Women obtaining their rights has been a long and continuous slow burn over the course of the world, specifically in the United States. From no longer being considered as property in marriages to having the right to vote to obtaining the right to make decisions for their reproductive health, women have had to fight for much in terms of basic and complex civil rights. One monumental fight that has gone on even in the face of legislation legalizing it is the right to an abortion. Abortion is a medical procedure performed worldwide and occurred even in ancient times. When it comes to things that run the gamut of human life, including abortion, fertility, conception, pregnancy, adoption, etc., citizens anywhere and everywhere are up in arms over what is considered right and wrong. The answer to that is rooted in several individual factors: upbringing, culture, religion, history, moral code, etc. For some, life begins at birth and for others life begins at conception, thus rendering abortion murder if said life ends before getting the chance to come to fruition.
In the United States, attitudes towards abortion were liberal, political changes only occurring at the stage where mothers felt quickening or fetal movement around 20 weeks gestation (Levene et al, 2000, p. 8). Anti-abortion laws are in place to protect the rights of the unborn, whom opponents consider to be a person just as much as the mother. These laws were met with just as much disdain from women’s rights and feminist movements who preferred for women to be regarded as more than just humans who can be pregnant and would rather have the autonomy over a decision like that. When women have autonomy over their bodies, it allows for children to be brought into the world on their own terms and into circumstances where the child can be best taken care of by his or her parent or parents. Regardless of the circumstances of conception, the right to life is just as much the mother’s as it is the child’s.
Obtaining an abortion is a constitutional right—not a choice, but a right. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution declares that denying the right to such is a denial and violation of its Due Process Clause concerning a woman’s right to privacy and making decisions in private. To balance women’s rights to privacy with state regulation, Roe v. Wade (1973) limited state regulation to the third trimester of pregnancy, when abortions rarely happen except in situations that put the mother’s life at risk. The right to an abortion is paramount to women who become mothers and children have successful, positive, and enriching lives. Forcing women to either take the matter of abortions into their own hands puts both mother and child at risk; this was a common occurrence when abortion was illegal in the United States where several women performed their own abortions risking serious illness and/or death. These “back alley” abortions that are self-induced, using toilet soap, Dettol, and a boiled syringe (Lloyd, 1972, p. 354-5) can and did kill women because of legislation interested in protecting the right of someone not considered a legal person—in actuality—as opposed to protecting the life and health of the mother, a living and breathing human being with all of the complexities and nuances of life.
Abortion being ethical or moral is a matter of opinion, as said before, and is dependent upon the beliefs and views of the person being asked. To me, abortion is ethical, as a common and legal medical procedure that is hardly different from any other. What is unethical, however, is children being born into the world in improper situations to mothers who either cannot or do not want to take care of a child. The problem that I perceive with abortion being considered wrong is the incorrect belief that children are “precious, “miracles,” etc. Children are simply human beings that we all once were, who require love and care to become the adults that keep life going. Children are not miracles or gifts; nor should they be treated like punishments if a woman does fall pregnant. Treating an unwanted pregnancy as something that a woman should just accept for whatever reason does not make for a productive life for that child. Pregnancy is a consequence and can happen with or without contraceptive methods (the “with contraception” referring to when contraception fails) and should not be treated as an unfortunate circumstance that has to be taken in stride. It does not have to be.
Abortion is a constitutional right endowed to women and that right should be protected and maintained. In my opinion, the rights and life of the born will always take precedence over the unborn. Without the former, there is no latter. When the unborn is prioritized over the born, it downplays the serious complications of even a low-risk pregnancy to the woman. Pregnancy is as common as it is dangerous and has physical and mental effects on the woman. Neglecting the serious risks, complications, and consequences of pregnancy in favor of who or what a fetus could become is nonsensical to me. Women having autonomy over their bodies is paramount to them becoming pregnant and cultivating life on their own terms—if they so choose. Politicizing the intimate experience of motherhood in favor of eschewing the mother to protect the child is polarizing, divisive, and most of all dangerous for the cultivation and protection of human life.
- Callahan, D. (1970). Abortion: Law, choice, and morality.
- Levene, M., Tudehope, D. I., & Thearle, M. J. (2000). Essentials of neonatal medicine. Blackwell Science.
- Lloyd, G. (1972). Self induced abortion. JR Coll Gen Pract, 22(118), 354-355.