Abortion must be a legal and attainable procedure for women throughout the United States. Abortion has been legal in the United States for over twenty-three years. Abortion challenges the civil rights of the mother and the fetus which she bears. To deny abortion is denying the mother certain civil rights. Abortion is a safe procedure for women, and because abortion is their choice they will not be stuck with a hindrance on their life. During the past twenty-five years abortion has become one of the most debated controversies in the Unite States’ history.
There are pro-life people and pro-choice people. People who are pro-choice believe that women hold the right to abort a pregnancy, but people who are pro-life believe that abortion is wrong and unjust to the fetus. There are many reasons why women decide to have abortions. Some women have abortions because of health complications, some have marital problems, and some lack responsibility. Whatever the reasons a woman decides to have an abortion, it seems only justified that she should be able to make decisions in regards to her life and body. When pondering issues surrounding abortion, many questions come to mind. Is a fetus a human being? Is abortion physically and mentally safe for women? And finally, should abortion be legal? It is only after exploring these questions can a person justify their position on abortion.
Abortion is defined by a decidedly objective source (the dictionary) as “a fatally premature expulsion of a fetus from the womb” (Webster 2). Abortions are performed in a variety of ways. It dates back to BC times. Ancient abortions usually consisted of mildly poisoning a pregnant mother. The poison was hoped to be just strong enough to kill the fetus, yet mild enough to keep the woman alive. Also, sometimes women would receive physical blows to their abdomen an effort to kill the fetus. Since both of these methods were very dangerous for women, infanticide was a much more popular form of abortion. Infanticide is grossly just the killing of the baby directly after birth (3 Gilbert). J. Gilbert, the author of an informative Texas state web-page, states that some time after 1750, a new procedure was introduced to abortion. The new procedure consisted of probing objects through the cervix and into the uterus of the women to accomplish the abortion (4 Gilbert). Laurence Tribe, author of Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes, states that the court case Roe v. Wade revolutionized the legality of abortion. The case set boundaries and regulations illustrating how much power the mother and state possess in deciding whether to abort a pregnancy (12 Tribe).
A major question that strikes at the heart of abortion legality is ?When is an embryo considered a life or human being?? Many people argue that life begins at the point of conception. Bonnie Steinbock, an author who considers herself an expert on fetuses and their legal rights, says, “Conception is the joining of the male and female sex cells which have twenty-three chromosomes each.” The process of conception takes twelve hours, at which time the egg is completely fertilized and becomes known as a zygote. Distinct and unique characteristics of a person are determined at the time of conception. After the time of conception, until death, nothing will be added or removed from the genetic make-up of an individual (200 Steinbock). In other words, everything physically and chemically is determined shortly after the point of conception. Being alive means that an object grows, develops, and matures. A zygote, from the time of conception grows, develops parts of its body, and replaces its own dying cells. The heart of the zygote begins beating just eighteen days after conception (198 Steinbock). This is often well before the mother even realizes that she is pregnant. After three months, all of the fetus’s organs are formed and all of the bodily systems are working. The fetus can swim, grasp a pointer, move freely in the womb, and excrete urine. If a doctor injects a sweet solution into the fluid surrounding the fetus, the fetus will swallow it because it likes the taste. If a bitter solution is injected, the fetus will realize the taste and quit swallowing (196 Steinbock). The previous examples are evidence enough that life begins at conception, or at the time the fetus’s heart begins to beat.
Others believe that the life of the fetus is just merely the life of the woman until the fetus is born. Those people who believe that life does not start until birth believe that, without the life-style and habits of the mother, the fetus would not survive. In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled over a case called Roe v. Wade. This case described the legality of a fetus and the conditions that apply to the mother?s rights as well. The ruling stated that the fetus is merely a living appendage of the mother until the completion of the second trimester. But once the third trimester begins, the fetus gains civil rights which guarantee life, liberty, and property. A woman can only abort a fetus in the third trimester if it poses a direct threat to the health and well being of the woman (189 Tribe). In conclusion, the Roe v. Wade case developed the needed boundaries to determine the legal rights of the mother and fetus.
