Legal Abortion: Arguments Pro & Con

This piece was written almost 30 years ago and should be considered to be a historical document. However, instead, most points are still relevant today.

Anti-Choice (RTL) Pro-choice
Human life begins at conception. Therefore, abortion is murder of a person. Personhood at conception is a religious belief, not a provable biological fact. Mormon and some Fundamentalist churches believe in personhood at conception; Judaism holds that it begins at birth and abortion is not murder; ensoulment theories vary widely within Protestantism. The religious community will never reach consensus on the definition of a “person” or when abortion is morally justified.
Use of the term “pro-abortion” to refer to those who support the right to choose a safe, legal abortion. We are pro-choice. “Pro-abortion” is inaccurate, as it implies favoring abortion over childbirth. We support reproductive freedom, which means that an individual woman should be able to make her own choice.
Use of the term “pro-life” to refer to those who oppose legal abortion. The “pro-life” concerns of abortion foes are only for fetal lives, not the lives of women or unwanted babies. “Pro-life” is a term used to make anti-abortion and anti-choice seem positive and good.
Abortion should not be legal in the U.S. Abortion must be stopped. The right to life must be protected. Laws have never stopped abortion, but only relegated it to back-alley butchers. The hypocrisy is clear: when illegal abortion was the leading killer of pregnant women in the U.S., there was no Right to Life (RTL) organization.
Abortion is morally wrong. Most Americans reject the absolutist position that it is always wrong to terminate a pregnancy and believe that abortion may be the morally right choice under certain circumstances.
If you believe abortion is morally wrong, you are obligated to work to make abortion illegal and unavailable. Many people who are personally opposed to abortion for religious or moral reasons also believe that it is wrong to impose their values by civil law on everyone. You don’t have to like abortion to respect the right of choice.
Legalized abortion is a sign of the moral decay that is destroying America. It is imperative to pass laws to stop this trend. Legislation cannot create morality. Prohibition did not stir moral outrage against drinking; it stirred outrage against Prohibition itself, and promoted widespread disrespect for all laws.
The fetus is in no real sense “part” of the mother, but is a separate and distinct human being. The fetus is totally dependent on the body of the woman for its life support and is physically attached to her by the placenta and umbilicus. The health of the fetus is directly related to the health of the pregnant woman. Only at birth are they separate.
The right of the unborn to live supersedes any right of a woman to “control her own body.” Margaret Sanger said, “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body.” This concept is fundamental for women.
Women have abortions for their own convenience or on “whim.” RTL trivializes motherhood and childbirth by dismissing pregnancy as a mere inconvenience. RTL ignores or belittles the needs of the woman and the conflict she endures in making her decision. Guilt is inflicted when compassion is needed.
Pro-abortion people insist that the fetus is nothing but a worthless blob of tissue. They refuse to face the fact that there’s a miniature person in that womb. No thoughtful person denies that the fetus is a potential person and that it looks increasingly human as it develops from a fertilized egg to a full-term fetus ready for birth. What we oppose is stopping legal abortion by legislating personhood at so me moment before birth.
Pictures of highly-developed fetuses, bloody abortions, tiny feet, fetuses in garbage cans; use of words “baby” and “kill.” RTL visual materials are usually grossly enlarged, undocumented and mislabeled. They are cleverly designed to evoke emotions of revulsion against abortion and sympathy toward the fetus.
Pro-abortionists who criticize the Roman Catholic Church are anti-Catholic bigots. It is not bigotry to tell the truth: Diocese funds go directly into anti-abortion activities and the Church is implementing its highly political “Pastoral Plan” to make abortion illegal. Attacking Church leadership in the anti-abortion movement is a far cry from attacking Catholic people, most of whom support freedom of choice.
Pro-abortionists are turning the abortion issue into a religious was by saying that the opposition to abortion comes from religious groups trying to foist their beliefs on the nation. Abortion is a religious issue, because the basis of opposition to abortion is the theological question of when personhood begins. Organized religion, primarily the Catholic Church and the “religious right,” is the backbone of the anti-abortion movement and is a cause for great concern among pro-choice religions, who see anti-abortion laws as a violation of religious liberty.
