Essay, Research Paper: Abortion


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The topic of abortion is one of the most controversial of our times. It has
caused countless deaths and several violent confrontations between the two
separate parties of opinion. The fight between pro-life and pro-choice
supporters has been long and brutal. This is because, despite what several
people may believe, abortion is neither right nor wrong. It is a matter of
personal opinion. In this way, each side can say with certainty that the other
is wrong. Therefore the question remains; should abortion be legal? Though some
may disagree on this point, the fact is that legalized abortion is the only
option that will protect the lives of American citizens. One only needs to look
into American history to see the results of prohibiting abortions to women. The
violence which occurs today because the of pro-choice/pro-life conflicts is
minimal in comparison to the thousands of hopeless women who turned to the
illegal abortions --either self-inflicted or preformed by the backroom
"professionals"-- which resulted in infection, massive blood loss, and
death. It is better now that they have a place to go where abortions can be
performed cleanly and with minimal risk. Legalization of abortion is the only
choice no matter what side one takes in the debate. Women will try to do what
they think is necessary to live as they wish, no matter what the risk. In order
to live as she chooses a woman may give up her freedom, her morals, her beliefs,
her family, or even her life. Abortion has been around for thousands of years in
every inhabited corner of the globe. It has always been accepted as a means to
prevent the suffering of both woman and potential child. It has been practiced
widely in every society for many reasons including famine, war, poverty,
overpopulation, or simply because a woman felt she was not ready for a child
(Whitney 40). No one ever questioned a woman's right to this procedure. After
all, who but God had the right to judge what a woman did with her own body? This
thought process lasted till the 1800's. During this era of change people began
to turn their attention in a new direction, the fetus. They began to protest
abortion as cruel, inhumane, and murderous. Filled with a new sense of purpose
and the glory of a fresh, righteous cause to uphold this new morality swept the
countryside enveloping everyone in its wake. Abortionists who were once revered
and depended upon were now scorned and threatened. Though abortions still
happened with regularity, they were kept silent and seen as a matter of shame.
"Over the next hundred years, public sentiment for the fetus continued to
rise until the inevitable happened in America during the early 40's; Abortion
was made illegal." (Cohen 17). There was much back patting and
congratulations among the pro-life supporters. And why not? They had succeeded
in saving the lives of the hundreds of innocent babies who would have been
senselessly slaughtered for the convenience of selfish, ignorant, and
irresponsible women. Because of this new law, women would settle down and raise
families or give these beautiful children over into the hands of the hundreds of
loving couples who were just waiting for a baby to call their own. It seemed
that the perfect law had just been passed. Or had it? It has been proven time
and time again throughout history that the human spirit will not allow
prohibition. Something inside us feels the need to strike out at that which
restrains us and holds us from the life we want. Just as prohibition of alcohol
made a black market for liquor (a virtual underworld was immediately erected to
fulfill the new need for abortions). Government, through regulation, had once
again created a need that would be fulfilled by the lawless. Most doctors,
fearing incarceration, refused to treat the women who so desperately wanted
abortions. Women, seeing no other solution to their problems, were often
desperate enough to turn to these "Back Room" clinics. These clinics
were located in poverty-ridden sections of the city and their conditions were
deplorable. The places themselves were layered in filth and disease.
Inexperienced butchers using dirty and crude equipment treated the girls. As if
these backroom clinics were not bad enough, there was an even more appalling
decision a woman might face. If a she were unable to pay the exorbitant price
for the illegal surgery, she would often perform the act herself. "Knitting
needles, coat hangers, antiseptic douches and poisons were used most often"
(Welton 123). "Emergency rooms primarily in the more urban areas were
reporting higher numbers of intractable bleeding to the point of death. Pelvic
inflammatory disease and other forms of life threatening sepsis were on the
rise. Self induced poisoning was another complication." (Boyer, 98).
