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. However, the question still 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. Therefore, present
abortion laws according to Roe v. Wade should be upheld and maintained in the
United States (Brown 2). Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision that legalized
abortions in the United States. It was about a poor, pregnant woman who filed a
lawsuit against the state law of Texas, which stated that abortions were
illegal. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which meant that
the decision made affected the nation as a whole. On January 22, 1973, the
Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jane Roe and stated that "the 14th
amendment guarantees an adult woman the right to seek a termination of her
pregnancy until viability" (Guernsey 63). From this day on, abortions in
the United States were legal. The definitions of the opinions taken on abortion
are somewhat unclear to many people. Hopefully, the definitions stated below
will be of some help in choosing an opinion. Pro-life supporters believe that a
fetus's right to live comes first, before the rights of a pregnant woman.
Pro-choice supporters believe that it is a woman's fundamental human right to
decide when and whether or not to have the child (Lowenstein19). Nevertheless,
while the pro-choice side fights the right to have an abortion, they make a
distinction between "pro-choice" and "pro-abortion," These
groups want women to be able to choose an abortion if it is right for them.
However, they do not necessarily believe abortion is the solution for everyone (Lowenstein
52). There are many reasons why abortion should be legal. "The single most
important effect of legalization has been the substitution of safe, legal
procedures for abortions that formerly were obtained illegally" ( Jaffe,
Lindheim, and Lee 147). One only needs to look into American history to see the
results of prohibiting abortions to women. The violence which occurs today
because of the pro-choice/pro-life conflicts is minimal in comparison to the
thousands of hopeless women who turned to illegal abortions. Women, seeing no
other solution to their problems, turned to "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 women. As if
these backroom clinics were not bad enough, there was an even more appalling
decision a woman might face. If 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" (Welton123). It is better now that women have a place to go where
abortions can be performed cleanly with minimal risk. Legalization of abortion
is the only choice no matter what side on takes in the debate. Women will try to
do what they think is necessary to live as they wish, no matter what the risk.
Each year 84,000 women die worldwide from failed abortion attempts (Lunneborg67)
. Because of anti-abortion legislation, women avoid going to the hospital, often
until it is too late, to avoid prosecution from police. In the cases of rape and
incest, the very idea of being forced to have the child of the woman's abuser is
repulsive. There are also cases when a woman's health is put in jeopardy by
having a child at all. Forcing a woman to bring the child to term would be no
less than attempted murder (Steffen 49). If a woman is forced to give birth to a
child she does not want, if left in that woman's custody, the child could
potentially face hatred and resentment from the mother for the rest of its life.
In countries all over the world, children are found dead and abandoned in places
as degrading as garbage dumps. The only effective method of preventing unwanted
births is abstinence, and this is just not a realistic objective. There is no
100% effective form of birth control, and even men and women using birth control
have unwanted pregnancies. Some women for financial, occupational, social, and
maturity reasons, see pregnancy as cessation of their lives. There are no
accurate statistics on how many women attempt or succeed in committing suicide
each year rather than live with their pregnancies. Women will continue to gave
abortions with or without government legislation, but with legislation, the
conditions under which they have their abortions can be sanctioned and observed.
If abortion is the right choice for a woman, she shouldn't have to worry about
its safety. The procedure is perfectly safe. The earlier an abortion is done,
the safer it is. Most abortions, about 95%, are done during the first trimester
(Lowenstein 52). Less than one percent are done after the twentieth week, and
usually only for medical reasons (Safety 1). According to the National Abortion
Federation, having an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is safer
than giving birth to a child. Women hardly ever die from legal abortions-only
one in two hundred thousand (Lowenstein 52). Women are seven times likely to die
from childbirth than from a legal abortion (Maguire 1). Many pro-life supporters
believe that abortion should be banned because life begins at conception and
taking a life is unlawful. The individual sex cell consists of 23 chromosomes.
It is only through combination, through merger, that the sex cells attain the
full complement of heredity units that defines a human being (Shettles 17). The
merger of the two sex cells is complete within twelve hours, at which time the
egg is fertilized and becomes known technically as the "'zygote.'' The
inherited characteristics of a unique human being has been established, and in
no circumstances will it change (Shettles 17). At eighteen days, the heart is
pumping through a closed circulatory system, with blood whose type is different
from that of the mother's. The brain starts working at forty days. and all of
the fetus's body systems are in place by the time it is two months old (Every
child 1). Pro-lifers believe this evidence shows a fetus is alive. For these
reasons, they feel the fetus has a soul and is a person worthy of respect. They
conclude that aborting a fetus is the same as murdering a person (Abortion 3).
