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Abortion In America: A Women's Right To Choose

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In the United States, motherhood is a paramount institution that forces two arguments to emerge in the battle for reproductive rights. The “pro-choice” and “pro-life” sides force an attack on morality as the line between when to interfere with a woman’s body is blurred. The concept of abortion is often criticized for whether or not a woman should be able to choose for herself to carry her pregnancy to term. The anti-abortion perspective views the moment of conception as the creation of a human being, therefore making abortion tantamount to murder. However, fetuses are not yet human beings, and an unwanted pregnancy is most likely to result in far more fatalities, as women attempt back-alley abortions that may result in the death of both mother and child. When an unwanted pregnancy is carried to term, a woman is forced into deliverance that results in economic deprivation causing a cycle of ongoing poverty. Therefore, abortion should remain a legal option for all women in the United States as it promotes planned parenthood, which decreases the risk of fatalities and socio-economic hardships.

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The anti-abortion threat stems directly from unconstitutional sex discrimination, as being an entity of restrictive state abortion legislation. Nonetheless, women are protected from such discrimination under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. According to Blackmun, an article in the United States constitution that Roe v. Wade was decided upon stated:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The decision was made in large part due to the wording of “all persons born. ” It was made evident that in order to fall under United States jurisdiction one shall be born or naturalized. A fetus is unborn therefore not falling under the protections of the law or rights to life and liberty. A call for security under this clause goes beyond the argument of life and directly concerns the safety of entities currently possessing human rights, especially in “the wake of increasing state-level legislation” (McDonagh). There is a need to be politically aware of the implications in making such a resource illegal. This is where the debate between a fetus versus a human being is a key component in understanding. As a nation, law preservation must be maintained due to women having conscientious choice since they are, in fact, human beings with indisputable rights.

The cause for legal-standing concern comes from emerging state legislation that is making it harder for women to access healthcare, especially in regard to abortion. More legislators are coming forward to pass bills that would allot a slim amount of time to have the procedure done. For example, the Governor of Georgia recently passed a “heartbeat bill” that would make abortions legal up until a heartbeat is detectable, which is around six weeks. That six weeks includes the time it takes for a missed period to occur, so in reality the window of time is roughly two weeks. Regardless of “the right to have an abortion [being] federal law, exactly who can access the service and under what circumstances is the purview of states” as made evident from the past few days (Pickert). Other types of restrictions include: imposing waiting periods, requiring ultrasounds, week based bans in particular the 20 weeks ban that was due to the theory that fetuses can feel pain at that gestation period, and fetal heartbeat laws that ban abortion when a heartbeat is identifiable. The decision of when and how should be “a private matter between a woman and her doctor, with no restriction or regulation beyond what is absolutely necessary to protect the woman’s health” (Pickert). The last entity imposing standards should be the state government as what a woman does with her body should strictly be her concern.

If abortion were made illegal, then thousands of women would turn to back-alley abortions, putting themselves and the fetus at risk. Thus, there would be no standard precautions, making the procedures become at-home endeavors by unlicensed personnel. Prior to the Roe v. Wade decision, women were affected exactly in this way by large numbers of botched abortions, which according to Pollitt in Abortion: No More Apologies:

Legalizing abortion didn’t just save women from death and injury and fear of arrest, didn’t just make it possible for women to commit to education and work and free them from shotgun marriages and too many kids. It changed how women saw themselves: as mothers by choice, not fate.

The procedures women endured were horrifying, as they faced certain health issues and complications that could have all together been avoided. If a legislative decision to make abortion illegal is presented, then it will affect pregnant women as drastically as before Roe v. Wade. According the interview done on the media program Films Media Group:

Many women will do what they have to do to take control of and responsibility for their reproductive lives. And if that means ending a pregnancy in any way they know how– that might be taking a poison. It might be using a knitting needle. It might be leaving the country. It might be asking somebody to beat them up. It might be attempting suicide. For women, what’s true throughout history is that they will do what they need to do.

The possibility of women never having children again, as she commits to the unsafe, life-threatening options, would become a harsh reality. As operations are “performed in the kitchen of the motel using some of the kitchen equipment, using a telephone book and chairs, so forth,” America would need to keep women’s reproductive rights in their best interest (Films Media Group). In what world would the United States want to go back to a time when women were held by the bonds of strict reproductive laws, arguably the opposite direction this country would want to go. The legalization of abortion “played a major role in shifting the axis of American politics from economics to social issues” (Ponnuru). As countries progress forward, especially in regard to gender equality, abortion must be kept as a liable option for women who may suffer through unplanned pregnancy because the effects otherwise could be damaging.

Being barred from abortion has detrimental effects both physically and mentally. Women are more likely to suffer psychological effects when the burden of bringing an unwanted child into the world is held, especially when the means of the pregnancy are the product of ill intentions Being denied an abortion alone has extreme effects on a woman’s mental well-being. Imagine being forced to carry a child that is the product of unwanted sexual conduct such as rape or incest. To be allowed no other option than to have a child would jeopardize the central idea of what it means to be a woman. Even so, there is the path of adoption, which no “pro-life” activist prefers to confront because it calls out the very basis of their movement. To be “pro-life” should mean to care for life all the way through until the end. However, what happens after the uterus is no cause for bother as many children face adoption or poverty. Particularly, the poverty level would be a cause of high-stress to both mother and child. The mental entanglement would be unbearable. Luckily, there is an option available that would relieve women of such burden.

