The topic of abortion is one of the most controversial of our times. It has caused countless deaths and several violent confrontations between the two separate parties of opinion. The fight between pro-life and pro-choice supporters has been long and brutal. This is because, despite what several people may believe, abortion is neither right nor wrong. It is a matter of personal opinion. In this way, each side can say with certainty that the other is wrong. However, the question still remains; should abortion be legal?
Though some may disagree on this point, the fact is that legalized abortion is the only option that will protect the lives of American citizens. Therefore, present abortion laws according to Roe v. Wade should be upheld and maintained in the United States (Brown 2). Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision that legalized abortions in the United States. It was about a poor, pregnant woman who filed a lawsuit against the state law of Texas, which stated that abortions were illegal. The case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, which meant that the decision made affected the nation as a whole.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jane Roe and stated that “the 14th amendment guarantees an adult woman the right to seek a termination of her pregnancy until viability” (Guernsey 63). From this day on, abortions in the United States were legal. The definitions of the opinions taken on abortion are somewhat unclear to many people. Hopefully, the definitions stated below will be of some help in choosing an opinion. Pro-life supporters believe that a fetus’s right to live comes first, before the rights of a pregnant woman.
Pro-choice supporters believe that it is a woman’s fundamental human right to decide when and whether or not to have the child (Lowenstein19). Nevertheless, while the pro-choice side fights the right to have an abortion, they make a distinction between “pro-choice” and “pro-abortion,” These groups want women to be able to choose an abortion if it is right for them. However, they do not necessarily believe abortion is the solution for everyone (Lowenstein 52). There are many reasons why abortion should be legal. The single most important effect of legalization has been the substitution of safe, legal procedures for abortions that formerly were obtained illegally” ( Jaffe, Lindheim, and Lee 147). One only needs to look into American history to see the results of prohibiting abortions to women. The violence which occurs today because of the pro-choice/pro-life conflicts is minimal in comparison to the thousands of hopeless women who turned to illegal abortions. Women, seeing no other solution to their problems, turned to “back room” clinics. These clinics were located in poverty-ridden sections of the city and their conditions were deplorable.
The places themselves were layered in filth and disease. Inexperienced butchers using dirty and crude equipment treated the women. As if these backroom clinics were not bad enough, there was an even more appalling decision a woman might face. If she were unable to pay the exorbitant price for the illegal surgery, she would often perform the act herself. “Knitting needles, coat hangers, antiseptic douches, and poisons were used most often” (Welton123). It is better now that women have a place to go where abortions can be performed cleanly with minimal risk.
Legalization of abortion is the only choice no matter what side on takes in the debate. Women will try to do what they think is necessary to live as they wish, no matter what the risk. Each year 84,000 women die worldwide from failed abortion attempts (Lunneborg67) . Because of anti-abortion legislation, women avoid going to the hospital, often until it is too late, to avoid prosecution from police. In the cases of rape and incest, the very idea of being forced to have the child of the woman’s abuser is repulsive. There are also cases when a woman’s health is put in jeopardy by having a child at all.
Forcing a woman to bring the child to term would be no less than attempted murder (Steffen 49). If a woman is forced to give birth to a child she does not want, if left in that woman’s custody, the child could potentially face hatred and resentment from the mother for the rest of its life. In countries all over the world, children are found dead and abandoned in places as degrading as garbage dumps. The only effective method of preventing unwanted births is abstinence, and this is just not a realistic objective. There is no 100% effective form of birth control, and even men and women using birth control have unwanted pregnancies.
Some women for financial, occupational, social, and maturity reasons, see pregnancy as cessation of their lives. There are no accurate statistics on how many women attempt or succeed in committing suicide each year rather than live with their pregnancies. Women will continue to gave abortions with or without government legislation, but with legislation, the conditions under which they have their abortions can be sanctioned and observed. If abortion is the right choice for a woman, she shouldn’t have to worry about its safety. The procedure is perfectly safe. The earlier an abortion is done, the safer it is.
Most abortions, about 95%, are done during the first trimester (Lowenstein 52). Less than one percent are done after the twentieth week, and usually only for medical reasons (Safety 1). According to the National Abortion Federation, having an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is safer than giving birth to a child. Women hardly ever die from legal abortions-only one in two hundred thousand (Lowenstein 52). Women are seven times likely to die from childbirth than from a legal abortion (Maguire 1). Many pro-life supporters believe that abortion should be banned because life begins at conception and taking a life is unlawful.
The individual sex cell consists of 23 chromosomes. It is only through combination, through merger, that the sex cells attain the full complement of heredity units that defines a human being (Shettles 17). The merger of the two sex cells is complete within twelve hours, at which time the egg is fertilized and becomes known technically as the “‘zygote. ” The inherited characteristics of a unique human being has been established, and in no circumstances will it change (Shettles 17). At eighteen days, the heart is pumping through a closed circulatory system, with blood whose type is different from that of the mother’s.
