Good Example Of The History Of The Controversy Research Paper

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Pregnancy, Abortion, Social Issues, Women, Law, Criminal Justice, Human, Life

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/09/11


Background Information
The controversy considering abortion and whether women have the right to ask for one seems timeless. The main argument questions whether the fetus has a soul; hence, is regarded a living human being from inside the womb or not. Therefore, the basis of the argument lies in the morality of abortion. That said; it was not until 800 BC to 200 BC, the period called the Axial Age (Jaspers, 2011), when religious texts started exploring deeper philosophical concepts, regarding the human nature and the soul. Prior that age, in the ancient world, there have been many discussions on offspring limitation through any means available, be it abortion, contraception, or infanticide, in order to control the population, ensure the patriarchic rights, and regulate prostitution (Spivack, 2007). It was then, the Axial Age, when abortion was significantly questioned, alongside its impacts. Three mindsets prevailed at the time. One belief claimed that the material world is tightly interwoven with an incorporeal world; another one based its theories on the absence of the material world and that everything was just an illusion - that everything was incorporeal. Finally, according to the last doctrine, everything was material, including the soul. In time, some civilizations and religions developed other principles that combined the soul, the spirit, and the material world, such as the Egyptians and Buddhists (Sayce, 2011). The Stoics believed that the fetus was a part of the woman’s body and that upon its first breath, the soul entered its body, allowing a transition from the soulless to the living state (Protopapadakis, 2010). Aristotle, on the other hand, had a different theory. He claimed that the fetus enters various states before it gets its rational soul, which would be acquired 40 days after conception. This is a concept also embraced by the Islamic world and the Anglo-Saxons, who also believed it takes a reasonable period of time (40 days –four months) before the fetus is considered a human being with a soul (Platt, 2014; Sabic, 1997). Does the soul of a fetus suffer in case of an abortion? Is the fetus occupied by a rational soul upon conception? These were the principal questions that societies were called to answer (and still are).

Abortion was criminalized in the majority of US states, with Connecticut being the first state to have passed a state statute, in 1821, followed by all other states, who, by 1900, had all abortion legislation (Cole, 1987).
In 1969, Norma L. McCorvey, found out she was expecting her third child; a child she did not want. With the understanding that Texas law was more elastic and allowed abortion in cases of incest and rape, McCorvey, using the alias Jane Roe, asserted she had been abused and asked to obtain a legal abortion. With the lack of police documentation, her scheme failed, and she turned to illegal means to have an abortion. After being unable to proceed to an abortion, she filed suit in a Texas U.S District Court. The defendant was District Attorney Henry Wade. The Roe vs. Wade case ended in McCorvey’s favor, based on the Ninth Amendment, and allowed the woman the right to privacy (Roe vs. Wade, 314 F. Supp. 1217, 1970).
The Roe vs. Wade case ruled by the United States Supreme Court was the first victorious win for pro-choice deliberation followers. It comprises a landmark decision on abortion, as the court extended the 14th Amendment to the decision a woman can make as to whether she can have an abortion (Justia, n.d). The decision came at a time when the state had two major concerns when regulating abortion: (1) protect the woman’s health, and (2) protect the life of the fetus. Considering these interests, the Court ruled that the abortion would be regulated by the state to the final trimester of the pregnancy. The Roe decision made it clear that a woman has the right to obtain an abortion before the time the fetus is able to live outside its mother’s womb, placing its viability at around 24-28 weeks (Wood & Hawkins, 1980). The Roe vs. Wade ruling initiated a national debate that lingers on until recent times, about issues that include whether obtaining an abortion is a legal right of a woman, who would make the final calls on the legality of abortion, and to what extent should moral and religious views be considered when discussing abortion issues.
Despite the fact that the Roe case was a landmark, forty years later the government is trying to ensure abortion services meet state provisions, which is why women’s clinics are regulated accordingly. This makes it challenging for women to exercise their right to choose to obtain an abortion in the US. This issue is debatable based on the premises of political affiliation, morals, values, and religion. For instance, South Dakota, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Mississippi are among the states that have only one clinic where women can have an abortion statewide (Eckholm, 2013). Arkansas has also enacted the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, prohibiting abortions after the fetus has a heartbeat, meaning around 12 weeks of pregnancy (Eckholm, 2013). These provisions are sterner and even though the right to have an abortion is a federal law, when President Barack Obama took office, individual states maintain the right to decide under which circumstances can a woman ask for an abortion and undergo one.
The reformed Affordable Care Act, passed in 2012, the abortion policy changed and federal funds cannot be used to support abortion services. This, in turns, has an impact on the newly-introduced insurance exchanges (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2012). Now, at least 17 states have “enacted legislation to restrict coverage for abortion in their insurance exchanges” (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2012). This means that if women want to obtain an abortion, they will need to have the funds and pay for it themselves.

