Abortion is a hot issue in the United States public debate. This is how it has been for a long time. Political leaders, church leaders and members of the public have all aired their opinions as far as the issue is concerned. In a democracy like the United States, each member of the society is entitled to his or her opinions, and no one dares stop another person from expressing their opinions regarding a particular issue. This is how it has been with abortion.
The debate over the issue has two main sides, ignoring the undecided. There is a group that believes that life starts at conception, and therefore abortion is technically murder. This group does not support any form of abortion. Not even an argument based on medical grounds can make this group change their opinions. Who belongs to this group? The majority of the members of this group are affiliated to the Republican Party. They are mainly conservatives and describe themselves as prolife because of their stance. Most church leaders such as the Catholic Church also belong to this group.
The other side of the debate is made up of people who do not pay too much attention to the argument that life begins at conception. They believe that the woman must have the power to make decisions regarding what happens to her body. Most liberals are in this group most of whom are affiliated with the Democratic Party. According to this group of people, the choice to keep of get rid of a pregnancy should be solely made by the woman who is carrying the pregnancy and not outsiders. The common term for this group of people is prochoice. What are the arguments put forward by these groups in support of their positions?
The supporters of abortion have raised various arguments in support of abortion. Elisabeth Rosenthal in her article in the New York Times argued that the numbers of women and young girls seeking abortions were the same in countries where it is illegal and where it is not legal (Rosenthal 1). Then what is the need for making it illegal if it is not reducing the numbers? A further argument by Rosenthal in the same article is that in countries where abortion is legal, the women and girls seeking it are not forced to hide or go to unqualified personnel. Instead they go to qualified medical personnel who carry out the procedure in a clean and safe manner (Rosenthal 1).This is not the case when it comes to countries where abortion I s not allowed. In these countries, the women seek abortion services in questionable locations where it is performed by personnel with suspect medical knowledge. Risks of infection and even death during abortion rise if it is performed in poor conditions. This makes abortion more problematic in instances where it is illegal compared to where it is legal (Rosenthal 1).
The prochoice group has also projected the argument of the right to privacy by the woman. Judith Jarvis Thomson has been at the forefront on stating that a woman should have the power to make decisions concerning her body (Thomson 46-47).It is intrusive and therefore unacceptable for the government or any other group or individual to make decisions on what is supposed to happen to the body of a woman. In this case, the comfort of the woman as far as the unborn child is concerned should be the determining factor in keeping or getting rid of the pregnancy (Thomson 45-46).Other significant issues raised by the supporters of abortion include medical reasons whereby the life of the unborn child may be in danger and therefore unnecessary to keep it. There are also cases where the life of the unborn child as well as that of the mother may be in danger in which case it may be sensible to abort the unborn as a way of saving the mother who can then live to see another chance of getting another child.
In addition to the above, there is the crime rate drop argument by Donohue and Levitt which claims that when impoverished communities are given access to abortion, unwanted pregnancies and therefore unwanted children are avoided leading to reduced crime rates (Donohue & Levitt 379-383).These two scholars however missed the point by making an academic fallacy that the community under consideration has to be African American. There has been an observed trend of increased irresponsible sexual behavior among poor women of all ethnic groups including Hispanics and Whites as well as Asians (Schwarz 23-24).It fact in poor African countries where abortion is frowned upon, and irresponsible sexual behavior considered a taboo, there is no crime. This makes the racial reference in the Donohue and Levitt study fallacious and therefore misleading. What about the other side of the debate?
On the other hand, those who do not believe in abortion have also put forward their arguments as to why this is a bad practice. In his book entitled Abortion and the Unborn Human Life, Patrick Lee argues that the unborn child is a distinct life with its own identity (Lee 5-7).The unique identity means that no one has the right for any reason whatsoever to kill this life through abortion or otherwise. This argument has been repeatedly used by church leaders who amplify the issue of the sanctity of human life and the need to protect the unborn.
Jose Ruso and Irma Ruso are also credited for putting forward a highly controversial argument that women who abort increase their chances of suffering from breast cancer (Ruso & Ruso 505-506).In this case, women are advised to keep their pregnancies since abortions mean the loss of not only the baby but also the chance to have another one. In all these arguments, who makes sense and who does not?
It is possible to get confused when two sides make sound arguments in defense of a position. But in my opinion, the medical argument seems more convincing. Life is sacred and should be trusted as such. But if the life of the mother and the life of the unborn are both likely to be lost as a result of the pregnancy, then abortion is a better option. Why keep the pregnancy and then lose both the mother and baby? The other arguments based on crime rates and privacy do not make sense since other steps can be taken to control crime and privacy should not be an argument against those who oppose abortion. For example if poverty among African Americans leads to unwanted pregnancies and high crime rates, the best thing to do is to understand where this population is coming from. This is a group of people who were given freedom a few decades ago and the strides they have made are tremendous. All that such a population needs are not more abortions but more resources. This should be the case for other populations that are afflicted by poverty.
In conclusion, it is evident that abortion is a hot issue with both sides presenting solid arguments. However the argument that the unborn child may in some cases endanger both itself and the mother thus calling for abortion makes more sense.
Donohue, John J.; Levitt, Steven D.. “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime”. Quarterly Journal of Economics 116.2 (2001): 379–420. Print.
Lee, Patrick. Abortion and Unborn Human Life. Catholic University of America Press, 1996.Print.
Rosenthal,Elisabeth. “Legal or Not, Abortion Rates Compare” New York Times 2007. Web.
Russo Jose & Russo Irma. “Susceptibility of the Mammary Gland to Carcinogenesis. II. Pregnancy Interruption as a Risk Factor in Tumor Incidence”. American Journal of Pathology 100.1 (1980): 505–506. Print.
Schwarz, Stephen. The Moral Question of Abortion. Chicago: Loyola University Press,1990.Print.
Thomson, Judith. “A Defense of Abortion”. Philosophy and Public Affairs 1.1 , (1971): 47-66.Print.