One of the most central pillars of the US’ Healthy People 2020 are family planning goals geared at fostering pregnancy planning, spacing and reduction of unintended pregnancies. Despite these efforts, 49% of pregnancies every year are unplanned, some of which raise the need for abortion. This paper asserts that abortion asserts that arguments against abortion are founded on an assumption that has no basis in law, since life only begins when foetuses are viable. It argues that while every human being (excluding unviable foetuses) has a right to life, the right to privacy and autonomy over one’s body are just as paramount. In the light of the fact that most women across that seek abortion do so under extremely restrictive socio-political, legal and economic circumstances, it is futile moralizing over the ethics of it, but to ensure that all abortions are safe for all that require them.
The intentional termination of pregnancies is easily one of the most common gynaecological procedures, despite the controversy occasioned by socio-political, religious, regulatory and legal forces restricting or permitting abortion in centuries. According to the Center for Disease Control and prevention (2012), while the rate of abortion has declined over the past two decades, 730,322 legal procedures (13.9 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44) were reported in 2011. This represented a 5% reduction since 2010. Since unsafe abortions (conducted by unskilled persons and/or in environments that do not conform to the minimum medical standards). Women in their twenties represented the majority of those seeking abortions and the vast majority of induced procedures occurred early in gestation. An estimated 91.4% were performed at less than 13 weeks’ gestation while 7.3% were done at 14-20 weeks of gestation. This paper argues that it should be every woman’s right to have control over their own bodies, which includes access to safe abortion.
Perhaps one of the least controversial ethical and legal grounds for abortion are cases of ectopic pregnancies. These pregnancies threaten the health and wellbeing of the mother, and if they are not terminated, they may result in the death or permanent injury to the mother and/or baby. However, while many people appreciate the physical health threat presented by ectopic pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies may cause serious and permanent psychological damage to both the mother and the baby. Upwards of 49% of pregnancies in 2006 were unintended, with the proportion of such pregnancies being higher among teenagers. For teenagers, 4 out of 5 pregnancies are unintended, with higher rates being among cohabiting women and/or those with less education and income. It is unconscionable to require that women carry pregancies that emotionally torment them, and to bring up or give up theior children for adoption, once they are born. Even most importantly, however, is the fact that most women will still seek an abortion, whether or not it is legal. The fact that women would still choose to have unsafe abortions, despite the grave risks involved means that they do not take the decision lightly.
Anti-abortionists argue that pregnancies, whether intended or otherwise, involve the lives of innocent children. Effectively, terminating any pregnancy amounts to ending a life, but even most importantly, the baby’s life is just as valuable as the mother’s. Unless a pregnancy threatens the life of a mother, and it is impossible to bring it to term, and then abortion amounts to murder. Even then, abortion is far from safe as pro-abortionists content. Undesirable side effects associated with abortion include, but are not limited to death, barrenness, joint inflammation, chronic headaches and backaches, hot flashes, and chills. Others include dyspnea, chest pain, vaginal pain, muscular pain or cramp, vomiting, and uterine rupture. As such abortion is not a magical solution to bolstering women’s welfare, but laden with risks that may ultimately to their welfare’s detriment.
The arguments against abortion are valid but are founded on the wrong basis. To begin with, while there remains considerable scientific and ethical controversy on the beginning of life, legally life does not begin at conception. In Roe v. Wade (1973), the US Supreme Court held that a fetus only becomes a human being (and, therefore, enjoy the right to life) once they become viable i.e. can survive independently of the mother. This happens after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Given the fact that 98% of abortions occur before the 20th week of gestation, the argument for equating such abortions to murder does not arise. In fact, the Supreme Court considers the decision to abort prior to the 24th month of gestation as a mother’s exercise of the right to privacy. It is no different from breast augmentation surgery, body piercing, organ donation or change of hair style. Further, abortion impacts women disproportionately, which renders it a gender rights issue, pregnancy is an emotionally and physically difficult experience for women.
With close to a million reported cases of abortion (and possibly more unsafe cases), the importance of getting its ethical, political and legal issues rights is critical. Even with restrictive regulatory and legal environments, abortion remains one of the most requested gynaecological procedures. Effectively, while the debate on the ethics, legality and other aspects of abortion carries on interminably, millions of women across the world will continue procuring unsafe abortion for lack of access to legal services. Contrary to assertions that abortion amounts to murder and is detrimental to women’s welfare, it is every woman’s human right to have autonomy over their bodies (including access to safe abortion). The right of the foetus to life only commences once they can be considered separate/independent human beings from the mother. Given the fact that an overwhelming majority of abortions in the US are procured well before the foetus becomes viable, the ethical issues regarding the beginning of life are out of question.
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (United States Supreme Court 1973).
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014). Medical Management of First-Trimester Abortion. Practice Bulletin No. 143.
Center for Disease Control and prevention. (2012). Abortion Surveillance 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/
Finer, L. B., & Zolna, M. R. (2011). Unintended pregnancy in the United States: Incidence and disparities, 2006. Contraception 84(5), 478–485.
Fisher, M. (2013, Nov 15). Why China’s one-child policy still leads to forced abortions, and always wil. Retrieved April 20, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/11/15/why-chinas-one-child-policy-still-leads-to-forced-abortions-and-always-will/