Since the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged the constitutional right to abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, abortion issues have surfaced in every election both locally and statewide. Abortion is not a priority but it certainly has helped shape policies and attitudes in the U.S political landscape. In 2017, approximately 862, 320 abortions occurred in the United States. The resulting abortion rate of 13.5 abortions per 1, 000 women of reproductive age (1544) represents an 8% decrease from the 2014 rate of 14.6 (Jones RK et al). In 2017, the abortion incidence in Mississippi shows that 2, 550 abortions were provided to state residents.
Such data on abortion help, in the end, to serve as a measure of access to reproductive health.
Most states across the U.S have set restrictions on abortion rights. Common state laws touch on parental notification or requirement for consent for minors, limitations on public funding, required counseling designed to discourage individuals from obtaining an abortion, required waiting periods before an abortion, and unnecessary regulations on abortion facilities.
Mississippi is among many states that have adopted restrictive and hostile laws to abortion rights with recent changes effected in September 2019. The effected laws could lead to an overturn of the Roe v. Wade decision thus making abortion illegal in Mississippi.
This case ruling in 1973 is the reference point that effectively legalized abortion in the United States. The court ruled that a woman’s right to abortion is implicit in her right to privacy, which is protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
Until the 19th Century, abortion was permissible before the second trimester. Drugs and medication to induce miscarriage were sold and advertised to women, though some proved to be fatal. In the late 1850s, the newly established American Medical Association started a campaign to criminalize abortion in a bid to remove native doctors and homeopaths. This campaign took effect and eventually, the Catholic Church banned abortion in 1865. This move set precedent in abortion being outlawed in most parts of the country.
Prior events leading up to the Roe v. Wade decision, included women’s rights movement and issues around contraception in the 1960s. With the decision, the court divided the pregnancy into three parts. In the first trimester, the woman had a right to terminate the pregnancy. In the second trimester, in order to protect the woman’s health, the government could regulate abortion though they could not rule out the possibility to end the pregnancy. In the last trimester, the state could prohibit abortion to protect a fetus that could survive on its own outside the womb, except when a woman’s health was in danger. Though the ruling still holds, many restrictive laws have been imposed in the past years thus crippling abortion rights. This has been fueled by what Ziad Munson calls ‘ the making of the abortion controversy.’
In his book, Abortion Politics, Ziad Munson traces the history of abortion and the part played by different forces in its construct affecting the political, social and economic spheres of Americans. Munson traces the social movements that have been at the forefront of the abortion debate: pro-choice and pro-life movements.
The National Right to Life Committee made up of Catholic Church Leaders and other secular leaders, steered a nationwide movement to oppose the legalization of abortion in 1967. After the Roe v. Wade decision, this was rebranded to the pro-life movement. This provided the cause with infrastructure, funding and people power that has evolved since then.
‘The U.S. Pro-Life Movement underscores the important way that religion’s impact on pro-life protest is not limited to being a source of motivational beliefs. The Catholic Church as a formal organization played a key role in facilitating the mobilization of the movement.’ (Ziad Munson). From the above, it is clear that the pro-life movement merges two distinct perspectives on abortion, the religious perspective, and the moral perspective. The church is against abortion under any circumstance. Life is considered sacred and abortion ends this life thus the idea is wholly rejected. (Raquel Lopez, p. 513).
The unborn, as a matter of moral subject, has been debated on by several scholars with a question of whether the unborn should be given full rights and moral status. Philosophical considerations by (Tooley, Wolf-Devine, Devine, & Jaggar, 2009) through a set of questions has also been used to debate about the morality of abortion.
From the above areas of concern raised, it becomes unethical to carry out abortion according to the pro-life movement, this is because the unborn are considered human and this entitles it to rights and moral values. Because the unborn cannot make the choice for him, it is the right of the state and society to speak on its behalf. Banning abortion at any stage is core to the movement.
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