Abortion has been a topic of many debates for decades now. It is something that is seen as a sensitive subject, but many people have made it an immense deal. Abortions have been around since before the 18th century. An abortion is, “The termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus” (Merriam-Webster, 2020). This can occur after a miscarriage but in most cases, it is done to terminate the pregnancy. Many debates argue that it can never be justified to “kill” a fetus or that women have no right to do so.
Brief History of Abortion
Abortions were considered legal in the early 1800s, due to all surgical procedures being risky during that time. States began to pass laws to make these procedures illegal in the late 1800s. Consequently, women starting to get abortions illegally from “back-alley” practitioners, which caused infections, medical issues, and sometimes even death. With abortion being illegal, it did not stop women from getting them done (McCurdy, para 18). Over time, medical practices began to improve, and the hope was that abortions would then become legal. Between the years of 1967 and 1973, states repealed their laws against abortion, but not all of them did. The Supreme Court came into the picture in 1973 with a case involving a young woman. The case was Roe vs. Wade, it ended with the conclusion that women were entitled to their privacy regarding their personal decisions, including abortions. The Roe vs. Wade case was a turning point for all women in the U.S. As Harriet Pilpel says, “I shall first discuss the laws relating to abortion in the United States prior to January 22, 1973, then the Supreme Court decisions of that date giving to women the right, with their physicians’ to choose abortion as a part of a constitutionally guaranteed right of privacy.” (Pilpel, 1975, pg. 113) After 1973, the debate between “pro-life” and “pro-choice” groups began surfacing. Anti-abortion violence became prominent in many states across the U.S. These debates were forced into our politics. Years and years of debating over a medical procedure that has gone back thousands of years in our world history. Today, in our society, the argument is still prominent, socially, and politically. The debate is still occurring to this day; on the news, in political campaigns, and now, it can be seen all over social media platforms.
It is understood that women have had a significantly harder time getting rights for things like voting and well, just any rights. Being a woman, you grow up and you look at history to see other women belittled throughout the years. It is still a relevant issue in our society today. Everyone should have the right to bodily integrity. Yes, it is understood that women are meant to be mothers. But not all women want to be mothers, or under particularly difficult circumstances, they do not see themselves fit to be a mother (health, age, personal reasons, etc.). Often other matters come into play, for example, a woman can get raped by a family member or stranger and becomes impregnated. Women have a right to choose what to do when that situation occurs, including having an abortion, give the baby up for adoption, or keep the baby. All of these are choices for the woman and her body to make. As Hardin states, “The woman is pregnant: this is the base level at which the moral decision begins. If she is pregnant against her will, does it matter to society whether she was careless or unskillful in her use of contraception? In any case, she is threatening society with an unwanted child, for which society will pay dearly”. (Hardin, pg. 249). What Hardin says is entirely true in our society. If women do get pregnant against their will, is it truly moral to allow them to suffer? No. It is the woman’s body, so in the end, it should be her choice. The fetus does not have rights, it is simply a fetus. The woman is carrying the fetus, she has the rights as a human being, not the fetus. As McCurdy explains, “Thomson argued the fetus’s right to life was secondary to a woman’s right to control her body throughout gestation. In its essence, this argument holds that maternal autonomy may not be constrained by any living thing—neither fetus, nor father, nor family—and neither by society”. (McCurdy, para. 11). Women should be a priority in this case. The woman came before the fetus; therefore, the woman is more powerful. Women should be given the rights to choose what they do with their bodies. It should be no one’s decision but their own. What they choose to do should not be discriminated against nor shamed upon. Everyone has a right to choose what they want to do with their lives, so women have that right to be fulfilled as well. It would not be fair otherwise.
