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Abortion: A Woman’s Basic Right Essay, Research Paper

Abortion: A Woman?s Basic Right

During the past quarter century abortion has joined race and war as one of the most debatable subjects of controversy in the United States. It discusses human interaction where ethics, emotions and law come together. Abortion poses a moral, social and medical dilemma that forces many individuals to create an emotional and violent atmosphere. There are many points of view toward abortion, but the only two fine distinctions are “pro-choice” and “pro-life.”1 A pro-choicer would feel that the decision to abort a pregnancy is that of the mother and the state has no right to interfere(Kelly 12). A pro-lifer would hold that from the moment of conception the embryo or fetus is alive(Vaughn 22). This life imposes on us a moral obligation to preserve it and that abortion is tantamount to murder(?Pro-Life Death? 7).

In the United States about 1.6 million pregnancies end in abortion.2 Women with incomes under $11,000 are over three times more likely to abort than those with incomes above twenty-five thousand.3 Unmarried women are four to five times more likely to abort than married women and the abortion rate has doubled for eighteen-and-nineteen-year-olds.4 Recently the U.S. rate dropped six percent overall, but the rate of abortion among girls younger than fifteen jumped eighteen percent.5 The rate among minority teens climbed from 186 per 1,000 to 189 per 1,000.6

The most popular procedure involved in abortions is the vacuum aspiration that is done during the first trimester, three months or less since the woman has become pregnant(Saletan 59). A tube is simply inserted through the cervix and the contents of the uterus are vacuumed out(Lerner 283). The most commonly-used type of second trimester abortion is called dilation and evacuation.7 Since the fetus has bones, bulk and can move, second trimester is not so simple(Lerner 284). When as much of the fetus and placenta are vacuumed out that can be, then tweezers are used to remove larger parts.8 After this, or the beginning of the fifth month, abortion is serious and actually is induced as childbirth(Hull 24). That is, the mother is given substances that puts her into labor and delivers the fetus as she would a full-term baby(Hull 24). About forty percent of Americans believe that abortion should remain legal, but forty percent believe it should be banned except when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother or is the result of rape or incest. Also fifteen percent believe it should be illegal in all cases.9 Abortion is a women’s own right and choice. In 1973 the Roe v. Wade decision proved this by recognizing abortion as a fundamental constitutional right and made it legal in all states(Bethell 18). The law now permits abortion at the request of the women without any restrictions in the first trimester and with some restrictions in the second trimester to protect the women’s health(Verhovek 1). Because of this decision almost every third child conceived in America is killed by abortion, over one and a half million children a year.10 Many countries have followed our decision on the abortion issue, and some of these include Canada, England, and France(?Abortion Foes? 567). Other countries still believe abortion should be illegal. They include Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand(?Abortion Foes? 567).

The National Abortion Right Act League argues that without legal abortion women would be denied their constitutional right of privacy and liberty(Bowermaster 32). The women’s right to her own body subordinates those of the fetus, and the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade argued that the women’s right to privacy overruled the fetus’s right to life.11 If abortion were illegal, it would force poor women to bear and rear children they cannot afford to have. There would be a number of unsafe abortions in back alleys. It would also force women to give up their dreams to stay home to rear children. Worst of all, it would condemn victims of rape and incest to carry and nurture the offspring of their rapists. Abortion is necessary for women to have control over their own bodies and lives(Upton 218). One activist said,

?If I had not had that abortion my life would have been a disaster I would not have made it to medical school. I was married at that point to a very ill man and it would have been terrible to have to have my baby. People who need abortions are in some kind of turmoil and it’s really a life-saving thing(Rogers 22).?

To ignore the rights of others is selfish and unjust. Women must have the right to control the functions of their own bodies. A pastor of a United Methodist Church told the council that the ordnance would have done little good. “Young women need the freedom to make choices for their reproductive life when their family cannot guarantee them parental support(Carlin 509).” Women should not be forced to have children they do not want. They must be able to decide what happens to them and have a safe and legal way of doing so. Women are in control of their own bodies and lives. Legislators have no right to interfere(Callahan 8). The practical assertion is that since pregnancy involves a women’s body, the choice of continuing that pregnancy must be hers alone.13 This was the first given theoretical articulation and defense by a woman of society(Carlin 8).

However, abortion is considered murder by half of all Americans(Kasihdorf 103). Pro-lifers believe that human life begins at the moment of conception. When the merge of the egg and sperm is complete, it is fertilized and known as the “zygote.”14 The zygote contains a full set of forty-six chromosomes that is required to create a human life. Some scientists identify that at the moment of fertilization the ovum takes on an entirely different destiny of life. About 15,000 genes from the sperm and ovum form a unique combination.15 This is nothing less than a new human at its earlier stage of life. For these reasons some people think that a woman should not have the power to choose death for her child because they feel it is a direct violation of human rights. This is a matter of opinion because many also feel since the fetus cannot sustain life on its own, it is not murder to abort the fetus(Rogers 22). The opinion and support for pro-life activists have been weakened in the past years due to the numerous cases of terrorism on their part(Kennedy 57). In the past few years the amount of violence on the behalf of abortion protesters has risen.16 Many clinics are plagued by fanatic pro-lifers who taunt and harass the patients and staff of abortion clinics( Lowther 24). Some have even bombed these clinics and assassinated doctors that perform abortions. These actions have made many question the integrity of the platform of pro-life since they are supposed to be fighting for life and yet they use vicious acts of violence and murder. The hypocrisy of these pro-life activists has weakened their platform for the outlawing of abortion.

