An Overview of Abortion
Abortion refers to the termination of a pregnancy by removing or expelling the fetus or embryo from the uterus before it is ready for birth. There are two major forms of abortion: spontaneous, which is often referred to as a miscarriage or the purposeful abortion, which is often induced abortion. The term abortion is commonly used to refer to the induced abortion, and this is the abortion, which has been filled with controversy. In the developed nations, induced abortions are the safest form of medical procedures in medicine if it is conducted under the local law. Thus, abortions are arguably the most common medical procedures in the United States annually. More than 40 percent of women confirm that they have terminated a pregnancy at least once in their reproductive life. Abortions are conducted by women from all forms of life; however, the typical woman who terminates her pregnancy may either be white, young, poor, unmarried, or over the age of 40 years (Berer, 2004). Therefore, citing the grounds on which abortions are conducted, there are numerous instances of unsafe abortions, which are conducted either by untrained persons or outside the medical profession.
In the United States and the world in general, abortion remains widespread. The United States Supreme Court ratified the legalization of abortion in an effort to make the procedure safer; this was done through the Roe v Wade decision of 1973. However, abortions are the most risky procedures and are responsible for over 75 thousand maternal deaths and over 5 million disabilities annually. In the United States alone, between 20 and 30 million abortions are conducted annually, and out of this number, between 10 and 20 million abortions are performed in an unsafe manner (Berer, 2004). These illegal abortions are conducted in an unsafe manner; therefore, they contribute to 14 percent of all deaths or women; this arises mainly due to severe complications. This has led to increasing controversy citing the large numbers of abortions that are conducted annually. However, there is a hope since the improvement in the access and quality of medical services has reduced the incidence of abortion because of easier access of family planning education and the use of contraceptives (Jones, Darroch, Henshaw, 2002). However, the large numbers of abortions, more so, the illegal abortions continue to be alarming. Despite the introduction of more effective contraceptives, and their widespread availability, more than half of the pregnancies conceived in the United States are considered unplanned. Out of these pregnancies, half are aborted. Thus, abortion remains an issue in the society.
Is abortion a social issue?
Conflict theorists emphasize that coercion, change, domination, and conflict in society are inevitable. The conflict standpoint is based on the notion that the society is comprised of different groups who are in a constant struggle with one another for the access of scarce and valuable resources; these may either be money, prestige, power, or the authority to enforce one’s value on the society. The conflict theorists argue that a conflict exists in the society when a group of people who on believing that their interests are not being met, or that they are not receiving a fair share of the society’s resources, works to counter what they perceive as a disadvantage.
Prior to 1973, abortion was illegal in the United States, unless in situations where a woman’s health was at stake. If the doctor indicated, a woman had the option of choosing to terminate her pregnancy, and the doctor would carry out the abortion without any of them violating the law. However, in March 1970, Jane Roe, an unmarried woman from Dallas County, Texas, initiated a federal action against the county’s District Attorney. Roe sought a judgment that would declare the Texas criminal abortion legislation unconstitutional on their face, and seek an injunction, which would prevent the defendant from implementing the statutes.
Joe asserted that she was an unmarried, but pregnant lady; she wished to terminate her pregnancy by seeking the services of a professional and licensed practitioner under safe clinical environment. However, she noted that she was unable to contract the service since she was not able to get access to a legal abortion in Texas since her life was not under any form of threat from the pregnancy. Furthermore, Joe stated that she was not in a financial position to travel to another state to secure a safe abortion. She argued that the Texas statute was unconstitutional and vague, and was in contravention of her right of her right to privacy, which was guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Joe purported to sue on her behalf and on behalf of all other women who were in a similar situation to hers.
