Good Example Of Abortion Must Be Legalized Argumentative Essay
In western societies, women have traditionally lacked reproductive autonomy due to various religious and social proscriptions that hitherto have stripped women of the power to make such an important life decision. For centuries, abortion has remained a contentious and debatable topic in public discourses and political circles alike. Indeed, attitudes towards abortion are shaped on an idiosyncratic basis according to hegemonic values in each respective culture. Moreover, the medical risks posed by abortion or the lack of one’s ability to procure an abortion further complicate the debates surrounding abortion as a social and cultural issue. Critics posit that approximately seventeen percent of pregnancies worldwide end in abortions, which constitutes the murder of hundreds and thousands of innocent lives annually.
Although many people decry abortion as the murder of innocent young children due to the religious notion that life begins at conception, the decision to undergo an abortion remains the prerogative, responsibility, and personal choice of women who have a right to control their own bodies. This trend has persisted in public discourses and medical practices that traverse both geographical and temporal contexts. As a result, abortion should be legalized in order to mitigate harm caused by backyard abortions as well as to preserve the notions of liberty and equality for all. Indeed, the issue of abortion figures prominently in discourses about the oppositional binary of being pro-life, a stance rooted in biblical principles, or pro-choice. Criminalizing abortion be a transgression of the U.S. constitution because it would undermine the very principle of the separation of church and state, which is clearly mandated in America’s founding documents.
ANTITHESIS: ARGUMENTS AGAINST ABORTION
The crux of the abortion debate revolves around the contention over when life begins, as critics render abortion murder because they believe that life begins at conception according to the Bible, while others believe life begins once the embryo becomes a fetus that can feel pain and sense emotion. Critics further believe that abortion adversely affects American culture and society because many religious people who are passionate about their faith render abortion a nefarious practice that murders the innocent who cannot protect themselves. Moreover, women who get abortion often induces intense psychological trauma and in some cases, severe forms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Finally, abortion procedures done while the female has developed part her first trimester poses great danger to the woman receiving the abortion because of the many medical complications that arise in late abortion procedures (Sanger 36-40). As such, abortion critics posit that killing the defenseless and innocent by deploying heinous procedures is morally reprehensible, and physicians whom perform them on patient are morally bereft.
An individual’s right to life is the most fundamental and critical right. Legal philosopher Henry Show asserted that “rights of security and subsistence are ‘basic rights’ because they are indispensable for the enjoyment of all other right” (Wenar). Thus, an individual’s right to life functioned as a barometer for other distinctly western rights such as free mobility and own property. The security of a person’s life cannot be superseded by a lesser fundamental right. The decision rendered by the Supreme Court was rooted in a person’s right to privacy. Abortion critics, however, argue that the right to life that a living fetus retains trumps women’s right to privacy. As such, critics underscore the error that the Supreme Court made in rendering its decision in a landmark court case that altered the trajectory of women’s rights in the context of modernity.
ARGUMENTS FOR THE LEGALIZATION OF ABORTION
Proponents, however, assert that life does not begin immediately at conception. Rather, it commences when the embryo has developed into a fetus during the third trimester of female pregnancy. Only then do babies feel pain and become in distress, which are all signifiers of human traits. Proponents contend that a woman’s right to receive an abortion is her fundamental human right because all citizens endowed with the right to control their own bodies and reproductive capacities as cognitive beings. The issue of abortion is laden with various meanings as a political and social issue argued about and used as a way to sustain unequal gender and power relations by crippling female agency. Londa Schiebinger examined the botanical diversity of the New World from the 1670s until the early 1800s and relates this male-dominated enterprise to a discussion about female bodies. The geopolitics of plants in the modern world through an examination of the usage and dissemination of a medicinal plant used as an abortifacient in the Old World yet was deliberately ignored by the European scientific community. Schiebinger provides a social and cultural narrative on the study of plants that directly engages with the political obstacles and social justice struggles faced by women from the past into the present day. "Culturally induced ignorance" caused by social inequalities and power relations stunted the production of scientific knowledge during the early modern era. Schiebinger provides a well-written social history that focuses on a great plant known as the peacock flower rather than on a great person or people. As a cultural intellectual historian, Schiebinger centers her work on the concept of agnotology, or the study of ignorance and lack of knowledge transfer, to explore how the nexus between botany and medicine and the knowledge produced affected a range of marginalized peoplse.
