Miranda Proto & Faith Young
Saint Mary’s College
Over the past few decades, abortion has been a controversial topic that has developed a division between two groups of people, pro-life and pro-choice. According to Shaw and Lee et al, abortion is the “removal of a fertilized ovum or fetus from the female’s uterus,” and there are multiple types of abortions that either take place before or after viability. The procedures surrounding abortion have developed more safety techniques in order to properly remove the fertilized ovum or fetus. According to ASAPScience, almost 92% of abortions occur within the first trimester, although there are other procedures that are specifically done when the mother’s safety is in jeopardy or if there are complications during the pregnancy. These procedures have been deemed very controversial on the pro-life side, but the pro-choice side believes the mother’s safety is also important. Our argument for abortion is that women should be able to decide what happens to their bodies, which ensures equality for women while preserving the humanity.
There are six confirmed types of abortions, most of which occur before viability and the others occur when abortion becomes a medical necessity. These types include early non-surgical (medical abortion), vacuum aspiration, dilation and evacuation, labor induction, dilation and extraction, and hysterotomy. The first three mentioned are usually done in a clinical setting and are deemed legal and women have the choice to get them done. Early non-surgical requires a drug to get rid of the unborn child while vacuum aspiration requires a tube and dilation and evacuation requires suction curettage. The procedures that include dilation and extraction, labor induction, and hysterotomy are performed in a hospital setting and are basically an induced childbirth. In the past, abortions were done in harmful situations and environments that put the mother and fetus in jeopardy of losing their lives. Abortions that were done in a hospital or clinical setting were not medically common until Roe v. Wade. In January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, usually about 24 weeks into a pregnancy (Planned Parenthood, 2019). This ruling allowed many women to go to a more safe and sterile environment to obtain a legalized abortion. This ruling allowed women to feel more safe and the sense of having control over their bodies.
The guidelines and laws for abortion are different all over the world; some countries are more pro-life while others are more pro-choice. Specific to China, there are around 13 million abortions performed each year; some have been forced while others are the woman’s choice. Saying this, abortion is freely available in China, and there is no time limit to when you can get the procedure done. During the era of the one-child policy, which is less enforced now, many women were forced by law and government officials to have an abortion. The limitation of birth was more prominent for women who were expecting girls, due to the discrimination against women from the Chinese government. This caused “a skewed sex ratio of 118 boys to 100 girls in China” (Schwarzwalder et al). Many human rights activists in China have noticed the discrimination against women and the obvious brutality, so these groups have accused the Chinese government of condoning these abortions for population control. There are also many effects on the women and families who encounter these forced abortions. Penalties have been issued to innocent families from past violations, so either way the women involved cannot make a choice on their own. Even though the one-child policy is now less enforced, there is still apparent discrimination in China when it comes to women and what they choose to do with their own bodies.
Just like China, there are also arguments all around the world and especially in the United States about whether or not a woman should have the choice of abortion. Those who believe women should have that choice to ensure equality are the pro-choice activists. They recognize that women should be able to do what they want with their bodies and a bunch of men in a court setting should not make that decision for them. The argument is that if abortion eventually becomes illegal again, many women will turn to dangerous ways of getting rid of the unborn child, which can have a negative effect on their bodies. Women deserve the access to safe abortions, which is why Planned Parenthood is important to have. Currently “7 out of 10 Americans support Roe v. Wade” (NARAL et al), which means most of the country believes there should be support given to women regarding this topic. Another one of the arguments for the pro-choice side is that many women might not be able to have a baby at that time and place, which could lead to future implications for the child. Many women who get pregnant could still be in school and might not have a stable financial status, which gives them more of a reason to not continue with the pregnancy. The group on the other side of this argument may not see this as a valid reason for getting an abortion. This group is the pro-life activists.
Most people involved in the pro-life group tend to be either conservatives or practice religion like Christianity. Their main argument is that a fetus has a right to live, just like any other human being does. So basically, they are proclaiming that the fetus has separate rights than the mother. Another thing that you will always hear when conversing with a pro-life advocate is that they believe life starts at conception, and this is especially relevant in the practices of Christianity. This side also proclaims that abortion is murder, and Pope Francis, the current pope, has said abortion “is like hiring a hitman to solve a problem.” Overall, this side’s arguments focus on the idea that every human has a right to live and it should not be taken away by another human. On the financial side of the pro-life argument, they say that taxpayer money should not be put towards services such as Planned Parenthood, because of it supplying abortions. There have been many discussions lately in the White House on whether we should stop funding Planned Parenthood altogether. This would most likely cause chaos throughout our country. Both pro-choice and pro-life advocates have reasonable arguments on either side, which they are entitled to have. We just need to focus on what sounds more justifiable or upright in the long run.