There are critical observations from Joe’s arguments; women who do not to have a baby should not be forced to have one. A pregnancy is a blessing if it is planned; however, a forced pregnancy is similar to any form of bodily invasion, and is abhorrence to the American values and traditions (Schwarz, 1990). Therefore, the United States constitution protects women from a forced pregnancy in a similar way that the constitution cannot force an American citizen to donate his or her bone marrow or to contribute a kidney to another. The Supreme Court looked into the facts and evidence of the case, and ruled that Roe was right, and her rights to privacy were violated; therefore, the Court decreed that all women had a right to a legal and safe abortion on demand. There was joy throughout America from the modern women; the ruling was seen as a massive step towards women rights. However, many years have passed since the Roe vs. Wade, and abortion has remained one of the most contentious issues in the United States and the world. The ruling was of similar magnitude to the women suffrage, and almost as controversial. It has freed women from dependency, fear, threat of injury, and ill health; it has given women the power to shape their lives.
The social ramifications of the case and the social and moral ones have continued to affect the two sides of the abortion debate. The people who thought that the 7-2 majority ruling in favor of abortion were overly optimistic; abortion has become one of the most emotional, and controversial political debate. Prior to Roe vs wade ruling, women who had abortions risked suffering from pain, death, serious injury, prosecution, and sterility. Presently, abortion is safer, cheaper, and a more common phenomenon. The legalization of abortion has created other reasons for securing abortions; women are being coerced by their boyfriends and husbands who are unwilling to become fathers due to financial pressures, the panic of losing a job, quitting school, becoming homeless, or out of fear of being kicked out into the street (Schwarz, 1990). Abortion, which is based on this reasons often leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; this occurs when a woman is not able to work through her emotional imbalances resulting from the trauma of an abortion. This can have severe results such as depression, eating disorders, and in severe cases, it can result in suicide. Women who secure an abortion out of their free will have no remorse and are happy that they made the choice; however, a number of women state that abortion affected them negatively.
Thus, it can be argued that abortion is a social issue. Based on the sociological imagination, people’s behaviors and attitudes should be perceived in the context of the social forces that shape the actions. Wright Mills developed the theory, and he emphasized that the changes in the society have a massive effect on our lives. Prior to 1970, legal abortions were unheard in the United States and people perceived abortion as a despicable act. However, once the law changed allowing doctors to conduct legal abortions, the people’s attitudes changed. To prove the fact that abortion is a social issue, we have to look at the components of a social issue. A social issue is an aspect of the society that concerns the people and would like it changed. It is comprised of two components: the objective condition, which is an aspect of the society that can be measured. The objective condition in the case of abortion entails the question whether abortions are legal, who obtains an abortion, and under what circumstances is an abortion secured (Henslin, 2008). The second component is the subjective condition; this is the concern that a significant number of people have about the objective condition. In the case of abortion, the subjective condition entails some people’s distress that a pregnant woman must carry the unwanted baby to full term (Henslin, 2008). It also includes the distress that a woman can terminate her pregnancy on demand. Thus, abortion is a social issue.
Controversy Surrounding Abortion
Abortion, human cloning, and evolution are all human issues that are very controversial. Christians’ believe in life after death. They also believe that life begins immediately at conception. Buddhists believe in reincarnation while atheists do not believe in God tend to be supporters of the right to choose. This means that perception and focus are the key issues when people from any faith choose to be supporters or opponents of any controversial issue like abortion. If an individual decides to focus on one part of the story, then definitely there will be a distorted representation of what they support. The result is that there will be people who are neutral or ignorant on abortion while others choose to support abortions as others oppose the act.
Groups’ strongly opposing or supporting abortions have completely varying opinions on the subject. It is vital to note that an individual may either be a strong supporter or oppose the act since any compromise means a choice of life over death and vice versa. This strange facet of abortion makes it a very controversial act and subject because both supporters and opponents meet nowhere. Personal faiths through religion make them view the subject differently. Some believe that a woman has the right to make an absolute choice, thus; the right to choice is more prevalent to those supporting abortion. However, for the opponents, they support the constitutional and human right to life. It is vital to note that both pro-choice and pro-life groups rely on the constitution like the Fourteenth Amendment, human rights, and scientific facts (Knapp, 2001).
