I consider a foetus as a parasite of the woman's body until it can be kept alive outside the womb. Then it is a human person with own rights to live. An unwanted pregnancy is not very different from cancer: Unwanted growth of tissue in the body.
The rational look at the question of abortion is based on comparing the consequences and avoiding the bigger mistake.
- An omitted abortion of an unwanted child causes a lot of suffering for the child, for the parents and also for the victims, if the child becomes a criminal, not to mention the costs for society on child care institutions and the jails.
- A superfluous abortion deletes only a pregnancy, that can be replaced by a new pregnancy in a short act, if this is wanted.
Logically, when in doubt, better an abortion than an unwanted child.
AN is a good place to be rational and blunt without being at risk to be attacked by religious beliefs about an alleged god as the donor of life.
To live up to Epicurus' principle of not harming and not to be harmed one needs to have a very rational awareness of who suffers and how much, and who does not. And even if a fetus would suffer some pain during an abortion, this is still less than what the child would probably suffer when beaten and abused by unwilling parents.
Therefore rational decisions based upon an non-religious morality are to be based upon the probability of the least sufferings.
To me it boils town to the issue of sentience. At what point is a fetus aware of its existence (no way to know) and aware of suffering and pleasure (those seem to come early).
Interesting to note, some people think that dogs are as intelligent as toddlers. So can we extend abortion past birth to the age at which it's OK to kill a dog? That would be about 2 years old.
My observation is that a dog is well aware of suffering and pleasure, but I don't know about existential awareness. In other words, do dogs know that there is death, and that they might die? If that doesn't matter, or if it does, is an infant aware that there is death, and that it might die? Other than DNA, how do we give more rights to a fetal human, than to a sentient, intelligent dog?
I'm not proposing, in any way, shape, or form, that we can practice infanticide. Or that a dog should have all of the rights of a human. But it's interesting to make a comparison.
I think abortion should be OK to the point of birth. What matters most to me is whether there is suffering, how much, and for how long. Whatever sentience there is in a fetus, up to birth, seems limited. I don't think we are obligated to keep it alive if there is conflict with the rights of the parent, if life would cause suffering (severe anatomic or metabolic birth defects), or if the parents are unable to rear it for a reasonably good life.
It's worth thinking about this from time to time. My thoughts have evolved with time, so what I thought was right 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, isn't that same as now.
I remember a conversation with a white supremacist years ago. She was barking against abortion. So I was visiting my mother at work and this idiot went on and on and on about abortion. So I asked her this question very loud in the lunchroom.
IF YOUR WHITE DAUGHTER GOT PREGNANT BY A BLACK MAN, WOULD YOU STILL BE AGAINST ABORTION?
She turned beet red and started gnashing her teeth, she got up and ran out of the lunchroom. After that she never preached the sins of abortion around work again.