Group A’s Consultation On The Matter of Abortion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group A

Linda Hong

Yon Lam

Michaela F Balder

Min Lee

Massiel Caceres

 

Group A’s Consultation On The Matter of Abortion

 

            There has been an ongoing controversy over the issue of abortion before and since its legalization through the Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973. The Roe v. Wade ruling was made after more than a year of deliberation and states that “the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy” (Cornell). Based on the phrasing of this ruling, for the sake of this essay, we will be referring to the act of receiving a surgery or procedure that result in the loss of pregnancy as an “abortion”.

This deceptively easily defined term disguises the ongoing, heated debate of abortion in the U.S. today. The two sides of the debate can be split into mainly two categories: the Pro-Life supporters, who are generally opposed to abortion because of religious teachings and beliefs, and the Pro-Choice supporters, who believe that it is within a woman’s right for her to determine whether or not she wants to give birth. To put the argument into the simplest of terms, the two sides are debating as to which life should be given dominance: the potential life in the womb or the already living mother? Ultimately, abortion boils down to who should be given priority.

            In order to examine abortion and come to a reasonable conclusion as to what further course of action to take, one must understand the causes and history surrounding it and the viewpoints of both sides of the argument.

The History

The issue of abortion started to come to the attention of both the future opponents and proponents of abortion through the Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. (Garrow 1) This case legalized the use of contraception for married couples in the United States. According to Berkowitz, Justice Douglas stated that the prohibition of contraceptive use “would trample on [the privacy of] marriage, which the Court held under the Constitution involved a great good and protected freedom” (5). The importance of Griswold v. Connecticut lies in the emphasis of the protection of privacy, according to an interpretation of the First Amendment (3). “The concept of a Griswold-based constitutionally fundamental right to privacy that protected women’s reproductive choices was the substantive analytical centerpiece of all that followed between 1965 and 1973” (Garrow 4). Some years later, in1972, the Supreme Court extended the same right to privacy, regarding the use of contraception, to unmarried couples through Eisenstadt v. Baird. (Berkowitz) These two cases ultimately sparked hope for the “constitutional protection for a pregnant woman’s choice to obtain a legal and medically safe abortion” (Garrow 1).

A year after Eisenstadt v. Baird, in 1973, a pregnant, unmarried woman, “Jane Roe, challenged the “constitutionality of the Texas criminal abortion laws” which only allowed abortion in medical cases in which the woman’s life is in danger, bringing about a highly controversial and history changing case (Roe v. Wade). Roe v. Wade legalized a woman’s right to privacy from the government and the constitutional right to chose to end her pregnancy, even if the pregnancy is not life-threatening to the potential mother, in accordance to the fourteenth amendment. (Roe v. Wade) This decision caused a flood of women at abortion clinics. “Just two weeks after [the ruling], women flooded into the first abortion clinic to open between Miami and Washington, D.C.” (roe v. wade at 25). The number of legal abortions peak at almost 1.5 million in 1990 according to a study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the 1990’s. Since then, the number of abortions has started to decline and level off, beginning from the mid 1980’s to current times (both CQ researcher articles).

On the same day, a case called Doe v. Bolton echoed the ruling of the more famous Roe v. Wade case, stating that the conditions required for an abortion in Georgia violated the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doe v. Bolton) These two cases changed the restrictions set on abortion in the United States.  

Abortion has been a widespread and ongoing practice both when it wasn’t legal and today. Quindlen writes that “one national conference held in 1955 put the number of illegal abortions each year somewhere between 200,000 and 1.2 million. The list of methods was long and various: […] Lysol, pencils and garden hoses, slippery elm [etc.].” Legalizing abortion was, in hindsight, better for the health of women. They are no longer forced to carry out such a dangerous operation in secret.

However, advancements in the legalization of abortion were curbed by Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992, which affirmed the legality of abortion but deemed restrictions on abortion set forth by Pennsylvania perfectly viable. Restrictions making it more difficult to obtain an abortion included the requirement,

that a woman seeking an abortion give her informed consent prior to the procedure, and specifies that she be provided with certain information at least 24 hours before the abortion is performed; […] mandates the informed consent of one parent for a minor to obtain an abortion, but provides a judicial bypass procedure; […] defines a “medical emergency” that will excuse compliance with the foregoing requirements; […] impose certain reporting requirements on facilities providing abortion services (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey).

            Now that we understand how abortion became legalized and used in the United States, it is necessary to understand the problems that cause abortions and the circumstances in which they take place. 

Flaws and Circumstance

             According to the Political Research Quarterly of December 2003, a major issue in the abortion debate is under what circumstances abortion should be allowed, if any at all.  The General Social Survey, one of two major surveys in the United States asking questions on abortion, asks their subjects whether or not abortion should be legal in six different situations.  These situations include:

·         when the mother’s health is in danger

·         when the pregnancy is a result of sexual assault

·         when a single pregnant woman does not want to get married

·         when a married couple does not desire any more children and

·         when a family does not have enough money for additional children.