In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the U.S Supreme court ruled that the woman has the right to make a choice giving support to the pro-choice groups that support abortion. This meant that, the fetus has no rights and is at the indispensable mercy of the mother. The rights of the state and the fetus cannot overrule the choice that the mother has made. In another case in 1992, Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the US Supreme Court maintained that a woman has the power and the right to commit an abortion (Knapp, 2001).
Pro-choice supporters argue that those campaigning against abortion consume a lot of resources and effort. They feel that there are so many women who are living in total paucity and misery because they were coerced to deliver children who are unwanted. The resources spent by the anti-abortion campaigns can be used to support the social welfare of those women and relive them out of their misery. According to Knapp (2001), every day, almost 50,000 children die because of lack of food, medicine, shelter, and clothing. Today, the population stands at 7 billion meaning that there is an impending disaster because the resource of are continually being depleted. Any unwanted baby may adversely affect the natural balance of resources to persons. It is estimated that, the development around the globe will have to slow down because there will be more mouths to feed than before.
Pro-choice supporters believe that every human being has the right to political, sexual, and reproductive freedom. Pro-life supporters should note that, they are supporting and protecting their religious freedoms. It is important to note that, the church and the state have to separated. This implies that any anti-abortion law should be critically re-examined since it may merge the church and state. This is not legal because people make a personal choice as to the faith of affiliation while the state is supposed to respect everyone irrespective of faith.
In the Roe v. Casey ruling of 1992, the woman has the absolute choice to dictate what she wants to do with her body. Pro-choice supporters argue that this makes a woman to be a lesser being than the fetus she is carrying. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “forcing a woman to carry an unwanted fetus is like forcing a person to be cloned in order to save another life with the extra organs.” This is completely wrong considering that one’s body will be used without her consent to aid the prosperity of another life. The rights of a woman exceed those of the fetus she is carrying because the woman is independent and is a social entity, unlike the fetus. For many centuries, many women have been rated as having unequal rights to men. Abortion is the only avenue that can make them regain a socio-economic status equal to that of men. Women can access better education, housing, and jobs only if they are in a position of controlling the sexual and reproductive rights.
Debate Surrounding Abortion
Pro-choice advocates argue that abortion should be legalized to reduce the chances of unsafe abortions. A study carried out by the World Health Organization showed that most of the unsafe abortions occur in countries where abortion is illegal (Knapp, 2001). In countries like the Republic of Ireland, abortion is illegal, in the United States of America; abortion is legal while, in Canada, it can be performed upon demand, or consent.
An ethical analysis on abortion seeks to establish what is right or wrong about abortion. This ethical debate sheds light over the validity of the rights of the fetus versus those of the mother. In terms of personhood, a fetus is not aware of self, does not think, and is therefore, dependent on the mother. This means that the mother has an absolute right on choice over what to with the fetus. At certain epochs, pro-life supporters have supported selective abortion. This means that they support abortion if a fetus poses a danger to the mother, if the baby was conceived without the mother’s consent like in cases of rape, contraceptive failure, or incest. The other case is where the fetus may be having severe deformities due to diseases, mental of physical defects. Other cases happen when a mother involuntarily aborts because of starvation or malnutrition. This sparks a debate within the pro-life supporters who are assumed the “undecided lot.”
On the contrary, pro-life supporters assume that fetuses are human, and they are subjected to a lot of pain in the event of an abortion. It is wrong to assume that a fetus is not a human being since it does not talk, or is not a social entity. Pro-life supporters also argue that a fetus is a potential life and any threat to it is breaking a fundamental right to life that is entrenched in almost all constitutions across the world. Pro-choice supporters posit that abortion is an act of unjust discrimination to the unborn and that this acts deprives them to the access to a valuable future.
