The Abortion Debate
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Abortion used to be a common practice for years, done privately and not made public. The more civilization advanced, the more abortion became an issue of social concern. Nowadays the world is struggling for total tolerance. In this regard, the reaction of public should be kept in mind while designing legislation tackling the abortion issues. Abortion is no longer a personal problem, for many governments begin to see it as their domain and feel safe to intrude, let alone the moral aspect of it, which is also connected with the opinion of society. In this research I will try to unite all these facets related to termination of pregnancy, and then present my own viewpoint on it.
Talking about the concerns regarding abortion, moral aspect is surely one of the most important ones. Even if one does not bear in mind the attitude of different religious confessions towards termination of pregnancy, it is still crucial to decide to what extent a woman can place her needs higher than the needs of a helpless fetus. Of course, there exist extreme cases when this supremacy of choice of mother-to-be practically leaves no doubt, for instance, when it concerns different kinds of sexual abuse. However, some people see abortion in such a negative light that even rape does not become a sufficient reason for termination of pregnancy. Among the others, they emphasize such consequences of abortion as loss of self-esteem, impotence, aggression, mourning and insomnia (Krieg 10). Probably, the central argument here is defining what can be called a person. In such questions one cannot do without the opinion of an expert. Thus, Dr. A. Liley (quoted in the book by J.C. Wilke) claims that in modern obstetrics, a fetus can be ill before birth and then it will acquire diagnosis and treatment in the same way as any other patient. Such a simple medical understanding of the time when a human life begins may serve as a universal explanation for the point. The pragmatic layer is much simpler and crueler: every unborn life weights less than the already alive person. It can be proved by the traditional way of handling childbirth complications: when only one life can be saved, preference is given to the mother’s life. The horrible aspect of it is the opposite trend, for example, the one revealing sky-high rates of maternal deaths in certain parts of the world, because of “precedence of the reproductive role over the rights of survival and development” (Surviving Childbirth and Pregnancy in South Asia vii). Such an approach, as well as any extreme one, should be eradicated in a civilized society for the sake of its advancement.
Time of abortion is also closely connected with the medical sphere and the choice between the life of the mother and that of the fetus. In most cases, doctors agree that the earlier the abortion, the less negative impact on the mother’s health is, thus, first trimester becomes the safest period. J.C. Wilke maintains that in cases of complications in late gestation, “the pregnancy may have to be terminated to save the mother’s life”. It means that only doctor’s decision may be a reason for pregnancy termination in the third trimester, and talking about the earlier period, an obstetrician may only render professional help based on the patient’s decision. Another isuue is explaining this decision and establishing it on the state level, which embraces the legal, medical and moral realms. Thus, some doctors argue that time limit for abortions should be reduced, explaining it by the fact that fetus feels pain prior to 24 weeks of its development (Martin). By this, they once again clearly state that it is a formed human life they are talking about. For example, the discussion of this problem in British government is referred to as “key battleground”. The saddest aspect in this story is that two parties are deaf for the words of each other: doctors are bothered with high termination rates across the country, while legislators defend themselves by stating that there is no evidence proving expediency of such step. The book Why Can’t We Love Them Both? incorporates a quote by H. Ratner, M.D., illustrating numerous approaches to abortions (historical, medical and ethical): "In times past, abortion took the life of one, for other-wise two would die. Today, abortion takes the life of one, where otherwise two would live (Wilke)". This statement manifests that progress and development of science and technology do not necessarily contribute to mental and spiritual growth in the minds of people, for if abortion has become medically possible in late gestation, it might reduce the value of human life to the lowest point.
Legal aspect of abortion comes to the foreground nowadays. There are many ways of controlling and compelling, but legislators should by all means conduct comprehensive researches before venturing to a certain kind of decision, for everything should be done for the sake of comfort and well-being of at least the majority of citizens.
Three day waiting period prior to termination of gestation becomes topical in some states of America, especially South Dakota. Such a reform is pushed by a Republican governor from the pro-life camp, Dennis Daugaard. His incentives can be explained by the wish to give women time and necessary information to reconsider venturing to such a step. Crisis pregnancy center councilors are the ones who might help to change their minds. Such a law raised a tide of discontent in America, where South Dakota is the only state deciding to extend the waiting period, while half of the country allots only 24 hours for it (Smith). They see the element of coercion in this piece of legislature. Indeed, such laws are dangerous, for they defy the traditional order. If the governor of the state intends to introduce his ideas upon the whole citizenship, it sounds like freedom violation.
South Dakota has been one of the active states in debates concerning birth control legislation and related issues for several decades. Lately it comes to extremes, which is revealed by the intention to establish the right to murder abortion providers, who try to attempt the unborn life, on the state level (Sheppard). Actually, it means legal punishment to those who provide abortion services. It is not a surprise that this matter of legislation is Republican-backed. With the whole political critics, one must take into consideration the fact that this state faces the lowest rate of abortions in the whole country. However, as some experts view it, the wording of the bill might make it possible for extremists to disguise killing of abortion doctors as a mere protection of an unborn child. The latter should be the major argument in the issue.
