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Abortion: All Sides Of The Issue
Public attitude towards abortion has always been mixed and fraught with tension from opposing sides. While there are those who advocate fewer to no restrictions on abortion, there are those who call for stricter regulation. The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson in June 2022 reflects the shifting politics of abortion in the United States. While the decision does not necessarily prohibit abortion, it does give back to the states the power to decide the terms by which women can assert their right to abortion . The decision, of course, once again ignited the debate regarding the issue, with many fearing that many states will make it far more difficult for women to access abortion. However, it is important to note that the debate is not between just two opposing sides. While the issue is often simplified as the conflict between those who advocate freedom of choice of women (pro-choice) and those who advocate for the protection of unborn life (pro-life). Neither is the debate simply about the morality of abortion. Rather, there are many dimensions to this issue. This expository essay looks at the major perspectives that support or oppose abortion.
One of the main sides of the issue regarding abortion asserts that women should have the right to choose to continue or terminate a pregnancy. This view is commonly known as the “pro-choice” position. According to this position, a woman should have complete control and autonomy over her own body. Because it is a woman’s body that is solely involved in a pregnancy, bodily control and autonomy gives her the right to end a pregnancy (Sanger, 2017). Furthermore, it is important to note that the pro-choice stance also asserts that a woman has the right to choose not to have children. Proponents of pro-choice argue that a woman cannot be forced into continuing a pregnancy if she prefers not to. The pro-choice position recognizes that parenthood and childrearing are consequential. They can potentially change the course of people’s lives. Therefore, it is a woman’s right to reject this change (Sanger, 2017). The pro-choice position sees abortion as morally permissible because in allowing a woman to access abortion, her right to decide over what happens to her body is upheld.
Whereas the pro-choice stance argues that abortion should be a woman’s choice, the pro-life stance asserts that abortion is morally impermissible because the procedure takes away the life of an unborn human. This position argues that life begins at conception, which means that the moment an egg is fertilized by a sperm the embryo already qualifies as human life. And because human life is considered inviolable, then the unborn embryo or fetus should be protected from harm including the termination of pregnancy itself (Kaczor, 2013). It must also be noted that the pro-life stance is heavily influenced by religious belief systems. For instance, movements against abortion have often been associated with Christian worldviews like Christian fundamentalism and established churches like the Catholic Church (Byrnes & Segers, 2019).
Considerations That Result in Overlapping Views
While pro-choice and pro-life are the two major positions in the debate concerning abortion, one must bear in mind that there are many considerations to the issue that result in variations in opinion. For instance, some people view abortion as morally impermissible but with exceptions. For example, there are many who believe that there are valid grounds when allowing abortion. First, abortion may be necessary when the pregnancy poses a threat to the life and health of a woman. Second, the unborn fetus may be determined to be afflicted by a severe health impairment that greatly lessens its chances of survival or quality of life. Third, the circumstances of the pregnancy may be far from ideal or characterized by trauma, such as in the case of a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest (Foster, 2021). All these eventualities are considered by many as valid grounds for why abortion should be legal and why abortion clinics should remain open and accessible but with restrictions in place.
Another consideration is the debate regarding when a fetus or embryo can be considered as a person with rights. For instance, some assert that the embryo is in the fundamental stages of development and therefore cannot yet be considered as a person with rights. There are also those who consider the fetus in its early stages as still part of the mother’s body rather than a distinct being. Meanwhile, some believe that an embryo is a person regardless of the stage, which means that it cannot be aborted anytime during the pregnancy (Martinelli-Fernandez et al., 2014). A common demarcation between when abortion is morally permissible and when it is morally impermissible is the age of viability, which is the point when the fetus can survive outside the womb. The medical community determines this age to be around 23 to 24 weeks (Claire, 2013). These are all considerations that lead to differences in perspective regarding the morality of abortion, which in turn reinforces the fact that opinion concerning this issue is far from a simple dichotomy.
The debate concerning abortion has often been reduced to just two opposing views. The first is the pro-choice stance, which is viewed as an advocate of legal abortion without restrictions. The second is the pro-life stance, which is considered a proponent of restricting abortion completely. But this notion that there are only two positions is far from the real situation. A lot of considerations contribute to differences in opinions. For instance, some may identify as pro-life but recognize that there are situations where abortion is warranted. Meanwhile, some may identify as pro-choice but accept that there should be restrictions in place. Given that policy continues to shift as evidenced by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it can be reasonably argued that this issue is far from being resolved and that there will be plenty of developments in the coming years or even decades.
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Byrnes, T. & Segers, M. C. (2019). The Catholic Church and the politics of abortion: A view from the states. Routledge.
Claire, M. (2013). The abortion dilemma: Personal views on a public issue. Xlibris Corporation LLC.
Foster, D. G. (2021). The turnaway study: Ten years, a thousand women, and the consequences of having—or being denied—an abortion. Simon and Schuster.
Kaczor, C. (2013). The ethics of abortion: women’s rights, human life, and the question of justice. Routledge.
Matinelli-Fernandez, S. A., Baker-Sperry, L., & McIlvaine-Newsad, H. (2014). Interdisciplinary views on abortion: Essays from philosophical, sociological, anthropological, political, health and other perspectives. McFarland.
Sanger, C. (2017). About abortion: Terminating pregnancy in twenty-first century America. Harvard University Press.