Statistics: In the United States, the abortion rate in 2017 was 14.48%. This number is significantly lower to the abortion rates in 1973, and especially from 1984 when abortion rates peaked at 364 per 1000 live births or 36.4%. In the US, and around the world, abortion rates have been on the decline. In Canada, the abortion rate is at 13.1 per 1000 women in 2017 (Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, 2019). So far, countries in developing regions, which have restrictive laws regarding abortion and contraceptives, have the highest abortion rates. These countries include Pakistan, Kenya, and India (Singh, et al., 2017). Therefore, the availability of birth control or contraceptives is the primary deterrent to abortion.
Opposing beliefs: The social consensus is that human life, as soon as it starts, must be protected. The conflict, however, lies in when human life actually starts. Pro-life supporters, namely religious persons or organizations, passionately argue that life starts at conception—from the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg. Pro-choice supporters argue that life starts later in the gestation period, while some say it begins at birth.
Pro-life supporters, who view the embryo as human life, see abortion clinics as the ethical equivalent of a Nazi death camp. For them, abortion is murder. On the other hand, pro-choice supporters see the issue of abortion as a civil rights matter—an issue on the freedom of the woman to choose what to do with her body. For them, this discussion should take place between an informed woman and her physician, the decision being made by the woman. This difference in beliefs naturally leads to opposing policies and advocacies on whether women should have access to abortion. Both groups aim to reduce the number of abortions and to make the required abortions safer. However, due to their fundamental differences, the two groups are simply unable to cooperate. With the energy, knowledge, and ability that each side exerts, together they would have been able to make major improvements in the state of abortion worldwide.
Status: In 2018, it appears that pro-life and pro-choice movements are at a standstill in the US, as both have an equal number of supporters. Both sides, however, continue to be active in their protests and lobbying. Likewise, both movements have expanded their advocacy to grassroots activities. In contrast, Canada’s pro-choice movement continues to prevail, as the country does not restrict abortion for the entire nine months of pregnancy.
Terminology: Pro-life and Pro-choice groups have dissenting definitions of various terminologies, as well as on fundamental ideas. This causes immense confusion. Thus, we will use the generally accepted medical definitions in this series of essays.
The argument: The argument about contraceptives is auxiliary to the debate on abortion. The types of contraception accepted depends on the respective groups’ view of when human life begins. Pro-life supporters, since they believe that life begins at the moment of conception, the only birth control method they approve of is Natural Family Planning. Other methods, such as the Intrauterine Device (IUD), are considered unethical as they believe that this is abortifacient.
The Intrauterine Device (IUD) is one of many long-term contraceptives widely available nowadays. The IUD is a small T-shaped device that is implanted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. This can last somewhere between 5 to 12 years. There are two types of IUDs, and they vary based on their method for preventing pregnancy. Copper IUDs are wrapped in copper, which repels sperms and thus prevents them from reaching the egg. Hormonal IUDs also have different types and methods for preventing pregnancy. These are the more controversial ones. ParaGard prevents pregnancy by causing an inflammation response in the uterus lining which makes it toxic to sperm and to implantation. Mirena, on the other hand, makes the uterus lining thin so as to prevent sperm from entering the fallopian tubes. It also releases progestin to prevent ovulation.
Pro-life supporters have labeled hormonal IUDs as an abortifacient. According to them, causing the uterus lining to thin in order to prevent the fertilized egg from implanting is a form of abortion. This naturally does not sit well with pro-life supporters because they consider the fertilized egg human life already.
Pro-life supporters who are against IUDs seem to neglect other, more relevant facts. First and foremost is that IUDs are 99.9% effective since it eradicates the chances of forgetting them or using them incorrectly. There are a lot of misconceptions about IUDs, as well as other contraceptives, that pro-life groups propagate. Spreading incorrect information is definitely detrimental to the goal of reducing the number of abortions. As such, pro-life groups and pro-choice groups would achieve more if they cooperate in disseminating correct information so that more women can make informed decisions for themselves.