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policies to minimize their number. The use of abortion to terminate an unwanted pregnancy is the subject of intense moral debate. The central arguments of the opposing views are well known. The opponents of abortion cite the moral rule against killing innocent persons, i.e., the right to life. Those who would permit abortion cite a woman’s right to choose. A consistent application of the right to life argument does not allow exceptions for rape or incest, and applies as soon as an egg is fertilized. The broadest application of the choice argument permits abortion up to the time of birth. Neither argument satisfies most members of our society. When moral condemnation has been unsuccessful in preventing an undesired pregnancy, how would an advocate of empirical morality approach

the issue of abortion? Such an advocate would consider the effects of abortion on the self-interest of pregnant women, their partners and members of society in general. One would first determine whether there is evidence that most women who choose to have an abortion to terminate an unwanted pregnancy find that their decision resulted in an overall increase in happiness. If that is true (as it appears to be), consideration should be given to the long term effects of abortion on the woman’s partner. The main issue of contention, however, is the morality of terminating the life of an embryo or fetus. Although almost all human beings agree that there is a basic moral prohibition against killing, they differ in their approval of exceptions to this general rule. Killing of animals

for food is generally accepted, while killing animals for sport or for medical research has some opponents. Killing human beings in time of war is generally accepted, while the killing of human beings as a punishment is a current topic of vigorous debate. Individuals have an obvious self-interest in living in a society which agrees upon a basic prohibition against killing human beings. In those cases where killing is accepted, an individual must believe that a special consideration makes it in their overall self-interest to approve an exception to the general prohibition. For the case of abortion this special consideration is the increase in happiness resulting from the termination of an unwanted pregnancy. A critical factor in balancing the happiness of those desiring an

abortion against the basic prohibition against killing (except for those holding extreme opinions) is the time at which the abortion occurs. Most members of our society would accept the killing of an embryo when it was a fertilized egg, but would r