Abortion rights are as much of a cultural war pitting traditional values against progressive values as it is a political debate, it is anything but an argument of choice/privacy. The pro-choice movement is often associate the women’s rights movement, which claims that to take away a woman’s choice is taking away her rights. Alternatively, many religious groups are associated with the pro-life belief, based on their beliefs regarding conception. Although this argument seems to have only two options, I would argue that most peoples’ positions lay on a spectrum, and this polarization is a result of the political influence on the topic.
How did we get here?
In order to understand how these belief systems developed, we must look at the history of this topic. It is significant that abortion was legal for thousands of years including a period of time past the adoption of the Constitution. The mid-1800s came with states banning abortions, which was mostly motivated by the worry that high birth rates of immigrants would dominate those of the native population. Another motivation for criminalizing abortion was to decrease the competition doctor faced in practicing medicine by making doctors the only profession that could practice medical care. Unfortunately, the criminalization of abortion did not change the number of women who looked for and obtained abortions. Back-alley abortions were very dangerous and many women died or experienced bad medical problems as a result. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade to allow women to get legal abortions. This significantly reduced injury and death associated with abortion. Since then, the Supreme Court has begun allowing certain restrictions such as parental involvement, waiting periods, and biased counseling. This brings us to what people believe today, and why. These are the “two sides” of the debate, despite the fact that there are many more than two options.
Pro-life advocates argue that the right to have an abortion is a public issue, because they believe that killing a fetus is the equivalent of murder. They make this claim with the underlying assumption that human life begins at conception and the human zygote is a person with the right to life. Some pro-life organizations include National Right to Life, American Life League, and Americans United for Life. Pro-choice advocates argue that the right to have an abortion is covered in the right to privacy. They base this claim on an underlying assumption that a fetus cannot feel pain and becomes a person when it can survive outside of the womb, therefore, it is the mother’s decision to make the medical decision regarding their own body. Some prominent pro-choice organizations include Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Network of Abortion Funds.
What does everyone else think?
This next section is a collection of basic arguments from both sides, and how they are debunked by the respective group of people. Starting with pro-choice advocates debunking pro-life arguments, this article by women and for women starts with the most inarguable point that pro-life advocate argue, that abortion is murder. This is the hardest point because it is more based in opinion or religion. The responses given to this are that a fetus is dependent and that the “right to life” doesn’t imply a right to use another person’s body or to have somebody else’s will imposed upon your body, which is what happens to the mothers. Another argument is that it’s irresponsible for a woman to have sex if she is not willing to get pregnant. This is denounced by saying that the responsible choice is a matter of opinion and based on a woman’s ability to support her child, she may feel that it is more responsible for her to have an abortion. One argument that I hadn’t heard before is that when pro-life advocates claim that abortions in the case of rape are acceptable they are saying that a child conceived in that way is worth less than a child of willful conception. Which is giving the desire of the mother priority of the life of the child, which shouldn’t change if someone is truly against abortion. Another argument is that women often regret the decision, the rebuttal for that simply states that we regret many things, and can’t ban all of them. The last argument I’m mentioning is that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for something morally disagreeable, but again by that argument, Americans shouldn’t have to pay for a military if they find American foreign policy morally wrong.
Now that you’ve heard one side of the debate, I will show the other. This website is specifically used to teach pro-life supporters how to defend their view. The first step they cite is to clarify the issue by saying that it is not about giving a woman a choice, but about not allowing someone to kill a baby just because they are defenseless. It follows this by defending the belief that a baby is a person by confirming that the unborn are in fact humans. To say that because they are so small they cannot be a person is not supported because that would imply that a smaller human deserves less rights than a larger one. They show that level of development should not play a part in the decision because a young girl is less developed than an adult one, and by those standards a newborn would not be a human being. They argue that the environment cannot play a role, because a change of location does not make something human. Going through the birth-canal does not create human nature. Lastly it argues that dependency should not have an effect or that would imply that conjoined twins, or those who depend on insulin would not be considered humans.