Abortion is wrong because it is taking a human life. Almost all legislators who oppose abortion rights also support the death penalty. One might ask if they think people who are convicted of murder are no longer human.
Abortion is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. Where do pro-abortionists get the idea that abortion is a constitutional right? The Constitution protects various rights that are not specifically mentioned, but are derived, via Supreme Court interpretation, from other rights. Examples of this are the right of free association and the right to distribute printed material. The constitutional right of privacy has been interpreted repeatedly to include matters of marriage, family and sex, specifically “the right to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”
We must pass a “human life amendment” to the Constitution, declaring the unborn to be full persons from the moment of conception. If “person” were defined as beginning at conception, then abortion would be the crime of murder. Women’s bodies, rights and health would be subordinated to the protection of the embryo. No abortions would be permitted for any reason, including rape or incest. Each miscarriage would have to be investigated. The legal consequences of such an amendment would be catastrophic.
Pro-abortionists argue that under a “human life amendment” women would be prosecuted for murder. Prior to Roe v. Wade in 1973, women weren’t persecuted, abortionists were. Future criminal penalties for abortion would be the same as pr e-1973. State anti-abortion laws prior to Roe V. Wade were not based on fetal personhood. Under a “human life amendment,” we would not be returning to the same legal situation, we would have a whole new body of law, with women and abortion practitioners (doctors or other) facing murder charges.
Since our “human life amendment” is so difficult to achieve, some of us will settle for a constitutional amendment overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing individual states to pass anti-abortion laws. Constitutional rights are for all Americans, not just those in states where legislators refuse to allow abortion. A “states’ rights” amendment would return women to the days when medically safe abortions were reserved for those who lived in pro-choice states or who could pay for travel or high-priced illegal practitioners.
Most Americas believe that abortion should be illegal. Polls show overwhelming — and growing — support for legal abortion. Typically, a 1982 Associated Press-NBC poll showed that 77% agreed that abortion “should be left to the woman and her doctor,” and that support for abortion rights cuts across political, age, religious, income, education, race and sex differences. Only 19% favored a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion.
There should be a national referendum on abortion so the people can decide if they want it. The majority rules in a democracy. We don’t have national referenda in this country. Constitutional rights are guaranteed for everyone and are not subject to the whim of the electorate. Even if only a minority believed in freedom of choice, that right should be protected from the tyranny of the majority.
Abortion should not be permitted for rape because it is wrong to punish a child for the sin of the father. Besides, pregnancy rarely happens from rape. Women can get immediate medical treatment to prevent pregnancy. Forcing a woman to bear a rapist’s child is further torture of the victim of a heinous crime. Some 5.4% of rape victims become pregnant. The “medical treatment” RTL refers to is a post-coital birth control such as DES that does not always work — and is actually an early abortion if conception has taken place. Many rapes are not reported immediately, or at all. Women should not have to undergo unnecessary medication.
Right to Life takes no position on contraception. The same people who oppose legal abortion are attempting to cripple federal and state family planning programs both by defunding and by administrative regulations. The “human life amendment” would outlaw birth control methods, such as the IUD and mini-pills, which act after fertilization. The charter of Birthright, the anti-abortion “problem pregnancy” counseling organization, prohibits referral for contraception.
She had her fun, now let her pay for it. If you have sex, you should expect to get pregnant and pay the consequences. This vindictive, self-righteous attitude stems from a belief that sex is bad and must be punished. Motherhood should never be punishment for having sex. Forcing a child to be born to punish its mother is the ultimate in child abuse.
