Poll Response: Abortion
Abortion continues to be a topic under hot debate and most likely will be for a long time to come. About 1.4 million abortions are performed each year. About 30% of women will have an abortion before they are 45. There is no medical procedure that I am aware of that has more laws wrapped up into it then abortion. More US state abortion restrictions were enacted between 2011 and 2013 (205 in total) than were adopted during the whole previous decade (189).
The federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which was enacted “to protect unborn children from assault and murder,” states that under federal law, anybody intentionally killing or attempting to kill an unborn child should “be punished… for intentionally killing or attempting to kill a human being.” This law establishes that an unborn child has rights and is considered a living human being. Yet, in 1973, Roe vs Wade ruled in favor of abortion rights. This appears to be a conflict of perspective.
When does life begin? This is a central question within this debate. Everyone realizes that a fetus is the beginning of human life. But at what point does it change into a human life? Some believe that from the moment of conception a fetus is alive and a human. Others believe that human life begins at the point that the fetus is viable and can continue to live even outside the mother’s body. There are even those who believe that life begins a birth.
The challenge to this question is that it isn’t a question of science. It is one of moral value, of religion and of philosophy. Since this area of thinking (religion and philosophy) is not one that can be tested nor proved, it is not surprising that this is a question that society cannot come to a consensus on. As long as this question remains in debate, the legality of abortions will also be debated.
Access to legal, professionally-performed abortions reduces maternal injury and death caused by unsafe, illegal abortions. The World Health Organization estimated in 2004 that unsafe abortions cause 68,000 maternal deaths worldwide each year, many of those in developing countries where safe and legal abortion services are difficult to access. Whether legal or not, abortions are happening. Making them legal does not automatically make them safer, but it does put them into the realm of regulation. When they are legal, how and when they are performed can be monitored. Not to mention that data on the procedures can be more accurately obtained.
Modern abortion procedures are safe and do not cause lasting health issues. Less than one quarter of one percent of abortions lead to major health complications. The rates are higher in many other medical procedures. The mortality rate of a colonoscopy is more than 40 times greater than that of an abortion. A woman’s risk of dying from having an abortion is 0.6 in 100,000. The risk of dying from giving birth is around 14 times higher (8.8 in 100,000). And pregnancy-related complications are more common with childbirth than with abortion. Lastly, women who receive abortions are less likely to suffer mental health problems than women denied abortions.
Abortions reduce the number of adoptable babies. Most people offer this statement as a reason that abortions should not be allowed. That adoption should be used rather then abortion. But the adoption system is already over loaded. There are more children then there are people looking to adopt. Then there is the long debate of how well the adoption and foster system is supporting those children. Adoption is an alternative to an abortion in many cases. However, the issue of the adoption and foster system is really not a part of the abortion debate despite how often it is raised in the discussion. Yet, it is one of the many ways that the abortion issue effects many other social issues in this country.
Abortion gives pregnant women the option to choose not to bring fetuses with profound abnormalities to full term. Some fetuses have such severe disorders that death is guaranteed before or shortly after birth. These include anencephaly, in which the brain is missing, and limb-body wall complex, in which organs develop outside the body cavity. It would be cruel to force women to carry fetuses with fatal congenital defects to term. And it certainly offers nothing to the fetus.
Selective abortion based on genetic abnormalities (eugenic termination) is a less clear matter. These are cases when a fetus is aborted based on having a disorder such as down syndrome. Over 80% of women choose to abort Down Syndrome fetuses. The increase of these abortions has reduced the Down Syndrome population by 15% between 1989 and 2005. Whether or not this is a good thing is still under debate. No one would argue that reducing the number of people with any kind of disorder or syndrome is the primary goal of medicine. But is this the right way to go about it? The movie Gattica painted a dark picture of the future where genetics were strictly controlled. How far do we want to take this power of selection?
Reproductive choice empowers women by giving them control over their own bodies. The choice over when and whether to have children is central to a woman’s independence and ability to determine her future. The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.
When looking at women who are turned away from abortion clinics (because of gestational limits in most cases) compared to those women who are able to obtain an abortion… the implications are stunning. 42% of women having abortions are below the federal poverty level at the time of the abortion. Those who were turned away from abortions are three times more likely to fall below the poverty level with in two years. 76% of the “turn-a-ways” ended up on unemployment benefits, compared with 44% of the women who had abortions. 73% of women who have an abortion cite inability to support a child as the reason they were choosing to have an abortion. Women at all income levels earn less when they have children, with low-wage workers being most affected, suffering a 15% earnings penalty. So, women who have children have an increase in their cost of living while having a decrease in their financial means. Denying abortions adds to the burden of poverty in this country. More people below the poverty line means that there are more people drawing on services. If a mother is below the poverty line, so are her children.
Women unable to obtain abortions were more likely to stay in a relationship with an abusive partner and were more than twice as likely to become victims of domestic violence. The consequences of being a victim or witness to domestic violence are profound. Violence is a major risk factor for mental illness for both those who are the victims and those who witness it. Additionally, those who are raised in a violent home are more likely to engage in criminal behaviors.
The social implications to those numbers are intense. So, while issues of poverty, violence, genetic selection and adoption are not really a part of the abortion question, it is important to understand that the final answer to this debate will have far reaching consequences.
So, what do you think? The poll reflected 100% pro choice. But what do you think about the social implications of abortion? What role (if any) should it play in genetic selection or population control? Comments and discussion are encouraged. Just play nice!