Regulations to Keep Women Safe
Abortions are considered an extremely invasive medical procedure, yet abortions are not regulated to keep women safe. If an unsafe abortion is performed it can result in infection, medical complications, and sometimes even death. It is estimated that 25 million unsafe abortions are done annually and within those 25 million, about 30,000 of those result in death. But, with abortions being illegal and frowned upon, women chose to take matters into their own hands and decide to get unsafe abortions (which then puts them at risk). If regulations were put into place for abortions and clinic sites, the less likely unsafe abortions would occur annually. As McCurdy states, “Inevitably some would seek “back-alley” abortions and suffer severe consequences, including death. How many such deaths might occur is uncertain, but that total would be small in comparison to the more than one million fetal lives lost annually to legalized abortion in the US. (In 1972, the last full year before Roe v. Wade, the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] reported thirty-nine maternal deaths from illegal abortion”. (McCurdy, para. 18) The deaths might not be substantial, but they are still happening. And what about the deaths that were not reported? Inevitability these deaths are taking place because abortions are not being standardized in a suitable method. The precautions are not being taken seriously. Every other medical procedure is required to have regulations and precautions, yet abortions fall short and are not taken seriously. Maxwell affirms that “Even when the abortion is successful, the consequences of having it performed in non-aseptic surroundings or by an incompetent practitioner may be a long-term impairment of healthy. Since a pregnancy test is usually not performed by the abortionist, many women who are not pregnant undergo these unnecessary hazards”. (Maxwell, page 247) It is for that exact reason why abortions need to have set rules and regulations so women can be protected during the procedure. Women go through such a traumatic time in their life, just to be confronted with the fact that they may get a life-long medical condition, complications, or even death. And all of that can be mostly prevented with proper knowledge and guidelines being set. Although it is known that any surgery has its’ risks, women should not have to worry about their health being undermined. Women should not be dying because of unsafe abortions; it is not acceptable. Abortions need to be safer, or more lives will be put at risk.
Can Abortions Be Justified?
Many people in the United States view abortions as murder, infanticide, or plain vindictive. It is a debate that is ongoing between “pro-life” and “pro-choice” groups, but can a woman’s reasoning behind an abortion truly be justified enough? To women, there are many legitimate reasons behind an abortion. Whether it be done at two weeks or eighteen weeks, the pro-life groups believe that there is absolutely no ethical excuse for an abortion, regardless of the circumstances given. According to Harriet Pilpel, the argument is as follows, “Neither the United States nor any State shall deprive any human being, from the moment of conception, of life without due to the process of law; nor deny any human being, from the moment of conception, within its jurisdiction, the equal protection of the laws”. (Pilpel, page 115) She is stating that a fetus does indeed have rights as a human being, and there is no reason for any law to deny a fetus of its’ rights while in the womb. Therefore, it is perceived that the woman has no right to abort the fetus under any condition. Rape and medical conditions are two of the most questionable reasons for an abortion. Some women have ongoing medical conditions that prevent them from carrying a fetus full term. Although it may not happen often, women do get raped and happen to get pregnant with their perpetrators’ children. Although “pro-choice” groups all agree that abortions are validated for these reasons only. On the other hand, pro-life groups disagree completely. They claim that it is infanticide, or, the killing of a child within a year of life. A fetus has a right to live no matter how it was conceived or what medical condition(s) the mother may have. An author gives an insight on why people think this way, he states, “Because we act to preserve our own lives, reciprocity holds that it is therefore wrong to take the lives of innocent others. In the context of abortion, because we ourselves appreciate living, and therefore not having been aborted, we, in turn, should not take human life through abortion”. (McCurdy, para. 7) Many believe that a fetus should have the same rights as any other human being. A fetus is innocent and has done no wrong, yet a woman wants to kill it. Understandably, having an abortion is not “the right” thing to do in most people’s eyes, but to some people, it is the only thing they can do.
Abortion is a heavily debated and emotional topic. Through the years, opinions and viewpoints have been made for each side, “pro-choice” and “pro-life”. The history of abortions is one with little brevity, it has become a lasting topic in our world. Looking back, we can see the benefits and the costs. Stances have changed over time, but the two very distinct sides have always remained. The debate has brought its way into our political system over time. Everyone has become divided when it comes to the topic of abortion rights. There seems to be no conclusion on if the debate will ever end, it almost seems that it is only getting worse. “Pro-choice” groups are fighting for women’s rights while the “pro-life” groups are fighting for the fetus inside the woman to live. This debate is over something that is not taken lightly in our society nowadays. It started as something small decades ago, and it turned out to be something bigger than expected. Abortion is a trending topic in 2020 and it is expected to be trending in the upcoming years as well. One day, this debate may come to an end, but the effects will last a lifetime.