Agnotology elucidates colonial bioprospecting in the context of the colonial Atlantic. Botany during the early modern era emerged as a male-only discipline because of the power, money and status associated with it, thus bestowing men with power over other marginalized groups. Excluding women from science as a result of salient attitudes that rendered male and female bodies and brains differently, accounted for this female ignorance. Schiebinger opens her work discussing the variety of medicinal uses for the peacock flower as discovered by various individuals such as the female naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian in Surinam, including the inducement of abortion. Although the peacock flower was a potent abortifacient, the professionalization and knowledge production excluded women and privileged men. Medical men defined what women's bodies were like, rendering them specimens in the same way that plants botanists examined were (Schiebinger 31). Both the local and global communities indeed cared very little about the medical needs of women due to their perceived inferiority both in terms of their intellectual competence and the salient belief that women solely belonged in the private sphere.
Many indigenous and slave women possessed the knowledge that eating a certain amount of the peacock flower would abort their child, thereby granting them a degree of autonomy over their own bodies. Such secret knowledge held cultural and political implications. Slave women utilized the abortifacient as a way to prevent their progeny from suffering as they had while incarcerated (Schiebinger 4). The plant itself was easily transported from the New World to Europe as a decorative flower, but medical knowledge of its capacity as an abortifacient did not, which was due to the marginalization of women as a sex. This non-transfer of medical knowledge represents the central paradigm of cultural ignorance within the European scientific community. Women in Europe were denied access to natural, non-surgical abortifacients because of laws restricting female autonomy over their own bodies. Thus, what emerges is a discussion about female bodies and how men define what female bodies are as distinct totalities from their own. Within the trajectory of gender history and women's history, men unequivocally marginalized women by controlling their bodies vis-à-vis the denial of access to abortifacients and stripped them of their fundamental human rights.
The use of the flower as an abortifacient, however, remained unknown to the medical community. Beyond lacking the ability to self-medicate, women still did not possess equal access to botanical knowledge to become experts of such knowledge. Various groups today remain marginalized by agents of white men, including slave women, free women, African women, and indigenous women. Rather than being a part of a flawed social system as the culprit for marginalization, people must be held accountable for their oppression of others on the basis of their sex or ethnicity and cannot be excused. Women have historically acted too quiescent in allowing men to control their bodies even during the modern era.
Indeed, the notions of individuality and human life are not commensurate with one another, as advocates posit that women retain the right to terminate their pregnancy, and the founding principles of the United States of liberty, equality, and justice attest to that notion. Moreover, abortions are safe if women receive the operation during the first trimester of their pregnancy, which renders moot the argument that women should opt to give up their child for adoption rather than extirpate an innocent child prematurely. Susan Klepp grapples with female family planning and family limitation following the American Revolution considering that “the personal and social identities [were] bound up with extensive parenthood,” and she widens this discussion to include the “founding generation of American women” (Klepp 4-8). Traditional assumptions about patriarchal authority eroded with the emergence of a new lexicon regarding the mutual, loving, and respectful partnerships between wives and their husbands. Daughters were indeed also more highly revered after the Revolutionary War. American women appropriated the language of the American Revolution, which promulgated liberty, equality, restraint, virtue/morality, and happiness in order to undermine patriarchal structures and reclaim autonomy over their own bodies and their reproductive agency. The appropriation of these notions granted women agency within their marriage and fostered more loving relationships between parents and their progeny (12-15). Women themselves played a crucial role in the decline of family sizes towards the end of the eighteenth century. Various strategies employed by women to limit the size of their family included delaying marriage, having children at intervals that were farther apart, and abstaining from childbearing altogether prior to menopause. While Klepp does not necessarily proffer an argument about abortion, she does underscore how women invoked contemporary rhetoric in order to chafe against an oppressive society that stripped women of their reproductive agency and autonomy. Abortion would later be discussed using similar lexicon because at the heart of the debate lies the fact that women retained the prerogative to choose what to do with their bodies as they please without the government curtailing women’s rights to autonomy and freedom.
