“No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.” Frederica Mathewes-Green In a perfect world, every pregnancy would be considered an utmost blessing. In a perfect world, every birth would involve a healthy, beautiful baby-born to absurdly giddy, loving parents- with the promise of basic needs met and creature comforts strived for. In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy or the hell of having to make the decision whether or not to terminate. Although the opposing sides will likely never be in agreement on the morality of abortion, both sides can surely agree that the world isn’t perfect and that, consequently, not every pregnancy can be cause for joy and happiness.
Regardless of where our moral compass points on the issue of abortion, the fact remains that an estimated 40-50 million abortions take place worldwide each year and nearly half of them are illegal, unsafe procedures that result in severe disability and even death. Accordingly, in 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. Some pro-life proponents bitterly objected to the landmark decision, known as Roe v Wade, as if they felt the ruling had “invented abortion” or somehow created the problem altogether. The unavoidable reality, however, is that the world is imperfect and so abortion happens.
Chinese folklore from 500 BCE suggests the ingestion of mercury to induce abortion. It happened in 1550 BCE in ancient Egypt. Hippocrates is noted for having prescribed “jumping up and down” to his female patients suffering unwanted pregnancy! It happened in ancient Greece in 421 BC. It happened in the Bible in the book of Numbers. Even Plato proclaimed it the right of women to seek early terminations of pregnancies in “Theaetetus”, circa 360 BCE. Abortion will always happen, as it always HAS happened, and no amount of legislature or religious browbeating will ever change that fact. To be fair, most people who oppose abortion are well intentioned, pious individuals with a reasonable, valid, argument for favoring ‘pro-life’. They feel that abortion is the equivalent of murder; life begins at conception. Their religious faith compels them to believe that a fertilized embryo is a human being and, therefore, entitled to the right to live.
This argument, however, is based on an mere assumption rather than factual evidence. Joyce Arthur, a contributing writer for The Pro-Choice Action Network, suggests that the belief that a fetus is a living human being with a right to live is simply irrelevant because “biology, medicine, law, philosophy, and theology have no consensus on the issue, and neither does society as a whole.” Admittedly, the thought of so many countless aborted fetuses, unborn and unnamed and unloved, is unsettling to even the strongest supporter of a woman’s right to choose. Even so, the pro-choice advocates don’t just see a fetus; they see the whole complicated, imperfect, often sad world where we can’t solve everything. “We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children.”
Joycelyn Elders Pro-choice advocates, in scenarios where abortion isn’t an option, see only neglected and abused children who are born to parents who didn’t want them in the first place. They see children who are hungry because their parents are unable to provide for them. They see children who will never know healthy love or feel any real and lasting sense of security. Ultimately, they see children who will be born against their mothers’ will, fully aware that they aren’t valued by the ones who should value them most, and will do little more with their own troubled lives than perpetuate the vicious cycle of a bent and broken society.
The Quarterly Journal of Economics, in December 2003, backs this assertion: “We offer evidence that legalized abortion has contributed signicantly to recent crime reductions. Crime began to fall roughly eighteen years after [Roe v Wade] abortion legalization.” The report concludes its study findings with this rather scathing, but factually based statement: “Roughly half of the crimes committed in the United States are done by individuals born prior to the legalization of abortion. As these older cohorts age out of criminality and are replaced by younger offenders born after abortion became legal, we would predict that crime rates will continue to fall.”
“We’re pro-choice because we know that our faith cannot answer the question of when a fetus becomes a person. We also know that the whole question of fetal personhood is a disingenuous, & often malicious, attempt to distract us from the real issue-which is that the woman is a person. She is a person endowed by God, the U.S. Constitution, and common sense & decency with rights & responsibilities that she must exercise to the best of her ability, using her own best judgment.” -The Reverend Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale
Supporters of pro choice see the woman facing an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy in a more compassionate light than do pro life advocates. Those in favor of a woman’s right to choose have the open mindedness needed to recognize the unique and varied circumstances that lead a woman to opt for an abortion. They see rape victims who, after having had control of their bodies taken once, shouldn’t be expected to incubate, give birth to, financially and emotionally support, and somehow manage to love a constant reminder of violence and fear and sexual assault. They see victims of incest who, in reality, are only children themselves. They see loving parents who HAD planned a pregnancy, only to be given heart wrenching news: the baby will suffer extreme birth defects and have no quality of life. They see the straight-A student with a hard earned college scholarship who finds out that she’s pregnant the day before her high school graduation.
They see desperate women who fear the judgment of their overly religious families. These are the women who, without access to a safe one, will attempt to perform abortions on themselves or seek the service of an untrained hand, using unsafe procedures, in a non-sterile environment; often with tragic results. According to the World Health Organization in Oct. 2006, “back-alley abortions cause 68,000 maternal deaths each year in the 33 countries where abortion is not legal or available”.
Understand [that] unwanted pregnancy does not always translate into unwanted births, but the developmental research of children unwanted during pregnancy does suggest that when women say they cannot adequately care for a child, it is of the utmost importance that we listen! -Rachel Needle, PsyD
To be pro-choice is to truly care about others and to support a woman’s right not to give birth to a child she feels unable to care for. Despite the Pro Life claim that abortion is “taking the easy way out”, those in favor of choice realize that an imperfect world sometimes finds a woman in an impossible, desperately terrifying situation. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is far from the ‘easy way out’ and, in many cases, may be the only course of action viable to the mother.
The decision not to sentence a child to a life of poverty or sickness or oppression is humane if it is nothing else. Ultimately, being pro choice means working towards a world where abortion is legal and safe and rare. Being pro choice means supporting the right of every woman to decide what’s best for her own future, to act in the best interests of her own physical and emotional wellbeing, and to try her best to do whats right for herself and the family involved.
To be PRO-CHOICE is to be, quite literally, PRO (happy, healthy, beautiful) LIFE for everyone. The hope and the promise of such a life, however, can be made possible only through loving-kindness, genuine compassion, and- above all else- the freedom of choice.
AbouZahr, Carla. “British Medical Bulletin.” Oxford Journals. British Medical Bulletin, Dec. 2003. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. Arthur, Joyce. “Personhood: Is a Fetus a Human Being?” THE PRO-CHOICE ACTION NETWORK. The Pro Choice Action Network, Aug. 2001. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. “Civil Rights.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. . Donahue, John J., III, and Steven D. Levitt. THE IMPACT OF LEGALIZED ABORTION ON CRIME*. Rep. no. Quarterly Report. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 2001. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.
Russi, Nancy F., PhD. “When Pregnancies Are Unwanted.” Prochoiceforum.org.uk. Board of Social & Ethical Responsibility for Psychology of the American Psychological Association, 05 Mar. 2002. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. Sankin, Aaron. “Abortion Poverty Study Finds Link Between Lack Of Access And Income.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. Smith, Sharon. “Abortion Is Every Woman’s Right.” Abortion Is Every Woman’s Right. N.p., 23 Apr. 2004. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.