The brain starts working at forty days. and all of the fetus’s body systems are in place by the time it is two months old (Every child 1). Pro-lifers believe this evidence shows a fetus is alive. For these reasons, they feel the fetus has a soul and is a person worthy of respect. They conclude that aborting a fetus is the same as murdering a person (Abortion 3). Most pro-choice supporters agree that taking a human life is unlawful, however, they argue that unborn fetuses do not constitute fully developed human life. The possession of forty-six chromosomes does not make a cell a person.
Most of the cells in a person’s body contain these 46 chromosomes, but that does not make a white corpuscle a person. As for the significance of uniqueness, identical quintuplets are genetically identical, yet they have personal identities apart from their genetic endowment. Even though a fetus might have a heartbeat and brain waves, this does not make a fetus a person. To be a person, there must be evidence of a personality. Dogs, frogs, and earthworms have all characteristics listed, but that is insufficient to make them persons Zindler 25). Another major pro-life concern is the medical hazards of an abortion. Pro-lifers believe that abortions have many negative physical and psychological effects. They say that even though abortion has been legalized, it remains a complicated procedure that can potentially harm a woman’s ability to bear normal, healthy babies in the future (Hilgers 152). The most common early complications of legally induced abortion are infection, hemorrhage, perforation of the uterus, and laceration of the cervix (Hilgers 153).
There is also a pelvic inflammatory disease which can follow abortion, and happens up to 30 percent of the time (Lowenstein 44). Although the complications are physical, many pro-lifers say that the psychological effects are far more dangerous. They believe abortion has a particularly harmful effects on teenagers (Everyone’s Biography 1). The Medical College of Ohio studied how teenagers were able to cope with abortions as compared to adult women. They studied thirty-five women who had abortions as teenagers and thirty-six women who had abortions after age twenty.
They found there were two factors present in teenage abortions. First, people other than the teenager had control of the abortion decision. Second, teenagers are less knowledgeable about the procedure and may have false ideas about it. Also, teenagers were less likely to consult a professional before making their decision. The study showed teenagers experienced greater stress during the abortion (Lowenstein 45). Pro-choicers strongly disagree on this matter. It is a proven fact that legal abortions are now medically safe and simple.
Teenagers, for example, are 24 times more likely to die from childbirth than from a first-trimester abortion (Carlson 25). Death resulting from legal abortion is a very rare occurrence and easy to measure. In the first trimester, less that half of one percent of all abortion patients experience major complications (Jaffe, Lindheim, and Lee 150). Of course abortion involves some risk, but so do all medical procedures. According to the American Psychiatric Association report published in Science magazine in 1990, there are no significant psychological aftereffects of legal abortion.
Legal abortion requested by the woman does not cause emotional problems or depression. Some women may feel sad or guilty at first, but not any more or less than any other personal crisis (Lowenstein 53). In particular, teenagers who had abortions seem to behave more normally than others who gave birth to a baby. Teenagers who have abortions are more likely to graduate high school, go to college, and get good jobs (Lowenstein 54). The third most controversial topic on abortions involves so-called hard cases such as rape and incest.
The first point pro-lifers make is that the law allowing raped women to get abortions would only affect a few women, less than 1 percent of all abortions each year (Guernsey 68). Pro-life supporters believe the damage has already happened-that of the rape. An abortion will simply cause more psychological and physical harm. Even though half of the fetus if part of the rapist, half of the fetus is part of the woman, too. They believe it is unfair to kill a being who was not responsible for the rape (Lowenstein 47). Their feeling is the same for incest.
In cases where abortion is chosen, pro-life activists believe an innocent baby is killed for a crime its father commits. The father, instead, should suffer. Pro-lifers believe if abortion is chosen, it helps to hide the fact that incest took place and it might continue(Lowenstein 48). Should abortion be allowed in cases of rape and incest? Absolutely yes, say pro-choicers. There may be serious psychological effects from having a child that was a result of a horrible experience like incest or rape. Pro-choice supporters believe if the woman decides to raise the child, they say, she will have a constant reminder of the incident (Lowenstein 55).
Surveys have shown many people would accept abortion in cases of rape or incest (Women 2). Medical research has not determined whether there are genetic tendencies toward sexual crimes. The child may carry some of those genes (Lowenstein55). In summary, abortion is a personal choice. No should be able to tell a women whether or not to have a child. Therefore, keeping abortion legal will ensure that situations that involve crisis or health risks to the mother or the fetus can be handled safely and legally.