Pro-Choice Arguments

Abortion Helps Prevent Unwanted Pregnancies
Prior the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling, thousands of women died annually after obtaining unsafe and unlicensed abortions. Without ever figuring out the exact number of deaths, it is estimated that up to 10,000 women were losing their life yearly before the Supreme Court’s decision (Joffe, 2013). Before the case’s verdict, women that died from childbirth were 14 times more than the ones that died after having a legal abortion (Joffe, 2013). In addition, of the women that had addressed illegal clinics to have an abortion and did not die, thousands ended up being severely injured and with their reproductive capabilities significantly jeopardized.
An unwanted pregnancy has a variety of implications affecting both the child and the mother. According to a study, 700,000 women die each year due to unplanned pregnancies (Krisberg, 2002). These deaths are attributed to lack of family planning services and safe reproductive health care. In order to keep on providing their services, family healthcare clinics rely on federal funds, coming from Title X and Medicaid (Liebelson, 2012). Title X was created to provide pre-empting and birth control services to men and women nationwide, regardless of their economic status. It had to perform more than six million tests for sexually transmitted diseases to ensure the health of those people (Liebelson, 2012). However, clinics do not have the necessary funds to be able to sustain everyday business procedures, hence are forced to close. With limited access to abortion (11% of clinics that provided abortions shut down globally in the 1990s alone, leaving the vast majority of the countries without legal abortion options), women cannot have a safe and legal abortion (Hayden, 2011). Considering the limitations put on Medicaid, women are in a tougher spot nowadays than ever before. An abortion can cost from $300-5,000, always depending on how far a woman is in her pregnancy (Hayden, 2011). Abortions induced by the pregnant women themselves were very common, before the Roe case. Historian L. Reagan stated in her book that if abortions are available only to the wealthy or those women whose life is at risk, or those whose pregnancy is the outcome of rape, then feminists should not think abortion is legal, and that it should be declared illegal (Hayden, 2011). Truth is many women do not have many options available regarding abortion, given that clinics are being denied funds. Moreover, in states that require parental permission to have an abortion, some teenagers turn to other unsafe outlets to have an abortion performed, such as self-induced abortions with the use of misoprostol, a medicine that induces miscarriage. In dangerous doses, it could be lethal, causing excessive bleeding, resulting in death (Hayden, 2011). It becomes apparent that restricting the legality of abortions forces women to seek for risky and life-threatening procedures to terminate their pregnancy.
ii) Abortion Saves the Lives of Women at Risk
It is not yet known whether pro-life advocates will ever come to terms with the notion that, under specific circumstances, women are in need of an abortion. However, there are times when a woman’s life is at serious danger and not performing abortion will result in her death. It seems though that some pro-life supporters are coming around. For example, the National Right to Life Committee has agreed to an abortion in order to prevent the mother’s death (Painter, 2012). According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women with severe infection, heart failure, and ectopic pregnancies should be allowed to an abortion (Painter, 2012). Furthermore, pregnant women with any form of aggressive cancer should have an abortion, since the radiation and chemotherapy could harm the fetus. That said; if a fetus is diagnosed with severe birth defects that significantly jeopardize their own or their mother’s survival, the mother should obtain legal abortion (Marchick, 2011). Finally, there are cases when performing an abortion is less risky than inducing labor through surgery.
iii) Abortion and Teenage Pregnancy Rates
Many women chose to have an abortion over becoming mothers, as a means to save their life, not strictly from a medical point of view. The economy plays a vital role in this decision. For example, in states such as Mississippi, where people are facing serious economic difficulties, teenage pregnancy rates are astonishingly high (Beasley, 2012). It is believed that the increased teenage pregnancy rate in closely associated to the living standards of a state. However, abortions are also common in non-impoverished states, such as Minnesota, where more than 13,000 abortions were performed, in 2007 alone (Associated Press, 2008). More than 50% of the women that had an abortion were unable to afford the medical expenses that relate to giving birth to a child (and raising it) at that time. The same economic difficulty prevented them from obtaining contraception, resulting in unwanted pregnancies. Being a teenager means pursuing dreams, such as finishing school, and to many teen mothers in Mississippi, attending a post-graduate class was nearly to impossible. Moreover, being unable to have an abortion can lead to poverty, considering that women that have tried to obtain an abortion (sometimes more than once) and failed are much more likely to end up in poverty, compared to their counterparts that had exercised their right (Sankin, 2012). Researchers have also found that more than three quarters of the women that had been rejected by a clinic for legal reasons were on public assistance or welfare within a year (Sankin, 2012). Denying women the right to obtain an abortion causes great stress to the state, since having a child in this sense, demands increased public assistance programs.

