Pro-life or pro-choice? This issue has stirred emotion and heated debate world over for ages immemorial. Several interest groups have tried to give several reasons to justify their stand on the issue of abortion. However, no universally agreeable conclusion has been drawn yet. The church including the clergy and believers, medical practitioners, human rights organizations, women groups and other groups have given contrasting opinions on the legality or otherwise on the issue. The clergy, religious groups, and organizations and a section of global human rights groups have been mostly pro-life. The belief of the church and many in its camp stems from their belief that abortion contravenes the very fundamental tenets on which the foundational fabric of the church is knit. However, the compelling force of those on the pro-choice side of the divide is rooted in their firm belief in freedom of choice.
First of all, before taking sides on this often spiky and emotive subject of abortion, it is fundamental to understand what exactly abortion entails. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines abortion as the termination of a pregnancy before 24 completed weeks of gestation. (World Health Organisation.)24 weeks is the period of gestation when the foetus is always estimated to have undergone full embryological development and organogenesis hence able to survive outside the female uterus. Any termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks is not referred to as an abortion but rather as a still birth. (World Health Organisation.) Abortion can be procured medically or surgically. It can be induced medically using drugs. The drugs most commonly used in abortion are Mifepristone and Misoprostol. These drugs act to increase the contractions of the uterus and cause cervical effacement and thinning and hence expulsion of the conceptus. Surgically, a Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) or an Electric Vacuum Aspiration (EVA) machine can be used to suck out the embryonal tissue from the uterus and hence stopping further foetal development. (DeCherney, Nathan, and Roman) It is important to note that by this time, the embryo is not able to viable. It cannot survive on its own in the outside world.
There are two major types of abortion; spontaneous abortion and induced abortion. In spontaneous abortion, abortion occurs on its own without any external influence. It can be due to genetic disorders, congenital abnormalities in foetal development or intra-uterine diseases. Induced abortions, on the other hand, are stimulated by external influences like drugs, vacuum machines, and trauma. Both the spontaneous and induced abortions can be further classified as complete, incomplete, septic, threatened or missed depending on its unique medical features. (DeCherney, Nathan, and Roman)
The Case against Abortion.
The opponents of abortion are usually referred to as the pro-life group. They believe in the sanctity of life and therefore believe and assert that a woman should not be allowed to do an abortion regardless of the situation. The most vocal members of this camp are the Christian churches led by their clergymen. They are supported in their views by several other religious groups and organization, a section of human rights groups and women groups. They have raised several fundamental and weighty issues that have formed the basis of their firm opinion.
Very first most central and important to their opposition is their belief is that life starts at conception. Therefore by definition, the embryo is then a living being. On the sole basis of this view, abortion has thus classified an act of killing. The doctrines of the Church are founded on the Ten Commandments that were issued to Christians by God through Moses. One of the most fundamental commandments among the ten is commandment number six: You Shall Not Kill. Therefore the general feeling among the Clergy and the Church, in general, is that the act of abortion is in contravention of this commandment. Also, the Universal Charter of Human Rights and the Constitutions of virtually all countries in the world guarantee the right to life. (United Nations) Human Rights Groupings and Organisations around the world have employed this provision of law to strengthen their claim to the illegality of abortion. They believe abortion is a violation of this right. In fact, some of them go further to demand that abortion should be treated as murder in legal circles.
It is also a fact that abortions whether procured in the hospital by qualified medical practitioners or are done by clandestine operatives pose high health risks both physically and psychologically. Unsafe abortions carried out by unqualified physicians or otherwise called quacks in unhygienic and aseptic conditions have an extremely high likelihood of developing complications. These include but are not limited to severe hemorrhage that can lead to anaemia and hemodynamic shock, uterine perforation and ruptures, infertility and future impotence, introduction of infections into the genital systems of women due to the aseptic and unsterile nature of the procedures and even death. (DeCherney, Nathan, and Roman) Furthermore, after abortion, women are supposed to undergo a lot of psychological counselling and emotional support. Failure to undergo this exposes them are to psychological breakdown and emotional trauma. Therefore, the pro-life proponents feel the abolishment of abortion will insulate our women against all these risks.
Further, they argue that because some countries have legalized abortion does not mean it is right. The United States Supreme Court in 1973 in the case of Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion in the first trimester. (Roe Vs Wade) But they ask; does something legal have to be right? A very ardent member of Human Rights Activist and anti-abortion crusader once asked, "Was slavery right just because it was legal?"