·         when the fetus is severely defective

The same questions have been asked in the survey since 1972 ((Jelen 489-401).  A similar study was done in 2004 on 1,209 abortion patients, examining the various reasons for their abortions.  Seventy-four percent said that “having a child would interfere with a woman's education, work or ability to care for dependents,” seventy-three percent said that “[they] could not afford a baby now,” and forty-eight percent said that they “did not want to be a single mother or [were] having relationship problems.”  About one-third were not ready to be mothers (Dauphinee et al. 110-119).  The General Social Survey tries to ask questions that are as relevant as possible to the general public’s attitudes about abortion, in order to gain realistic data.  However, we can see that the reasons women have abortions today versus the situations in which they believe abortion should be allowed varies greatly.  Although many of the Social Survey’s questions relate to situations protecting the health of the mother and prospective baby or the financial status of the rest of the family, a large percentage of the reasons why women receive abortions does not relate to these.  According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the two most common reasons for receiving an abortion were personal financial troubles and that the woman was not ready, for whatever reason, to become a parent.  Only three percent of women received abortions due to complications with the fetus, another three percent due to the woman’s heath problems, and only one percent of abortions were because of a pregnancy that occurred due to rape or incest (Dauphinee et al. 110-119). 

      Though the reasons as to why abortions take place varies, the bottom line is that people are getting pregnant. Pregnancies imply that sex has taken place and that is the root of our problem with abortion. Humans take delight in sex and no matter what is said, people, especially teenagers, will engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage. If this development cannot be halted, then a solution or remedy of some sort is crucial. One suggestion we provide is the simple gift of knowledge.

      Sex education has been a major aspect in the prevention of unexpected pregnancies. It has been a vital part of the educational system for years, promoting safer sex and practical ways to prevent the spread of STDs. With the steady rise in adolescent sexual activity, these lessons are becoming more influential with this new generation of young people. So why is it that lessons on condom use, contraception, and options for healthcare are being cut from the curriculum when they are only becoming more and more necessary?  In his last presidential campaign, President Bush promoted abstinence-only education in our school systems. ‘Abstinence-only’ education is one that does not deal with contraceptives, ‘safe sex’ methods or STI’s. Being religious, he is, like many pro-life supporters, against premarital sex and believes that the current sex education programs are the government’s way of condoning that act and Bush intends to remedy that. With a strong conservative backing and national funding, his programs are in action nationwide.  However, this policy has been statistically proven to be ineffective in the reduction of teenage sexual activity, unintended pregnancies, or the spreading of STDs in adolescents (Ketting).  

However, statistics have continually shown that women who took a sex education class have sex later than those who did not. Also, out of those women who partook in a sex education class and had sex, utilized some form of contraception 73% of the time whereas those who didn’t utilized contraception 64% of the time (Marsiglio).  In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, abstinence groups reported similar rates of sexual activity as those who were enrolled in sex education classes.  However, people who learned about effective contraception utilized it more frequently (Dailard).   Not only does sex education give adolescents a comprehensive coverage of sex, but also conveys it as a natural occurrence that should be taken seriously.  It also teaches abortion as an option for unexpected pregnancies, whereas abstinence teaching has no mention of it. 

Because sex education promotes sexual activity in teenagers, though only slightly, abstinence supporters believe they need to curb these tendencies (Marsiglio).  In 1981, the Adult Family Life Act was passed to promote abstinence-only teaching.  However, it wasn’t controlled well and the program varied greatly from school to school (Stahler).  Teachers scared students into believing that sex before marriage has many harmful social, psychological, and physical consequences. Often skewing medical information and exaggerating statistics on STDs, abstinence-only teachings suggest that disease and moral condemnation are inevitable consequences of premarital sexual activity. Advocates of abstinence also believe that the idea of teaching students about sex, disease prevention, and pregnancy only instills the idea that it is acceptable to partake in these activities. Their attempts to stop adolescent sex are encouraged through statistics showing that about 65% of STDs are contracted in people less than 24 years of age and that 25% of HIV infections occur in people who are less than 22 (Masland). 

Although a combined effort to teach abstinence values and sex education seems like a sensible plan, the majority of teachers in the United States only teach abstinence. In a survey printed in Family Planning Perspectives, a large number of teachers find that the curriculum that they’re supposed to believe and teach has many discrepancies. Many of them don’t cover more sensitive topics for fear of adverse community reactions. Other teachers feel that the pressures and limitations created by the government’s support of abstinence-only funds deeply impinges on the welfare of their students. Also, when confronted by statistics such as the fact that between 1973 and 2002, more than 33% of abortions within the United States were performed on women under 19 years of age (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report), it is natural to fear for our nation’s children. 

