Ernest Hemingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants" follows two conflicted and vague characters - Jig and the American. While their big struggle and conflict is never explained, it is implied that these two characters were or are in a relationship, Jig is pregnant, and the American wants her to have an abortion. The silent treatment Jig gives the American and the requests made by the American show us their personalities. The hesitation for both characters to talk about the issue at hand shows the often delicate nature of relationships when unexpected but traumatically changing situations face them.
The debate about abortion is a vocal one, with many different arguments 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 like murder as it prevents a child from being born, while pro-choice advocates think that abortion gives women control over their own bodies. While there are very compelling arguments for the banning of abortion, the procedure itself must stay a legal one.
One of the most compelling arguments for keeping abortion legal is that it is often medically required to abort fetuses for the health of the mother. While this is one of the 7% of "hard cases" where abortion is usually necessary, the legality of abortion gives a medically effective and healthy procedure that can help increase the changes that mothers will survive. Often, mothers over 35 run into medical problems that risk 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" (Greene and Ecker 2006, p. 178).
Other hard cases used as reasons to get an abortion include rape and incest; in these occasions, these women have had sex against their will, and they are now pregnant with a baby they were in no way prepared to have. Pro-life advocates would say that these women would be forced to carry these children to term, possibly being traumatized because of circumstances out of their control. By keeping abortion legal, it lets mothers have control over what happens to their body, especially in times where the pregnancy was in no way the fault of the mother. (Annas, 2007).
Keeping abortion legal also has many other advantages; for one, it realy cuts down on the number of dangerous and poorly-done abortions that are done without good medical equipment and personnel. If abortion were legalized, many say that crime would increase, as desperate women look for ways of aborting their children that can end up being dangerous also, putting their body at risk to perform an abortion without the required knowledge (Donohue and Levitt, 2001). With abortion being legal, the practice benefits from being looked over, which increases the chances of operations being done safely.
The most important reason, however, should be the importance of freedom to an individual. In today's age, with medical technology having gotten to the point where people can have fully developed sex lives and the ability to plan their family, the banning of abortion just takes away rights that all people should have if the technology and resources exist. Women should be able to control their bodies and choose when and how they would like to have children, not be held back from making that choice.
Instead of banning abortion, work should be done 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 still has not worked to reduce teen pregnancies (Checkland and Wong, 1999). 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 best contraceptive method currently available. Nearly 12 million women in America use the pill (82% of women studied), making it a very common and widely used method of contraception (Mosher et al., 2004). With that in mind, it is still possible to become pregnant even through perfect use of the pill; therefore, abortion must stay a legal option so that those who need to have the operation done are still able to. Opponents of supplying birth control for individuals think that it places an extra burden on the health care system to give teenagers oral contraceptives. Expanding the creation and prescription of birth control pills and other methods of contraception would cost extra money. It would also 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 informing 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, especially when they are responsible for them. As a result, it makes sense that they should be told about an aspect of their life that can result in big changes to their family (like pregnancy) (Checkland & Wong, 1999).
Having a child is an expensive investment that can cost more money than a teenager 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 task, costing hundreds of dollars and taking young women through expensive medical procedures. There is also the chance for emotional trauma and anxiety that come from the abortion of a child that simply cannot be cared for if carried to term (Checkland and Wong, 1999). With these things in mind, it can be very clear why it would cost less to have a teenager on the pill rather than get pregnant, no matter the outcome.
There are those who think that giving birth control to teenagers will encourage sexual activity, as they will think they can just have sex whenever they want as a result of the birth control. Opponents note the risks of pregnancy as a way to stop teenage sex, due to the financial and emotional damage a child can have on a jobless child. Therefore, if oral contraceptives were given to teenagers, it would basically eliminate the danger of pregnancy, leaving nothing stopping them from having sex all the time. There is the problem stated by opponents of birth control for teenagers that it accepts their sexual activity.
There is no real, direct link to the availability of birth control and frequency of sex among teenagers. According to statistics, teenage sex rates stay fairly even, and it is pregnancy rates that drop as a result of the pill being used. This statement is often said to be a false claim meant to paint those who are interested in their reproductive health as just looking for a way to have sex without consequences. This does not look at the emotional consequences of sexual frustration, or all manner of emotional and mental barriers that also keep teenagers from becoming sexual. The connection between the pill and being "easy" is a weak one, and it should not keep those who wish to have responsible sex from doing so.
There are many non-sexual health benefits found in oral contraceptives for those who take them. Apart from stopping pregnancy, many women take them in order to ease the strength of their periods; they also lower the risk of getting ovarian and endometrial cancers by nearly 50% (Bast et al., 2007). Death rates in general are also lowered in women who take oral contraceptives, making the giving of the pill more than just a sexual health concern – it also positively affects general health.
In conclusion, abortion should remain a legal option for women in America. Many of the arguments behind the opposition movement to abortion shames men and women who have sex outside of marriage, or for pleasure, as sluts who are doing something they should not be doing (Finer, 2005). They treat the fact that people are sexually active as the problem, and seek to punish them by not allowing them the safety nets that are legally available to protect them and their interests. If abortion were to become illegal, it would take away an option for women that is often medically needed to survive, allows them to go after their own freedom and family choices, and reduces crime in America. With this in mind, it is a moral and practical need that abortion remain legal.
Annas, G.J. The Supreme Court and abortion rights. New England Journal of Medicine 356(21): 2201. 2007.
Bast, RC, Brewer M, and Zou C. “Prevention and early detection of ovarian cancer: mission impossible?” Recent Results Cancer Res.174 (2007): 91-100.
Checkland, D., and Wong, J. Teen pregnancy and parenting: social and ethical issues. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1999.
Donohue, J.J., and Levitt, S.D. The impact of legalized abortion on crime. Quarterly Journal of Economics 116(2): 379-420. 2001.
Finer, L. et. al. Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 37(3): 110. 2005.
Greene, M.F., and Ecker, J.L. Abortion, health, and the law. New England Journal of Medicine 350: 178-179. 2004.
Hemingway, Ernest. "Hills Like White Elephants." Men Without Women, 1927. Print.
Mosher WD, Martinez GM, Chandra A, Abma JC, Willson SJ. "Use of contraception and use of family planning services in the United States: 1982–2002.” Adv Data 350: 1–36. 2004.