The decades-long debate about abortion has seen the contest between the life of the fetus and the life of the woman. Much progress has transpired over the years, not just in terms of arguments presented by opposite parties, but also in terms of the technologies available in relation to abortion. Safe abortion procedures have been available for years that the only ingredient missing is the freedom of choice of women. Given this progress, the point of contention as of late is who, between the mother and the fetus, is to be given priority. Abortion should be legalized now because practices have become safer, it is supported by the fourteenth amendment of the US Constitution, and most importantly, women should have the freedom of choice.
The safety of abortion practices has drastically improved in the past decade. There are now a variety of early abortion practices that women can choose depending on their needs. A safe, non-invasive procedure has been developed as well, through medication abortion. Likewise, through organizations like Planned Parenthood, abortion has become accessible, even for those who do not have healthcare. Furthermore, 91.1% of abortions in 2015 were performed at or before the 13th week of gestation, while 65% were performed earlier than the 8th week (Abortion Fast Facts, 2018). All these are testament to how much safer abortion is now for women. If abortion becomes legalized nationally, then practices would be even safer for more women. Women living in states where abortion is inaccessible would not have to travel long distances just to get one. This would definitely further lower the rate of unsafe practices. Consequently, protesters who harass women in front of clinics would be reduced if not completely cleared away.
In the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that the legality of abortion falls within the right to privacy, which in turn is protected by the fourteenth amendment of the US Constitution. This means that any woman’s decision regarding her pregnancy, as well as her reason for getting an abortion does not need to be revealed to anybody, not even her husband. The person carrying the fetus is the sole person who knows her circumstances completely. She is the one who knows if she is capable of taking care of the child once it is born. Abortion is a private affair that occurs only within the woman, and so the decision, no matter how heavy, should be hers alone to make.
As many activists and philosophers have pointed out, pregnancy and motherhood has a fundamental impact in the lives of women. Not only does pregnancy affect their body, it also affects their lives. The impact of pregnancy in the life of a woman is not temporary. Therefore, whether or not a woman wants to go through these changes should be decided solely by her. This boils down to the issue of freedom of choice, which was also emphasized in Roe v. Wade. House Bill 1566 in Arkansas which attempts to further limit women’s agency by requiring their partner’s consent with regard to the disposal of the fetus’ body. This bill, had it been passed, would have required women to tell the person who got them pregnant of their plans to get an abortion, which goes against the fourteenth amendment.
The freedom of choice is the primary tenet of the Suffragette movement and of the continuous fight for equality. Without the freedom of choice, women cannot consider themselves free. The arguments of pro-life supporters revolve around the implied premise that women are simply vessels for babies. Their concerns and their life is of secondary importance only to a fetus’ life and even to the choice of their partner, or in some cases, of the man who got them pregnant. By not allowing women to decide what to do with their body, they are placed in a sub-human position. This is the same position they were in when they were not allowed to own properties and vote. In simple words, women cannot achieve equality without the freedom of choice when it comes to abortion.
The issue of abortion, as it is now, revolves around the freedom of choice, which many pro-life supporters refuse to give to women. The concern about safety is only secondary considering the advancements achieved in the medical field. Likewise, the concern about the constitutionality of abortion has been settled by Roe v. Wade. So, what society is left with is women’s freedom of choice. If this society views women as persons with their own rights and agency, this should no longer be a topic of debate. The freedom of choice should be inherent in every person, and not something that is awarded.