Mandatory ultrasound prior to the procedure is related to the waiting period before pregnancy. Bonnie Rochman investigates this issue in her article. By telling the story of a single woman she tries to give an outline of the all-national situation, where seven American states - Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas - have laws requiring every woman to ultrasound before the abortion, and in summer, another state will join this group - Virginia. In such way, they may see what they are losing on the screen. In Texas, for example, the law is optional for certain groups like teenagers under 18 (with parental agreement), victims of physical abuse and women whose fetus has an irreversible abnormality (Rochman). The main thing in this delicate topic is for women and their obstetricians to be informed about these additional rights. However, as well as the previous issue, it sounds like a violation of mother’s rights – to know nothing about the child never to be born. In certain cases it might be helpful, but in most of them – painful and stating once again the difficulty of the decision. Moreover, everything mandatory inevitably leads to social commotion.
Success of national birth control policies must be assessed reasonably and without false patriotism and hasty conclusions. Ironically, as a medical journal The Lancelet puts it, “restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates” (Sinha). It does not mean that the system fails; it only means that it does not work in a full measure and has to be improved and upgraded. The same article in The Times of India, although bearing some local coloring, presents a thought that may be called universal in the context of the problem: Dr. Richard Horton claims that “condemning, stigmatizing and criminalizing abortion are failed strategies” and continues that the time has come for elaborating “a public health approach that emphasizes reducing harm - and that means more liberal abortion laws” (Sinha). Maureen Kramlich also suggests that legal arguments on abortion rights should be “shifted from a negative liberty to a positive one, thereby requiring the government to provide access”. These viewpoints seem to be very urgent and reasonable today. They do not incorporate blunt criticizing, on the contrary, they offer the way of dealing with the situation. And it will be the task of future generations to design such laws.
An issue of husband or parent notification about the pregnancy termination must not violate the civil rights of a woman. If she does not want to tell her husband about it, there must be serious reasons extending from religious beliefs to adultery. Another case is parent notification, connected with a delicate, yet burning problem of teen pregnancy. Shoshanna Ehrlich, for example, advocates the privacy rights of teens in her book. Presenting a historical overview on the role of abortion in modern America, the author gradually proceeds with teen abortion rights. Ehrlich supports her idea by the fact that approximately 80 percent of teen pregnancies under the age of 18 are unplanned, and that young people in such a situation may address other people – especially, parents – for support, but “the decision remains fairly private in nature”. Although parents may present a different perspective on the situation and protect the child from an unreasonable choice, it must not violate the personal freedom of a teenager.
State’s economy is the main factor uniting abortions and taxes. It can be called a total intrusion into the personal life explained by the concern for the correct spending of tax benefits. In the American parliament this issue was raised by the Republicans and their intentions are given the name "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" (Tiku). Although such an audition might be seen as an attempt to get “a front-row seat to one’s uterus”, abortion receipts should better be kept at least by women who support the Grand Old Party. Anyway, such a close eye for federal funding of abortion cannot be explained by financial incentives only. Clearly, the US mentality states: if it is your choice, please make it yours completely. This might be a display of pro-life moods in certain circles of legislators.
All the facts and arguments in the world only present a panorama of choice for every woman. If I was told that there is no gray area and given an ultimatum of joining either the pro-life or pro-choice camp, I would join the latter. I do maintain that there are children that would rather not be born, no matter how cruel it may sound. However, for me it does not imply promiscuity and pure hedonism masqueraded as the wish to control one’s life. In my opinion, abortion is an option only when the born child would be an excessive burden from the moral point of view. It is crucial to distinguish between absurd fear and real predicaments. A woman has a right to terminate pregnancy only if she makes conclusions from it. Life is life, but when a person faces one vain experience after the other, something must be improved in the outlook of this person. As for the intrusion of the state to the personal lives and choices of the citizens, to my mind, it should not bear restrictive features, for even statistics proves that forced birth control policy does not actually influence the real situation. Instead, the state should pay more attention to educational work, especially with teens, for prevention of potentially unwanted pregnancy is safer and easier than dealing with its consequences.
Ironically, our very tolerant world is now more concerned with abortion than at the times when it was considered a sin. Interrelations between the moral and the legal aspect of termination of birth can create different combination of arguments for pro-life and pro-choice campers. However, we should remember that the alternative between those camps rests solely on a certain woman and a certain situation. As for the role of government in it, the state’s decision must be always based on the opinion of general public. Forced laws requiring long waiting periods or mandatory ultrasound procedure before the abortion violate private rights of the citizens, especially when time shows no effect of restricting regulations. Furthermore, in the USA every decision is cautiously tested for constitutionality. My position is that having courage for performance of abortion procedure must be at least conscious and well contemplated, with a conclusion drawn out of it and gained wisdom. A woman’s own consideration enhanced by the unbiased professional view of an obstetrician is the only acceptable measure for me in abortion debates.
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