The current legal discussions and changes surrounding abortion rights raise one of the most debated topics of who gets to decide whether a woman can have an abortion. Nations have adopted various legal and societal views on abortion, from decriminalization and medical support from the government to complete prohibition and moral critique (Siniša, 2019). The United States is shifting from a legal system not explicitly banning abortion and providing medical assistance to letting separate states decide women’s legal rights. The issue of abortion rights, however, does not end at political factors – it impacts women’s health, bodily autonomy, and socioeconomic status. Therefore, women should continue having a legal right to have an abortion. At the same time, it is argued that the government needs to develop a healthcare system that lowers the need to have abortions and supports the decision of women who choose to undertake this procedure.
The first argument for supporting the right of women to have a choice lies in the issues related to the prohibition of this procedure by law. Unintended pregnancies happen regardless of whether the country in which people reside prohibits their termination. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that many individuals are likely to have an abortion – global statistics support this statement. According to Bearak et al. (2020), the rate of unintended pregnancies in countries where women do not have the right to an abortion is higher than in those where abortions are legal. Furthermore, the rates of abortions in both categories stay the same relative to the number of unintended pregnancies (Bearak et al., 2020). These findings suggest that women seek abortions regardless of their legal status, which raises the question of women’s safety and health in these differing conditions.
The creation of a system with decriminalized abortion is also tied to actions to lower the rate of abortion through other means. When abortion is decriminalized, it is usually provided in safe and adequately equipped medical facilities (Arey et al., 2022). A study of abortion rates in Finland showcases how positive government action can lead to lowered rates of abortion through medical support, education, and provision of contraceptives (Gyllenberg et al., 2018). In contrast, the prohibition of abortions or their control by the government leads women who do not fall into the categories accepted for an abortion by law to seek abortions in unsafe conditions (Arey et al., 2022; Bearak et al., 2020). Similarly, government regulations of abortions are also connected to worse contraceptive use and poor education on sexual health (Arey et al., 2022; Bearak et al., 2020). The combination of these factors negatively impacts the population’s health and knowledge overall.
This fact leads to another argument why government overseeing abortions is detrimental to women’s wellbeing. As Gans (2022) argues, safe and decriminalized abortions are a part of respecting women’s bodily autonomy, as supported by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Amendment notes that laws cannot restrict citizens’ right to life, liberty, or property (Gans, 2022). Therefore, the bodily integrity of women who become pregnant is invaded by the government that makes decisions about their health without their consent (Gans, 2022). In contrast, decriminalization of abortion provides women with a free choice to decide whether they want to terminate the pregnancy. In extreme cases, where abortion is prohibited even if the woman’s life is in danger or where the circumstances of pregnancy cause mental and physical harm, any government restriction breaches one of the staples of the United States’ government principles.
Based on the medical implications of unsafe abortions, it can be argued that the process of abortions cannot be regulated by law in a restrictive manner. Statistically, the prohibition of abortions by law does not lead to lower rates of the procedure, while the number of unintended pregnancies increases. Thus, seeking abortions in such conditions endangers women’s health and life. Furthermore, women’s bodily autonomy is protected under US law, and the move toward abortion regulation undermines the democratic principles of the country.
Arey, W., Lerma, K., Beasley, A., Harper, L., Moayedi, G., & White, K. (2022). A preview of the dangerous future of abortion bans—Texas Senate Bill 8. New England Journal of Medicine.
Bearak, J., Popinchalk, A., Ganatra, B., Moller, A. B., Tunçalp, Ö., Beavin, C., Kwok, L., & Alkema, L. (2020). Unintended pregnancy and abortion by income, region, and the legal status of abortion: Estimates from a comprehensive model for 1990–2019. The Lancet Global Health, 8(9), e1152-e1161.
Gans, D. H. (2022). Reproductive originalism: Why the Fourteenth Amendment’s original meaning protects the right to abortion. SMU Law Review Forum, 75, 191-211.
Gyllenberg, F., Juselius, M., Gissler, M., & Heikinheimo, O. (2018). Long-acting reversible contraception free of charge, method initiation, and abortion rates in Finland. American Journal of Public Health, 108(4), 538-543.
Siniša, F. (2019). Right to Abortion. International Journal of Sexual Health and Reproductive Health Care, 1(1), 1-5.