The topic of abortion is one of the most controversial of our times. It hascaused countless deaths and several violent confrontations between the twoseparate parties of opinion. The fight between pro-life and pro-choicesupporters has been long and brutal. This is because, despite what severalpeople may believe, abortion is neither right nor wrong.
It is a matter ofpersonal opinion. In this way, each side can say with certainty that the otheris wrong. Therefore the question remains; should abortion be legal? Though somemay disagree on this point, the fact is that legalized abortion is the onlyoption that will protect the lives of American citizens. One only needs to lookinto American history to see the results of prohibiting abortions to women. Theviolence which occurs today because the of pro-choice/pro-life conflicts isminimal in comparison to the thousands of hopeless women who turned to theillegal abortions –either self-inflicted or preformed by the backroom”professionals”– which resulted in infection, massive blood loss, anddeath. It is better now that they have a place to go where abortions can beperformed cleanly and with minimal risk.
Legalization of abortion is the onlychoice no matter what side one takes in the debate. Women will try to do whatthey think is necessary to live as they wish, no matter what the risk. In orderto 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 thousands of years inevery inhabited corner of the globe. It has always been accepted as a means toprevent the suffering of both woman and potential child.
It has been practicedwidely 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. Afterall, who but God had the right to judge what a woman did with her own body? Thisthought process lasted till the 1800’s. During this era of change people beganto turn their attention in a new direction, the fetus. They began to protestabortion as cruel, inhumane, and murderous. Filled with a new sense of purposeand the glory of a fresh, righteous cause to uphold this new morality swept thecountryside enveloping everyone in its wake.
Abortionists who were once reveredand depended upon were now scorned and threatened. Though abortions stillhappened with regularity, they were kept silent and seen as a matter of shame. “Over the next hundred years, public sentiment for the fetus continued torise until the inevitable happened in America during the early 40’s; Abortionwas made illegal. ” (Cohen 17). There was much back patting andcongratulations among the pro-life supporters. And why not? They had succeededin saving the lives of the hundreds of innocent babies who would have beensenselessly slaughtered for the convenience of selfish, ignorant, andirresponsible women.
Because of this new law, women would settle down and raisefamilies or give these beautiful children over into the hands of the hundreds ofloving couples who were just waiting for a baby to call their own. It seemedthat the perfect law had just been passed. Or had it? It has been proven timeand time again throughout history that the human spirit will not allowprohibition. Something inside us feels the need to strike out at that whichrestrains us and holds us from the life we want. Just as prohibition of alcoholmade a black market for liquor (a virtual underworld was immediately erected tofulfill the new need for abortions).
Government, through regulation, had onceagain created a need that would be fulfilled by the lawless. Most doctors,fearing incarceration, refused to treat the women who so desperately wantedabortions. Women, seeing no other solution to their problems, were oftendesperate enough to turn to these “Back Room” clinics. These clinicswere located in poverty-ridden sections of the city and their conditions weredeplorable. The places themselves were layered in filth and disease.
Inexperienced butchers using dirty and crude equipment treated the girls. As ifthese backroom clinics were not bad enough, there was an even more appallingdecision a woman might face. If a she were unable to pay the exorbitant pricefor the illegal surgery, she would often perform the act herself. “Knittingneedles, coat hangers, antiseptic douches and poisons were used most often”(Welton 123).
“Emergency rooms primarily in the more urban areas werereporting higher numbers of intractable bleeding to the point of death. Pelvicinflammatory disease and other forms of life threatening sepsis were on therise. Self induced poisoning was another complication. ” (Boyer, 98). Partial abortions were also commonplace.
One thing most people do not thinkabout is the fetus. If, as some say, life and the sense of self begins atconception, how many atrocities have been caused by the incompetence shownduring this time’some may wonder what drove these women to such extremes justto have and abortion. Why didn’t they just have the baby? The answer lies in ourmost basic human instinct: to survive as best we can. These women want to livetheir lives as they choose, not as it is chosen that they live it.
Being forcedto bear a child could mean having to support and give up dreams of a betterlife. Also they might be pressured into a “shotgun wedding” to savetheir reputations. In the book Back Rooms, by Ellen Messer, a woman named Liz,explains her reasons for receiving an abortion. “People have said to me,How can you be in favor of abortion? If you’d had one, you wouldn’t havethese beautiful children. ‘ But I would have had them.
It just would have beenlater when I was better prepared to care for them. And maybe they would have anicer man for their father. I would have been more prepared and all our liveswould have been so much easier. Even though I love my children dearly, I regretthat I did not have an abortion when I was given the option. I should never havelet others influence my decision. ” (29) For other women, being forced tobear a child would mean placing it into the system.
It is commonly thought thatevery orphan is just temporary. That there is a family out there just waitingfor it with open arms. The truth of the matter is that many families did notwant children unless they were white and healthy. Most of the others were eithershifted through the system until they were 18 or sent to live with fosterfamilies who were sometimes uncaring or even abusive (187). Women were aware ofthese realities and many refused to bring a child into the world and have itlive in such a manner. Also was the fact that many women wanted to hide theirpresent state from families or employers.
They knew that they could be disownedor fired for their “shameful state”. They were desperate to keep theirsecrets, so desperate in fact that they were willing to risk their lives. Thiswas a risk they should not have had to take. In the book Abortion: A PositiveDecision, Mrs. Lunneborg states that “The desire not to have a child is byfar the best reason for an abortion. There are enough unwanted children in theworld already.
