One of the most controversial issues ever over time is abortion and whether women have the right to have one or not. The debate has become even more intense after the Roe v. Wade court case. Opposing viewpoint collide, based on one’s religion, morals and political affiliations, among others. To answer the perpetual dilemma ‘to have an abortion or not’ is always difficult and subjective. However, introducing the health problems deriving from having an abortion is a more objective approach, given that projected medical-related problems are based on solid evidence and facts. This paper discusses the possible reasons why a woman may decide to have an abortion, the potential outcomes from her decision, as well as the health complications that occur on an emotional, physical and psychological level.
Ever since the U.S Supreme Court has decided to legalize abortion, in 1973, in the Roe v. Wade case, the abortion debate is continuous. Opposing viewpoints contradict, and, from what it seems, they will continue denying one another for long. One is certain. After the Roe v. Wade decision, a lot has changed. People take a stand based on the premises of values, religion, political affiliation and morals. Since the answer to the question whether abortion is the right or wrong decision to make is completely subjective, this paper will mainly focus on the benefits and disadvantages from having an abortion, in terms of women’s health, both physical and mental. Finally, the abortion debate will be looked from other viewpoints, including religious and societal.
Before the Roe v. Wade decision, many women that had an illegal abortion confronted many health problems. In the 1950s and the 1960s, the annual number of abortions that were illegally made ranged from 200,000 to the profound 1.2 million (Rock and Jones, 2003). Many women would die during their unlicensed and illegal abortion while others had to face haemorrhage. Others were seriously injured and lost their reproductive capabilities. In the US alone, a woman is four times more likely to die from an illegal abortion, than a woman that opts for a legal one (Joffe, 2013). Indicatively, in New York, just 12 months before New York decided to legalize abortion, 23 percent of all hospital admission due to pregnancy-related issues had to do with complications from illegal abortions (Institute of Medicine, 1975). Many women were also admitted to hospitals for infections that were the outcome of having an illegal abortion. Statistics show that this rate had dropped by 75 percent, in states like California after they had legalized abortion (Seward et.al, 1973). However, the question still remains: Should women have an abortion?
Most unwanted pregnancies occur mainly due to lack of access to safe reproductive healthcare services. Consequently, many women lose their lives as part of the implications of an unwanted pregnancy. A study under the name Promises to Keep: The Toll of Unintended Pregnancies on Women’s Lives in the Developing World, showcases a sad truth (Krisberg, 2002). The deaths from unplanned pregnancies have dramatically increased and now reach 700,000 annually (Krisberg, 2002). Unfortunately, family planning and reproductive healthcare services rely on federal funding, mainly Medicaid and Title X, to sustain providing their services to those in need (Liebelson, 2012). However, clinics that provide the aforementioned services, plus birth control lack the necessary funds to help them keep their doors open to people of all ages, sex, and economic status (By the Editors, 2012). Offering preventive measures would possibly make women more responsible for their lives and able to make better decisions. However, if she chooses not to maintain a pregnancy, it would be best if she could do so without putting her life at risk, via unsafe options that would jeopardize her health.
There are situations that make abortion a necessity. If the mother’s life is at stake, then abortion is the only solution, which is a notion that some pro-life advocates also embrace, like the National Right to Life Committee (Painter, 2012). According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there is a long list defining the cases when abortion must be executed, so the mother’s life is saved (Painter, 2012). In short, mothers that experience severe infections and heart failures are advised to have an abortion (Painter, 2012). Also, women that have an ectopic pregnancy, which is the leading factor for maternal mortality in the US are better off with an abortion (Cain, Stulberg, Dahlquist, Lauderdale, 2013). In ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg is not implanted on the walls of the uterus, but the fallopian tube and it could lead to the mother’s death, based on facts coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Cain, Stulberg, Dahlquist, Lauderdale, 2013). Other medical instances that require an abortion include invasive cancer that, if found in a pregnant woman, it could severely harm the fetus (Marchick, 2011). Chemotherapy and radiation may result to the fetus’ serious birth defects, setting aside the fact that both the mother and the baby might not make it and decease (Marchick, 2011). Finally, a miscarriage could also possibly destroy the woman’s capability to have babies, due to health effects. In all these cases, abortion should occur.
Another reason women chose to have an abortion is due to their financial state. Being a mother could be an economic burden some women may not be able to put up with. Indicatively, the teenage pregnancy rates in states with high rates of poverty, like Mississippi, is dramatically high, mainly due to the low living and poverty standards (Pappas, 2013). However, the pregnancy rates are not high only in impoverished states. In states like Minnesota, abortions exceeded 13,000, in 2007, and more than half the women that chose for an abortion during 2007 reasoned their decision on economic concerns (Associated, 2008). They simply could not afford to have a baby and cover all the medical expenses, for starts, to have a child delivered and then raised. They could not also afford obtaining contraception, which would most likely lead to an unwanted pregnancy at some point of their live. Many would want to pursue their educational aspirations, than dealing with motherhood since it has become too difficult to be able to attend a university post-graduation program and have a child to look after. If those women are not provided with the option of an abortion, they could fall into poverty. It is evidenced that women that had exercised their choice and had an abortion were three times less likely to result in poverty and that women that had been turned down from a clinic to have an abortion, for legal reasons, found themselves on public assistance or welfare a year after (Sankin). Consequently, depriving women of the right to have an abortion could be a burden on the state, too.