Partial abortions were also commonplace. One thing most people do not think
about is the fetus. If, as some say, life and the sense of self begins at
conception, how many atrocities have been caused by the incompetence shown
during this time? Some may wonder what drove these women to such extremes just
to have and abortion. Why didn't they just have the baby? The answer lies in our
most basic human instinct: to survive as best we can. These women want to live
their lives as they choose, not as it is chosen that they live it. Being forced
to bear a child could mean having to support and give up dreams of a better
life. Also they might be pressured into a "shotgun wedding" to save
their reputations. In the book Back Rooms, by Ellen Messer, a woman named Liz,
explains her reasons for receiving an abortion. "People have said to me,
‘How can you be in favor of abortion? If you'd had one, you wouldn't have
these beautiful children.' But I would have had them. It just would have been
later when I was better prepared to care for them. And maybe they would have a
nicer man for their father. I would have been more prepared and all our lives
would have been so much easier. Even though I love my children dearly, I regret
that I did not have an abortion when I was given the option. I should never have
let others influence my decision." (29) For other women, being forced to
bear a child would mean placing it into the system. It is commonly thought that
every orphan is just temporary. That there is a family out there just waiting
for it with open arms. The truth of the matter is that many families did not
want children unless they were white and healthy. Most of the others were either
shifted through the system until they were 18 or sent to live with foster
families who were sometimes uncaring or even abusive (187). Women were aware of
these realities and many refused to bring a child into the world and have it
live in such a manner. Also was the fact that many women wanted to hide their
present state from families or employers. They knew that they could be disowned
or fired for their "shameful state". They were desperate to keep their
secrets, so desperate in fact that they were willing to risk their lives. This
was a risk they should not have had to take. In the book Abortion: A Positive
Decision, Mrs. Lunneborg states that "The desire not to have a child is by
far the best reason for an abortion. There are enough unwanted children in the
world already." (18) And so these women risked, and often lost, their lives
in these illegal abortions. If they were caught afterwards, they were charged
with murder. But is abortion murder? Abortion is defined as "The induced
termination of a pregnancy before it is capable of survival as an
individual" (Frohock 186). Considering this definition, at the time of most
abortions, the fetus is not an individual. The definition is far too simplistic.
One needs to take into consideration the developmental stages of the fetal life
span. Most abortions occur soon after the confirmation of pregnancy, (usually
prior to 12 weeks gestation.) The first twelve weeks is known as the first
trimester or the embryonic phase. At this time the fetus is about 3-3.5 inches
long having a weight of 15-20 grams. The neurological system is primitive at
best, demonstrating only vague swimming motions (Rosenblatt 37). The second
trimester heralds a time of rapid growth. At about 20 months the mother usually
first perceives fetal movement. At 24 weeks the brain resembles that of a mature
person. The fetal weight is about 650 grams. (39) The third trimester is from 24
weeks to birth (approximately 40 weeks.). At 26 weeks the nervous system begins
to regulate some body processes. (40) "When making the conscious decision
to terminate the life of the fetus one must take into account the development of
the fetus. One approach might be that of assessing the neurological development.
It is only logical that the more complex the neurological system the more likely
you are to induce pain or end a sense of self if in fact that sense exists prior
to birth" (Frohock 28). In many ways it is similar to the decision to pull
the plug on a comatose person. Here, one must decide whether or not to withdraw
that which the person needs to survive. Yet the decision to terminate is not
considered murder but an act of the deepest humanity, an opinion that contrasts
greatly to the shame and animosity faced by an aborted mother during the time of
the mass anti-abortion sentiment. How long would women suffer this mental
anguish? (Haddok 132) Based on this information, presented in the Roe vs. Wade
case, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman was allowed by the Constitution's
14th Amendment to receive an abortion before the first trimester. It now
appeared that the pro-choice advocates had won the political tug-o-war at last.
