16 December 2019
Whose Choice Is It?
The women’s rights movement was started in New York of 1848, where the very first women’s rights convention was held, and was the mark of the beginning of a long journey to equality, as well as women’s rights over their own bodies. It wasn’t until 1920 that women gained the right to vote, to be treated as citizens- as humans with a voice. America is notoriously known for the oppression it has caused in the past, but has made great progress since these unfortunate times- its 2019! Anything is possible. But that’s not entirely true. To this day, the oppressed continue to fight for their rights and equal treatment; although America has fast forwarded 99 years, there is still an ongoing controversial conversation over whether or not women deserve absolute ownership of their own bodies, and if they should be granted the right of abortion. The United States continues to take one step forward, and two steps backwards. On May 15th, 2019 , the Human Life Protection Act was passed in Alabama setting an almost complete ban on abortion, and penalizing those who chose to flee the state an obtain one in another. Abortion is a controversial topic that needs to be discussed in order to make change, it cannot follow the footsteps of Alabama and other states with like interests- had the very first womens rights movement never happened, women would not be be treated as equal citizens today.
Where does the fight begin? Pro-choice vs. pro-life. Anti-aboriton activists, also known as “Pro-lifers”, stand on the contrast of women’s rights to their own bodies. Pro-life activists aim to protect the fetus’ life due to moral, and religious reasons. Taken directly from Pro-Life Action League’s website directed by Joe Scheidler, “It is no more just to kill an unborn child in order to avoid hardship than it would be to kill a toddler to avoid hardship. […] This is morally indistinguishable from killing any child at any stage of development.” Members of this group participate in marches, similar to other activist groups, using fear tactics and shame to deter potential future abortions. Largely, pro-lifers believe abortion should be absolutely illegal regardless cercumstances- whether it be rape, incest, or illness, because in their own words, “human life begins at conception”(Pro-life League). Taking the life of an unborn fetus is therefore equivalent to murdering a baby, hence why in a state such as Alabama, and others with similar laws, a woman that receives an abortion can be charged with murder.
The question of morality is subjective- if someone believed abortion went against their moral code, and/or religious beliefs- that is absolutely understandable, and they should avoid abortion. However, every pregnancy is unique. If a woman was to learn she is pregnant within the first trimester, and was to contract one of many illnesses such as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, an abortion is almost necessary as hypermesis is life threatening. Taken from Caitlin Deans own story, hyperemesis “causes vomiting so relentlessly that your throat bleed and your stomach muscles tear”(Dean), it causes nausea so intense and all-consuming is feels as if they have been poisoned. Women can potentially lose their life along with the child. Preeclampsia is another illness, also known as toxemia, which can cause a raised blood pressure, and can put the mother at risk of brain injury (Obstetrics and Gynecology, CHESLEY LEON C. Ph.D.F.A.C.O.G et al.). Following brain injury, it can impair kidney and liver function, cause blood clotting, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), seizures and, in severe forms or left untreated, maternal and infant death. Hyperemesis and toxemia are only two of many illnesses women can conceive while pregnant- the cruel and unforgivingness of forcing a woman to carry a child when their life’s on the line, because of the opinion of another other herself, is where the real question of morality should lie.
Education on fetuses is essential when raising awareness about abortion rights- abortions are not equivalent to killing a toddler; and criminalizing abortion does not deter them. Pregnancy can be detected as early as 4 weeks after conception. By the following week (5th week of pregnancy) the brain, spinal cord and heart will begin to develop- these are the early stages of development of a multicellular organism, better known as the embryo stages, where the embryo is about the size of a poppy seed. Facts provided by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control state that as of 2016, 91.0 percent of abortions took place less than 13 weeks in to pregnancy, 7.7 percent were preformed between 14-20 weeks, and 1.2 percent were 21 weeks or greater. Following these statistics, professor of experimental cognitive psychology at the College of France, Stanislas Dehaene has concluded that “the cortex, the epicenter of human consciousness, starts to form by six months gestation”, where the baby then can begin to recognize the mother’s voice and react to stimuli. If 91.0% of abortions are preformed within the first 1-13 weeks of pregnancy, this simply is not equivilant to murdering an infant.
Criminalizing abortions will not reduce them, criminalization will and has created a dangerous environment for women. It was not until the supreme court case Roe v. Wade of 1973 that abortion was legalized. During the years before Roe v. Wade, death related illegal abortions ranged as high as “5,000 women dying every year in the decades leading up to the ruling” (Renana Dine). Taking away the safety of obtaining an abortion from a medical professional does more harm than help; humiliation, agony, and the risk of sterility or death did not deter women from attaining an illegal, unsafe abortion before the ruling. According to the National Abortion Federation, the estimates of illegal abortions ranged as high as 1.2 million per year before 1973. Taking away a woman’s right to her own body puts both the potential fetus and mother in danger.
How can abortions be labelled as unethical, when it is absolutely legal for a man to get a woman pregnant and leave? Giving women the option of abortion puts them in a position of equality, and can create a more efficient future for society. A woman can attain an abortion in a safe, legal, and ethical manner, or they can give birth to an unwanted child and potentially give it up for adoption, adding to the 107,000 children only eligable for adoption, not counting thoe who are waiting. Since the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion isone of the safest medical procedures in the country- keeping abortion legal will protect the lives and safety of women who may face unplanned pregnancies. America must not reverse the progress it has made, and cannot continue living in the shadow of oppression. Maintaining rights over your own body is a human right, progress and equality is the future of the United States.
“CDCs Abortion Surveillance System FAQs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Nov. 2019, http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/abortion.htm.
Dean, Caitlin. “Pregnancy Sickness Can Kill – Why Are Doctors so Uninformed about It? | Caitlin Dean.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Mar. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/02/pregnancy-sickness-can-kill-why-are-doctors-so-uninformed.
Dine, Ranana. “Scarlet Letters: Getting the History of Abortion and Contraception Right.” Center for American Progress, 8 Aug. 2013, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/news/2013/08/08/71893/scarlet-letters-getting-the-history-of-abortion-and-contraception-right/.
Farrell, John. “Tracing Consciousness In The Brains Of Infants.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 19 Apr. 2018, http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnfarrell/2018/04/19/tracing-consciousness-in-the-brains-of-infants/#48b0493e722f.
“History of Abortion.” National Abortion Federation, 29 Jan. 2015, prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/about-abortion/history-of-abortion/.
Leon, Chelsey. “The Familial Factor in Toxemia of Pregnancy : Obstetrics & Gynecology.” LWW, journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Citation/1968/09000/The_Familial_Factor_in_Toxemia_of_Pregnancy.1.aspx.
Scheidler, Joe. “Life Action League.” Pro, prolifeaction.org/.