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Abortion is a practice that has been tolerated for so many centuries. Centuries ago, pregnancies were terminated via the administration of abortive herbs, use of sharpened instruments, engaging in violent exercises, lifting heavy objects and even riding of animals. Thus, it can be said that throughout our history women have been faced with unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and that women time and again have found different ways to end their pregnancies.
The issue is should continue to tolerate abortion? Should the society do something about this situation in order to protect the society’s morals? Should the state give the women a free hand in deciding whether to terminate the pregnancy or not? This essay seeks to critically analyze the issue of abortion. A brief background will be discussed its history and the events leading to the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the different arguments in favor of abortion, expose their weaknesses and to present arguments why abortion should be stopped and criminalized
Abortion is defined as the removal or expulsion from the uterus of an embryo or fetus, resulting in or caused by its death. (“Abortion”) Though abortion was tolerated several centuries before, in the19th Century, because of the dangerous methods employed in abortion, the United States and the United Kingdom prohibited it. Despite its illegality, many still secretly practiced abortion. Women who were determined to discontinue unwanted pregnancy had no choice but to resort to dangerous methods such as the insertion of knitting of needles or coat hangers in the vagina and uterus. As a result, according to Ramy Khalil, it is estimated that approximately one million women had illegal abortions annually before the procedure was legalized in 1973, which directly resulted in the deaths of some 5,000 women every year.
It was only in the mid-part of the 20th Century that the efforts of pro-abortion movements and other women movements were recognized. Few states began to liberalize abortion laws and it was allowed in cases of pregnancy arising from rape, incest or when the child is below 15yrs of age. New York went one step further when it allowed abortion during the 24th week of the last menstrual period.
On January 22, 1973, in the landmark case of Roe v Wade (410 US 113) decision, the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutional right to abortion, to wit:
“the right to privacy… founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate the pregnancy.”
The decision was considered a victory for pro-abortion movements and for the women as it was thought that it helped in bringing about better and safer abortion services. As a result, abortion percentages shoot up in the United States. According to Stanley K. Henshaw, since the Roe v. Wade decision, there have been more than 40 million abortions in the twenty-six years.
Arguments against Abortion
Pro-abortion advocates argue that abortion is an issue of the mother’s constitutional right to choose. They proudly proclaim that as a mother it is their right to choose whether to terminate the pregnancy or not. Abortion is even equated with women empowerment in the sense that abortion, they say, will liberate women from the traditional rules that the society has imposed upon them. They also add that a woman has a right to control her body and that it would not be fair if the mother will be forced to carry her unborn child. (Mary Spaulding Balch) They add that there is nothing immoral in the expulsion of the fetus from their womb.
Contrary to the arguments of the Pro-Abortion advocates abortion does not empower women but it is, on the contrary, another form of enslavement. Abortion does not liberate women. Abortion does not make women richer, happier or more successful. Abortion cannot empower women. Research shows that abortion will not end the problem of single mothers who are economically disadvantaged. David Reardon citing Thomas Strahan’s research on abortion’s impact on the socio-economic status of women states that:
“1) women who have had abortions are at a greater risk of suffering emotional and psychological problems which may interfere with their ability to concentrate, make decisions, and interact with others, thereby reducing their level of job skills and employment opportunities. 2) Post-abortion women are more likely to engage in drug and alcohol abuse often as a means of “numbing” negative feelings stemming from the abortion. 3) women who have had abortions are more likely to be pregnant again and undergo additional abortions. Nearly 50% of all abortions are repeat abortions.” (David C. Reardon)
Regardless of the reasons of the pro-abortion advocates, it is clear that abortion is an issue about life. It is indeed tantamount to murder. “Oh How Tragic, You "liberated" ones Who use your "Right to Choose" For Death is your companion!” The statements cited above encapsulate the main argument against abortion. It is the same as killing a living human individual. Respected philosophers and scientists have already spoken against abortion and have taken a unanimous stand on this issue.
