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Should Abortion Be Legal, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Abstract

Abortion is a topic that is on the receiving end of heated debate among those who support or those who alternatively are against the practice of abortion. Abortion laws vary throughout the world as well as do the conditions under which an abortion is a legal option for women who are expecting a child. This work examines this issue and states arguments both for, and against, legal abortion and ultimately demonstrates that abortion should be accessible to women worldwide.

Introduction & Statement of Thesis

Legal abortion is a topic that is on the receiving end of heated debate among those who support or those who alternatively are against the practice of abortion. Opinions differ on the issue of abortion and this is evidenced in a Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll, which asks the question of whether: “In general, do you support or oppose the new federal requirement that private health insurance plans cover the full cost of birth control and other preventive services for their female patients?” Answers stated to this question in the Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll are reported as follows:

Support: 66%

Oppose: 24%

Unsure: 10% (Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Report, 2011)

Abortion laws vary throughout the world as well as do the conditions under which an abortion is a legal option for women who are expecting a child. The reasons that are listed which allow for legal abortion in countries worldwide include the following stated reasons:

  • The life of the woman who is pregnant is in danger;
  • Preservation of the mental health of the woman who is pregnant;
  • Rape cases resulting in pregnancy;
  • The unborn child has known medical problems or birth defects;
  • Social and economic reasons (the mother cannot afford to support the child); and
  • Demand with no stated reason. (Pregnant Pause, 2007, paraphrased)

In the United States, abortion is legal for all of the above stated reasons however, in countries such as Afghanistan; abortion is legal only if the life of the mother is in danger. Still in other places in the world such as Vatican City and in the country of Chile, abortion is not legal under any circumstances whatsoever. (Pregnant Pause, 2007, paraphrased) The reasons that abortion should be legal include the following stated reasons:

  • danger to the life of the woman seeking an illegal abortion,
  • avoidance of babies born with severe and limiting birth defects that bar their potential to a fulfilling life,
  • cases where the woman has been raped,
  • danger to the psychological and mental health of the woman,
  • social and economic reasons characterized by such poverty that the birth of another child would serve to substantially threaten the survival of children who already exist.

Argument

The first argument in support of legalized abortion is the danger that illegal abortion poses to the lives of women who seek such abortions in countries who lack access to legal abortion. Each year it is reported “an estimated 68,000 women die as a result” of abortion with millions more women experiencing complications and many of them permanent in nature. Causes of death are stated to include the following:

  • Hemorrhage;
  • infection, and
  • (Grimes, et al, 2006, p.1)

Abortion related deaths are reported by the Guttmacher Institute and include the following statistics on abortion related deaths in each world region:

Abortion-Related Deaths Region Deaths per 100,000 abortions

  • Developing Countries 330
  • Africa 680
  • South & Southeast Asia 283
  • Latin America 119
  • Developed Countries .0.2-1.2 (Dallard, 1992)

It is reported that legalization of abortion “on request is a necessary but insufficient step toward improving women’s health; in some countries, such as India, where abortion has been legal for decades, access to competent care remains restricted because of other barriers.” (Grimes, et al, 2006, p.1) Modern contraception availability is reported to bring about a reduction in the need for abortion however, it is stated that the availability of that modern contraception cannot ever eliminate the need for abortion. (Grimes, et al, 2006, paraphrased) The direct costs associated with treating complications arising from abortion serve to “burden impoverished health care systems, and indirect costs drain struggling economies.” (Grimes, et al, 2006, p.1)

Death also results from illegal abortions due to infections and botched abortions that take place in unsanitary conditions such as is the case in what are known as ‘back alley’ abortions. As well, statistics show that women die from self-induced abortions due to infection and poisoning. Cases in which the woman has been raped should be included in the legal abortion allowances because to expect a woman to give birth to a child that results from having been a victim of a violent sexual crime is exceedingly cruel. So many times rape occurs within families or situations of incest and the woman expecting the child is many times a minor who has not even began to live an adult life and who is unable to care for the child.

In addition, in cases of rape which are also incest cases, the unborn child has a very high potential of being born with a deformity or mental retardation due to genetic complications arising from pregnancies resulting from incestuous rape. In addition, the young woman forced to have a child by the uncle, brother, father, or other family member who rapes her stands a great potential for development of psychological or mental illnesses that threaten her existence and her sanity.

