Abortion is never an easy decision; even today women have the legal right to make that choice for many reasons. In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a woman’s right to an abortion is protected by the Constitution. However, the Roe v. Wade decision did not put an end to the controversy over the morality of this right (Nelson 61). There are people in our society who still don’t accept legal abortion. They still have the opposing idea that abortion is an act of directly killing “innocent children,” and they want to stop it. On the contrary, most Americans today favor legal abortion and think it should remain legal. Dr. Charles F. Westoff, in a critique of the feminist agenda for international population policy today, says that legal abortion respects “the dignity, choice and rights of the woman and the family,” (Chesler 31-33). For me, legal abortion is a gift for women who feel the need to abort a child for the benefits of their lives.
Each side in the abortion controversy has adopted a term they apply that summarizes its moral identity. The anti-abortion side is “pro-life”. They recognize the difficulties for the woman with an unwanted pregnancy and offer many ways to help pregnant women. Michelle Meyer of San Antonio, a teacher who opposes abortion, would help her pregnant students by finding places for them to live while waiting for their pregnancies to come to term (Jocoby 156). Julie Stone who works as a volunteer at a pro-life crisis center said, “If a woman should decide to abort, we do not judge her, but try to help her find post-abortion counseling should she need it,” (Jacoby 157). However, these anti-abortion partisans do not prepare to accept abortion because they believe that it is the killing of human life. The fetus is a person, a human being, and having abortion is ending a person’s life and a murder (Emmens 33).
The opponents of legal abortion believe that human life begins whenever a sperm fertilizes an egg. North California Senator Jesse Helms is one of those who believe that life begins at conception (Nelson 21). No one has the right to kill a human being from the beginning of life. Mother Teresa, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, says, “God gives us courage to protect the unborn child, for the child is the greatest gift of God to a family, to a nation, and to the whole world,” (Landwehr 4). On the other hand, to some families, having a baby is a burden for the whole family because a baby needs a lot of care, and the family’s finances are not good enough to take care of more children than they already have. This is where legal abortion could be a good decision to make.
Pro-life people claim that abortion is an escape for people who are not responsible and don’t want to suffer the consequences of their actions. As a matter of fact, legal abortion will reduce morality and dignity of men and women in society according to some (Emmens 34-35). Doris Gordon, coordinator of Libertarians For Life, opposes abortion in her viewpoint, “Unborn children don’t cause women to become pregnant, but parents cause their children to be the womb, and as a result, they need parental care…[therefore], we have no right to kill in order to terminate any obligation,” (Selzer 796). Prohibiting abortion is the only way to preserve the values of family and motherhood. Moreover, anti-abortion people also think that abortion is the source of profit for many people: abortionists, businessmen, and advertising people. They are making money from the misery of others, from exploited women and dead children. A catholic group in Forest Grove, Oregon, showed up outside a clinic with a dead fetus as an example for this and said, “This is a baby, and the doctor in there is killing them for $1000 a baby”(Emmens 87).
As anti-abortion people state, legalized abortion will destroy the morality of society. In the presence of President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore at a Washington, D.C. prayer breakfast, Mother Teresa said with a touch of bitterness, “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.” (Mother Teresa 34). On the other hand, the pro-choice people don’t accept this idea because this idea is missing many benefits for women that legal abortion will solve, making life easier for those who need abortions. In my own thinking, I believe that abortion should be legal because legal abortion is making life easier. It prevents babies from the disaster of life itself if they are to be born into this world without enough love and care.
Another major reason for anti-abortion people to oppose legal abortion is that the medical hazards of legally induced abortion are very significant. Recently, in the British medical journal Lancet, Moolgaoker and Walsh have reported that although there were not any deaths when performing 1,182 legal abortions, 9.5 percent the uterus was damaged (Szumski 153). This leads to the point that not all legal abortions are safe. Some abortions eventually could prove more harmful to women over the long term than bearing an unwanted child, but this is only a small disadvantage of legal abortion. Legal abortion not only protects women’s health but also protects their lives. Outlawing abortion did kill many women. In a fifteen-state survey in 1927, “7,537 women died of pregnancy, and more than ten percent died have illegally induced abortion. A ten-year study in Philadelphia, completed in 1940, stated that abortion accounted for twenty percent of all material death,” (Nelson 46). In the 1950’s, there were 300 deaths from illegal abortion per year, in 1967, the number of deaths from illegal abortions was 160; by 1972, 70 deaths, and by 1973, when abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court in all states, the number decreased to 36 deaths (Lippis 15).
