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Abortion is one of the most controversial topics of all 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 the matter of a personal opinion, where, each side can say with certainty that the other one is wrong.
The question remains, should abortion be legal? Though some may disagree on this point, the fact is that legalized abortion is the only way to protect the lives of women around the world. If you look into American history to see the results of prohibiting abortions to women, you will see that no abortion means more women dead. 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--either self-inflicted or preformed by the backroom "professionals"-- which resulted in infection, massive blood loss, and death. It is now since the abortion is legal better for women, because they have a place to go to where abortions can be performed in a clean environment and with minimum risks. The 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 risks are. 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 many years in every inhabited corner of the world. It has always been accepted as a mean to prevent the suffering of both the woman and her potential child. Abortion 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 the 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.
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It has been proven time after time 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 filthy dirt and diseases. 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 have faced. If a woman wasn’t able to pay the overpriced 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).
One thing most people do not think about is the fetus. If, as some say, life and the sense of self begin 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 as the woman can. These women wanted to live their lives as they chose, not the way it was chosen for them to live. Being forced to bear a child could mean having to support it and giving up dreams of a better life. Also they might have been 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 having 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 many women, being forced to deal with 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 waiting for the child with open arms. The truth of the matter is that many families do not want children unless they are white, healthy and pretty. Most of the others are either dragged through the system until they are 18 or sent to live with foster families who are sometimes uncaring or even abusive (187). All women are aware of these realities, and many, refused to bring a child into the world and have it live such a way of life, which makes abortion their only way out.
Also there is the fact that many women want to hide their present state from families or employers. They know that they could be disowned or fired for their "shameful state". They are desperate to keep their secrets, so desperate in fact that they are willing to risk their lives. This is a risk a woman shouldn’t have 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 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 unsophisticated. One needs to take into consideration the developmental stages of the fetal life span.
Most abortions occur soon after the confirmation of pregnancy, which is usually prior to the 12th week. The first 12 weeks are known as the first trimester or the embryonic phase. At this time the fetus is about 3-3.5 inches long and has 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 four 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 of the approaches might be assessing the neurological development. It is only logical that the more complex the neurological system is 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 person laying in coma. Here, one must decide whether or not to withdraw that which the person needs to survive. Yet the decision to terminate the life 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 attitude. How long would women suffer this mental anguish? (Haddok 132)
Based on the 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 appears 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.
In conclusion no matter what a person’s opinion on abortion is, women have always had abortions, they have them now and most probably will always have them. It shouldn’t be for anyone but the pregnant woman having the actual abortion to decide on whether or not it is the best thing for her.
Boyer,Mark. Abortion: The Straight Facts. Boston: Houghton Mifflan,
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.
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.
Whitney, Catherine. Whose Life? New York: William Morrow and Co.,