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The heated debate over if abortion should be a legal option still divides Americans long after the 7-2 decision on Roe versus Wade which declared the procedure a fundamental right made by the US Supreme Court in January 22, 1973. The proponents, who are identified as pro-choice, argue that abortion is an important right that the government or religious institutions should not limit. The opponents, who recognize themselves as pro-life, nevertheless assert that life begins at conception, and thus abortion is the depraved killing of an innocent young human being. Abortion, they say, inflicts pain and suffering on the unborn child, yet there are many couples who are not capable of conceiving biologically and are waiting to adopt, thus unfair to allow abortion.
The negative effects of abortion are many and far reaching, and may last for decades thereafter; hence it should not always be a ready choice for women. There about a staggering 42 million abortions that occurs worldwide every year. Statistics are showing that only a mere 1% of all abortions come about due to rape or incest. Potential health risks regarding the mother or the wellbeing of the unborn child account for 6% of abortions, and 93% of the total number of abortions are taken by women due to social reasons, that is, where the child is inconvenient or unwanted. There are variations that exist in arguments of both the proposers and those that oppose it. Some pro-choice proponents have the belief that abortion should be considered only as a last resort, whereas others advocate for unlimited access to abortion facilities under any circumstance. Some of those in the pro-life camp completely oppose abortion but there are those who accept it for special circumstances like rape, when a woman's life is in danger, or after an act of incest.
Abortion Debate: Pro-Choice
Pro-choice proponents state clearly that abortion is acceptable as it is a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution recognized in US by the Supreme Court in the case of Roe V. Wade in 1973. Roe v. Wade is the landmark Supreme Court decision that overturned a Texas state interpretation of abortion law, making abortion legal in United States. The decision had it that a woman, with the help of her doctor, had the right to choose having an abortion in the initial months of her pregnancy without limitation, and with some restrictions in later months, founded on her right to privacy. Roe v. Wade invalidated all state laws that limited women's access to abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy. The state laws that restricted such access in the second trimester were only upheld in the circumstances where their sole purpose was to protect the pregnant woman. At that time, abortion was not legal at all in most states, and was restricted by law in others. Roe v. Wade decision was made mainly on the Ninth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which is a section of the Bill of Rights, protecting one's right to privacy. "Jane Roe" was the alias used for Norma McCorvey. The suit was filed on her behalf originally, alleging that the Texas law on abortion was in violation of her constitutional rights and other women's rights. Henry B. Wade was the defendant, and the district attorney of the county of Dallas. (Lewis, 1999)
There are many that claim that a fetus is not yet a human being, and that having an abortion terminates a pregnancy and not a baby. It is not a biologically proven fact that personhood begins at conception. Personhood rather begins at birth. But those against it insist that unborn children are innocent human beings starting from the time they are conceived, thus have an essential right to life, and this right must be protected. Many religions, especially Christians have it that the Sixth Commandment in the Old testament of the Bible states "Thou shall not kill." Therefore abortion defies God's commandment as it incorporates killing a human being. Yet the American society is pluralistic, and the members who have acknowledged the privilege of being members of that society should agree to give respect to the people who have a right to live according to their religious precepts. There are those who believe that abortion is morally permissible, that God gives every woman the duty to control her pregnancy, so those who have the belief that abortion is wrong, ought not to force their opinions on others. (marcusm, 2007)
Nearly all abortions happen in the first trimester, and at this time the fetus cannot exist when it's independent of the mother. Pro-choice activists have it that as the fetus' health is dependent of that of the mother; it cannot be considered as a separate entity, as it would cease to exist outside her womb. Adoption is considered a viable alternative to a painful and possibly disastrous abortion, and achieves the same desired result. Currently, there is a lack of babies to adopt since abortion is legal. There are over two million families in the United States alone waiting to adopt a child, yet only 134,000 children in the US are available to be adopted as of June 2002, so the argument that a child is unwanted loses ground.
According to Stuart Derbyshire, PhD, who is a senior lecturer at Birmingham University in England, fetuses are not capable of feeling pain during an abortion as the biological development to support pain experience has not yet occurred, and the environment setting after birth which is essential in the pain experience development is yet to occur. According to Kanwaljeet Anand, MBBS, DPhil, who is a professor of pediatrics, Neurobiology and Anesthesiology at the Tennessee University Health Science Centre, fetuses can feel pain when an abortion is performed. He says that if the fetus reaches beyond twenty weeks of gestation, there would be what he believes to be severe and excruciating pain caused to the fetus.
Access to legal and professionally executed abortions lessens injury and death occasioned by unsafe and criminal abortions. The World Health Organization estimates that in 2005 back-alley abortions led to the deaths of 68,000 maternal deaths every year in countries that have not legalized abortion. Modern abortion procedures guarantee a good percentage of safety. The risk of death of a woman from abortion has gone down to less than one in every 100,000, while the risk of a female dying from giving birth stands at 13.3 deaths for every 100,000 pregnancies. A 1993 fertility study of 10,767 women conducted by Royal College of General Practitioners together with Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists established that women who had two abortions at least, had the same future fertility experience as those who had had at least two natural pregnancies.
On the other side, the Hippocratic Oath's original text, the oath taken by doctors traditionally as they swear to practice medicine morally forbids abortions. A section of the oath says that as a doctor, he/she would not give a pessary to a woman to cause an abortion. The same oath's modern version written in 1964 forbids abortion in the line where the doctor swears never to play at God. Furthermore, the Declaration of Independence does state that all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with particular unalienable Rights, among these being Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness. Permitting abortion contradicts the Founding Father's aims for an undeniable right to life in United States of America.