In a society where contraceptives are so readily available, there should be no unwanted pregnancies and therefore no need for abortion. Women don’t bother with contraception because abortion is available. Americans have a high level of contraceptive use. But no birth control method is perfectly reliable, and for medical or religious reasons many women can’t use the most effective methods. Contraceptive information and services are still not available to all women, especially teens and the poor. That some women (and men) are careless about birth control is irrelevant to the legality of abortion.
Teenagers have forgotten how to say “no.” Making contraceptives and abortion available only encourages them to have sex. The increase in teen sex has complex society causes, including sexually-oriented TV, movies and ads. Birth control and abortion don’t cause sex, but reality dictates that they be available to help prevent teens from becoming parents.
Parents have the right to know if their child is having an abortion. They should be able to guide the child in moral decisions. A law requiring parental notification would strengthen the family unit. Mandatory parental involvement laws are simply anti-abortion laws targeted at teens, obstructing exercise of the abortion right. Such laws are bad for several reasons; they cause girls to delay seeking medical care; and they do not exempt girls wit h abusive, ill, absent or anti-abortion parents. It is not possible to legislate good family relations.
Minors should have their parents’ consent before having abortions, and wives should have their husbands’ consent. The Supreme Court, in 1976, reaffirmed that the right of privacy allows women to be free of governmental interference in decisions about childbearing. The Court struck down parental and spousal consent laws that would allow a parent of husband to veto the abortion decision. The Court said that when a husband and wife disagree, only one view can prevail, and that it should be hers because she “physically bears the child and is more directly affected by the pregnancy.”
Adoption, not abortion. There are alternatives to abortion. Abortion is never the best solution. A woman should be able to decide for herself. Some single women do choose childbirth followed by adoption; many more choose single parenthood. For a married woman, especially one with other children, giving a baby up for adoption is virtually impossible.
There is a lack of adoptable babies because of abortion being legal. Willing parents are waiting for babies. Sad as the plight of infertile couples may be, women should never be forced to bear children for them. Adoptable babies are also scarce today because 94% of unwed mothers keep their babies. The baby shortage has some positive benefits: older, non- white and handicapped children are now being adopted rather than having to live in institutions.
Most unwanted pregnancies become wanted children. Women make big mistakes having abortions, and they regret it later. . Many unwanted babies are abused, neglected and/or battered or even killed by unloving or immature parents. Many women make mistakes in having babies they don’t want and can’t love or care for. Some may regret an abortion, but this should not be a reason to deny choice to all women.
Abortion causes psychological damage to women. They suffer guilt feelings all their lives. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that abortion is not associated with a detectable increase in the incidence of mental illness. Some women experience depression and guilt feelings, but a higher percentage of new mothers suffer post-partum depression. That some women experience guild is no reason to make abortion illegal for all.
More women die from legal abortion that ever did from illegal abortion. Abortion is not as safe as natural pregnancy. And abortion greatly increased the incidence of miscarriage in future pregnancies. Right to Lifers only show concern for women’s health when they can use it in their propaganda; they invent or exaggerate risks and document them with old figures from other countries. The Centers for Disease Control said the risk of dying from childbirth is 13 times that for abortion. CDC researchers have also concluded that today’s abortion procedures will not adversely affect a woman’s future reproduction, and have said, “the reality is that legalized abortion has had a definite impact on the health of American women (by providing them with a safer way to terminate their pregnancies than by either illegal abortion or childbirth).”
There are too many late (after 12 weeks) abortions. Women shouldn’t wait so long. 91% of abortions are done in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and only 4% after 16 weeks. Tests showing birth defects are not done until the 16th week; and some women do not discover they’re pregnant until this time. Most late abortions are done for health reasons. Ironically, restrictive laws pushed by Right to Lifers, such as mandatory parental involvement and cutoff of Medicaid for poor women’s abortions, cause delay and lead to increased numbers of late abortions.
The Supreme Court ruled that abortion on demand is legal for the entire nine months of pregnancy. The Supreme Court rules that states may prohibit abortion in the their trimester, unless a woman’s life or health is endangered. Only .9% of abortions are performed after 20 weeks, and none after 24 weeks. After 24 weeks, an emergency condition, e.g. toxemia, of the woman could end in an induced premature birth, with survival of both mother and infant as its goal.