Legal or not, abortions have been performed by women who desired to have control over their own reproduction; however, when abortion has been illegal, desperate women have resorted to extreme and dangerous procedures to end their pregnancies. In a book released in 1936 a doctor stated that by his calculations 681,600 abortions occurred each year, 8,179 of which resulted in maternal fatality. By 1955 the estimate had jumped to anywhere between two thousand and twelve million a year(Gorney 74). As the number of abortions climbed, so too did the fatalities due to the barbaric means women were forced to use in place of medical treatment(Ponnuru 22). If abortion is made illegal again, thousands of women will die unnecessarily; outlawing it will not prevent them from happening. History shows this to be a plain fact(Riley 18). Dangerous illegal abortions will once again claim the lives of women, some whom will have had children to care for, if the religious right is allowed to force their morals on us. Abortion must remain legal for the safety of those women who will find them necessary.

The right-wing anti-abortionists bemoan the loss of human life; yet, if they achieve their goals, thousands of women will die each year. On the one hand, these fanatics claim that the number of deaths caused by illegal abortions was fabricated as a way for legalization; yet in the same source they later cite the figures of maternal morality caused by abortions today(”Women and Abortion” 45). The anti-abortionists turn a blind eye to historical facts that show hospitals having to devote entire wards to the care of women suffering from illegal abortions(Gleick 62-63).Many ask what were these women resorting to that killed so many? They would insert various objects such as pencils, nut picks, coat hangers, knitting needles, air pumps among other items into their body. They ingested turpentine, or they used various methods to introduce such chemicals as bleach, kerosene, and Lysol into the womb(Nortz 15). All these methods lead to the same place: the coroner’s table. In Cook County the coroner recorded fifty-two deaths due to abortion in 1910(Ponnuru 21). In the 1930’s fourteen percent of all maternal deaths were due to abortions with that rate being higher in urban areas (Pollitt 896).

The legalization of abortion brought on a major decline in mortality rates. New York City in 1971 reported its lowest maternal mortality rate as did California and North Carolina. The wards devoted to cleaning up after abortions were able to close down and are being used for other purposes. In her book Leslie Reagan stated, “As a public-health measure, the legalization of abortion presented an improvement in maternal morality that ranks with the invention of antisepsis and antibiotics(Gorney 73).?

Finding their argument on the physical dangers of abortion, the religiously brain-washed members of the Pro-life movement begin to mouth concern for the mental anguish that the guilt associated with abortion causes(Vaughn 22). However, they fail to take into account the fact that they themselves are to blame for any feelings of guilt and depression. It is expected that after being subjected to a blitz of images, slogans, and other emotional terrorism, that some individuals would come to feel that they are engaged in an immoral practice.17 Lately, it seems that our televisions are being flooded with heart-warming commercials of the child that almost did not exist and pictures of full-formed fetuses that are being waved in the public’s face. Once again a historical view is helpful to cut through the propaganda of the right-to-lifers.

In When Abortion Was a Crime, Reagan talks extensively on the fact that in the early part of the century, women of all social, economic, racial and religious backgrounds used abortion as a method to control the size of their families.18 Doctors of the time wrote many papers on the frankness and openness in which women talked about their abortions among each other and how they would give each other advice on where and how to get it done. Even “leading ladies of the community” shared in these conversations.19 One medical commentator in 1920 concluded that public opinion in the U.S. sanctioned abortion (Reagan 4). Records going as far back as the 1700’s tell of women’s repeated use of abortion as a way to control family size. These methods in some cases were outlined in books on herbal remedies.20 If abortion itself caused problems with mental well being, how is it that women in the 1700’s, 1800’s, and even early 1900’s had multiple abortions and yet never wrote of depression and guilt in their personal letters and diaries?21

There are hundreds of reasons why abortion should remain accessible. First, unwanted children are often abused children,22 or they are unwanted for a reason such as a lack of income to support them23 as was the case during the Depression when abortion rose as a result of the poverty level.24 Some girls are victims of rape or incest, and if not for abortion they would be left with a life-long reminder of their attackers. Irresponsible teenagers are getting pregnant and are having children when they themselves are children and unprepared to be a parent.25 On top of these one can add the fact that illegal abortion will kill thousands of women, taking some away from families. If the Far-Right-Radicals can be silenced, abortion can be used as an indispensable social tool to prevent child abuse, poverty and over population.