While pro-life people attempt to oppose legal abortion, one of the most commonly cited reasons to support abortion is contraceptive failure. Gay Pepper, a nurse who works at Planned Parenthood, a national pro-choice organization said, “Nearly sixty to seventy percent of the adult patients that I see were using some form of birth control when conception occurred,” (Nelson 29). Even when precautions are taken, accidents can and do happen. For some families, this is not a problem; but for others, such an event can be a sad topic. An unintended pregnancy can create tensions, break up families, and destroy happiness. Only having an abortion will repair the lives of women after such a tragedy. Moreover, most American people support legal abortion because they believe that it helps to reduce the number of “children bearing children.” According to a survey in 1991 done by the Center of Disease Control and the Alan Guttmacher Institute, there are more than one million pregnant teenagers every year, and about forty-two percent of these decide to have abortions (Nelson 28). Even the anti-abortionists who stand in front of clinics harassing the women getting abortions have teenage children who have pregnancies before turning twenty. Being jobless, hopeless, and dependent, these teenagers may choose to have abortion as the viable solution for their lives. For example, when I was still in high school, I knew a girl who told me about her life; she had abortions four times in three years without her mother having any idea what she was doing, and the girl was two years younger than me (I was 17 and she was 15).
Unplanned pregnancies come to be seen as tragedies for some women as they expect to work most of their adult lives. One activist told the press, “ If I had not had that abortion early in my life, my life would have been a disaster,” (Szumski). For women with heart disease, kidney diseases, severe diabetes, and other life-threatening illnesses, having an abortion is the only way to save their lives. Gray in her own story of, Giving Up The Gift writes, “I am intensely aware of the precious gift a baby is. I have Crohn’s disease…[so] I must want an abortion.” (Gray 13)
Prohibiting abortions does not stop women who feel having abortions is absolutely necessary from the idea of the aborting pregnancies. However, most women who need to have abortion are poor. Consequently, outlawing abortion discriminates against low-income women because they don’t have enough money to go out of the state or country whenever necessary to have a safe and legal abortion. Since illegal abortions are performed without medical care and in dangerous circumstances, the poor will die or end their lives in multination. According to the survey of the Center for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute, in the recent years, 33 percent of the women who had abortions have a total family income of less than $11,000 a year. But only eleven percent with a yearly income higher than $50,000 needed to have abortions (Nelson 31). This leads to the conclusion that legal abortion helps to release the social tensions, especially for most poor women.
At the most basic level, the abortion is not really about abortion. It is about the value of women in society. Should women make their own decisions about family, career, and how to live their lives? Or should the government do that for them? Do women have the option of deciding when and whether to have children?
One issue, stemming from the women’s liberation movement, has to do with a woman’s right to privacy; this includes her right to control her own body and to make her decisions about childbearing free from state coercion. As the United States Supreme Court put it in Roe v. Wade about the abortion law and the privacy of all women who will have had abortions, and it stated:
“This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”
Most of the people who approve legal abortion say that making abortion legal helps women achieve equality and freedom. In a recent book on abortion, The Clash of Absolutes by Laurence Olar, the author states that every woman has a private right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to control her own body; and because the fetus is not a separate living part, just as her arm or her kidney, for any reason she may make decision to abort or keep the pregnancy herself (101-102). If a woman cannot control her own pregnancy, she is unequal and powerless under the laws.
In today’s society, a woman’s role is no longer defined as just a wife and mother. The legality of abortion laws is one of the most meaningful things women have sought over centuries. When women want to control their own bodies, they want to control the number and the timing of their births because an untimely or unintended birth could have dramatic consequences for their lives (Selzer 802). Anti-abortion leaders really have a larger purpose though. They oppose most ideas and programs that can help women achieve equality and freedom. They also oppose programs that protect the health and well being of women and their children. Many acts of violence were carried out over all clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices during the 1980’s. The anti-abortion activists have even attacked doctors and clinic workers themselves (Emmens 89).
Anti-abortion leaders also say they are trying to save children, but they have fought against health and nutrition programs for children once they are born. Many children are born with birth defects such as hemophilia, a bleeding disease (once having a cut on the hand or anywhere on body, the blood won’t stop bleeding), Down’s syndrome, and other inherited diseases. Some babies might die once they are born because the defects are untreatable (Nelson 37). The anti-abortion groups seem to believe life begins at conception, but it ends at birth. Is this respect for life?
Anti-abortion people also oppose programs that diminish the number of unwanted pregnancies: family planning, sex education, and contraception for those who wish it. If women are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, the result is unwanted children. When they grow up, these children are often seriously disadvantaged because of being uncured, unloved, brutalized, or abandoned (Emmens 29). This is not good for children, for families, for communities, and for the nation. Children need love and family care for themselves.
“Life” is not what these anti-abortion people are fighting for. Maybe they want to return the days when a woman did not have the rights and choices of her own. Maybe they think that legalized abortion gives too much freedom toward women? Do they think that contraception is too liberating? Do they think that women cannot be trusted to make their own decisions?
Overall, Americans today don’t accept that; most Americans who favor abortion rights think abortion is a moral, medical, legal, and social controversy. Women now can select their own paths in society, including when and whether to have children. Family planning, contraception and, if need be, legal abortions are critical to sustaining a woman’s freedom. Life always goes forward and there is no going back. Abortion is not immoral; legal abortion is great for our lives. As Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of The Hearts of Men, states, “Women themselves will finally achieve full personhood…when we have the right, unquestioned and unabrogated, to choose not to be pregnant,” (Szumski 88).
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