Argumentative Essay: Pro-Life
The debate surrounding abortion is a consistently heated one, with many different arguments arguing for either the so-named "pro-life" (opposed to abortion) and "pro-choice" (in support of abortion) positions on the issue. In essence, the issue boils down to whether or not women have the right to terminate pregnancy; pro-life advocates believe that this is tantamount to murder as it prevents a child from being born, while pro-choice advocates believe that abortion gives women control over their own bodies. While there are very compelling and emotional arguments for the legalization of abortion, the procedure itself must not be ethically advocated.
However, there are also many arguments in favor of abortion, even ethically. These individuals believe that the right of the mother to have control over her own body is paramount; unlike the child, who may not be a real human life yet, she has her own rights and her own agency. To make abortion illegal would be to regulate what she does with her body. With the position that a fetus is merely a 'potential human being,' they are no longer a person, and it may be ethically sound to kill them for the sake of the mother's choices. Even if they are people, it may also be ethically sound to keep abortion legal so that, in the event there is a choice to be made (e.g. the health of the mother), the fetus can be aborted to save the mother's life. There are also ethical questions about whether or not victims of rape or incest should have to carry their babies to term; this is seen as unethical and cruel to those victims. Ethically, the abortion debate seems to revolve around the question of whether or not a fetus is a person; even then, there are a host of other issues to consider, including the health and safety of the mother, the potential for women to seek out unsafe, unregulated abortions if it were made illegal, and more.
One of the most compelling arguments for maintaining the legality of abortion is that it is often medically necessary to abort fetuses for the sake of the health of the mother. While this is one of the approximately 7% of "hard cases" where abortion is typically necessary, the legality of abortion provides a medically effective and beneficial procedure that can help dramatically increase the likelihood that mothers will survive. Often, mothers over 35 run into medical problems that endanger their lives while pregnant; "the risk of maternal death due to a legal induced abortion in the United States is approximately 0.6 per 100,000,4 whereas the risk of death for a woman 35 to 39 years of age who attempts to carry a pregnancy to term is 21 per 100,0005 ― 35 times as high".
Other hard cases used as reasons to get an abortion include rape and incest; in these instances, these women have had sex against their will, and they are now burdened with a baby they were in no way prepared to have. Pro-life advocates would argue that these women would be forced to carry these children to term, potentially incurring substantial economic and emotional damage due to circumstances out of their control. By keeping abortion legal, it allows mothers to have control over what happens to their body, especially in circumstances where the pregnancy was in no way incurred due to the fault of the mother. However, this still comes at the cost of killing an unborn child, which is a moral imperative.
Opponents argue that keeping abortion legal also has many other benefits; for one, it dramatically cuts down on the number of dangerous and ill-conducted abortions that are conducted without proper medical facilities and personnel. If abortion were legalized, many argue that crime would increase, particularly as desperate women seek out methods of aborting their children that can end up being dangerous in their own right, putting their body at risk to perform an abortion without the needed expertise and resource. However, from an ethical standpoint, one cannot legalize something for the sake of those who would behave unethically. Many would not have the resources or the knowhow to facilitate an illegal abortion, and it would simply be up to law enforcement to deal with people performing illegal abortions.
If one is to continue with the perspective that life is paramount, even with the question of whether or not a fetus constitutes life, legalizing abortion perpetuates the idea that it is okay to kill people in some circumstances. There is no certainty, even amongst pro-choice advocates, that a fetus is not a living person; to that end, even erring on the side of caution is preferable to simply assuming that a fetus is not a person.
Opponents argue that, instead of banning abortion, efforts should be made to focus on contraception and prevention of pregnancies in the first place. Safe sex education should be encouraged in schools instead of abstinence-only education, which to date has not been successful in curbing teen pregnancies. There are many birth control methods available, the most effective one being the combined oral contraceptive pill, which has a perfect use rate of .3%. This means that, if taken perfectly, a women has a less than 1% chance of getting pregnant, making it the most effective contraceptive method currently available. Nearly 12 million women in America use the pill (82% of women studied), making it a very prevalent and widely used method of contraception. Given the ability to provide effective birth control, it should be no longer necessary to have abortion be legal; the virtual guarantee that one cannot get pregnant makes the practice nearly unnecessary. Opponents of supplying birth control for individuals believe that it places an extra burden on the health care system to provide teenagers with oral contraceptives. Expanding the creation and prescription of birth control pills and other methods of contraception would cost extra money, and would make parents of teenagers have to pay more for something that they may not emotionally agree with for their children, but could agree to merely for the sake of the child’s safety. The notification of the parents when a child asks for a prescription for birth control is a way to make sure that the parents are aware that their child is sexually active, particularly when they are responsible for them. As a result, it makes sense that they should be as informed as possible in an aspect of their life that can result in dramatic changes to their family (e.g. pregnancy).
According to pro-choice advocates, having a child is an expensive investment that can cost far more money than many people can reasonably afford. In California, for example, a child can eat up 40% of the average income for a single parent family. Abortions are also an expensive endeavor, costing hundreds of dollars and taking young women through expensive medical procedures. There is also the potential for emotional distress and anxiety that result from the abortion of a child that simply cannot be cared for if carried to term. However, this is merely evidence to look for effective family planning prior to pregnancy, and an added focus on birth control and sex education that would make abortion unnecessary.
In conclusion, abortion should no longer remain a legal option for women, on both an ethical and practical standpoint. If abortion were to become illegal, it would remove an option for women that, while in rare cases is medically necessary to survive, still constitutes the killing of an unborn child, which is the most egregious and unethical act a person can perform. This might actually result in deaths of real human beings, with moral rights and privileges, as well as potentially inflict pain on both the fetus and the mother. With this in mind, it is a moral and practical imperative that abortion remain legal. Despite the inconclusive arguments regarding personhood of a fetus, the potential for human life is still there, and that must be perpetuated at all costs. Unprepared mothers can still give the child up for adoption, or give it up for foster care; while these may not be ideal situations, they are most certainly preferable to death.
Annas, G.J. (2007). The Supreme Court and abortion rights. New England Journal of Medicine 356(21): 2201.
Checkland, D., and Wong, J. (1999). Teen pregnancy and parenting: social and ethical issues. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Donohue, J.J., and Levitt, S.D. (2001). The impact of legalized abortion on crime. Quarterly Journal of Economics 116(2): 379-420.
Finer, L. et. al. (2005). Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 37(3): 110.
Greene, M.F., and Ecker, J.L. (2004). Abortion, health, and the law. New England Journal of Medicine 350: 178-179.
Mosher WD, Martinez GM, Chandra A, Abma JC, Willson SJ. (2004). "Use of contraception and use of family planning services in the United States: 1982–2002.” Adv Data 350: 1– 36.