The first-wave feminist movement in the United States laid the foundations to undo and deconstruct the sexual restraint expected of women in the private sphere during a highly circumscribed nineteenth century. The birth control movement emerged as a political manifestation of feminism during the early twentieth century and touted the belief that women should enjoy sex just like men do. Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger laid the foundation for the birth control movement. They promulgated repeatedly that women possessed the right to have access to various methods of contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancy and to enjoy sexual intercourse in the same way their male counterparts do (Dubois and Dumenil 435). Sanger wanted to dismantle cultural and legal barriers women faced in accessing information on contraception because of her experience with young women such as Sadie Sachs. Sachs died because she had performed an abortion on herself, and the botched medical enterprise directly killed her. Her desperation and unwavering desire to get an abortion underscores how desperate she was to get an abortion that she endangered her own life. Indeed, this vignette underscores the necessity for the legalization of abortion as a safe medical procedure rather than one done behind close doors in a possibly unsafe manner. Sanger lamented in her autobiography that "pregnancy was a chronic condition among women of the working class," so she "was resolved to seek out the root of evil, to do something to change the destiny of mothers whose miseries were vast as the sky" (Sanger 88-92). Thus, the birth control movement during the first wave laid the foundation for women to subsequently achieve sexual autonomy in the future and procure the right to an abortion to ensure that dangers associated with the inducement of an abortion are reduce and/or wiped out.
The fight for reproductive rights brought feminism to the center of American politics during the 1970s. Feminist Estelle Freedman wrote: "Limited reproductive choice, combined with increasing wage earning, rallied women in industrialized nations to press for legalized abortions" (Freedman 236). Beginning in 1967, states bean to liberalize their abortion laws by decriminalizing women who terminated undesired pregnancies. The 1954 landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade federally legalized abortion and forced all states to decriminalize abortion. Although a watershed and seminal movement in women's reproductive rights, many state legislators found loopholes in the federal law and thus effectively rewrote their laws to restrict abortion in and limit women's access to birth control (Dubois and Dumenil 649). Although various Supreme Court cases sought to overturn the court decision, by 1973 it became apparent that Roe v. Wade could not be touched (Kay 2059).
Beyond merely retaining access to various types of birth control and the right to have an abortion operation, feminists widened the scope of reproductive rights and autonomy for women by launching virulent campaigns against forced sterilization, which has exacerbated as yet another form of state-sanctioned controlling of female bodies that strips them of their human right to have power over their own bodies. Throughout American history, especially as influxes of immigrants came to work and live in the United States, subaltern women have been forcibly sterilized because health officials and the state wanted to control who could populate the nation. A nation constructed on the ideology of white hegemony, the United States has historically infracted on its citizen’s protected civil rights in order to reify the hegemonic paradigm that glorifies the white body politic yet frowns upon the subaltern. Thus, public health officials often controlled who could reproduce and who could not as a means to limit the reproduction of "undesired" children who would most likely be put on welfare. In one protest, a poster shows a gathering of non-white/subaltern women standing under the slogan that demand, "STOPPED FORCED STERILIZATION"--written in English and in Spanish—which indicates that minority women did exercise some political agency in their fight to regain autonomy over their own bodies during this epoch. They played a critical role in the feminist movement and other forms of politics of confrontational (Dubois and Dumenil 648). This slippery-slope argument for the legalization of abortion is significant because it underscores how the abridgment of the civil and natural rights of female Americans could become normative to mainstream America and impel similar infractions on the bodies of subaltern and “undesired” women in America in a litany of ways.
One of the heaviest and most contentious topics debated and discussed in contemporary American politics, abortion has remained a fruitful topic of debate since antiquity. Great philosophers such as Plato articulated their beliefs on the practice in terms of both the drawbacks of abortions along with the benefits. Abortion critics argue that Roe v. Wade—a court case in which the United States Supreme Court codified a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate their pregnancy or not—should be overturned and abortions prohibited at both the federal and state levels because of the “right to life” principle as well as institutional failures made by the Supreme Court when the justices ruled on the case. Ultimately, the abortion problem merely boils down to a question of human rights, or contentions that people make that contradict or oppose others. Pro-life and pro-choice camps fundamentally disagree on various assumptions pertaining to whether or not a fetus has this right to life.
DuBois, Ellen Carol, and Lynn Dumenil. Through Women's Eyes: an American History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005. Print.
Freedman, Estelle B. No Turning Back: the History of Feminism and the Future of Women. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002. Print.
Klepp, Susan. Revolutionary Conceptions: Women Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
Sanger, Margaret. Margaret Sanger: an Autobiography. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1938. Print.
Schiebinger, Londa L. Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2004. Print.