both positive and negative. Christian influence in Western civilizations caused widespread disapproval of the practice. By the nineteenth century many nations passed laws banning abortion. It wasn’t until late in the twentieth century that some nations, including the United States, began to legalize abortion. The ban on abortion was initially repealed by a few states in the 1960’s and early 1970’s causing concern among the pro-life constituency. However, the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court stating that abortion bans were unconstitutional ignited the pro-choice versus pro-life debate into a raging fire.
Abortion has been a topic of debate for as long as the practice has existed. However, the debate intensifies when abortion is seen as an alternative form of birth control. Common pro-choice arguments are that contraceptives are not 100 percent effective, a child should not come into the world that is not wanted and traditional contraception is not an option if someone is raped. Frequent pro-life arguments are that abortion could cause medical complications for the mother, the child could live a full life with a loving adoptive family and abortion goes against the Bible’s 6th Commandment. Should women have the right to choose? Giving them this option doesn’t mean that they will choose abortion, but it does give them the right to make their own decision.
If emotion is taken out of the argument and replaced with facts and real life scenarios, the reality of giving women the right to choose becomes clearer. When performed by a professional, abortion is a safe medical procedure. The vast majority of women – 88 percent – who have an abortion do so in their first trimester. Medical abortions have less than a 0.5 percent risk of serious complications and do not affect a woman’s future ability to become pregnant or give birth.
In the case of rape or incest, forcing a woman who becomes pregnant by this violent act to finish the pregnancy and give birth could cause further psychological harm to the victim. These women are trying to cope with emotional and physical pain and are often unaware they could be pregnant. The ‘morning after’ pill could be effective, but the window of time to receive it is very limited.
Another reality is that abortion is rarely used as the primary form of birth control. Pregnancy can occur even with responsible contraceptive use. Only 8 percent of women who have abortions do not use any form of contraception, and that is often due more to individual carelessness than to the availability of abortion.
Birth control is used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages, and there are many different methods and techniques available. Birth control techniques include contraception, contragestion, and abortion. Contraception is used to prevent fertilization and is practiced using a variety of methods. The two most popular forms are the hormonal method and the barrier method. The delivery methods for hormonal contraception are oral contraception (the pill), the patch and contraceptive vaginal rings. The two primary barrier methods are the use of condoms and diaphragms. Each method comes with its own pros and cons. However, since none of these methods are 100 percent effective there is still a chance that someone can get pregnant even though they took the appropriate precautions.
Contragestion is a contraceptive method that specifically prevents the gestation of a fertilized egg. This form of contraception is commonly referred to as the ‘morning after’ pill and prevents pregnancy either by making the implantation site uninhabitable or by promoting the fertilized egg’s expulsion. This category of birth control became nationally recognized with sale of RU 486, and now includes Plan B One Step and Next Choice. These products are readily available through most pharmacies and do not require a prescription.
Abortion is the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus to terminate a pregnancy. Nearly all abortions take place in the first trimester when a fetus cannot exist independent of the mother. Since it is attached by the placenta and umbilical cord, its health is dependent on the mother’s health. It cannot be regarded as a separate entity because it cannot exist outside the mother’s womb. While it may meet the definition of human life, it has not yet reached “personhood.”
The concept of personhood is different from the concept of human life. Personhood refers to the state or condition of being an individual; the essential meaning and constituent properties of what it is to be a person. Human life occurs at the moment of conception before the full state of personhood is realized. Fertilized eggs used for in vitro fertilization are also human lives and those not implanted are routinely thrown away. Is this murder, and if not, then how is abortion murder?
Adoption is considered by many to be a positive alternative to abortion. It provides pregnant women with a choice if they cannot or do not want to take on the responsibilities of parenthood due to age, financial responsibilities, or life concerns. However, statistics show that very few women who give birth choose to give up their babies; less than 3 percent of white unmarried women and less than 2 percent of black unmarried women in the United States.
Another aspect in the pro-choice argument is that the ability of a woman to have control of her body is critical to her civil rights. Take away her reproductive choice and you take the first step in a chain of events that could culminate in significant changes to women’s rights. If the government can force a woman to continue with an unwanted a pregnancy, what would stop them from forcing a woman to use contraception or undergo sterilization?