The effects of raising an unwanted child can weigh heavier when socio-economic issues are presented. Women are more likely to fall into a cycle of poverty and depend on social welfare. This phenomenon then becomes a personal issue that impacts all citizens. As children come into the world they come with a cost, and since pregnancy disrupts all aspects of a woman’s life, especially her employment. A woman may not be financially stable enough to keep herself on her feet, so how can society expect her to raise a child on the same terms. The argument of getting another job comes up, but then how will the woman raise the child. There is of course the option of child care services, but there goes the entire paycheck from the second job she is already working to stay afloat. Instead of this hypothetical situation occurring thousands of times over, “we need to see abortion as a social good: it’s good for everyone if women have children intentionally, when they are best able to raise them while fulfilling their other plans and dreams, not because they happened to get pregnant at some random moment” (Pollitt). As a society, there should be the empowerment of women to pursue their future without the fear of instability. Abortion would reduce the unstable taxpayer costs and protect women from the financial disadvantages faced. This would allow women “to be full and equal participants in society” which is dependent on “whether they could end a pregnancy” (Films Media Group). To be a valuable member of society benefits all parties involved and would offset the inequalities women regularly face.

As the “pro-life” side makes their argument, the cornerstone position is that abortion is the immoral killing of innocent human beings, since conception is perceived as the beginning of life. It is understood that many individuals believe abortion defies the word of God because the bible makes no difference between a child and the unborn. This brings up a debate on morality of humankind and when exactly is a fetus a human with rights. The “pro-life” side can argue when exactly a fetus considered of personhood, from the moment of fertilization. However, that is purely just an embryo that lacks the physical ability to believe or exercise any given constitutional right. The “abortion opponents have been very effective at shifting the focus of moral concern on to the contents of women’s wombs—even an unimplanted fertilized egg is a baby now” (Pollitt). Historically, a fetus has rarely been considered a human being because there are virtually no laws applying precedent to the unborn. The rights to personhood have no meaning in the grey area fetuses are classified under, which creates reasonable claim to them not possessing the same rights as human beings. The “support or legal access to abortion that points to love, ethical conviction, and self-knowledge roots the legality of that access in the liberty of conscience” (Warnke). Undoubtedly, there will never be consensus to whether fetuses are human beings due to the argument being a subjective claim, so as a society the choice must belong to pregnant women only and their conscientious decision.

If the nationwide division on abortion does not come together in the years to come, then the overturn of Roe v. Wade may be attainable. This country has “millions of pro-choice Americans who are so far uninvolved (and still complacent) that will ultimately decide the fate of legal abortion in this country” (Pollitt). There are options to be considered when the nation does come together. Perhaps the United States needs to learn from other countries such as the Japanese who offer “a window into the particularities of the American debate and the limits of each position” (Borovoy). After Japan loosened its abortion laws, their population growth rate was cut into half by a decade. This is a promising method to voluntary population control. That is a concept Americans could learn and benefit from, especially as increasing population and new ways to defend women’s rights becomes a global issue. However, in order to do so, companies like Planned Parenthood would have to begin to be fully funded. The existence of Planned Parenthood comes with controversy due to abortion services offered, alongside numerous other necessary reproductive health resources. Quite regularly, there have been protests that have led to the closing of Planned Parenthoods across the nation, some did not provide the abortion services. Additionally, there have been cuts made to the organization that have seen destructive effects. The consequences are very real in communities nationwide, as the journey to a clinic is unbearable enough. A stigma is on the rise because “according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research center on reproductive health care, more than half of all US women of reproductive age now live in a state that is hostile to abortion rights, whereas fewer than one third did a decade ago” (Films Media Group). This is where the stigma behind abortion evidently fuels a flame dangerous enough to take out a previously held right. The idea that abortion is selfish has caused too many “to accept the anti-abortion framing” (Pollitt). There should not be shame with abortion, instead women need to feel empowered to make such decisions. The influence of other countries paired with the support from and towards programs can positively impact the countries current state.

Currently, the battle of reproductive rights has “most of the cheers coming from the pro-choice side” when, in order to move progressively as a nation, it needs to be simultaneously (Lacayo). Most importantly, it is up to everyone to participate in the conversation and to become educated on the matter of abortion. The emergence of a unified body would not only offer support to the women who stood in the face of state power, but it would also be the beginning to choosing one’s own fate; whether or not to start a family. The rights women have must be defined properly so there will be no blurred definition that would cause both the unformidable socio-economic and health issues. All citizens should be compelled to respect a woman’s obligations to her bodily integrity. Undoubtedly, the time is now to combat the ever worsening state restrictions. State laws have been ratified to restrict women and their access to abortion. The increasing limitations worsen both physical and psychological health and economic outcomes. As active members in state legislation, the national community can counter the attack on fundamental rights. Especially as Roe v. Wade becomes significantly weaker, it is crucial differing ideologies join forces to ensure the sustainment of reproductive rights. Perhaps the solution lies within structures similar to Japan, or it is dependent on the accessibility of companies like Planned Parenthood. Whatever it may be one thing is for sure, abortion shall remain a legal option for women in the United States.

10 October 2020

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