With the central nervous system already developed, the baby is capable to feeling intense pain when it is killed in abortion. The brain structures and nerve-cell connections that characterize the thinking and feeling parts of the brain are not completed until between the 7th and 8th months of gestation. Only after 30 weeks to the brain waves show patterns of waking consciousness when pain can be perceived. The reflex actions that are present before this stage do not indicate ability to feel pain. Abortions virtually never occur after 24 weeks.
Fetuses aborted later in pregnancy and born alive are left to die or are killed by doctors. Abortions near the point of viability are performed only in extreme medical emergencies when the woman’s life is threatened. A tiny fraction of these cases result in live-born infants, who are given all care necessary to sustain their lives.
We oppose amniocentesis and other medical techniques which are used to diagnose birth defects. These are “search and destroy” missions that can lead to abortion. Even imperfect human being have the right to live. Less than 3% of such tests result in abortion. The tests permit parents who know they are at risk of bearing a defective baby to conceive, assured that if the test results are positive, they can abort and try again for a healthy baby. Before this technique was available, at-risk parents often aborted all pregnancies. It is heartless to deny parents access to medical technology that permits them to avoid giving birth to an incurable ill or severely retarded infant.
Doctors make large profits from legal abortion. abortion has become a multimillion dollar industry. No wonder the medical profession opposes the “human life amendment.” Illegal abortions were big business, as back-alley practitioners were able to extract huge fees from desperate women. Organized crime syndicates ran the notorious “abortion mills.” Doctors earn less for abortion than for prenatal care and childbirth, yet RTL used the word “industry” for abortion providers in order to make this aspect of medical practice seem dirty. Only a small percentage of physicians perform abortions, yet most support legal abortion in the interest of good medical care.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, formerly a leading abortionist, now believes in the humanity of the fetus from conception and is an active pro-life advocate. Nathanson is one individual who switched, then wrote an inflammatory book about it. He does not represent American medical opinion. When faced with the reality of an unwanted pregnancy for themselves or their daughters, many Right to Lifers change their views and choose abortion. Some become pro-choice activists, and some remain hypocritically anti-choice.
Medicaid should not pay for abortion. It is wrong to try to eliminate poverty by killed the unborn children of the poor. Congress set up the Medicaid program to equalize medical services between the rich and poor. To deny poor women abortion services while paying for childbirth is unfair. It removes reproductive freedom and defies both common sense and humane public policy. Cutting off Medicaid abortion actually increased poverty by trapping mothers of young children in the poverty/welfare cycle.
The Supreme Court gave the government the right to “encourage” childbirth over abortion by funding only childbirth and not abortion under the Medicaid program. States should use funding to implement pro-life values. If the government has the right to control people’s childbearing that way, then it might, under some other set of pressures (such as reducing the welfare load) choose to fund abortion for the poor but not prenatal care and childbirth. Both kinds of coercion are unacceptable. The choice must remain with the individual, not the government. Both childbirth and abortion should be funded.
Our government can’t afford to give poor women free abortion on demand. The poor aren’t entitled to everything the rich have. If they get abortions, then next they’ll be asking for Cadillacs. Abortion is not a luxury item; it is a necessary component of women’s health care. The government has decided to provide health care for the needy, and should not eliminate any medically necessary care. Since it is less expensive to subsidize an abortion than childbirth and subsequent welfare, the anti-abortion financial argument is invalid as well as inhumane. Another irony is that most anti-abortion legislators vote against funding the health and social welfare programs that make it possible for women to take care of their babies rather than abort for financial reasons.
I don’t want my tax money used for abortion, as in Medicaid. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for what they believe is immoral. We all must support some government spending we don’t like. Pacifists’ dollars support the military; Christian Scientists pay their share of medical programs. The government would be in chaos if each of us could allocate how our tax dollars are us ed. In our representative form of government, our statements are made on election day, when we choose those who decide how tax dollars are spent.
