Abortion has been a vivid debate since the late 19th century, but a legal issue since the early 5th century. The question that arises in my mind is not “why has this problem not been eradicated,” though that question often appears, the question that arises in my mind is “How long has the autonomy of a woman been controlled by the presiding government?” Autonomy is, as defined by The World English Dictionary, “freedom to determine one’s own actions, behaviour, etc.” So, why then, do governments feel that it is their duty to rule over a woman’s body, more specifically the fetus growing within her?
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So, from this point on I would start a paragraph with a detailed history of all political involvement in abortion. After that, I would rip apart that history and place some of my observations or opinions in there. I would then write a paragraph concerning America’s perspective on abortion and a brief history of that. Afterwards, I would insert a detailed account of all the people who tried to change these rules. Lastly, I would end with an overview of the information I presented and hone in on the specifics I thought were important.
As has been mentioned above, abortion has always been a disputable issue. In Ancient Greece, there were two views on the matter. Some philosophers regarded it as a murder while others claimed that embryos were “of a different moral order” and, therefore, abortion was not homicide (Luker, 1984, p. 11). In the Roman Empire, abortion was not considered to be a murder at all. Though it was regarded as something negative (but permissible), there were no specific laws on the matter.
Interestingly, early Christians had rather similar point of view. It is well-known that people were “actively pro-natalist” and they were against contraception, abortion, homosexuality, etc. (Luker, 1984, p. 12). At the same time, if the pregnancy was a result of sinful actions (prostitution, adultery), abortion was permissible. In the 12th century, church scholars agreed that abortion at early stages of pregnancy was moral and sinless. In the nineteenth century, early abortions were also permissible in the United States (Luker, 1984). However, the twentieth century brought certain changes.
America’s Perspective in the Twentieth Century
The development of medicine brought the issue to the fore in the late 19th century. When the mother’s life was at stake, both parties agreed that it is important to save the woman’s life. However, while people were accumulating knowledge on the development of the embryo, people (especially physicians) became more convinced that abortion was homicide. The second part of the nineteenth century was the age of the movement “right-to-life” (Luker, 1984, p. 14) It had been believed that the embryo was not “alive”, but in the late 19th century people started thinking that embryos were “morally speaking, simply not as alive as the mother” (Luker, 1984, p. 25). Apart from this, physicians did not have appropriate techniques to conduct the procedure, which led to many deaths of women. The abortion was banned.
The development of new safe techniques as well as the spread of feminist ideas led to the new stage of the history of abortion. In the 1930s, the US physicians managed to develop techniques which made the procedure one of the safest surgical operations (Luker, 1984). Nonetheless, the US society developed strong position against abortion. The US society was religious and rather conservative in the first part of the twentieth century (Wolbrecht, 2010). At the same time, the movement for women rights started acquiring more supporters in the USA.
Notably, the US parties held different positions on the matter. Democrats supported women’s right (including abortion) in the first half of the twentieth century, while Republicans claimed there was need to protect the US family. Though, in the 1970s the two parties started supporting the women’s right movement (Wolbrecht, 2010). One of the reasons for such a change was that the feminist movement which acquired wide support within the US society. It was impossible to ignore issues related to females’ life. Two camps appeared. This opposition remains up to these days.
On one hand, people claim that abortion is a sinful action similar to homicide. Opponents of abortion stress that embryos are living beings and abortion is a crime against a new life. On the other hand, feminists claim that pregnancy is a state of a female’s body and embryo is a part of a female body. Therefore, it is but natural that it is the right of a woman to make the choice. It is important to consider the position of the major stakeholders involved to understand the nature of the ongoing debate.
As far as abortion is concerned, females are major stakeholders. Admittedly, female’s life often depends on the choice she makes in this respect. Noteworthy, there is no unity among women on the matter. Thus, female opponents claim that it is a sin to terminate pregnancy, which is one of the major goals of a female life (Dillon & Savage, 2006). These viewpoints prevail among women living in rural areas of the USA. These are often adult married women (Dillon & Savage, 2006). This group of women pertains to the middle class in the vast majority of cases.
