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“An estimated 43% of all women will have at least one abortion by the time they are 45 years old” (Farrell 1). This statistic was reported by a sociology researcher named Farrell in a global report on abortion. To show how widespread abortion is practiced globally, it is reported that there are about 42 million abortions done in each year and more than 115,000 abortions done every day.
Almost half of these abortions are illegal (Farrell 1). Certain researchers note that, abortion is practically the most common surgical procedure in the world today because regardless of the laws or moral issues surrounding the issue, abortion is a very common practice for women worldwide.
Abortion is reported in all social classes, genders, religions, races (and other forms of social strata). In fact, history shows that abortion is a practice that started long time ago. Almost all societies practiced abortion, including ancient societies such as Egypt, Greece, Rome and other medieval societies (McFarlane 803). Some researchers such as Ginsburg (1) explain that, abortion is nothing short of human behavior.
However, because of the ethical and moral issues surrounding the practice, it is estimated that two out of three abortions done in the world are illegal. The illegality of abortion is further marred by the fact that most illegal abortions are done by untrained providers and in non-clinical environments. Illegal abortions are reported to claim about 78,000 women annually (Farrell 1).
The statistics are even higher for women who have become infertile or injured as a result of unsafe abortions since it is reported that, for every abortion-related death, there are several infertile and injured women. The number of unwanted children born from unwanted pregnancies is even higher. This phenomenon leads to child neglect and increased poverty and child abuse levels.
The number of women who procure abortions sometimes recur because current statistics show that about 35 of every group of 1000 women procure abortion annually (McFarlane 803). Statistics also show that, there is no significant difference in the number of abortions done in developed and developing nations, but the illegality (or legality) of the practice has an important role to play in ensuring the safety of the procedure. In countries where abortion is illegal, it is often very unsafe to do an abortion.
Accessibility is also an important issue in the abortion debate because a third of women seeking abortion services are said to lack access to legal abortions (McFarlane 803). The rate of deaths for this group of women is estimates at 330 deaths per every group of 1000 women who lack access to safe abortion (Farrell 3). In countries where abortion is legal, there are very few incidents of death. For instance, America reports only 1% of abortion-related complications and deaths because abortion is legal.
The impact of abortion in the society is adverse. For instance, there are some women who are either too embarrassed or afraid to seek hospital services (after procuring abortion and suffering complications). However, it is estimated that when this group of women seek hospital services, they are likely to take up two-thirds of all maternity beds (Farrell 5). The significance of this fact is to show the extent that abortion-related complications can compromise maternity and emergency services.
The legality (or illegality) of abortion is deemed to the main make-or-break factor for safe or unsafe abortions because illegal abortions amount to unsafe abortions. However, even in places where abortion is legal, women may still be unable to procure safe abortion (and resort to unsafe abortions).
The sheer number of abortion-related practices in the world has led to intense debates regarding the moral and legal issues surrounding abortion. However, somebody may ask how the world came to this situation because throughout history, abortion has been perfectly legal. The 19th century marked a change in ideology because it is during this time that most countries declared abortion illegal. On each side of the debate, there is a pro-choice and pro-life movement.
The pro-choice group suggests that, women should be allowed to choose if they should have an abortion (or not) while the pro-life group suggests that, abortions should be illegal because they infringe on the right to human life (Farrell 1). The pro-life group is synonymous to anti-abortion stances but the pro-choice group is synonymous to pro-abortion stances.
Due to the raging debate regarding abortion, different people, institutions and even countries have adopted different views about abortion. For instance, most religious groups do not support the arguments for abortion because they believe it contravenes the right to life.
Moreover, religious groups observe that, legalizing abortion is likely to promote immorality. In their view, legalizing abortion is unethical. Some countries share this view and have prohibited all forms of abortion. Such countries include “Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Malta, Uruguay, Vatican City” (Farrell 13).
In America, abortion has ordinarily been deemed legal (after 1973) when it was established that, many abortion-related complications were reported in state hospitals. Though the legalization of abortion has significantly led to increased abortion-related complications, the right of women to choose abortion (or not) has been greatly hampered by pro-life crusaders.
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The lifting of restrictions on abortion was only realized after the Second World War when certain communist states like Russia made abortion legal. Most western countries liberalized their laws to allow the same. The trend is quickly spreading to most developing states around the world (Farrell 18).
This paper is a critical analysis of the abortion debate. Comprehensively, the paper includes the literature review section, critical analysis section and the conclusion section. The literature review section reports on the arguments surrounding the abortion debate but the critical analysis section gives a personal account of why abortion should be legalized. A conclusion summarizing the findings of the study finalizes the debate.