” (18) And so these women risked, and often lost, their livesin these illegal abortions. If they were caught afterwards, they were chargedwith murder. But is abortion murder? Abortion is defined as “The inducedtermination of a pregnancy before it is capable of survival as anindividual” (Frohock 186). Considering this definition, at the time of mostabortions, the fetus is not an individual. The definition is far too simplistic. One needs to take into consideration the developmental stages of the fetal lifespan.
Most abortions occur soon after the confirmation of pregnancy, (usuallyprior to 12 weeks gestation. ) The first twelve weeks is known as the firsttrimester or the embryonic phase. At this time the fetus is about 3-3. 5 incheslong having a weight of 15-20 grams. The neurological system is primitive atbest, demonstrating only vague swimming motions (Rosenblatt 37).
The secondtrimester heralds a time of rapid growth. At about 20 months the mother usuallyfirst perceives fetal movement. At 24 weeks the brain resembles that of a matureperson. The fetal weight is about 650 grams. (39) The third trimester is from 24weeks to birth (approximately 40 weeks. ).
At 26 weeks the nervous system beginsto regulate some body processes. (40) “When making the conscious decisionto terminate the life of the fetus one must take into account the development ofthe fetus. One approach might be that of assessing the neurological development. It is only logical that the more complex the neurological system the more likelyyou are to induce pain or end a sense of self if in fact that sense exists priorto birth” (Frohock 28).
In many ways it is similar to the decision to pullthe plug on a comatose person. Here, one must decide whether or not to withdrawthat which the person needs to survive. Yet the decision to terminate is notconsidered murder but an act of the deepest humanity, an opinion that contrastsgreatly to the shame and animosity faced by an aborted mother during the time ofthe mass anti-abortion sentiment. How long would women suffer this mentalanguish? (Haddok 132) Based on this information, presented in the Roe vs. Wadecase, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman was allowed by the Constitution’s14th Amendment to receive an abortion before the first trimester. It nowappeared that the pro-choice advocates had won the political tug-o-war at last.
However, violence continues between the two groups as the animosity andresentment has grown to new heights. Now, more than ever, research articles arecoming out about a woman’s right to privacy vs. a fetus’s right to life. The lawmay have been passed, but the war goes on. It is difficult to gain valid andsubjective information on the topic of abortion. This is because much of theresearch has been colored by the personal beliefs of the group or individualthat collects it.
There may not be an intentional or even conscious effort toskew the facts in this manner but it happens none the less. A person writing apaper on the tragic effect of abortion on society’s moral values may tend totwist the real statistics slightly to better serve his or her purpose. Anotherdoing a paper on the same topic may use the previous one as a reference pointand exaggerate the information even more. One can see how, very soon, the”facts” are no longer recognizable as truth.
Another metamorphosis mayoccur in the way the original research is collected. In order to prove a certainpoint, a researcher may choose to collect information in a very select genres ofpeople instead of wide and random test groups taken from many diverse areas. Apro-choice researcher may poll a feminist rally while a pro-lifer may choose aCatholic organization. Thus the information becomes so varied and conflictingthat the objective data gets lost in the muddle. It is a case of ignoring thewhole truth and focusing on the part of it which best suits a specific personand their ideals.
Unfortunately, because of this lapse, many Americans areconfused as to the reality of the situation and tend to avoid it as we have atendency to do with subjects we do not understand. Others simply grab theinformation they like best and sling it at their opponents in the matter. Theother side looks at this information and sees that it contrasts with their own. Thus they dismiss it as lies. It is a vicious circle and it has caused manydeaths and injuries on both sides from riots, bombings, and fights.
Carrie, aSan Diego nurse in an abortion clinic, tells us what it was like when thebuilding was bombed by pro-life supporters. “At the initial explosion, Iwas knocked to the floor. A wave of heat burst through the room followed closelyby the fire. Burning papers fell from my desk and caught on the leg of myscrubs. The pain was unbelievable! I now know what hell must be like.
I began tocrawl to the door when I heard a cry behind me. One of the young patients wasrunning down the hall with her gown on fire. I grabbed her and made her roll. Then we got out.
. . I suffered second and third degree burns on my legs and armsand my lungs were filled with smoke and had to be flushed out. Still, I am luckyto even be alive.
Two of my best friends died in that bombing and several of myco-workers. I can not help but think now, that it is a bitter irony that thepeople who claim they are trying to save lives are killing people to accomplishit. ” (Interview with Carrie) According to Jannet Lennelborg, “We mustfind an uncommon ground on this issue. “(18). It is clear that these twogroups will never join in their ways of thinking.
There is too much passion andconflict involved in the debate. What we must do is find a compromise and”agree to disagree” (18). If, just for a moment, we could just stopthe finger pointing and name calling, and just listen to what our so-calledopponents have to say, we may find that both sides have their points. Only thencan we stop the hatred and violence that has so ripped America in the last fewdecades. In conclusion, my research leads me to believe that, while abortionmust be legal, a woman should also be provided with all the correct informationshe needs to make a responsible and rational decision. I believe that this isthe only solution we can have which will conclude this “private war”once and for all.
The misinformation and violence surrounding this issue hasturned human against human for far too long. Most of the negativity regardingthe issue of abortion comes from the religious rights who believe that the rightto the life of the fetus supercedes all else. Unfortunately there will always bea disparity between logic and religion. BibliographyBoyer, Mark. Abortion: The Straight Facts.
Boston: Houghton Mifflan, 1992. 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. Interview- Interview with a formerSan Diego abortion clinic nurse who was present when it was bombed in 1985. 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.
. . IsNot A Sin. California: Pandit Press, 1989. 191-95. Whitney, Catherine.
WhoseLife? New York: William Morrow and Co., 1992