The Abortion Debate


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One subject in society that is greatly debated is abortion. The debates are basically divided into 'Pro-Life' and 'Pro-Choice'. Pro-life supporters want abortion to be illegal and not performed anywhere. Pro-choice supporters want the choice to be up to the woman and no one else. There is no ethical way to decide between the two subjects and it's all based on what the person's moral values.

     Abortion is the termination of an unwanted pregnancy by loss of or destruction of an egg, embryo or fetus before birth. The term of abortion is used to define the termination of a pregnancy before the fetus attains capacity for life outside the uterus. In all societies, women have for many reasons, sought to terminate pregnancies. When a woman tries to self-induce an abortion it can cause serious physical risk to a woman. Today, abortions in the early weeks of a pregnancy, by a trained practitioner and under proper conditions, can be safe medical procedure. (Americana, 1)

In no society, either in the present or the past has there been a single dominant attitude toward abortions. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle discussed abortion as a useful means of population control. Also under Roman law, abortion primarily reflected family rule by the husband, who on the one hand could order an abortion and on the other hand could punish or divorce his wife if she ended a pregnancy without his consent. (Ameicana, 2)

     In the Roman Catholic Church they consider abortion as murder only after the point at which the rational soul became instilled, usually said to be 40 days after conception. In 1930, Pope Pins XI declared even if the life of the mother is threatened by giving birth, abortion is unjustified. The only exception to the abortion prohibition that the church has considered to be morally acceptable has been the destruction of the fetus as an indirect consequence of other surgery that is deemed necessary. In the former Soviet Union abortion was legalized in 1917 after the revolution, then it was restricted in the 1930s due to population concerns, then it was legalized again in the mid 1950s. A strong and worldwide feminist movement during the 1960s heightened the pressure to legalize abortion. In the U.S. this trend culminated in a 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal during the early months on pregnancy. (Americana, 3)

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     In the early American colonies abortions were permitted. I was not until the mid-1800s that abortion became a widely debated subject. A campaign led by physicians was seeking to maintain professional control over the practice, leading to a strict legal regulation. For almost 100 years after, in most U.S. jurisdictions, abortion was illegal unless performed by a physician. (Americana, 4)

      In the case of Roe v. Wade the decision allowed states to pass regulations affecting second-trimester abortions and to prohibit third-trimester abortions. In 1989 the Supreme Court permitted further regulation at the state level. The case was Webster v. Reproductive Services. The decision upheld a Missouri law prohibiting the performance of abortions by public employees or in taxpayer-supported facilities. In 1991 a courts decision in the case of Rust v. Sullivan upheld federal regulations forbidding abortion counseling in federally funded clinics. (Americana, 5)

     The Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 1997 was introduced to the U.S. Congress in an attempt to outlaw abortions in late pregnancy. The bill defined partial-birth abortion as the partial vaginal delivery of a living fetus, which is then killed before delivery is completed. As of 1999, however, a ban on the procedure had failed to become federal law. (Americana, 4)

     Supporters as well as opponents of abortion rights support their arguments with what they consider to be basic moral principles. ?Pro-Choice? supporters declare that a woman has a right to determine if she wants to continue a pregnancy or not. Additionally, supporters point out also that abortions, would take place even if the procedure was made illegal and that criminalization of it would lead to unsafe abortion practices, particularly among the poor. ?Pro-Life? supporters perceive abortion as murder and a violation of the fetus?s ?right to live.? Some supporters believe that accepting abortion will lead to the disregard for human life in general. Many ?right-to-life? advocates believe that the acceptance of abortion encourages sexual immortatality. (Americana, 6)

     Of all the issues in ongoing society wars abortion is the most intimate and the most common. Almost half of American women have terminated at least one pregnancy, and millions more Americans of both sexes have helped them, as partners, parents, health-care workers, counselors, and friends. The debate of abortion causes powerful feelings that at times causes violence. In the 1990s laws passed to require abortion protestors to conduct activities outside clinics in what were called ?buffer zones.? (Americana, 4) One extreme Pro-Life movement is known as The Army of God. The organization believes in violence against abortion providers. In 1994, The National Abortion Federation announced it had attained a copy of ?When Life Hurts, We can Help? The Army of God.? The manual details ?99 Covert Ways to Stop Abortion,? included were arson, bombing, use of chemicals, and methods of vandalism. (The Abortion Rights Activist, 1) In 1998 a Justice Department task force was assembled to help prevent violence against those who provide health care services, especially reproductive-health care. The task force was called The National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers. This task force was formed to answer to violence that had occurred across the nation months before. Its job was to coordinate with local investigations and look for links between attacks in different parts of the country. It also established a national database that would identify facilities that could be at risk, provide protective services, and help train enforcement officials to handle clinic violence. (Rovner, 1688)

     When trying to find a ?neutral zone? between ?Pro-life? and ?Pro-Choice? it is hard to find a moral decision. Either the ?Pro-Life? supporters will want abortion defined in the constitution, as defining human life beginning at the moment of conception and abortion as murder. On the other hand the ?Pro-Choice? supporters would want Congress to pass a Freedom of Choice Act that would remove all state restrictions on abortion. Both of the supporters believe in their moral views and an end to the dilemma may never be made. (Henslin, 13)


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