of selfishness. Referring back to the statistics, women are only thinking of themselves when they receive abortions. Many women argue that by having an abortion, they are saving their child from a life filled with poverty, developmental issues and potential abuse; however, I believe that adoption would solve this problem. Although many women do not want to give up their child, they are causing them more pain and suffering by killing them in the womb. Some facts that display the selfishness of women who get abortions are listed: seventy-five percent of women said that the baby would in some way interfere with their lives, sixty-six percent said that the child would cause financial problems, and fifty percent said that they did not want to be a single parent or have a child while enduring relationship problems.[6]  As you can see, most women in society are not getting abortions because they are worried about the future for their child, but because they are worried about their own future. There was not one time in these statistics that the mother talked about the child, but instead, she focused on her own well-being. Just because the mothers do not wish to have a child at that moment in their lives does not mean that they have a right to decide whether the child lives or dies.

Additionally, Mill believes that lack of mental cultivation also contributes to unhappiness.[7] According to many abortionists, most women who receive abortions do not fully understand what they are doing. Carol Everett, a former owner of two abortion clinics, has confessed that the nurses working in abortion clinics lie to their patients. The nurses tell the patients that the ultrasound image displays a blood clot, not a baby, so they are more willing to go through with the abortion.[8] If women really knew that they were killing their child, how many would actually go through with the procedure? When you think of an abortion, you blame the mother, but you must also consider others that affect her decision. Not only do the pregnant women fail to comprehend the finality of abortion, but they are also manipulated by the staff in the clinics, whose main motivation is money. The nurses will do or say anything to the patient to try and convince them to get the abortion. Former abortion counselor, Nita Whitten, says, “It’s a lie when they tell you they’re doing it to help women, because they’re not. They’re doing it for the money.”[9] Mill’s belief that a lack of knowledge leads expectant mothers to seek to immediately remove their pain; however, they don’t understand the long-term suffering they may endure.

Although some people may perceive that Mill’s ideas support abortion, I believe that his philosophies on selfishness and lack of mental cultivation greatly outweigh his other points, leading me to believe that he would reject abortion.

Aristotle is another philosopher that we studied this summer. He speaks volumes about his definition and beliefs on happiness. Even though Aristotle’s views on happiness differ greatly from Mill’s, I believe they both would share the same opinions about abortion.

Aristotle defines happiness as “a certain kind of exercise of the vital faculties in accordance with excellence or virtue.”[10] His strong beliefs in living a virtuous life lead me to believe that he would not agree with abortion.  Aristotle believes that virtue is demonstrated by living the mean between excess and deficiency.[11] One of his virtues, courage, is inconsistent with the act of abortion. Abortion exemplifies a rash decision, which is the opposite of courage.  Let’s take a moment to look back on what abortion actually consists of. It is caused by a woman’s selfishness, lack of mental cultivation, and her decision to murder her own child. Do any of these things sound virtuous? For someone to be happy, they must have an understanding of their actions and live a virtuous life. Although some people may have different ideas of what resembles a virtue, I think that everyone should agree that murder does not. Although Mill’s teachings appear to be conflicted with abortion, I believe that Aristotle’s teachings disagree with the idea since it will definitely not bring happiness to a person in his eyes.

Although abortion may cause a temporary feeling of pleasure for women, it often results in depression, extreme feelings of guilt, and the constant thoughts of “what if.” Some of John Stuart Mill’s teachings may agree with abortion because of the temporary pleasure or happiness it brings to expectant mothers. However, in the end, Mill would completely reject the idea since it causes lasting pain for most that go through this traumatic experience. Mill’s teachings would lead us to believe that their unhappiness is a result of the lack of understanding the long-term ramifications of their decision.

[1] “Abortion in the United States.” : Quick Stats. Guttmacher Institute, n.d. Web. 26 June 2015. .

[2] “Utilitarianism.” John Stuart Mill in How to Find Happiness without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, 2015.

[3] “Misconceptions About Abortion.” The Pro-Choice Action Network. Lefty Lucy Communications, 1999. Web. 8 May 2015. abortioninfo/misconce.shtml>.

[4] “Utilitarianism.” Mill in How to Find Happiness without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, 2015.

[5] “Utilitarianism.” Mill in How to Find Happiness without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, 2015.

[6] “Abortion in the United States.” : Quick Stats. Guttmacher Institute, n.d. Web. 26 June 2015. .

[7] “Utilitarianism.” Mill in How to Find Happiness without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, 2015.

[8] “Former Abortion Clinic Owner Carol Everett.” Pro-Life Action League. Pro-Life Action League, n.d. Web. 26 June 2015. <;.

[9] Whitten, Nita. “Testimonies.” Testimony of Nita Whitten, Former Abortion Provider. Priests for Life, n.d. Web. 26 June 2015. <;.

[10] “The Nicomachean Ethics.” Aristotle in How to Find Happiness without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, 2015.

[11] “The Nicomachean Ethics.” Aristotle in How to Find Happiness without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, 2015.


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