Abortion Issues Term Paper

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Abortion Debate

With the growing awareness regarding gender roles and their due rights, the number of misunderstandings and misapprehensions has also considerably augmented. Abortion, by some is considered the right of a woman or of the parents of the unborn child, by some a crime and by many others a debatable and a highly controversial issue. However, it has been observed that the underlying aspects of the issue under consideration are largely ignored, seldom misunderstood and are often given in to assumptions or false beliefs and preconceived notions based on generalizations.

We need to understand that the main reason behind this heated debate about abortion results more from lack of awareness than anything else. Since we mostly study this issue from the standpoint of morality and religion, we equate abortion to crime. However if we take into account the real definition of personhood, mental, physical and emotional health of the expecting mother and the social problem resulting from birth of an unwanted child, then the issue would not be so controversial.

What is personhood and when is abortion murder?

The pro-life quarter maintains that every child whether born or unborn has a right to life and health, therefore it is absolutely immoral for her mother to deny him this right especially when the child has not even entered the world. In other words, this section feels that if a mother has the right to life and if she can terminate the pregnancy because of her health, how can she be allowed to deny her unborn child his right to life. However they fail to understand that every unborn child is not exactly a person and it is only a person who can claim a right to life. Even medical professionals are of the view that first twenty-four weeks after conception are safe for abortion since the child in that stage is still a fetus or an embryo, which cannot be referred to as a person.

I agree with the pro-choice group's argument that a child in the womb is not a fully developed person and therefore his rights are not as important as that of the mother and similarly it is her life and health, which must be kept in mind, when decision regarding pregnancy is being made. The pro-choice section however needs to understand that it is important to avoid extremes. Even though I firmly agree with them, I want to make it clear that termination of pregnancy in the last few months is criminal unless the mother is critically ill. It is true that a child cannot be called a person in prenatal stage, but still he is a fully developed human being when pregnancy has reached the end of its term. Therefore to support abortion at this stage is absolutely wrong because it would be the same thing as killing a human being. In the first few months of pregnancy however, abortion option should be available to all expecting mothers

Jerry Muller explains who exactly a person is and why pro-life argument is weak, "The right-to-life movement regards human "life" as a good -- a claim most of us are broadly inclined to accept. But the right-to-life movement goes further. It regards all human life as a good, regardless of the mental, emotional or intellectual capacities of the individual. To right-to-lifers, keeping alive anencephalic infants (children missing all or most of their brains) is a moral imperative. The right-to-life movement regards every degree of human life as equal to the most complete development of human life: that is why the moral status of a fetus two weeks into its development is the same as that of children and adults."

Unwanted child

The pro-life section doesn't take into account the right of the child to be loved and provided with the best when he comes into this world. I believe that the reason abortion should be allowed without any problems and bias is because an unwanted child may never receive the same kind of treatment that a wanted child would.
In other words, pro-choice section argues that if a mother wants to terminate pregnancy, it means that she doesn't want the child she is carrying and therefore bringing such a child into the world would only result in numerous problems as the child would not be provided with loving care that he deserves. Furthermore, according to one study, "we need to come to terms with the difference between a wanted pregnancy -- with the joy and excitement it can bring -- and an unwanted pregnancy -- with the rejection and desperation that can accompany it" (Berer, p. 5-10). In other words, we must understand that legalizing abortion in the first twenty four weeks would only help decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies which result in social problems.

Role of Court in Pro-choice stance

It is important to know how the Court has played an important role in this issue. In fact it was the Supreme Court decision of 1973 that turned this issue into major subject of political, legal and social debate. It was in 1973 that Roe vs. Wade case was brought to the Supreme Court where it was decided that abortion on demand should be legalized in all 50 states of the country. This was the first major decision in this area and also the most critical one. (Pollit, 1997)

The Court maintained that women should be allowed to terminate her pregnancy on the grounds of health. But even then, Court was not referring to physical health alone and gave women the right to interpret 'health' in ways she deemed fit.

Court said abortion was allowed, "... In the light of all factors -- physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age -- relevant to the well being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health." Doe vs. Bolton, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 70-40, IV, p. 11, Jan. 1973

The Court also considered the pro-choice quarter regarding birth of an unwanted child and decided that abortion could be performed if the mother felt she couldn't give proper care and attention to the child she is carrying.

Maternity or additional offspring may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by childcare. There is also the distress for all concerned associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically or otherwise, to care for it..." Roe vs. Wade, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 70-18, p. 38, Jan. 1973

Roe case occupies a very important position in the history of abortion debate because the decision in this case was based on very pertinent and logical facts. The court carefully examined the social and economic conditions of the mother and realized that a child should come into this world only if his family is emotionally or psychologically prepared to take care of all his needs.


Apart from several other objections that pro-lifers have raised in connection with abortion, they also maintain that legalizing abortion would result in unprecedented growth in the number of abortions. Secondly the feel that with new ultrasound technologies, people no longer think of the child as a fetus in the first few months. Ken Connor, the head of the FRC, says that with new three- dimensional ultrasounds, "People recognize immediately that an unborn child is a child." (Economist, 2003) I find this argument quite weak, as it doesn't take into account the actual views of pro-choicers on the subject of abortion. No pro-choicer supports abortion in all its form in fact as The Economist (2003) explains, "most Americans want to preserve abortion rights. They don't celebrate abortion. They recoil at partial-birth abortion. But they want no return to the….....

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