The Case for Abortion.
The supporters of abortion are commonly labelled as the pro-choice camp. Choice is the key word here. Their beliefs are based on scientific facts as well as logical reasoning. They seek to distance themselves from the sentiments, semantics and moral high ground that they believe the pro-life people usually adopt on the subject of abortion.
To begin with, their clear belief is that every normal and living human being has the right to personal and conscious decision making. (United Nations) They assert that a woman's body is her own, and she has the sole rights to it. Nobody should purport to know what is good for another person's life and body better than herself. What she decides to do with it should be her choice rather than the subject of debate and religiously and morally poisoned opinion. Doing otherwise would be to violate her rights to personal liberty. Therefore, if a woman is pregnant and feels that she is unwilling or otherwise incapable of shouldering the responsibility, she should have a right to terminate it. They further argue that giving the right to personal liberty and conscious decision making to these women is likely to cultivate a sense of personal responsibility and care that is likely to lower the rate of abortions. However, forcing regulations on them and stigmatizing them may cause a rebellious streak. Therefore to may cause an increase in the incidence of abortions.
Another pertinent beacon of contention raised for pro-choice is the mode of acquiring some of the pregnancies. It is widely known that not all women that get pregnant consent to do so. Women get pregnant through different ways which in some instances are out of their physical ability to prevent. For example, rape is a big menace in modern day society. We cannot hide from the bitter truth that women get pregnant as a result of these barbaric acts. So they therefore ponder, is it fair to force a woman to carry and bear a child borne out if rape? The emotional and psychological trauma that accompanies rape can only be imagined since most of the antagonists of abortion have not experienced it. Women who undergo rape are counselled on the best ways to move on with their lives. However, the presence of this pregnancy and the child if allowed to deliver constantly reminds them of these dark moments of their lives. Therefore, those for abortion argue that such women should be allowed to abort and get rid of these painful reminders of the past so as to sufficiently heal the wounds of the past and move on. Abortion is also likely to help them avert the socio-cultural stigma that comes with nurturing a child borne out of rape in the society. Both the mother and the child are spared of the stigma in abortion. So they assert that no one is morally justified to deny these women a chance to move on.
Then, the issue of the timing of pregnancies in an individual's life cycle is also key to their push. They believe that there comes a time in life when one has to make bitter but progressive decisions. This is in reference to those ladies who get pregnant at a stage in their lives when that pregnancy wholly compromises their future. For instance a young girl gets pregnant in high school while about to sit her examinations, what is the best and right thing to do? Should she be forced to carry on with the pregnancy at the expense of her future? Or would you rather she has an abortion, concentrate on her studies and make a better and more productive mother in the future? Pro-choice crusaders advocate for the latter on the basis that it would be unfair and unwise to force someone to sacrifice her dreams, passions, and ambitions just because she is pregnant. She should be allowed to do a simple intervention that would help her fulfil her potential for the sake of her future life and motherhood. Furthermore, she is likely to learn from her experiences and mistakes would be able to counsel her children and friends on safer sexual practices.
A very nucleic component of their argument is based on maternal mortality during and after childbirth. They correctly note that with the advent modern obstetric diagnostic technology, it has become possible to diagnose congenital disabilities in the foetus while still in the uterus. It is possible through the use of Ultrasound, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerised Tomography (CT) scans to diagnose with fatal foetal intra-uterine complications like severe Neural Tube Defects, Hydrocephalus, and severe Down syndrome among others. These are abnormalities that if a child is born with usually have almost zero chances of surviving and leading a normal life. (Nygaard) Therefore, they are in strong proposition for abortion in such unforeseen and avoidable instances. They firmly believe that women should not be forced to carry on with the pregnancy for a whole nine months and give birth to a child who will die or never lead a normal life because this is likely to traumatize them emotionally.
Financial constraints and the high expenses involved in raising children are also given as reasons for supporting abortion. The alarming poverty levels in some parts of the world especially the developing countries make some people completely unable to raise children, and most of them end up throwing away or abandoning their babies. Millions of girls and women from these countries get pregnant every year yet they are incapable of taking care of these children they bear. So if these women seek to do an abortion due to their financial constraints, is it unfair to deny them the chance. What good does it serve the community and the society for this child to be born and suffer or even die due to malnutrition, improper medical care, and other poverty-related complications? Wouldn't it be better off letting such a woman abort and save herself and the yet to be born child undue suffering?
Lastly, the pro-choice protagonist...
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