In conclusion, prior to 1973, abortion was illegal and was only applicable legally as an option only when the mother’s life was in danger. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe vs. Wade case changed all this; women perceived the ruling as a liberating to them. However, the legalization of abortion came with its own controversies, and it has even been labeled a social problem in the United States and the world over. However, it is critical to note that abortion or no abortion, persons have to take a keen look at the problems facing the society today and make a responsible choice. Today, we are 7 billion people, resources are overstretched, the world economy is weakening, and nations are growing unstable. Any person who thinks of bringing an unwanted child into the world without careful consideration should be aware of the consequences of the hard life. Every nation has a national budget in order to account and cater for everyone. On the same note, every parent or teenager should have a responsible plan for life. If every act is unaccounted for, then the number of children losing their lives due to paucity is set to increase tremendously. It is good to care for what we can see instead of spending valuable resources campaigning for fetuses that are yet to claim an entity in the social arena.
Berer, M. (2004). National laws and unsafe abortion: the parameters of change. Reproductive Health Matters, 12(24): 1–8.
Henslin, J. M. (2008). Social Problems: A Down-To-Earth Approach. (8 ed.). New York, NY: Longman Publishers.
Jones, R. K., Darroch, J. E., Henshaw, S. K. (2002). Contraceptive Use among U.S. Women Having Abortions in 2000-2001. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,34(6): 294–303.
Knapp, L. (2001). Controversy: The Abortion Controversy. Michigan: Greenhaven Press.
Schwarz, S. D. (1990). The Moral Question of Abortion. Chicago: Loyola University Press.
There have been an increasing number of abortion cases throughout the world. This scenario has been fuelled by among other factors social and economic factors. Abortion is the termination of pregnancy. It is the removal of the foetus before it is viable. It is usually done before the foetus gets to 25 weeks old. It is either spontaneous or induced abortion. Abortion refers to the induced type (Malcolm 1977 page 12).
In developed countries, abortion is legal whereas most developing countries do not encourage and permit abortion. This brings about the differences in safe and unsafe abortions. Abortion accounts for over 70,000 maternal deaths worldwide.
Abortion has a long history. In the past, it was done using crude tools such as sharpened tools, physical trauma and other traditional methods. With advancement in the field of medicine, contemporary methods are now used and involve the use of medication and surgical procedures (Nada 1998 page 61).
Each country in the world has different legality, cultural and religious statuses and prevalence of abortion. The ethical principles towards abortion and removal of pregnancies also vary. Countries such as the United States of America and Britain have heated politics surrounding the issue of abortion in pro-life and pro-choice campaigns (Ted 1995 page 66). These are based on the argument that for one group, it should be legalized and for the other, abortion should not. Most governments in the developed countries have legalized abortion. Many developing and underdeveloped countries have not legalized abortion and have no control over what is done by the medical personnel.
Abortion and childbirth complications have been the leading causes of maternal deaths the world over. With the advent of the 21st century, maternal deaths have declined. This has been attributed to education on family planning as well as the use of contraceptives.
A third of pregnancies occurring in the world today are unintended. A fifth of these pregnancies end up in induced abortion. Induced abortion is the forceful removal of the foetus from the womb of the mother. The gestation age of the foetus is the determining factor of what procedures could be used to conduct the abortion. The procedure is also limited by the legality of abortion in that country, doctor patient preference and the regional availability of such services.
Induced abortion is either therapeutic or elective. Therapeutic abortion is done by medical personnel in an effort to save the lives of patients. Patients suffering from such things as illnesses, multiple pregnancies and complications could have this procedure done on them to avoid having complications at childbirth that may lead to loss of life (World health organisation 1979 page 16). Elective abortion is done at the request of the woman. This is usually done for non-medical reasons.
It is commonly referred to as miscarriages. They are unintentional. They usually occur before the 20th and 24th week. Many pregnancies are usually lost before doctors are aware of the presence of an embryo in the uterus. Spontaneous abortion is caused by chromosomal abnormalities, vascular diseases, diabetes, infections, uterus abnormalities and trauma among others (Isabel 1992 page 123). The most frequent causes of spontaneous abortion are age and a history of spontaneous abortions. Accidents and trauma have also been linked with the high rates of miscarriages among women.