However, violence continues between the two groups as the animosity and
resentment has grown to new heights. Now, more than ever, research articles are
coming out about a woman's right to privacy vs. a fetus's right to life. The law
may have been passed, but the war goes on. It is difficult to gain valid and
subjective information on the topic of abortion. This is because much of the
research has been colored by the personal beliefs of the group or individual
that collects it. There may not be an intentional or even conscious effort to
skew the facts in this manner but it happens none the less. A person writing a
paper on the tragic effect of abortion on society's moral values may tend to
twist the real statistics slightly to better serve his or her purpose. Another
doing a paper on the same topic may use the previous one as a reference point
and exaggerate the information even more. One can see how, very soon, the
"facts" are no longer recognizable as truth. Another metamorphosis may
occur in the way the original research is collected. In order to prove a certain
point, a researcher may choose to collect information in a very select genres of
people instead of wide and random test groups taken from many diverse areas. A
pro-choice researcher may poll a feminist rally while a pro-lifer may choose a
Catholic organization. Thus the information becomes so varied and conflicting
that the objective data gets lost in the muddle. It is a case of ignoring the
whole truth and focusing on the part of it which best suits a specific person
and their ideals. Unfortunately, because of this lapse, many Americans are
confused as to the reality of the situation and tend to avoid it as we have a
tendency to do with subjects we do not understand. Others simply grab the
information they like best and sling it at their opponents in the matter. The
other side looks at this information and sees that it contrasts with their own.
Thus they dismiss it as lies. It is a vicious circle and it has caused many
deaths and injuries on both sides from riots, bombings, and fights. Carrie, a
San Diego nurse in an abortion clinic, tells us what it was like when the
building was bombed by pro-life supporters. "At the initial explosion, I
was knocked to the floor. A wave of heat burst through the room followed closely
by the fire. Burning papers fell from my desk and caught on the leg of my
scrubs. The pain was unbelievable! I now know what hell must be like. I began to
crawl to the door when I heard a cry behind me. One of the young patients was
running down the hall with her gown on fire. I grabbed her and made her roll.
Then we got out... I suffered second and third degree burns on my legs and arms
and my lungs were filled with smoke and had to be flushed out. Still, I am lucky
to even be alive. Two of my best friends died in that bombing and several of my
co-workers. I can not help but think now, that it is a bitter irony that the
people who claim they are trying to save lives are killing people to accomplish
it." (Interview with Carrie) According to Jannet Lennelborg, "We must
find an uncommon ground on this issue."(18). It is clear that these two
groups will never join in their ways of thinking. There is too much passion and
conflict involved in the debate. What we must do is find a compromise and
"agree to disagree" (18). If, just for a moment, we could just stop
the finger pointing and name calling, and just listen to what our so-called
opponents have to say, we may find that both sides have their points. Only then
can we stop the hatred and violence that has so ripped America in the last few
decades. In conclusion, my research leads me to believe that, while abortion
must be legal, a woman should also be provided with all the correct information
she needs to make a responsible and rational decision. I believe that this is
the only solution we can have which will conclude this "private war"
once and for all. The misinformation and violence surrounding this issue has
turned human against human for far too long. Most of the negativity regarding
the issue of abortion comes from the religious rights who believe that the right
to the life of the fetus supercedes all else. Unfortunately there will always be
a disparity between logic and religion.
BibliographyBoyer, Mark. Abortion: The Straight Facts. Boston: Houghton Mifflan, 1992. Cohen,
Marshall. The Rights and Wrongs of Abortion. New Jersey: Princeton Press, 1978.
~Frohock, Fred. Abortion. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1989. ~Haddock, Martha.
Abortion Today. New York: Doubleday, 1992. ~Interview- Interview with a former
San Diego abortion clinic nurse who was present when it was bombed in 1985. ~Lunneborg,
Patricia. Abortion: A Positive Decision. New York: Bergin & Garvey, 1992.
~Messer, Ellen. Back Rooms. New York: St. Martin's press, 1989. ~Rosenblatt,
Rodger. Life Itself. New York: Random House, 1993. ~Welton, K.B. Abortion...Is
Not A Sin. California: Pandit Press, 1989. 191-95. ~Whitney, Catherine. Whose
Life? New York: William Morrow and Co., 1992
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