These females often have to take their stand to make younger generations make the ‘right’ choices (Dillon & Savage, 2006). This group of females often tries to make teenage girls and boys accept their viewpoint and let the child be born. Admittedly, arguments of abortion supporters affect these women as they have to come up with new and effective arguments of their own. Younger generations are more tolerant and support abortions (Dillon & Savage, 2006). Opponents claim that pregnancy is a gift which cannot be given back.
They claim that it is immoral to kill a new life. It is also necessary to note that these women are against premarital sexual relationships. Admittedly, if a woman is married, there is no need in abortion as married people are ready to such kind of responsibility. Thus, abortion is a crime caused by a sin. Women in rural areas resort to assistance of priests. The US society is still very religious and priests often influence people’s choices. Again, this influence is stronger in rural areas (Dillon & Savage, 2006). However, cooperation with mothers helps priests affect younger generations.
Apart from these groups, politicians (often females) also tend to promote anti-abortion ideas. As has been mentioned above, political parties have changed their views on the matter and there are both supporters and opponents with each party. However, it is necessary to note that politicians often try to satisfy their voters’ needs to encourage them to vote. Numerous polls have been held throughout decades to understand public opinion. Clearly, it is not homogeneous and political opposition is predetermined by the region. Thus, in rural areas female politicians tend to oppose abortion and support anti-abortion laws.
Nonetheless, many females support the idea of abortion due to a variety of reasons. In the first place, feminists claim that this is the woman’s choice and she is responsible for her body as well as embryo, which is a part of her body. Feminists claim that men tend to take control over females’ life (Wolbrecht, 2010). Feminists are against the world where a woman is regarded as a part of household and machinery for children production. This group of supporters stresses that females have the right to have no family at all and focus on their career.
Apart from feminists, young females also support the concept. Teenagers or young adults are often unprepared to create a family. This unpreparedness is manifested in all spheres, i.e. financial, psychological, and physical. If they are forced to get married and give birth to a child, this family is often doomed as the partners are not ready for such responsibility. Besides, young females are often left alone with their problem as boys often alienate themselves. Thus, teenage girls, if they choose to keep the baby, have to bring up the child by themselves which is very difficult due to recent financial crises.
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Finally, there is another group within the group of female supporters of abortion. Young women, who try to pursue their careers or continue their education, claim that pregnancy is a state of female body which can and should be controlled by the woman. These females claim that medicine has achieved a lot and pregnancy can be identified at early stages. Abortion has become a safe surgical procedure that does not harm the woman’s life. Therefore, it is but natural that the woman can terminate the state she is not ready for. Of course, these females claim that embryo is not a living being, but certain tissue at certain stages, and, thus, abortion cannot be regarded as a murder.
Nonetheless, opponents’ arguments make these females’ effort quite useless as abortion is still illegal and politicians are not ready to change this. They are afraid of losing votes of those who oppose abortion. Thus, proponents of abortion have to continue their struggle for their right to make choices.
To sum up, it is possible to note that abortion has always been a disputable issue which is yet to be solved. However, development of medicine and technology enables people to look at the issue from a new angle. Females are still divided into two camps as there are opponents and supporters of abortion. However, they have always shared the ideas related to threats to mother’s life. Both parties admit that abortion is the necessary procedure if there is a threat to mother’s health. If women have agreed on this, they may come to shared views on abortion in general. Perhaps, the twenty-first century will become the age of women’s liberty to make major choices in their lives.
Dillon, M., & Savage, S. (2006). Values and religion in rural America: Attitudes toward abortion and same-sex relations. Carsey Institute, 1(1), 1-10. Web.
Luker, K. (1984). Abortion and the politics of motherhood. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Wolbrecht, C. (2010). The politics of women’s rights: Parties, positions, and change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.