Causes of abortion
Abortion is caused by a myriad of factors among them social, religious and economic factors.
The society’s desire for convenience has been a factor influencing the rates of abortion. Children and pregnancy are seen as a hindrance to a lot of fun and pleasure. One would easily remove the pregnancy in pursuit of this pleasure. The society accepts this circumstance and even encourages it by allowing governments to legalize abortion.
The lack for respect for life is a religious factor towards promoting abortion. People no longer appreciate new life forms. One would not think twice before doing an abortion. Raging debates have come up suggesting that a foetus is not a life form until it is born. Such debates could easily change people’s mindsets to disregard life.
Economic issues including poverty and insufficient funding have promoted abortion. Many young mothers have opted to do an abortion citing the inability to take care of the child once it is born. Usually such young girls do not have an income to support themselves leave the unborn child.
Stigma has contributed a lot in ensuring that abortion becomes a common thing. Girls who get pregnant while still very young get criticism especially in the developing countries. In most cultures, such a thing was unheard of. It was unheard of for one to get a child outside marriage. If one would have such a child, she would be excommunicated. Developing countries have not fully come out of this and girls who get pregnant whilst young are looked upon as ill-mannered individuals.
Rape has been a big reason why people abort their children. When rape has occurred, and one does not intend to keep the pregnancy, she would choose not to keep the baby. The experience of being raped is too big a burden that the evidence of such an ordeal in the form of a child would not be acceptable. Many girls would quickly abort to rid themselves of this psychological trauma.
Young girls have a better chance at furthering their education once they get rid of the child. In African countries for instance, a young girl getting pregnant meant that she would have to be married off immediately. This would ruin her chances of ever getting formal education again. Getting rid of the baby provides an easier way out in the quest for education and a brighter future.
Methods used in abortion
There are two main methods used during abortions i.e. use of the abortion pill and surgical removal.
The abortion pill is used for pregnancies up to nine weeks old. A combination of two drugs is taken. They are taken within 48 hours. The effect of the drugs is that the womb contracts and sheds its lining. The process is painful. This pain is experienced on the lower abdomen. It may cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Surgical removal can be done when the foetus is at 13 to 14 weeks. A sterile tube is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. Suction is done pulling out all the materials in the uterus. The woman may leave the hospital the same day after the procedure has been done. At 14 and 15 weeks, surgical dilation is done using forceps to remove the unwanted foetus.
Complications of abortion
The most common is bleeding. Bleeding occurs normally for a few weeks. It decreases as one nears weeks 5 and 6. In cases of excessive bleeding, there are chances that the uterus may not have been emptied completely.
Pelvic inflammatory disease. This disease affects the vaginal area. The vagina produces an unpleasant vaginal discharge. The body temperature of the individual rises, and she experiences severe abdominal pains. Inflammation may happen in the womb due to emptying problems (Shirleen 2003 page 40). It may be caused because the womb had not been completely emptied. This would require that a new evacuation be done for the woman.
Pain is a normal problem for the abortion process. It is often relieved by using painkillers. In instances where there is excessive pain, one should consult the doctor to have her uterus rechecked.
The uterus may be punctured especially during surgical termination of pregnancy. The tools used may create a hole in the uterus causing complications. Such a patient is kept in the hospital for observation and check up (Bodo 1998 page 159).
Abortion gives a chance to young women especially those below the age of 21 years to pursue their education. A young girl caught in a situation where she has to carry the child to term will mean that she cannot do anything else. She would have to stop learning at some point to address the needs of the child. Most likely, she would have to stop schooling all together to take care of the child. By getting rid of the foetus, she is able to continue pursuing her educational needs.
Abortion has been of help to women with health issues. Women with diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and sickle cell anemia have been able to avoid serious medical complications that arise from childbirth through abortions. Such complications could easily lead to loss of life. Usually a doctor may prescribe such a procedure when he realizes that the life of the mother is in danger.