Should abortion be legal? According to the Supreme Court’s ruling in 1973 on the Roe v. Wade case, abortion must be legal (82 Tribe). If the fetus is considered an appendage to the woman who bears it, the fourteenth amendment must hold true for women. Thus, women are given the right to receive an abortion (82 Tribe). The amendment states that, “No person or state may deprive a person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law” (475 US Constitution). This states that the woman cannot be denied an abortion because it would violate her life and property. The state cannot interfere with the private lives of US citizens (475 US Constitution). Denying women the right to choose an abortion, is denying rights and is discriminating against women.
Is abortion physically safe for women? Abortion is often times physically safe for women. According to Laurence H. Tribe’s, Abortion, The Clash of Absolutes, abortions in the first trimester are actually physically safer for a woman than going through with the pregnancy and having a child. Tribe’s book also says, “Within only a few year of the Roe v. Wade case, the death rate for women undergoing legal abortions was ten times lower than that for women who had illegal abortions and five items lower than that for women who went through with child birth” (208 Tribe). This statistic proves that with abortions being legal, women are at a lesser risk of injury through abortion. Although the physical effects of abortion are not very detrimental, the mental effects of abortion in women can be devastating. According to The Eagle and Cross, a pro-life organization which supports freedom, women often suffer extreme depression due to the guilt of having an abortion (4 The Eagle and Cross). Having a child may effect the rest of a woman’s life, but aborting a child may also have an effect on the woman’s life as well. Women must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of having an abortion and choose the less severe and personally harmful of the two alternatives.
There are many reasons for which women desire to have an abortion. Contraceptives sometimes fail. Women are periodically raped and impregnated by corrupt and deranged men. Demented fathers may also rape their daughters, which is called incest. For these reasons alone abortion must be legal. These unfair and undesirable pregnancies can prevent women from keeping jobs, feeding their families, and from creating a favorable life-style for themselves. Pregnancy and child birth may determine and greatly influence whether or not a woman can begin or finish her education leading to a successful and gratifying career. In 1987, over a five-month period, the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) conducted a survey of 1,900 women throughout the United States for Planned Parenthood on why they had abortions. The vast majority were for personal convenience. 1% of the women surveyed had abortions because they were victims of rape or incest, 7% were attributed to threats to the mother’s psychological or physical health, 92% of the abortions were performed for social, economic, or personal reasons. In conclusion, abortion must be legal because women should not have to sacrifice their lives at the hand of a failed contraceptive or a terrible rape. Women should not be forced to submit themselves to a life of hardships because of an unwanted pregnancy. To do so would be discrimination.
Women should not let a fertilized egg dictate the way in which they spend the rest of their lives. A pregnancy should not be able to have the power to radically alter the social and professional life of a woman. If a woman cannot choose an abortion she must take a leave of absence from her daily life in order to have a child and take care of it. For many women this may mean quitting school or leaving their career. These women would be forced to a disadvantage in society because they were denied control of their bodies. Since having and caring for a child is an expensive procedure, poor women may be forced into welfare. This not only burdens and embarrasses the mother, but it also forces the rest of society to support a child which was not wanted by the mother in the first place. Also, the social life of a woman who bears a child is greatly altered. Women who do not give their children up for adoption must constantly care and provide for their children which greatly effects the social life of the mother. Women who are forced into having an unwanted child are forced to a disadvantage if abortions are not legal. If abortions were illegal many women would suffer. Instead of bearing unwanted children, many women would turn to illegal and underground abortions. These underground abortions are often times unsafe, and unsanitary, causing women to submit themselves to many life-threatening dangers. Since abortions were deemed legal through the Roe v. Wade case, the death rate for women undergoing legal abortions were ten times lower then that for women who had illegal abortions (232 Tribe).