Bentham's utility principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number: with reference to current abortion law
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Abortions in Zambia unlike in jurisdictions like the United States and Britain are not completely liberalised (i.e. available on whatever grounds). In Zambia abortions can either be legal or illegal depending upon the circumstances. The Termination of Pregnancy Act chapter 304 of the Laws of Zambia which is the principal Act regulating abortion has been in place since 1972 (i.e. 38 years to be precise). This Act permits the procurement of abortion under some provided conditions and anything outside these conditions is criminalised. Thus women who are barred from procuring a legal abortion usually resort to not only illegal but also unsafe methods. On the other hand, Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarian school of thought, argued that "the law of today must be shaped by the legislator of today in accordance with the needs of today, and that the sole criterion of those needs must be the greatest happiness of the greatest number of men" In other words, he insisted that the old laws must be judged on the basis of their utility. If any existing law did not contribute to the happiness of the individual it should be discarded. This work will endeavour to determine whether the current law on abortion satisfies Bentham's utility principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. The paper is divided into five chapters. Chapter one his dealt with the introduction and it gives background information on the research subject. Chapter two discusses Bentham's utility principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Chapter three gives a comparative view of the legal aspect of abortion. Chapter four analyses the law on abortion in relation to Bentham's utility principle and in doing so looks at public views on abortion. Such views on abortion are derived from the field work, namely interviews with key informants which included judicial and medical personnel and findings in other research works. Finally chapter five gives conclusion and recommendations based on the findings. It was concluded that the law on abortion does not satisfy Bentham's utility principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. And for those living under restrictive abortion laws, unsafe and harmful procedures remain the only option.
- Law