Abortion can be defined as the process of terminating pregnancy by removing a fetus from a pregnant woman.
According to Dombrowski and Deltete abortion can be defined as “the procedure for termination of a pregnancy, achieved by removing embryo and/or fetus along with the placenta from the uterus of the gravida or pregnant woman” (13)
Abortion is of two types, that is, spontaneous and induced, where in this case, spontaneous abortion is also termed as miscarriage, which could be caused by several reasons, ranging from medical, physical and emotional, and it occurs without prior knowledge of the gravida. The symptoms of this kind of abortion vary according to the time when it happens. For instance, a 10 week spontaneous abortion is characterized by heavy bleeding while that of 12weeks (after 1st trimester) is similar to labor pain.
On the other hand, induced abortion occurs with an individuals knowledge and it can be done medically when the life or health of a pregnant woman is threatened or for other personal reasons. When induced abortion is performed to secure the gravida, it is referred to as therapeutic abortion and when it is done for other reasons, it is known as elective abortion. Therapeutic abortion can also be done if the pregnancy is deemed to bring about a child with a disorder that could be fatal after birth its birth or to reduce the number of fetuses in a case of multiple pregnancies (Reith 50).
There are different methods of carrying out induced abortion, which could be medical or surgical. When drugs are used to terminate a pregnancy, this is referred to as medical and is viable during the first trimester, whereas surgical involves use of medical apparatus and tools to remove the fetus. However, each method is carefully chosen with reference to the period of the pregnancy.
A decision to have an abortion is tough to make, since many reasons could trigger one to do so. Different people have different views and reasons of either supporting or condemning abortion. Some of these views are based on their religious, cultural believes. Others believe that the decision to have an abortion should be left on an individual to make.
The proponents of abortion, also referred to as pro-choice, believe that everyone has full control over their body and can decide what to do and what not to do. They believe that that the decision on whether or not to abort should be left entirely on the individual as long as he/she does not interfere with others (Cristina 50)
One point they put across is that a woman who has undergone incest or a rape ordeal is already psychologically traumatized. The idea of being impregnated in such a circumstance is very painful and the idea of keeping such a baby would be a future reminder of this matter. They also claim that even with proper use of contraceptives due to some careless mistakes and in such a case, one can opt for abortion. They argue that it is better to abort than to bring up unplanned babies who may suffer due to lack of proper care and that such would also be a burden to the society as they may later engage themselves in crime.
Banning of abortion by a government would be equal to controlling a woman’s body. This would amount to going against the civil rights which allows one to have full control over their body. Banning of abortion would also lead to “back street” abortions, (abortions by unqualified and uncertified personnel), which would endanger the lives of many young people.
The pro-choice activists also claim that adoption is not an alternative to abortion since the decision to give up one’s child for abortion can only be made by the woman herself. When a child is born, there is always a close attachment between it and the mother and in case such a mother gives out the child for adoption, she may later feel like she was so irresponsible and at times some go to claim back their children. In other words, there is emotional stress and guilt accompanied with it. The choice is viable in a case where the mother is too young to take care of the child.
Supporters of abortion believe that abortion is not murder since a fetus is not a human being. To them, a fetus becomes a human being only when it is expelled from of the mother’s womb by birth. They claim that if a fetus is human, then it would also mean that a sperm and an egg are human and so birth controls should not be allowed either.
Another argument we all make mistakes in life especially when we are young. A woman may have lived a very responsible life but at one time may get into a trap and become pregnant at an early age or when she is not prepared for the child. This could mean that she has to terminate her studies or plans (Cristina 76)
The pro-life activists on the other hand believe that human life is so precious and therefore should be preserved at all cost regardless of the circumstances. They believe that everyone has a right to live and therefore do not justify abortion since to them, it is murder. They argue that life begins at conception and abortion at this juncture amounts to murder.
These activists also believe that there are other alternative methods to abortion like adoption and hence no one should be termed as ‘unwanted child’. Another reason for condemning abortion is a believe mankind has had for a longtime that, he who gives, will provide. This is a believe related to religion, meaning that since God is the giver of life, He must have a purpose for each individual and therefore one must be left to enjoy life. This argument however may be opposed by atheists who believe in scientific evolution of life.