Another legal issue raised by pro-life proponents is that taxpayer dollars are sometimes used to provide poor women access to medical services easily available to others, and abortion is one of these services. Funding abortion is no different than funding an unpopular war in the Middle East. For those who are opposed, the place to express outrage is at the voting booth, not on the steps of abortion clinics.
Teenagers who become mothers often have grim prospects for the future. They are much more likely to leave of school, receive inadequate prenatal care, rely on public assistance to raise a child, and develop health problems. While television shows, movies and celebrity teens seem to glamorize teen pregnancy, the rate is down actually down. Statistics show that teen pregnancy rates dropped by a third between 1990 and 2005, and have leveled off through 2008.
Of teens that do become pregnant, they account for a very small percentage of the abortions performed in the United States each year. Based on a recent study, only 17 percent of abortions performed in the United States are for teenagers. A full 60 percent are performed for women who already have at least one child, and nearly 50 percent are for women twenty-five or older.
Like any other difficult situation, abortion creates stress no matter what the woman’s age or circumstances. Yet the American Psychological Association found that stress was greatest prior to the abortion, and for most women educated in the procedure there was little evidence of post-abortion syndrome. However, women who are unfamiliar with the process or who make a hasty decision to abort an unwanted pregnancy are often not psychologically prepared for such a contingency. Abortion in these cases can lead to a lifetime of regret, especially as they become adults and have children of their own. For these women, their prior abortion can create intense guilt as they watch their other children grow up.
Pro-life advocates would argue that if a woman wants the right to control her body, then she should also take control and not have unprotected sex which could result in an unwanted pregnancy. This is possible through abstinence, and highly unlikely if both party’s involved use contraception. Whether contraceptives are used or not, their argument would be that the life of an innocent unborn child takes priority over the inconvenience of giving birth to the child. For those that strongly believe in a woman’s right to choose, this is a simplistic view of a complex situation. However, there are many other persuasive arguments in the pro-life arsenal.
In its most basic form, human life begins at conception. Abortion can be considered no different from murder since it, too, is the act of taking human life. The practice is in direct defiance to the commonly accepted idea of the sanctity of human life. For those who argue that the embryo is not yet human, consider the following facts: the heart starts beating within the first 25 days; at 8 weeks the baby can make a fist, suck their thumb, and get hiccups; at 9 weeks the baby has it’s own unique fingerprints; at 12 weeks all body systems are functioning. All of this takes place during the first trimester when a majority of abortions are performed.
No civilized society permits one human to intentionally harm or take the life of another human without punishment, and abortion is intentional harm. However, in the case of abortion, the harm is done to a completely innocent life. A being who has no defense and no protection. A woman does not need to keep an unwanted child, just bring the pregnancy to a healthy conclusion. Adoption is a viable alternative to abortion and accomplishes the same result, but with a new life in tact. With 1.5 million American families wanting to adopt child, there is no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy in the United States.
In addition to the possible psychological issues of hasty decision, and the termination of an innocent life, abortion could possibly result in medical complications later in life. For women who have had an abortion, the risk ectopic pregnancies doubles, and the chance of a miscarriage and pelvic inflammatory disease also increases.
In the instance of rape and incest, immediate and proper medical care can ensure that a woman will not get pregnant. If that window is missed, proper counseling could encourage the victim to continue with the pregnancy and give them the choice to keep the child or place it in an adoptive home. Abortion punishes the unborn child who committed no crime; instead, it is the perpetrator who should be punished. In addition to being anti-abortion, the pro-life movement is also against euthanasia, assisted suicide and the death penalty.
Ultimately, a woman’s right to choose is an extremely sensitive issue and one where both pro-choice and pro-life advocates can make compelling arguments. One thing is certain; both sides of pro-life and pro-choice arguments make sense to their proponents, and raise concerns to their opponents. In the words of an anonymous quote – “No woman wants an abortion. Either she wants a child or she wishes to avoid pregnancy.” That is one quote both side can agree on.