The abortion debate has torn legislators and societies right in the middle. Its arguments can be perceived from political, medical, ethical and moral points of views (McCoyd 133). Pro-life crusaders argue that, since abortions are undertaken after life is formed, terminating pregnancies is nothing short of committing murder.
From this understanding, pro-life crusaders perceive abortion to be contrary to the doctrines of “sanctity of life” because it does not respect human life. This argument has been supported by the perception that civilized societies should not allow one person to take the life of another. Reference is made to court or judicial systems that punish murder when one person kills another. Abortion is therefore perceived to be no different from conventional murders and it should be punished in law.
Since pro-life crusaders have encountered opposition from pro-choice crusaders (regarding what they propose should be done to unwanted children), pro-life crusaders argue that adoption should be used as the main alternative to abortion (McCoyd 133).
The argument behind this assertion is the perception that adoption and abortion achieve the same results. The concept of an unwanted child is therefore not tolerated by pro-life crusaders because they give an example of more than 1.5 million American families that need to adopt a child (McCoyd 133).
The numerous death, injury and infertility statistics associated with abortion is also another argument that has been used by pro-life crusaders to campaign against abortion because they suggest that death or injury statistics (related to abortion) can be easily eliminated if adoption is not condoned.
In cases where rape or incest has occurred, pro-life crusaders note that performing abortion equals to punishing the innocent child for the crime. Instead, they suggest that, perpetrators of the crime should be punished (and not the children). Where conception has not occurred, pro-life crusaders advocate for the use of medical techniques to avoid pregnancy. Pro-life crusaders also warn against using abortion as a form of contraception because it is not similar to other types of contraceptives (McCoyd 133).
They distinguish abortion from other types of contraceptives because abortion occurs when life is already formed while other types of contraceptives are taken when life is not formed. To counter the claims of pro-choice crusaders who suggest that, women should be given the choice to decide if they want to be pregnant or not; pro-life crusaders suggest that contraceptive use should be used always, and if it is not possible to use contraceptives, abstinence should be practiced (McCoyd 134).
There is also a “tax” clause associated with the abortion debate whereby, if abortion is legalized, tax payers would be required to fund the procedure. People who are against abortion cite the hesitance by tax payers to fund abortion.
This argument has especially been used to voice negative tax payer’s sentiments about abortion in the US. The large population of young women who procure abortion has also been cited by anti-abortion crusaders as a weakness of the abortion debate because this group of young women is not in a position to make mature decisions about abortion.
Many citations have been made regarding the regrets of many young women who procured abortion at a young age. These regrets have mainly been attributed to the psychological pain associated with abortion.
Advocates for abortion however have different views about the practice. Regarding the argument that abortion amounts to murder (because a human being is killed), abortion crusaders note that, most abortions occur during the first trimester of conception (McCoyd 134).
Within this trimester, the fetus is normally perceived to be dependent on the mother and therefore, it cannot be regarded as having a life of its own. Abortion crusaders also draw a strong distinction between personhood and human life. In this argument, pro-abortion crusaders note that, abortion cannot be deemed to be murder because if there is life in the human “seed”, then those that get thrown away are also murdered.
The argument that adoption is a good alternative to abortion is also contested by pro-abortion crusaders because they observe that the decision to adopt (or not) is still made by the mother. In this regard, they note that, adoption is not different from abortion because they are both choices made by a woman regarding if to keep a child (or not).
Current statistics support the argument by pro-choice crusaders because it is reported that, very few women choose to give up their babies for adoption after birth (McCoyd 133). Among white mothers, it is estimated that, less than 3% would give up their babies for adoption and among black mothers, it is estimated that, less than 2% would give up their babies for adoption (these statistics apply to unmarried women) (Graves 31).
Another argument made by pro-abortion activists is that, abortion is a perfectly safe procedure and it has less than 0.5% risk of complication (Graves 31). Moreover, as mentioned in earlier sections of this paper, it is documented that majority of abortions (more than 88%) are done within the first trimester. This period reduces the risk of suffering severe medical complications. The low risk of medical complication undermines the argument that abortion increases infertility and long-term medical-related fertility problems.
Since abortion has been voiced as a viable procedure for getting rid of unwanted babies (born from rape and incest), pro-choice activists say that, forcing such victims to have babies is likely to cause more psychological harm (Graves 31). Instances are given where victims are too traumatized to report rape or incest, thereby minimizing the possibility of preventing pregnancies.
For instance, after-pills are noted to be ineffective in situations where victims are too traumatized to think of contraceptives. Sometimes, it is observed that, victims are not even aware that they are pregnant and therefore, they cannot prevent pregnancies. Such situations call for abortion.