Abortion gives women identity. In the chauvinistic societies, women have no power at all over their reproductive sense. The inculcation of abortion into laws and codes of ethics has helped the women by giving them power over their sexuality.
Abortion has been used to control family size. Young motherhood is easily avoided through abortion. A woman may choose to have an abortion to prevent her from becoming a mother at a very tender age.
Parents have used abortion as a way to reduce the number of children that they may get. Parents have used this to trim the numbers of children. They would discuss whether they wanted the baby or not and would remove it in case they do not want it. This helps regulate the number of children and aids in family planning.
Rape victims have found solace in the fact that they could easily remove such children that would arise from such action. Rape victims would not want to keep the baby because of psychological trauma that they would associate this child to. Removal of the child would remain the best option to end this.
Abortion indicates brutality to the unborn child. This is because abortion is killing. It does not give the new foetus a chance to survive. It is hinged on religion, which condemns the act saying that all are equal before the almighty. The spiritual books go against the very idea of abortion.
Abortion encourages infidelity by women. Women would engage in sexual acts outside the marriage context with the view that they would remove such fetuses if they happened to implant themselves in their uterus. Once a woman gets pregnant, she would easily remove the pregnancy and continue with her life.
Abortion has the potential of lessens chances of a woman getting a child later in life. Abortion interferes with the uterine wall. At other instances, it may lead to total damage of the uterus. This would result in bareness hence a woman would not get a child when she needs it later in her life. Such actions may also cause hormonal imbalances that could be attributed to the barren nature of the women later in their lives.
Abortion promotes irresponsible behavior. This is because it gives women and men alike the freedom to commit careless sexual activities. This is because they know that they could easily get rid of the pregnancy if they so wish to. This freedom makes them care less about their sexuality.
Concurrent abortions may lead to medical complications. Some of these complications include uterine infections, recurrent miscarriages and sepsis among others. Consistent use of such methods causes the hormones to change. This means that the hormones are tuned to a program where they cannot sustain a full pregnancy to term. The body gets used to rejecting any pregnancy hence the case of consistent miscarriages may pop up.
Abortion may end up causing psychological impairments. Examples of this include depression and guilt. Some women may feel depressed after losing their baby. This could be the case especially, if the child was their first and the abortion was done as a medical thing that they had no control over. Continuous miscarriages may cause such individuals stress and eventual depression. This would ultimately affect the biology of the mother affecting the subsequent pregnancies. This is because the brain would have been tuned to reject any pregnancies due to such depression.
Alternatives to abortion
Churches, nongovernmental organisations and the government run campaigns against abortion. In such campaigns, they ask mothers to look for other options other than abortion. Some of these options include adoption as well as being provided with the necessary help to enable them carry the pregnancy to term.
Adoption is a widely used practice in many countries. It involves the transfer of ownership of a child to other parents who would love to take care of it. The child is usually given to adopting parents because the mother could not afford to raise him or would love to pursue other things. Adoption is an option that comes in handy because the mother is relieved of all duties about the child as it is taken up by a different family. The mother is assured that the child would be safe with the adopting parents. The mother can then go through with her plans without the child getting in the way.
Providing support to such mothers is another option that has been explored. Nongovernmental organisations and church groups have come together to pull resources to support such young mothers through their pregnancy. They have also been of importance in supporting them as they take care of the child. They support them with such things as financial resources and psychological counseling.
Abortion is a social, medical and a religious issue. It is entrenched into the legal laws of every country in the world in one way or another. It has a place in the lives of individuals directly or indirectly. Ethical values arise out of such deeds as abortion that determines the direction that one chooses. Other mechanisms that control abortion include the legal and religious aspects of society.
Providing the necessary support in the form of financial aid and psychological support to mothers contemplating abortion could serve as the best way to curb such deaths resulting from abortion.
There are advantages and disadvantages of abortion of almost equal measure. Abortion presents a double-edged sword in its advantages and disadvantages to individuals and society. It should be after careful consideration that abortion should be done (Patricia 1992 page 93).
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