Scientists take the view that conception is the beginning of human life. There is a general consensus on this matter within the scientific and medical community. According to science, from the moment of conception, the unborn has a life of its own which is distinct and separate from the mothers. From that moment the unborn becomes a member of the human species. It has a heart which starts to beat after a few weeks, electrical brain waves which become manifest and an embryo which is different from the mother’s (Kerby Anderson 3). In addition, after eight weeks its brain and body systems will start to develop and become functioning. (Miriam Cain) There can be no other clearer manifestation of human life force aside from these signs. Science, therefore, supports the argument that abortion is tantamount to murder.
Philosophers have also taken similar views on the person’s right to life. For the unborn to be endowed with human personality, it is not necessary for it to attain the complete state of its development. It is not necessary that the unborn has limbs or that there is an active brain activity. To say so would mean legalizing the murder of a person who is in a state of comatose or allowing the murder of a person who is born without limbs because he lacks the other parts of the body that we all have. In the article “Arguments against Abortion”, it states that:
Personhood is not a matter of size, skill, or degree of intelligence. An NBA player is not twice as human as someone half his size; nor does an unconscious or sick person cease to be human because they are displaying their intellect or other skills. Age, size, IQ, or stage of development is simply a difference of degree, not in kind. Our kind is humanity. (“Arguments against Abortion”)
Science and Philosophy are not the only ones against abortion but even religion offers similar arguments against abortion. There are passages in the bible which forbid the taking away of the life of the unborn. It considers that the unborn child is endowed with the potentiality of being fully human. Any person who deprives the child of this potentiality to become fully human is committing an act of murder. Thus, if any person kills an unborn child he not only takes its life but he also deprives the unborn child of the potentiality to become a complete human individual endowed with skills, talents, and abilities. It is considered a very serious offense to take the life of an unborn, to wit:
“If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Exodus 21:22-25.)
Pro-abortion advocates argue that poverty justifies resort to abortion. They say that at present there are so many people but the government does not have enough resources to provide welfare services to all people. The solution, they say, is abortion. They even imply that abortion will rid the society of all its ills – unwanted children, abused children, battered wives. (Mary Spaulding Balch)
It is however argued that the unborn should not be blamed for the circumstances of the parents. Poverty should not be utilized as a justification for abortion. It should not be allowed to destroy the sanctity and sacredness of human life. Life is God’s gift to us for us to cherish and enjoy. Life is protected not only by the laws of God but by the laws of man. Nobody has an absolute right to life. Nobody is given the prerogative to dictate who should live, not even the mother of the unborn. No matter what the mother’s reason is for wanting to terminate her pregnancy it is not serious enough to take away a human life. According to Terry Vanderheyden poverty is not the number one inhumane problem afflicting the US, to wit:
“…because over 45 million Americans have been killed in the last 32 years, against their will. They had no choice. Poverty may have diminished the lives of, it may have harmed millions of Americans, but it hadn’t killed 45 million people. (Terry Vanderheyden )
There are those who say that abortion is justified in cases where a child results from the act of rape committed by one person against a woman. Once a child is born the mother will have to take care of the child. Pro-abortion advocates argue that this may bring serious anguish and pain on the part of the mother who will have to live the rest of her life seeing the end-product of the act of violence committed against her. She will be reminded every time she sees the child of the most painful day of her life. Pro-abortion advocates, however, are misguided. They may have forgotten that it was not the child who committed the act of rape. The child did not even exist at the time of the rape. There is no reason for committing another act of violence against an innocent living being. To commit another wrong will not make right the first act of wrong. Although it is true that the state may allow the imposition of retaliatory force in case violence is committed against another, such as in the case of capital punishment, it is however imposed only against the person who is responsible for the act of violence. Capital punishment, for example, is imposed only against those who committed the crime.
Also, abortion does not liberate women but only makes their lives more miserable as they eventually have to cope with the psychological damage that abortion will bring. Though the mother, at that time, may feel that abortion is the only solution to her problem, there are recorded cases saying that those who had abortion felt guilty after having it. Most women who had an abortion eventually realized that they have committed a mistake. This is a regrettable fact because they cannot bring back what they have done in the past. Their regrets cannot bring a fetus back to life. Joe Messerli (2008) supports this argument, to wit: “Many women who have the abortion in their younger years end up living the rest of their lives in perpetual guilt. Even if that woman doesn't consider it murder at the time, that may change as she matures.”
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