Most pro-choice supporters agree that taking a human life is unlawful, however,
they argue that unborn fetuses do not constitute fully developed human life. The
possession of forty-six chromosomes does not make a cell a person. Most of the
cells in a person's body contain these 46 chromosomes, but that does not make a
white corpuscle a person. As for the significance of uniqueness, identical
quintuplets are genetically identical, yet they have personal identities apart
from their genetic endowment. Even though a fetus might have a heartbeat and
brain waves, this does not make a fetus a person. To be a person, there must be
evidence of a personality. Dogs, frogs, and earthworms have all characteristics
listed, but that is insufficient to make them persons (Zindler 25). Another
major pro-life concern is the medical hazards of an abortion. Pro-lifers believe
that abortions have many negative physical and psychological effects. They say
that even though abortion has been legalized, it remains a complicated procedure
that can potentially harm a woman's ability to bear normal, healthy babies in
the future (Hilgers 152). The most common early complications of legally induced
abortion are infection, hemorrhage, perforation of the uterus, and laceration of
the cervix (Hilgers 153). There is also a pelvic inflammatory disease which can
follow abortion, and happens up to 30 percent of the time (Lowenstein 44).
Although the complications are physical, many pro-lifers say that the
psychological effects are far more dangerous. They believe abortion has a
particularly harmful effects on teenagers (Everyone's Biography 1). The Medical
College of Ohio studied how teenagers were able to cope with abortions as
compared to adult women. They studied thirty-five women who had abortions as
teenagers and thirty-six women who had abortions after age twenty. They found
there were two factors present in teenage abortions. First, people other than
the teenager had control of the abortion decision. Second, teenagers are less
knowledgeable about the procedure and may have false ideas about it. Also,
teenagers were less likely to consult a professional before making their
decision. The study showed teenagers experienced greater stress during the
abortion (Lowenstein 45). Pro-choicers strongly disagree on this matter. It is a
proven fact that legal abortions are now medically safe and simple. Teenagers,
for example, are 24 times more likely to die from childbirth than from a
first-trimester abortion (Carlson 25). Death resulting from legal abortion is a
very rare occurrence and easy to measure. In the first trimester, less that half
of one percent of all abortion patients experience major complications (Jaffe,
Lindheim, and Lee 150). Of course abortion involves some risk, but so do all
medical procedures. According to the American Psychiatric Association report
published in Science magazine in 1990, there are no significant psychological
aftereffects of legal abortion. Legal abortion requested by the woman does not
cause emotional problems or depression. Some women may feel sad or guilty at
first, but not any more or less than any other personal crisis (Lowenstein 53).
In particular, teenagers who had abortions seem to behave more normally than
others who gave birth to a baby. Teenagers who have abortions are more likely to
graduate high school, go to college, and get good jobs (Lowenstein 54). The
third most controversial topic on abortions involves so-called hard cases such
as rape and incest. The first point pro-lifers make is that the law allowing
raped women to get abortions would only affect a few women, less than 1 percent
of all abortions each year (Guernsey 68). Pro-life supporters believe the damage
has already happened-that of the rape. An abortion will simply cause more
psychological and physical harm. Even though half of the fetus if part of the
rapist, half of the fetus is part of the woman, too. They believe it is unfair
to kill a being who was not responsible for the rape (Lowenstein 47). Their
feeling is the same for incest. In cases where abortion is chosen, pro-life
activists believe an innocent baby is killed for a crime its father commits. The
father, instead, should suffer. Pro-lifers believe if abortion is chosen, it
helps to hide the fact that incest took place and it might continue(Lowenstein
48). Should abortion be allowed in cases of rape and incest? Absolutely yes, say
pro-choicers. There may be serious psychological effects from having a child
that was a result of a horrible experience like incest or rape. Pro-choice
supporters believe if the woman decides to raise the child, they say, she will
have a constant reminder of the incident (Lowenstein 55). Surveys have shown
many people would accept abortion in cases of rape or incest (Women 2). Medical
research has not determined whether there are genetic tendencies toward sexual
crimes. The child may carry some of those genes (Lowenstein55). In summary,
abortion is a personal choice. No should be able to tell a women whether or not
to have a child. Therefore, keeping abortion legal will ensure that situations
that involve crisis or health risks to the mother or the fetus can be handled
safely and legally.
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