Providing a value-based education while accounting for the reality of today’s society, where more than 80% of women and 95% of men have sex by the age of 24, sex education clearly provides an unrealistic tactic towards the prevention of abortions and other health issues related with unsafe sex (Marsiglio). With people being more active sexually, it is only reasonable that many of them advocate abortion.

Right of the Woman  

For millions of women across America, the option to have an abortion is not only the right to decide the outcome of their future, but also part of a step towards empowerment and basic right as citizens. Since the decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973, women have fought desperately to uphold this right (Luker). Because pro-life individuals tend to uphold conservative, traditional values, pro-choice individuals tend to view their right to abortions as a symbolic step away from the stereotypical housewife mold which women were placed in long ago. Women, who lean towards the side of the pro-choice, statistically earn more than those who are pro-life, thus supporting the stereotype that women beginning a family with children tend to possess a lower level of education and hold a mediocre job.  Women in the professional field, such as doctors, lawyers, and politicians, postpone motherhood until they are very advanced into their field.  In this day and age where women finally have the same opportunities as men do, many feel that it would be foolish to give up on their dreams simply because of a pregnancy. Although women statistically earn less than men even in similar positions, they are still content with the idea that they can fulfill the demands of that job (Lalive).  Abortion has become a major empowerment tool in 21st century women because it allows them deemphasize the difference between the two sexes, bringing them closer to standing on equal ground with men.
            Also, for many women, abortion isn’t a selfish option to end a potential child’s life.  For those living in poverty and destitution, abortion prevents a child from entering a world of suffering and further poverty.  In some cases, some women may argue that household strife may arise and the unintended child may not be as “loved” or taken care of as one conceived in an appropriate setting (Luker). Rather than bringing a child out into the world and having he/she be miserable, pro-choice advocates believe that it would be better to end it in the womb.

            But of course, to every side, there is an opposite viewpoint.

Right of the Child

People who support pro-life believe that the fetus within a woman is a baby and a human being deserving of rights. Many of the supporters come from religious backgrounds and agree that a potential life in the womb is already a life. One anti-abortion group, National Right to Life, defines abortion as the ending of a “pregnancy by destroying and removing the developing child.”  They believe that a baby’s heart begins to beat from the moment the woman misses her period, and that the baby has limbs and brainwaves within 40 days (Abortion: Medical Facts).  Hence, the belief is that performing an abortion after this point (when most abortions occur) is killing a human being. 

Some anti-abortionists are completely secular and see their reasoning against abortion as philosophical as opposed to religious.  One such group, Libertarians for Life, focuses on two key aspects – “personhood (what "person" means, and why all unborn children are persons)” and “parental obligation.”  They believe that all people have the right to what they call “nonaggression”: from the point of conception until death, all people have the right to live.  Even in the case of rape, the baby still has the right to life, parental care, and protection.  Although abortion is often emphasized as an action a woman decides for her own body, those against abortion see it as murder (Some Information on LFL). These radical viewpoints exponentially increase the level of difficulty in finding a solution to the problem of abortion.        

Example of Countries Overseas

             Other nations with similar economic backgrounds have dealt with the issue of abortion in several different ways. In Ireland, abortion is only permitted if it will save the pregnant women’s life, while in Poland, only if it will protect her physical health. Spain, Northern Ireland, Portugal and Switzerland also allow it on the grounds of protecting a woman’s mental health. In Finland, abortion is allowed only on socioeconomic grounds. In most other European countries, abortion is permitted on request, and only in some Eastern European countries is abortion not covered by health insurance (Pinter 51-59). In England, abortion is fully covered by the National Health Service. Induced abortion is free-of-charge in Turkey though no medical abortion is yet available. Medically necessary abortion is also covered in Canada (Kondro 208).

            In an effort to curb the rapidly growing population, the Netherlands utilized many tactics to decrease the number of unintended pregnancies.  Focusing mainly on diminishing abortion numbers, the Dutch strongly advertised family planning and contraceptive methods through mass media and sex education in more than 50% of all primary schools and almost all secondary schools.  Because they have a largely non-moralistic view on public education and a declining influence of the Church in daily life, the government can effectively campaign towards positive ideals about teenage sexual behavior.  Teens have wide access to contraceptive services while the abortion rate is only roughly 6 in 1000 women of reproductive age, the lowest in the world (Ketting).  This strategy suggests that open education can positively influence the young generation at hand and can effectively reduce the amount of abortion cases that must be viewed here in the United States. 

Recommendation

            Any proposal to solve this issue of abortion will cause great social unrest with a number of people. A solution leaning too much towards the left or the right will enrage the other side while a middle compromise will anger both and pacify neither. However, in the interest of the future of our country, we propose to promote education rather than try to wrestle with the actual act of abortion.

            Our research and studies have shown that knowledge of contraceptives and safe sex greatly improved the chances of a women not getting pregnant. Perhaps through this course of action, we will be able to protect women’s right and children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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