Certain pro-choice proponents argue that access to abortion is necessary as contraceptives are not always readily available. Women need prescriptions from doctors to purchase many birth control methods, like the pill, the shot, the patch, and the diaphragm. Almost half of all big group- insurance plans have no cover for any form of prescription contraceptive, with only a third of them covering the birth control pill. A study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute in July/August of 2001 of health care insurers revealed that 75% of women that were insured lacked coverage for contraceptive services. 17 million women in United States, as of 2009, were completely uninsured. This has added fuel to pro-life activists who dispute that women should use contraceptives and not abortion to avoid pregnancies. A study by Centre for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 19-25% women who had abortions in 2006 had previously received one or more abortions. They argue that if abortion were not accessible, women would not be as careless.
The American Medical Association identifies abortion as a medical practice if performed by a certified physician in compliance with upright medical practice standards. In United States alone, there are about 1800 physicians who are licensed to provide abortion services. These doctors should be the ones with authority to make medical judgments regarding abortions and not politicians. Abortion provides couples with an option of choosing not to have babies with very severe medical conditions that threaten their lives. The fragile X syndrome which is the genetic form of mental retardation that is most common, affects one in every 4,000 males and one in every 8,000 females. In every 800 babies, one has Down syndrome and one in every 3,500 babies is delivered with Cystic Fibrosis. Sentencing a helpless child to life with a severe handicap is not right. However, opponents maintain that selective abortion founded on genetic abnormalities is overt discrimination. The physical challenges of those with disabilities do not make them less human. The American with Disabilities Act has a provision for civil rights protection needed for people that are born with incapacities to lead fulfilled lives.
Abortion has been seen to lower crime. Some estimates claim legalized abortion was responsible for up to 50% of the fall in murder, property crime, and also violent crime in the years between 1973 and 2001. Poor women, unmarried women and teenage girls are much more likely to have pregnancies they do not intend to have. Unwanted babies more often than not are raised poor, thus increasing the likelihood of leading unlawful lives in their adulthood.
But then again, abortion eliminates the potential social contributions of a near future human being. The United States would be a totally different country if mothers of the nation's heroes, presidents, athletes, scientists and many others had chosen to abort. The abortion industry is to African Americans like an instrument of genocide. Black women are more likely to have an abortion about 4.5 times more than white women. Every day, 1,876 black babies are aborted. In the years between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 African Americans were lynched in the US. In 2010, more black babies lose their lives through the hands of abortionists in less than three days. The abortion industry annually makes an estimated $831 million, with an abortion costing around $350 to even more than $1,000. Entrepreneurs in the abortion industry seem to be much more interested in generating profits than helping their clients.
In a survey of September 2005 in the peer-reviewed Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health journal questioning women why they decided to have an abortion, 73% of the participants claimed they could not have enough money to have a baby, and 38% said giving birth would come in the way of their careers and education goals. Thus reproductive choice offers women help in preventing financial harm. Motherhood should never be a punishment if one makes a mistake of having sexual intercourse. In his campaign speech in Johnston, California on March 29, 2008, President Obama said that he had two daughters whom he was going to teach first about the right values and morals, but that if they made a mistake, he wouldn't want them to be punished with a baby. Giving birth to children is a significant lifelong decision that would require responsible consideration, planning and preparation; hence a baby should not come into the world unwanted. Among American women, 49% of all pregnancies are unintended.
Abortion has been shown to increase the likelihood of women developing breast cancer. In early stages of pregnancy, there is an increase of estrogen, leading to breast development as it prepares for a woman to milk her child. When abortion interrupts this process, immature cells remain behind in the woman's breasts which result in an increased potential risk of breast cancer. Eight medical organizations since 2006 like Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, National Physicians Centre for Family Resources and Catholic Medical Association have recognized the link between abortion and the life-threatening breast cancer. The Washington Times reported that women are 200 times more probable of dying from breast cancer risk posed by abortion of the first pregnancy than from maintaining the fetus and giving birth. This is according to Dr. Joel Brind, a biologist and endocrinologist doing cancer research. Pro-choice activists argue that the science behind this theory is unsubstantiated. The American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists refute the reliability of the studies that claim association between abortion and breast cancer. (al, 1998)
Abortion has been found to increase the likelihood of women having future miscarriages. In a June 2003 study that was published by International Journal of Epidemiology, a peer-reviewed journal, it is estimated that approximately 15% of first-trimester miscarriages can be attributed to previous history of induced abortion. The claim by Steven Levitt, the Freakonomics author, in 2001 that abortion plays a part in reduction of crime is flawed. Coding errors were found by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in Levitt's research. Responding to their revelation, Levitt, on November 28, 2005 expressed his personal embarrassment about the errors and apologized.
From all the facts given to support either side, it comes out clearly that there are strong reasons why abortion should not be legalized. Abortions cause psychological damage as revealed by a peer-reviewed study published in 2002 by South Medical Journal which, in 173,000 American women, it was established that women who aborted stood a risk of 154% of committing suicide compared to women who carried the fetus to term. In April 1998, a Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology carried a study on men who had partners who had procured an abortion and revealed that 51.6% regretted the action, 45.2% felt sadness while 25.8% had experienced depression. However, abortion helps to safeguard the health of a woman. Many women suffer severe medical conditions such as sickle-cell anemia, severe hypertension and diabetes, etc. Abortion helps prevent serious complications from these life-threatening diseases during birth. Moreover, where a woman is raped, forcing her to become pregnant with that child is a brutality that should not be thrown on her. Hence abortion should be legal in cases of rape, incest and life-threatening complications on both the mother and child, but restriction should be exercised as there are severe long-term consequences of abortion. (al., 2002)