People believe that abortion is the murder of unborn fetuses who should have rights. There will be three types of major religions that will be discussed. The first religion is Christianity. Christianity believes in monotheism (meaning one God), Jesus Christ is the son of God, and the Holy Spirit. Christians believe that life is a beautiful and precious gift from God and that it should be preserved for as long as possible or needed. Christians are strongly against abortion because it does not preserve life. In a response to abortion, there was a historical debate on “the degree of wrongdoing and how the church was going to respond to those people involved” (Scanlan, 2016). Not only did the church respond but other theologians such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas responded. They both agreed that “while affirming Aristotle’s idea that ensoulment only occurred sometime after conception (and so regarding late abortion as a more serious act of wrongdoing), still maintained the condemnation of all abortion at any time from conception onward” (Scanlan, 2016).
The second most common religion is Islam. Islam is also a monotheistic religion that believes in the prophet Muhammad and his teachings from God. The Islamic view on abortion is that it also believes in the sanctity of life and that abortion is wrong and forbidden. However, some abortions are allowed after 120 days of pregnancy if it will put the mother’s life in jeopardy or is a result of rape which may or may not have been incest. The controversial issue that surrounds abortion in the Islamic teachings and traditions is whether the fetus has a soul or not. Many Muslims believe that “Islam forbids the termination of a pregnancy after soul or 'Ruh' is given to the foetus” (BBC, 2009). Furthermore, Islam does not believe that abortions should be used as a tool to just have whenever a fetus is unwanted. Muslims do not believe an abortion should take place if it is a response to adultery because then it is used as a personal benefit.
The last religion is Judaism which is the religion that believes the prophet is Moses and a belief in the one God. The Jewish faith continues to focus on the teachings of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible is a collection of teachings and stories. In relation to abortion, the Jewish community has responded to both the liberal (moral independence) and Christian understanding of abortion. According to Scanlan, the Orthodox Jews are not for abortions except for very specific health condition and those are also limited. The Reform or Conservative jews only allow abortion to a certain extent. Jews believe in the preservation of life but also take into account the mother’s safety. In the Talmud (book of teachings and instructions) it explains that a fetus is not legally a person until it is delivered (scanlan, 2016).
Abortion has also said to have been the leading cause of death in the African American community. This argument is false. According to our research, women of color are more likely to get an abortion than whites or Hispanics. This is also because women of color including Hispanics are more likely to have unintended pregnancies than white women. African-American women typically want the same amount of children as any other race. The media continues to oversexualize women of color and poor women “oversexualized and nastily stereotyped as sexually incontinent over-breeders, the media doesn't obsess over their ‘purity’“ (Amanda Marcotte 2013). However, white women are considered to be “pure,” and the typical abortion patient is a young white woman who has no children and believes that a pregnancy can derail their future (Marcotte, 2013). These stereotypes have often been the face of pro-life movements.
After talking about the history, the meaning of abortion, the controversial approaches, and the religion aspect, let’s focus on organizations that offer resources for abortions. Planned Parenthood is a women’s health clinic that offers medical and reproductive information to their patients. Planned Parenthood advocates, educates, and provides resources for women and men. This clinic also offers abortion referrals and services, pregnancy testing, HIV and STI testing and treatment, LGBTQ services, and other men’s and women’s services. However, there have been protests regarding the services that Planned parenthood offers.
In conclusion, abortion has taken on many roles in society and has continued to be a controversial topic. The argument surrounding abortion is that women should be in control of their bodies while continuing to preserve life and humanity. As members of a diverse population, the Saint Mary’s community needs to become more educated on why women may need to obtain an abortion. Although this school is predominantly Catholic, people should start to encourage the community to be more open-minded on the abortion issue. There should also be more available resources given to the Saint Mary’s community regarding women and their bodies. As a research team that is on both sides of the spectrum of abortion, we can help advocate for each other and help find the common issue that lies in both opposing sides. Doing so requires the understanding of beliefs and values of both sides and why they make those arguments. Working together as a society means that we need to hear arguments from both sides without any biases. This can help put our society in the right direction for women’s equality and less discrimination when it comes to our decisions.
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