When it comes down to the true matter, the abortion issue comes down to allowing people to do, safely, what they are going to do anyway or making them face painful deaths because of purely theological views that an unformed cluster of cells is the same as a human being. The anti-abortion forces do not take into consideration the fact that abortion is always going to occur, legal or not, and their views will kill thousands of women and tear families apart.

Context Notes

1There are two distinct groups when it comes to abortion ?pro-life? and ?pro-choice.?

21.6 million pregnancies end in abortion in the United States.

3Women with low incomes are more likely to have abortions than women with incomes above twenty-five thousand.

4Women who are unmarried are four to five times more likely to abort than married women.

5The percent of young girls having abortions jumped to eighteen percent.

6The rate of minority teens having abortions climbed from 186 per 1,000 to 189 per 1,000.

7The most commonly-used abortion method in the second trimester is dilation and evacuation.

8Tweezers are used to remove large pieces of the fetus after it has been vacuumed out.

9Fifteen percent of people believe that abortion should be legal in all cases.

10One third of all children conceived in the U.S. are aborted.

11Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade argued that women?s right to privacy overrules the right of the fetus.

12If abortions were illegal, there would be a number of unsafe abortions in back alleys.

13The idea that since pregnancy involves a woman?s body and the choice of continuing the pregnancy is hers was first given theoretical articulation and defense by a women of society.

14The sperm and the egg together form a zygote.

15The sperm carries 15,000 genes.

16In the past years abortion violence has risen numerously.

17Pro-life commercials of children and fetuses are giving people guilty hearts.

18In the early part of the century women used abortion.

19?Leading Ladies of the Community? shared conversations on abortions, how and where to get it done.

20Some abortion methods were given in books on herbal remedies.

21In the 1700?s, 1800?s, and 1900?s, women wrote of multiple abortions and yet never wrote of depression and guilt.

22Studies show that unwanted children are often beaten and abused.

23Children maybe unwanted for reasons such as lack of income or housing.

24Abortion rose during the depression as a result of the lower income.

25The number of teenage pregnancies is rising each year, and so is the number of abortions.

?Abortion Foes Differ on Tactics.? The Christian Century. 29 May 1996: 566-67.

Barboza, David. ?Jane Roe Switches Sides: Is Anybody Thrilled?? New York Times. 13 Aug. 1995: 2.

Bethell, Tom. ?Roe?s Disparate Impact.? American Spectator. Jun. 1996: 18.

Bowermaster, D. ?The GOP?s Abortion Battle.? U.S. News and World Report. 13 May 1996: 32.

Callahan, S.C. ?Bad Arguments.? Commonweal. 30 Jan. 1998: 7-8.

Carlin, Daivd. ?Abortion and Media Bias.? America. 29 July 1995: 7-8.

Carlin, D.P. ?Abortion and Media Bias.? America. 5 Aug. 1995: 7-8.

Gleick, E. ?Crossing the Lane.? People Weekly. 15 Aug. 1994: 60-63.

Gorney, Cynthia. “Caught in the Cross Fire.” Utne Reader. May-June 1998:

Hull, J.B. ?Physicians, Steel Thyself.? Lear?s. Aug. 1993: 24-25.

Kasindorf, J. ?A Call to Murder.? Redbook. Aug. 1993: 102-5.

Kelly, J.R. ?Pro-life and Pro- choice after Regan-Bush.? America. 30 Jan. 1993: 11-15.

Kennedy, J.W. ?Killing Distorts Pro-life Message.? Christianity Today. 12 Sept. 1994: 56-57.

Lerner, S. ?The Truth About Abortion and Women?s Health.? Glamour. Nov. 1997: 282-85.

Lowther, W. ?Clinics Under Siege.? Maclean?s. 16 Jan. 1995: 24.

Nortz, E. ?Faces at the Clinic.? America. 12 Mar. 1994: 14-15.

Pollitt, K. ?Subject to Date.? The Nation. 27 Jun. 1994: 896.

Ponnuru, R. ?Abort, Retry, Fail:?? National Review. 29 Jan. 1998:21-22.

?Pro-life Death.? The New Republic. 5 April 1993: 7.

Reagan, Leslie J. ?When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and the Law in the United States.? University Press. May 1973: 4-8.

Riley, M. ?Riding the Abortion Circuit.? Time. 9 Aug. 1993:18.

Rogers, P. ?Is Murder ?Justifiable Homicide??? Newsweek. 8 Aug. 1994: 22.

Suletan, W. ?Fetal Positions.? Mother Jones. Jun. 1998: 58-59.

Vaughn, E.S. ?For Women Against Abortion.? Christianity Today. 7 Mar. 1994: 22.

Verhovek, Sam Howe. ?New Twist for a Landmark Case: Roe v. Wade Becomes Roe v. Roe.? New York Times. 12 Aug. 1995: 1.

Willke, J. C. ?Mrs. Abortion: Questions and Answers.? Hayes. Jun. 1990: 4-5.

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