Introduction

“No
woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants
an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.”
—Frederica Mathewes-Green

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“Let’s
not pretend that abortion isn’t about the mass slaughter of innocents.”
—Michael Aston

Abortion: noun, “The
deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, most often performed during the
first 28 weeks of pregnancy.” 1                                                                                                                    Abortion has been taking place since as early
as ancient times in various ways, when it was commonly accepted. There weren’t
any official laws against abortion, until 1869, when Pope Pius XI proclaimed
that humans gained a soul at conception. Therefore, he set up laws that forbid
any forms of termination of pregnancy and to this day, there are still numerous
developing countries where these laws remain.                                                                                                                                                                The
controversial debate about abortion has been going on and on, ever since the
legalization between 1950 and 1985 in almost all developed countries because of
civil rights and women’s rights. As you can see reading the 2 quotes above,
there is a clear distinction between the views on abortion of these two people
which show the main sides to this debate, the pro-life movement and the
pro-choice movement. The advocates of pro-life believe that abortion should
undoubtedly be abolished, one reason being that in their opinion, abortion is
equivalent to murder. From the opposed point of view, pro-choice followers
stand for women having the right to make their own choices their bodies and
abortion, and not the government. At this moment, before having done any
research  but having some understanding of
the topic, I believe in the pro-choice movement. However, I am very interested
in researching and gaining knowledge on this topic, which might change my mind.
I am going to be discussing three themes –  ethics and culture, economics, and science – that
are of great importance to this topic and which all have to be considered while
deliberating the question: “Should abortion be abolished?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethics & Culture

For the
greatest part, the abortion debate is about ethical and moral rules and values.
Since the case of Roe vs. Wade when abortion was legalised in the United States
of America in 1973, many people have been supporters of abortion and 70%2
of Americans don’t want to see Roe vs. Wade overturned. Though, there are still
a lot of people who are supporting the pro-life movement. One of the ethical
arguments of the pro-life defenders is that carrying out an abortion is equal
to murder and that taking another humans life, no matter how young or their
stage of life, should be penalized. As 29% of the pro-life followers are
Christian, they often use the argument that God3 prescribes the same
penalty—death—for someone who causes the death of a baby in the womb as for
someone who commits murder. They believe that if women want control of their
body, this should include the responsible use of contraception, and if that’s
not possible,  through the practice of
sexual abstinence.                                                                                                                                                                                      One of the pro-abortion arguments
talks about cases of rape or incest. Forcing a woman to give birth to a child
conceived by one of these would cause more emotional harm to the victim than
when getting an abortion. Women should be regarded as an individual
person, not just as a receptacle for a foetus and they should have full control
over their own bodies.  Pregnancy also has
tremendous repercussions on other aspects of a woman’s life. It damages her
body, education,  often restrains her career
and it affects her whole family life. Lastly, a common conception about women who have abortions, is that they are
careless and don’t use contraception. However, 50%4 of these women
do use contraception, so even when using contraception there is a big
possibility of becoming  unwantedly pregnant.
                                                                                                                                   In countries and cultures where abortion is legal on request, only  34 women in every 1,000 have one. In countries
where abortions are always illegal or only legal if a woman’s life is at risk,
37 women in every 1,000 have (an illegal) one. Most of the countries where
abortion is illegal are developing countries, which could cause the slight
increase in rates because of the restricted access to birth control.  In these countries with strict abortion laws,
mortality rates due to (illegal) abortion are much higher: 220 deaths per
100,000 unsafe abortions, and even 520 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions in
sub-Saharan Africa. In countries with less restrictive laws there are only 30
deaths or fewer per 100,000 unsafe abortions.  Illegalizing abortion therefore does not have
many positive effects, but a lot of religions and cultures only care about the
ethical and moral principles of abortion.

                                                                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

Science

There are a lot of scientific aspects to abortion and the
consequences. Some of them are facts, some of them are myths. According to the
pro-life activists, one of the main effects of abortion is the development of
mental health problems, in particular depression, suicidal thoughts and regret.
The anti-abortion supporters have named it post-abortion syndrome (PAS),  and it was specified as a type of PTSD
(post-traumatic stress disorder) by psychologist Dr. Vincent Rue. There have
been many studies to try to prove that PAS exists, e.g. a study conducted by Dr.
Priscilla Coleman, a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at
Bowling Green State University in Ohio. According to this study, women who had
abortions had an overall 81% more risk of getting mental health problems and
had 55% more of a chance of any mental problems than women who carried to full
term.                             An
important observation on the pro-abortion side is the fact that post-abortion
syndrome is not a term that has been accepted by the American Psychological
Association or the American Psychiatric Association and it is not listed in the
DSM-V (the handbook of mental health). Pro-abortion activists therefore
strongly believe that anti-abortion activists have made it up in order to
promote their political agenda.  A recent
research in Denmark to disprove PAS http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0905882
recorded the mental state and health of 365,550 women, of which 84,620 had had
an abortion. It did not find any correlation between having had an abortion and
an increase of mental health problems. This was not particularly surprising, as
previous studies had found that if a woman was not already depressed or
suicidal, then “elective abortion of an unintended pregnancy does not pose a
risk to mental health”. The majority of the women even reported their abortion
as a relief.                                                                                                           Another
topic around the abortion debate that is discussed a lot, is the link between
abortion and breast cancer. It is strongly believed on the anti-abortion side
that induced abortion can increase your chance on getting cancer, particularly
breast cancer. The World Health Organization, the Royal College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Cancer Institute and the American
College of Obstetricians completely dismiss these assertions.  The largest study on this topic was done in
the 1990s in Denmark. A total of 1.5 million women were linked with the
National Registry of Induced Abortions and with the Danish Cancer Registry. All
of the information about their abortions and their breast cancer had already
been registered – it was very complete and was not influenced by recall bias. The
study showed that induced abortions overall had no effect on the risk of breast
cancer.      It is also commonly believed
that abortion can cause infertility. This suggestion is based on outdated
abortion techniques, where there was a small risk of scarring the reproductive
organs and thus potentially leading to complications. However, this technique
has been replaced with a much safer method in the early 1970s. Kimberley A.
Thornton, M.D., reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at RMA
of New York, says that there is no evidence that  a surgical or medical abortion will cause
infertility. “It’s not something we would expect to affect the ovaries or
eggs,” she says. When done safely, an abortion should not change your
ability to get pregnant again later on in life. Lastly, pro-abortion supporters
often use the argument that the fetus can feel/be in pain when having an
abortion. Though, in the early stages of pregnancy, a fetus had not yet
developed a nervous system and brain so they are unable to feel any pain.

 

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