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Abortion should be legalized
Abortion should be legalized and the right to decide whether a woman is ready to bear the responsibility of a child, a life, should be granted to the woman. Currently, abortion is illegal in several countries across the globe, some even going to the extent of endangering the mother’s life so as to avoid aborting a foetus. While most of the arguments against legalizing abortion have been founded on the concept of the foetus’ right to life, there is also great contention that a woman is the best judge of whether she can carry the responsibility of the child and hence, the legalization of abortion should be allowed in favour of the woman’s right of choice.
Modern day Americans are well aware of the different scenarios that can lead up to the decision to have an abortion. There are unplanned pregnancies arising from assenting relationship. A large number of unwanted pregnancies are among teenagers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the age group of 15 to 19 years, women had a live birth rate if 34.3 per 1000 in the year 2010, which was actually a 9% fall from the 2009 rates . There are also cases of pregnancies arising out of crimes such as rape and sexual molestation.
The decision to undergo an abortion is a heavily influenced one, and personal choice often has very little to do with it. Religious and societal views as well as medical conditions, all have a great impact on whether a woman opts to have her pregnancy terminated. Religious beliefs of her family, especially her parents, too have a deep effect on the person’s choice . Unplanned pregnancies have the highest instance of being aborted. According to a recent survey, over 33.33% of all pregnancies are not planned .
The average age when a person can legally get married in the US is 18 years. However, several states permit people as young as 14 years of age to get married if there is a pregnancy involved . The legal age for drinking alcohol is 21 years in nearly every state. It seems strange that, when a person is deemed to be too immature to choose a life partner, or even consume alcohol responsibly, they are forced by law to be bring a life into this world and also be responsible for its well being. Being a teenage mother not only has a tremendous financial and emotional significance but also lays great physical pressure on a young mother, holding the possibility of damaging her for life. However, the need for legalization of abortion is not limited to teen pregnancies or pregnancies arising from rape.
There are countries in the world where abortion is forbidden even when the life of the mother is at risk. In December 2012, a woman of Indian origins lost her life when doctors in Ireland refused to abort her foetus which was not expected to survive in any case . Today, the country has legalized abortions in cases where the mother’s life may be at medical risk or she may pose the danger of being suicidal. In cases where the woman threatens suicide, it seems ridiculous to push a woman to the point of contemplating death before permitting her to abort an unwanted pregnancy. A women may desperately not want to bear the responsibility of a child and yet not to the point of killing themselves. In these majority cases, the mother would be incapable of loving her child, which would lead to severe emotional and psychological trauma for both.
Women often succumb to family, social and religious pressures and decide against having an abortion . However, the decision of not aborting an unwanted child has as serious implications as deciding in favor of terminating the pregnancy. To begin with, unwanted children do not get the same degree of love, care and affection than a child that was planned. This is especially true in the case of rape pregnancies where the child becomes a reminder of the crime to the mother. Children born of unplanned pregnancies hence have a higher chance of being mistreated by their parents as well as other family members such as grandparents.
Giving birth to an unwanted child and then putting them up for adoption is one of the options that women consider, however, this too has dire consequences for the child as well as the mother. While the child may most like be placed in overcrowded foster homes, the mother might live with the guilt of having given away her child. If the woman decides to raise the child on her own, it is a major responsibility in moral, emotional as well as emotional terms. Raising a child can be very expensive, especially in cases where the parents are teenagers and do not have a source of income. This can have a dire impact on the quality of life of the child as well as the parents. At the end of the day, the mother has to live with the consequences of bearing an unwanted child. Hence, she should also be allowed to make the choice without the fear of lifelong retribution or being witch-hunted.
Of the arguments against legalization of abortion, equating it to murder is possibly the most common and vocal one. There is the question of at what point in time an abortion can be acceptable. Most of the time, the hesitancy lies in a single question: when does the life of a fetus actually begin? In other words, when can a fetus be considered to be ‘alive’? The main objection that a person might have when considering an abortion is whether it will result in the taking of a life.
While most religions agree that a foetus has life and that life needs to be protected like any other living being, but do not clearly equate abortion to murder. For instance, Judaism teaches that abortions are immoral, yet, the rights of a baby are granted only when the major part of its body has moved out of the mother’s body. As such, aborting a foetus is not considered murder. While murder is condemned in most religions, killing for certain purposes such as wars, capital punishment or when trying to save oneself, is considered permissible. Most religions do not have a formal ritual or ceremony to mark the passing away of an unborn child in this manner. The circumstance in which an abortion is sought is also debated in the moral and religious context. Several religions permit abortions where the life and health of the mother is under serious threat due to the continuation of the pregnancy. Most monotheistic religions such as Islam that follow a single scripture have not changed any of their tenets pertaining to abortions. However, other that have several scriptures like Buddhism are debatable and views can vary based on individual perception. Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church keeps changing their teachings on the subject as time progresses .
Another ethical and moral dilemma arises from the concept of ‘choice’. In 1987, the Callahan’s provided a comprehensive understanding of the ethics of choice pertaining to the rights of a woman in abortion . Through a series of interview with women, they were able to identify the key concepts that nearly equally divided the group into those who favoured the life of the foetus and those who believed that the right to abort lay with the woman . Table 1 is an adaptation of the key ethical findings of their work:
While science as well a major religions place various time frames based on the brain development of the foetus , it has been argued that simply having sensory awareness is not enough. For living thing to be considered a person, they should be able to exercise rationality, have a distinct moral nature, understand their own rights, duties and responsibilities, and be capable of making independent decisions. This is when the person can be said to be capable of exercising free will and can hence be held responsible for their actions .
Those who favour the abortion of foetuses and even the ‘merciful killing’ new born babies with severe abnormalities, consider this acceptable as the child would lead a near animalistic level of life, would be incapable of performing even the most basic day to day tasks and would, in fact, have a retarding impact on the quality of life of their caretakers. At this point, it should be noted that an unwanted child is more likely to lead a life in which is it not sufficiently loved or cared for. This can be especially true in cases on teen pregnancies where the mother lacks the maturity to care for the child. In such cases, where the mother herself is a dependent, being responsible for a child can have a severely negative impact on the quality of her life. Here, the ethic of autonomy also comes into play as the woman has the right to decide whether she wants to bear the burden of an unwanted child or wants to remain independent and autonomous. The foetus is a part of her body and hence she has the right to autonomy over it.
Alan Guttmacher Institute. (2012, January). Facts on Induced Abortion. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from Alan Guttmacher Institute: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html
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