Abortion is mass murder — genocide — another Nazi Holocaust. Six million abortions are the same as six million Jews; a life is a life. Hitler used racial grounds to exterminate Jews and other “undesirables.” The reproductive rights movement has no genocide component — no one is out to kill all embryos. It is an insult to the memory of the alive and conscious human beings murdered by the Nazis to equate them with embryos for anti-abortion propaganda.
In Nazi Germany, it all started with abortion. Sexual freedom was the problem, and look where it led. The opposite is true. Totalitarian leaders Hitler and Stalin believed that the individual should be sacrificed to the state. Both instituted harsh abortion laws, outlawed other women’s rights, and forced women to stay home, bear children, and be subservient to their husbands. Russian women were criticized for treating childbearing “as if it were a personal matter.” Hitler said, “Use of contraceptives means a violation of nature and a degradation of womanhood, motherhood and love….”
Beethoven’s mother was in ill health and the family was poor. Beethoven might never have been born if his mother had been able to have an abortion. If you follow that line of reasoning, then perhaps Hitler’s mother might have had an abortion, too.
Blacks are against abortion because they believe abortion is an instrument of genocide. According to 1982 polls, there is no difference in the attitudes of blacks and whites toward legal abortion. Non-white women, however, have an abortion rate (56.8 per 1000) that is twice that of white women (24.3 per 1000). To quote two black men: Dr. Kenneth Edelin: “I know what genocide is — and it isn’t doing legal abortions. Black women have suffered and died from botched, illegal abortion. That is genocide.” Carl T. Rowan: “(Black) women know that, as long as someone else does not force an abortion on them, it is not genocide.”
In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court said that blacks were not persons. In Roe v. Wade, the Court decided that unborn babies were not legal persons. Both decisions were wrong. In the Dred Scott case, the issue was not the personhood of blacks, but whether they were citizens with constitutional rights. The Court consistently referred to blacks as persons. The Dred Scott case is not analogous to Roe v. Wade.
The “abortion mentality” leads to infanticide, euthanasia, and killing of retarded and elderly persons. In countries where abortion has been legal for years, there is no evidence that respect for life has diminished or that legal abortion leads to killing of any persons. Infanticide, however, is prevalent in countries where the overburdened poor cannot control their childbearing and abortion is illegal.
Abortion is being used as a method of population control in underdeveloped nations. Abortion is one way to allow individuals to limit their childbearing voluntarily when a country’s resources cannot support its population. Pro-choice people oppose forced abortion and support freedom of choice for all women in all countries.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) will be used as a legal basis for abortion and government funding of abortion under the “equal protection of the law” concept. A Massachusetts court refused to use the state ERA as a legal basis for reinstating Medicaid funding of abortions in that state. The right to abortion is based on the right of privacy, not equal rights. None of the 14 state ERAs has caused any change in abortion law. ERA and abortion funding are entirely separate issues.
“If abortion were made illegal again, women would not return to self-induced, coat-hanger abortions or back-alley butchers. Modern suction machines, or even a catheter and bulb syringe, will be available to non-physicians. Prostaglandin suppositories would ‘start’ an abortion that would appear to be a miscarriage.” Bernard Nathananson, M.D. in Aborting America This argument is specious and hypocritical. If abortion were illegal, well-intentioned but unskilled practitioners would perforate uteruses, misjudge the length of gestation, do incomplete abortions, and otherwise botch the procedure. Women’s health would suffer and the death rate soar. Further, women would once more be forced to break the law to receive medical care, and once more their dignity would be lost in the process.
Pro-life is pro-family. Pro-abortionists are anti-family. Abortion destroys the American family. Legal abortion helps parents limit their families to the number of children they want and can afford, both financially and emotionally. Anti-abortion laws create new families consisting of a child and her child, living at the lowest levels of society. Pro-choice is definitely pro-family.