Pro-Life Arguments

Abortion is Murder
According to the 18 U.S. Code § 1111, murder “is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought” (Legal Information Institute, n.d). Pro-life advocates claim that abortion is not included in the definition of murder simply because it is not unlawful, as of now. However, a rich plethora of scientific research illustrates that human life starts with the embryo that comes into existence with the very first single-cell zygote formed (Princeton University, n.d.). With this belief in mind, an unborn child is regarded a human being, and according to the definition of murder provided already, obtaining an abortion equals killing a human being; hence, murder. It all goes back to the earlier debates as to whether (or when) a fetus is a living human being; if it can be perceived as a person with a soul, like any other human being alive.
According to Lee (1997), animal biologists describe the one-cell stage (and every subsequent stage) as embryo; and an embryo, is a living organism that develops humanlike facial features and limbs at around eight weeks after fertilization. However, for political, rather scientific reasons, it is believed that some specialists in the human reproduction field have suggested the term embryo is replaced by the term pre-embryo, to describe the developing entity that grows inside a womb for the first couple of weeks after fertilization (Lee, 1997). In fact, the term pre-embryo only provides an illusion that there is significant difference between what biologists still call a five-day-old embryo and what the rest of the world calls a fifteen-day-old embryo. In the political arena, pre-embryo (meaning early embryo) experimentations are discussed and makes it easier for those making the calls, including doctors, to proceed to an abortion. If it is a pre-embryo, it is not considered a complete human organism and many doctors claim that they freeze or manipulate pre-embryos that cannot turn into real human embryos if not re-inserted in the woman’s body (Lee, in Life Begins at Fertilization, 1997). Taking all the above into consideration, abortion should be perceived murder, and since murder is illegal, abortion should never be lawful, as it equals killing a human being.

The Unborn is Included in the Protected Classes of People, as per the14th Amendment

Abortion was already illegal nationwide, at the time the 14th Amendment was adopted. Criminalizing abortion increased rapidly during mid-1800s, and by 1900, every state had enacted laws that considered abortion a felony (Shainwald, 2013). Therefore, the Congress had no obvious reason to discuss and debate on the 14th Amendment in regards the unborn, as it was already protected. Nevertheless, Senate S.J Howard stated that it was important for all human beings to be equal considering the basic right to liberty and life, in February, 1866. He also mentioned that everybody is equal before the law, the poorest and the richest, the most despised of the race and the most esteemed ones (Congressional Globe, 1866). Hence, the unborn and its mother are also considered equal before the law and both have the right to life. So, it is not the mother’s decision to want and obtain an abortion, given her unborn child is a human being with equal rights as her.

The Unborn is Already Protected by Federal Laws

The federal law does not allow a pregnant woman to be sentenced to death before she gives birth (18 U.S.C.A. S.3596, 1994). In essence, the law considers the unborn a person, and as such, s/he cannot be put to death for any crime s/he did not commit. If the law did not regard the unborn a person, there was no need to have this prohibition. That said; if a mother was sentenced to death for a crime she had committed, the U.S. Supreme Court has a law doctrine, in Union P. R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250, 253 (1891), which is to guard against taking an unborn’ s life for a crime his/her mother had committed. In fact, the Court recognized the unborn as a child. Moreover, the law does not allow the mother to decide whether her unborn child will die with her, upon her execution. Since she cannot chose that according to law, allowing her to terminate her pregnancy is a direct violation of the law. Moreover, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (18 U.S. Code § 1841) clearly mentions that “Whoever engages in conduct that violates any of the provisions of law listed in subsection (b) and thereby causes the death of, or bodily injury [] to, a child, who is in utero at the time the conduct takes place, is guilty of a separate offense under this section.” (Legal Information Institute, n.d.). The law signifies two important concepts: (1) The fetus inside the uterus is considered a child; hence is treated like any other children living outside the uterus, (2) it is a direct violation of the law to hurt an unborn child. Anyone trying to injure an unborn or causes the death of one faces the same punishment if the offense had occurred to the mother of the unborn child. The law is consistent and protects the unborn, just as much as it protects the mother and any child.


The controversy regarding abortion issues is ongoing and from what it appears, it is going to be perpetual, as morality, values, political stances, and emotional issues are involved when discussing abortion. There are both pro-choice and pro-life arguments to support both sides claiming that women have or do not have the right to obtain an abortion. People’s inability to make a clear choice reflects in law. There are laws enacted that protect the woman’s right to life and liberty; hence provide her with an option, while, there are laws proclaiming the fetus inside the mother’s uterus a child, meaning a living human being, prohibiting women to decide to have an abortion. Feticide will continue to concern societies, and there are as many opinions as people out there.


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