The argument that abortion is widely misused as a form of contraception has been disputed by some pro-choice experts because they note that, even with responsible contraceptive use, a woman can still be pregnant.
Statistics show that only 8% of women who procure abortions are not subscribed to any contraceptive measure (Graves 31). The above percentage shows that, most women who seek abortion are under some form of contraception. The argument that, women abuse abortion as some form of contraceptive is therefore widely disputed by pro-choice activities.
Pro-choice activists have even associated the abortion debate to the civil rights debate. They argue that, the decision to deny women the right to abort (or not) is a contravention of civil rights. Denying women the right to choose if to have children or not is therefore a contravention of their right to reproductive health.
Equally, this situation could be equated to dictating if women should have the right to have children or not. For instance, if the government is allowed to force women to have children, this situation is not different from a situation where the government forces women to take contraceptives or sterilize themselves.
Since most women who procure abortions are young, pro-choice activists note that forcing teenagers to have babies once they are pregnant is likely to cause a future social catastrophe. Evidence is given of the high school drop-out rates, inadequate prenatal care, overreliance on public assistance to raise children and the increase in health problems and divorce rates (among teenage mums) as just a few reasons for the legalization of abortion (Graves 32).
The taxpayer question advanced by pro-life crusaders is also heavily contested by pro-choice activists who equate funding abortion to funding a war. Their argument is centered on the fact that, legalizing abortion would do nothing more than offer poor women the same level of medical choices as rich women. Alternatively, they suggest that, the voting booth would be the right place to voice personal concerns.
Moreover, the psychological toll associated with abortion is also equated to any other form of stress that plagues people every day. The American Psychological Association also cites studies showing that there is no concrete evidence of post-abortion syndrome in women who have had abortions (Graves 35). From this understanding, pro-abortion activists do not see any strong reason why abortion should not be legalized.
Though abortion is a multifaceted concept, the main argument behind abortion is if women should be given the right to have children or not. The freedom to make choice is normally guaranteed by the law but abortion is a unique issue because some people perceive it to be an infringement of the right to life as well.
However, the main issue that people should be thinking about revolves around the “big picture” behind abortion. Say, abortion was made illegal and women were forced to keep their children if they got pregnant. Such a situation would obviously lead to an increase in the number of unwanted children and a resultant decrease in the standards of living (especially in developing countries). This assertion is true because it would be difficult to take care of unplanned babies.
There is already a raging debate discussing the increase in world population viz-a-viz the planet’s capacity to sustain human life. The world is finite and the human population should also be perceived to be finite (and not infinite like pro-life advocates would argue). The abortion debate should therefore be analyzed from its potential to cause a social, economic and political disaster if populations are not checked.
In today’s world of high inflation, and tough economic times, it is not advisable to force women to have children (just) because they are pregnant. Abortion would give women and families the right to choose if they should have children or not. In this manner, they will be able to evaluate their circumstances and determine if they should support another life (or not).
Since abortion is a controversial issue and is subject to culture, its dynamics should be considered. Having a “blanket” policy of illegality regarding abortion is not sensitive to human dynamics like culture, socio-economic status, educational levels and the likes. However, giving people the right to make a choice is a sensitive way to accommodate varying points of views.
For instance, there would be no harm for people (or cultures) who view abortion as a contravention of the right to life because they will have the freedom to keep their children. However, people who want to be given the right to choose if to have a baby or not would lose their right to do so if abortion was deemed illegal. Legalizing abortion is therefore a social and economic freedom that works for all. It is a fair justice system that respects the rights and views of all.
After weighing the arguments for and against abortion, this paper notes that it is advisable for societies to respect the right of choice because it accommodates varying points of view (which is the hallmark of democracy). People should therefore be given the right to choose if they want to have babies (or not) because they should be in a position to determine their destinies. The government should not be the one to make such a decision. In this regard, abortion should be legalized.
Farrell, Courtney. The Abortion Debate. New York: ABDO, 2008. Print.
Ginsburg, Faye. Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate In An American Community. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998. Print.
Graves, Earl. “More Fuel for Abortion Fire.” Black Enterprise 3 October. 1990: 31-40. Print.
McCoyd, Judith. “Women in No Man’s Land: The Abortion Debate in the USA and
Women Terminating Desired Pregnancies Due to Foetal Anomaly.” The British Journal of Social Work 40.1 (2008): 133-153. Print.
McFarlane, Deborah. “The Abortion Debate in the World Arena.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 26.4 (2001): 803-806. Print.