If poverty is a possible outcome for women that do not have an abortion, as previously mentioned, with the reformed Affordable Care Act that was passed on in 2012 and will be implemented in 2014, women that have an abortion will most likely find themselves trapped in a very difficult situation. Unquestionably, the world does not have much tolerance to abortion. In the aforementioned Act, there is a section called section #1313, according to which, abortion policy changes and federal funds will no longer be allowed to be utilized for abortion services (ncsl.org). This, in turns, brings changes to health insurance transactions. Abortion coverage has been dramatically decreased and limited, and at least 17 states have already enacted laws to support that (ncsl.org). If women decide to have an abortion, they would simply have to have the necessary funds to proceed with their decision themselves, without expecting any significant help from the state, government and legislature.
On the other hand, there is also strong evidence that a woman may need to face many complications on an emotional, physical and psychological level, deriving from one abortion or more. According to national statistics, one fifth of women that had an abortion suffer from serious complications after their abortion (Frank et.al, 1985). Those complications range from bleeding, chronic pains in the abdominal area, fevers, vomiting, minor infections and gasto-intestinal conditions, to hemorrhage, embolism, convulsion, endotoxin shock, and complications from the anesthesia (Reardon, 1987). Other than that, abortion could leave the woman inadvertently sterile, and threaten her life, especially if she is infected with a venereal disease during her abortion (Reardon, 1987).
Premature births are another possible issue that women that had an abortion may need to cope with. Sometimes, during the abortion procedure, in order to remove the baby from the uterus, the cervix is forced to open, leaving the cervical muscle injured or torn (Iffy, 1983). When this happens, the cervix muscle becomes weakened, and in future pregnancies it fails to hold the baby as it develops in the uterus (Iffy, 1983). In short, the cervix muscle could open prematurely, leading to a premature birth.
Women that have an abortion run an increased risk of developing mental problems, after an abortion. Research has shown that almost half the women that had an abortion had developed nervous disorders, sleep disorders, felt remorse for their decision and had to take psychotropic medicine to treat their mental conditions (Ashton, 1980). Anxiety and irritability are other common symptoms among women that had an abortion, mainly because they feel, at some point, their decision conflicting inside with their moral values (Ramah International.org). Some women are also found avoiding any though that has to do with babies and any social interaction where babies are involved (Ramah International.org). This is, possibly, the time when they grief for the unborn baby, which, one started, never comes to an end as it is combined with guilt. It is not by chance that many women remember their abortion at the anniversary date of the abortion as if it were only a day ago. This sense of grief could, in fact, change the relationships of the woman that had an abortion, leading even to divorce and separation (Barnett, et al, 1992).
A huge health-related matter that prevents women from having an abortion is the connection between abortion and breast cancer. Indicatively, a biologist and endocrinologist, namely Dr. Joel Brind, that has deeply researched the topic introduces some reports on the matter (Columbia.edu). When a woman gets pregnant, the breast cells responsible for lactation, the Terminal End Buds, tend to develop and grow if the pregnancy is terminated, increasing the possibilities for a woman to have cancer later on in her life (Columbia.edu). When a woman has a full-term pregnancy, those cells make her somewhat immune to cancer, given that the Terminal End Buds, when exposed to carcinogens become cancerous, unlike the mature cells that may get injured but not cancerous (Columbia.edu). It becomes obvious that having an abortion could be the cause of a series of problems that affect the woman’s health both physically and mentally.
According to the University of Washington, Women’s Health department, 50 percent of women living in the US will have an abortion at some point in their lives for a variety of reasons (Bartholomew, n.d). Apart from affordability reasons, where a woman simply cannot afford to have a baby, she also opts for an abortion because she does not feel ready to become a parent or because she is not married, or because she will be a single-parent, which is a situation that does not appeal to her (Bartholomew, n.d). Others prefer to have an abortion because they feel ashamed others to know she is pregnant, or because she already has the number of children she always wanted. Finally, there is the portion of women population that do not want to have a baby that is the outcome of incest or rape (Bartholomew,n.d).
In the course of the abortion debate, there are those that believe that women have the right to decide for their body, and those that think that abortion is a murder and is nobody’s right to take a life, even if that life lives within their very body. Religious beliefs play a significant role in shaping morals and values, and it is hard for pro-choice advocates to fight them.
Women chose for an abortion of a wide variety of reasons, including financial reasons. Some women cannot afford to have a baby, are ashamed people to know they are pregnant, they do not want to raise a child alone and be single-parents, or because pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Having an abortion increases the medical risks of a women’s health just as much as much as proceeding with a pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother or the fetus. Sometimes, it seems like a one-way street. On the other hand, people are called to make choices every day of their lives; choices that define them. Opposing viewpoints insist on accepting what life has provided us with, based on sociocultural and religious values.
No matter what the outcome of this perpetual controversy may be, one thing is for sure; harm is done, one way of another; and, no matter which road a woman chooses to cross, there will be consequences and fallouts that the woman will have to bear for the rest of her entire life.
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