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Abortion has long been a controversial hot topic in not only America, but it is also as a global source of debate. Views on the topic can be quite diverse depending on many factors including geographic location, age, culture, religion, education, and family values, just to name a few. As such, abortion is an inherently charged talking point, which can create tension and divisive opinions among friends, family members, and other loved ones. As a result, some people are reluctant to delve into the subject and express their views for public consumption. Yet, it is so important to safeguard women’s rights and their access to family planning services. From abortions to contraception to reproductive health screenings and other related services, a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body should always be respected, honored, and protected.
As a woman, knowing that all women in this country have sufficient access to health care and reproductive health services is of paramount importance. No woman should have her rights to receive these services or ability to decide what happens to her own body impeded by others. Ultimately, it is a woman’s body and her choice what happens with that body. Whether or not she decides to terminate a pregnancy or bring it to term is the woman’s choice to make and no other individual, government, religious, or state agency should have the ability to intrude or impede upon the woman’s options.
Some people may argue the rights of the father or unborn fetus, however, the ultimate decision should and must rest with the expectant mother. After all, she serves as the human vessel and incubator for the fetus. It is her body and life force that provides shelter and nutrients for the fetus to develop. Moreover, the woman must devote approximately 40 weeks of her life and body’s supplements to nourishing a fetus assuming the pregnancy is healthy and is brought to full maturation. The fact that others of unlike minds and varying agendas feel that they might be allowed to dictate how a woman uses her body, or the decisions she makes regarding her own mind and/or body, is beyond unjust. As such, a woman’s right to choose, access to abortions, and reproductive health services should always be protected.
Pro-choice advocates support a woman’s right to choose and obtain an abortion if the expectant mother opts to terminate the pregnancy. Meanwhile, pro-life advocates typically oppose abortion and argue for the rights of the unborn fetus. The term abortion can create confusion among supporters and detractors. For clarity sake, an abortion is depicted as the ending of a pregnancy by removing a fetus or embryo before it is considered viable outside the womb.
However, there are, in actuality, four main forms of abortion. The type of procedure used in elective pregnancy termination is usually determined by how far along a woman is into pregnancy. There are spontaneous abortions, which are commonly referred to as miscarriages. Miscarriages can result from a variety of circumstances including abnormalities with the fetus or mother’s reproductive system, health complications, trauma, the age of the expectant mother, and/or ectopic pregnancy (non-viable pregnancy and implantation/fertilization of egg inside the fallopian tubes). There are also medical or medically induced abortions. These terminations involve a combination of medications that render the fetus non-viable. This option is only available in the first trimester of a pregnancy and providers will not utilize this approach after nine weeks of gestation. After this period, surgical abortions, which are the third form of termination, are employed. The surgical approach is a viable option throughout the entire pregnancy and accounts for 96 percent of women who opt for second-trimester termination of the fetus. The fourth form of termination involves surgical evacuation of the fetus in the late stages of pregnancy. This procedure is performed after the fetus could potentially survive outside the uterus and it is used only in life-threatening circumstances when the expectant mother and/or unborn fetus are considered to be in imminent danger.
While some pro-lifers argue that life begins at conception, that is simply not the case. From a medical and legal standpoint, the viability of an unborn fetus has been determined to be 24 weeks of development. This is the earliest phase at which a fetus could potentially survive outside the uterus, however, the survival rate of fetuses born at this stage are dismal.
The landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade (1973), legalized abortion in the United States by a majority of seven to two justices and gave women not only the option to legally terminate a pregnancy, but provided them with access to reproductive health services and contraception to prevent pregnancy in the first place. Agencies, such as Planned Parenthood and local family planning clinics, have, in large part, circumvented the need for dangerous, potentially lethal “back alley” abortions that were commonplace prior to the Supreme Court of the United States’ (SCOTUS) Roe v. Wade ruling. This decision not only liberated women and gave them Due Process of law to decide what happens to their body, but it also granted their right to privacy while doing so, under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Meanwhile, the lower court supported Roe v. Wade and the legalization of abortion in accordance with the Ninth Amendment of the Constitution, an inherent part of the Bill of Rights, which states that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
As a point of fact, not only has SCOTUS deemed the necessity of legalized abortion but so has the World Health Organization (WHO). Due to the fact that unsafe abortions account for nearly 50,000 deaths and over 5 million hospital admissions each year, the WHO recommends safe and legal abortions be available to all women. These startling statistics may surprise many given that, when allowed by local law, abortion in the developed world is one of the safest procedures performed in the field of medicine. However, in areas where access to reproductive health services and/or abortion providers are limited or restricted, due to state laws, religious doctrines, and/or cultural viewpoints, back alley abortions are still very much a reality and desperate women resort to whatever means necessary to improve their circumstances and safeguard their futures.
Particularly when faced with instances of incest, problems with the fetus, poverty, risk to a woman’s health, or rape, a woman’s right to choose is not only dire but it could be her only option. This is not only a continued source of injustice in the United States but it is a global concern, especially in regions where religious, cultural, and governing laws could result in a woman’s execution for terminating a pregnancy. As such, a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body and access to safe abortions, as well as reproductive health services, should always be respected, honored, and protected.
Opinion Written and Edited by Leigh Haugh
Personal Observations and Opinions of the Author
Planned Parenthood Official Website
Planned Parenthood–Roe v. Wade: Its History and Impact
About Education–Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision
American Pregnancy Association–Abortion Procedures
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Featured Image Courtesy of American Life League – Creative Commons License