Carol Maxwell asserts that procuring an abortion could also lead to complications later in life, like damaging of the reproductive system such that one is not able to conceive again. This especially happens when the procedure is done by unqualified personnel. Other complications related to this include, weakening of the cervix, blocked fallopian tubes, miscarriage and premature births among others. Apart from the physical effects suffered by the woman, there are also mental and emotional effects including stress (120)
Opponents of abortion also claim that in the case where one is raped, there are medical procedures that can be done to ensure that the woman does get pregnant. The rapist in this case is the one liable for punishment and not the child. Some women claim that they have full control of their bodies and therefore can decide what to do and not to do with it. The pro-life in this case argue that such women should not use abortion as a birth control measure but should use proper contraceptives.
Another moral argument in condemning abortion is that, a child with disability has the potential to live a meaningful life through assistance and support. Aborting a child based on his/her disability would amount to lack of value or disrespect to the disabled persons.
There is also a medical argument put forward to oppose abortion. This is in regard to the definition of life and death. According to Raymond, death is defined as “cessation of heartbeat” (15) and hence the same words could be used to define life as, “onset of heart beat” (15). This means that the moment the heart stops beating, one is declared dead. In this case, abortion is doing away with someone’s life since the heartbeat of a fetus can be felt as early as the18th day from the onset of pregnancy.
Abortion is also believed to increase breast cancer. In his book, David says that, many induced abortions that happen especially in first birth increase this risk. When a woman is pregnant, the oestrogen hormone that is responsible for the formation of milk is in high quantity. When this pregnancy is on till maturity, the breasts mature and the oestrogen content goes back to normal. On the other hand, if the pregnancy s terminated, the hormonal process is cut short, breast are immature and with this, they become more prone to breast cancer (56)
For those who are Christians, abortion would be disobeying God’s law and commandments that warns them against taking away someone’s life. On the other hand, doctors who perform abortion are viewed as going against the Hippocratic Oath as it demands them to save life.
Another set of individuals, known as are those who believe that abortion should only be allowed in certain circumstances. For instance, a woman who gets pregnant as a result of rape should not at all be forced to keep such a child. This is because the child could cause psychological torture to the woman. However, the decision on whether to keep the child or not should be left on the woman, and counseling must first be done to the victim to make her aware of the cons of such an action.
Another circumstance under which abortion should be allowed is when the life or health of the mother is in danger. Pregnant women are susceptible to many diseases that threaten their life and that of their unborn child. In such a case, the medical personnel are forced to terminate the pregnancy to save the life of the mother. This also should happen when ectopic pregnancy occurs.
Multiple pregnancy occurs when several fetuses are conceived in one pregnancy. In many cases, this type of pregnancy is associated with many complications such as cerebral palsy or premature birth. In such cases, the doctors may be forced to reduce the number of fetuses to minimize these risks. A fetus with a disorder that is deemed to be fatal before or after birth can also be aborted
The abortion debate has been an on going process in many countries with each side trying to justify their stand. The main argument of the proponents being that every one has control over their body and has a right to do what they will, is true. However, a fetus is a separate individual and though it’s inside the mother, its DNA is different from that of its mother and this means that it is also an individual that has its rights. Legalizing abortion therefore on the basis that one has control over their body may not apply here since a mother’s body is different from that of the unborn.
Abortion for medical purpose where the mother is in danger is a decision that should be left on the mother and the doctor. Though the victims involved here are separate individuals, a personal decision has to be made, bad as it is since either way, a life will be lost and another one saved. This opinion is different from that of proponents where abortion is done for convenience purpose as opposed to saving life.
In her book, “Pro-life activists in America: meaning, motivation, and direct action”; Carol Maxwell says “Let us never cease from thinking— what is this ‘civilization’ in which we find ourselves? What are these ceremonies and why should we take part in them? What are these professions and why should we make money out of them? Where in short is it leading us, the procession of the sons of educated men? ” (1)
I believe that abortion should not be legalized but should be allowed in certain circumstances. If it is illegalized, many lives will be saved since life is the most precious gift one can have.
Boonin, David. A defense of abortion: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Carol J. Maxwell. Pro-life activists in America: meaning, motivation, and direct action: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Dennnehy, Raymond. Anti-abortionist at large: how to argue intelligently about abortion and live to tell about it: Trafford Publishing, 2002.
Dombrowski A. and Deltete John. A brief, liberal, Catholic defense of abortion: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Hull, Hoffer and Hoffer Charles. The abortion rights controversy in America: a legal reader: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
Page, Cristina. How the pro-choice movement saved America: freedom, politics, and the war on sex: Basic Books, 2006.
Reith, Jean. Is the fetus a person?: a comparison of policies across the fifty states: 2nd ed. Cornell University Press, 2000.