Another website providing evidence for why everyone should be pro-life debunks lies and myths surrounding abortion. My problem with this article comes from the fact that their main argument is that statistics are not true and people lie. This seems to be based in hearsay rather than fact. It also claims that pro-choice advocates force abortion onto frightened young women who don’t know any better. This seems to be quite the opposite from everything I’ve read. It also argues that because Soviet Russia and Nazi, Germany were the first places to legalize abortion that that means it must be wrong. This is an informal fallacy and proves nothing, and even if it was a form of proof, the information is a half-truth. The articles fails to include the fact that both Iceland and Sweden also legalized abortion at this time whereas in Germany, abortion was only legalized under certain conditions. Overall as I read this article, although it may have had some valid points, I was generally disappointed in its lack of evidence and factual information.
Taking another look at pro-choice
The next article I chose, because it took a different view of the pro-choice view. This article was written by a pediatrician who often saves the lives of babies. She doesn’t quite see it this way. From her point of view, she performs daily procedures that torture these babies while every part of their bodies refuse it. The doctor talks about how she forces children to live because parents’ ask them to, but in the neonatal ICU, the children have no rights. Despite having to deal with this terror, she says that the children are loved no matter what, and because of this, she realized that the only thing she can do is trust the parents’ decision, because their decision comes from the deepest sense of love.
It really is a spectrum!
This article introduces this concept by showing the range of beliefs held by both sides. Pro-choice advocates make-up a slim majority of the country and believe an array of options for pregnant women including full-access to abortion, parental consent for minors, support in cases of rape, and many other variations on access to abortion. Although the pro-life view is much more clean cut, there are still different beliefs in the viewpoint. Less than half of the pro-life population believes that all abortions should be banned, many believe it should be allowed in cases of sexual assault or in order to save the life of the mother. This being said, many pro-life lobbyists focus their energies on mandated waiting periods and removing public funding on abortion, which are causes that many pro-choice advocates might agree with or even be lobbying for themselves. This is one example of similarities between the two sides of the debate. The great graphic below comes from a website the discusses the common ground shared between pro-life and pro-choice citizens. The graphic shows that there are certain percentages of each group that believe in the same concepts, which range from “pro-choice” beliefs, to “pro-life” beliefs. Although some are definitely more supported by one side or the other, there are still people from both factions sharing the belief.
Although so many people share opinions on different issues revolving around abortion, the political sphere makes it seem like a black and white debate. This article claims that politicians use the emotion and personal feelings surrounding the issue to manipulate voters on an issue that normally doesn’t take the forefront in debate. Republicans gain appraisal from their supporters by reducing government funding for abortion and related organizations, while Democrats gain support by protecting these organizations. Both groups benefit from this polarized debate by playing on heartstrings to gain funding and positive attention for their strong stance. A recent article gives a good view of abortion in the current political sphere by showing Donald Trump’s pro-life argument. Trump, representing the pro-life side, faced Hilary Clinton who represented the pro-choice side of the debate and used the vagueness of when an abortion was acceptable to back her into a wall. By forcing her to admit that she believed that there could be a circumstance where an abortion may be necessary days before a baby was born, he interpreted her words as endorsing eugenics. This is an example of when the topic is discussed in extremes because of its basis in a political sphere.
So what is happening right now?
I’m ending this analysis post with two articles that show the relevancy of the topic to the lives of the readers. The first article states the Florida Supreme Court’s block a law that would have required a 24 hour waiting period before getting an abortion. If you look back at one of my first posts, it dealt with this same restrictive policy. The court claimed that these laws are an unnecessary and dangerous burden and are required for no other operation. Lastly, this article about abortion policy in North Carolina, connect this issue back to the readers closest to my home. This state law would require doctors to supply the government with an ultrasound if they are more than 16 weeks pregnant. Proponents argue that the law is to make sure doctors aren’t lying, while opponents claim it is an invasion of privacy used to intimidate those seeking abortions.
The topic I have chosen has many layers and this post was meant to identify a good number of them. The most important message to understand is that this is not a black and white subject, and it is about much more than privacy. I hope you enjoyed this longer post, please comment if you have any questions or if I can clarify anything!