In countries characterized by high poverty rates, abortion is often sought by women because they already have several living children and are unable to provide support for another child. Abortion enables these women to forego bringing another child into the world to suffer under the conditions of poverty and in addition, the burden of another mouth to feed significantly reduces the nourishment available to already existing children in the woman’s household.

Another benefit of legalized abortion is related in the work of Donohue and Levitt (2001) entitled “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” and that benefit is that when abortion is not illegal crime is reduced. First stated is that women who seek illegal abortions are participants in a crime as well as are those providing the illegal abortion. It is stated specifically that there are “a number of factors [that] lead us to believe that the link between abortion and crime is casual.” (Donohue and Levitt, 2001) It is stated that the costs of an abortion both “financial and otherwise – dropped considerably after legalization.” (Donohue and Levitt, 2001) The work of Michael (1999) states findings that abortion rates are “roughly an order of magnitude higher after legalization using self-reported data on pregnancy outcome histories. There is also reported to be fewer children placed for adoption following legal abortion and the number of premarital births fell from 4 percent prior to 1973 to 4 percent for the years 1973 to 1981. (Donohue and Levitt, 2001, paraphrased) Prior to abortion being legalized it is reported that there was a “link between the number of unwanted births and low maternal education over the period from 1965 to 1970 and it was discovered that the drop in births was associated with legalized abortion. Studies show that the availability of abortion serves to improve the outcomes of infants through reduction of the number of babies with low birth weight. (Donohue and Levitt, 2001)

Counter-Thesis and Counter-Argument

The arguments posed against abortion are typically religiously based however, the question posed in this debate by this writer is how can human beings assume to know the mind of God and to assume that they are able to think on the level of the omnipotent? Those who support illegal abortion base their claim upon various factors including that more women in the United States died from legal abortions than died from illegal abortion in the period between beginning in 1972 and ending in 1987. Specifically reported is that 240 women died as a result of legal induced abortions.” (Lawson, et al, 1994) During the same period, 88 deaths occurred from illegal abortion in the United States.” Lawson, et al, 1994)

Response to Counter-Thesis

While the counter-argument in this paper sounds convincing, it is necessary to examine the facts as reported. For example, deaths due to illegal abortion in developing countries were reported in this study to be 330 per 100,000 and in Africa; deaths due to illegal abortion were reported at 680 per 100,000. In Latin American deaths due to illegal abortion was reported at 283 per 100,000 and deaths due to illegal abortion in Latin America was reported at 119 per 100,000. In comparison, deaths due to illegal abortions in developed countries such as the United States were reported to be a mere 0.2 to 1.2 per 100,000.

The statistics speak for themselves in supporting the reasons that abortions should be legal. Indeed more women did die in the United States between 1972 and 1987 from legal rather than from illegal abortions however, the United States and other developed countries report only a small 1/10 of a percentage for deaths due to illegal abortions when compared to other world regions.

Conclusion

The debate surrounding the issue of abortion is a heated one with each side stating facts that appear to support the reasoning provided to either support or to illegalize abortion. However, a thorough review of the reality of abortion in terms of the results arising from illegal abortion worldwide clearly shows that abortions should be accessible to women worldwide to prevent the occurrence of many deaths due to illegal abortion procedures. The benefits of legal abortion include that there are less babies born and then put up for adoption, there are less premarital births, there are less babies born with low birth weight and women are able to time the birth of their children at more appropriate junctures in their lives for example after having obtained a higher educational level and following marriage and financial soundness so that they can ensure a healthy existence for their children. The benefits of legalized abortion can in no way be denied but the negative aspects of making abortion illegal are clear in the disparity created between those who can afford to travel to get an abortion and those with limited financial resources and the inability to procure a legal and safe abortion.

Bibliography

Dallard, Cynthia (1999) Abortion in Context: United States and Worldwide. Issues in Brief. May, 1999. Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/ib_0599.html

Donohue, JJ and Levitt, SD (2001) The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Vol. CXVI. May 2001. Issue 2. Retrieved from: http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/DonohueLevittTheImpactOfLegalized2001.pdf

Grimes, DA, et al (2006) Unsafe Abortion: The Preventable Pandemic. The Lancet. Vol. 368, Issue 9550. Nov 1 – Dec 1 2006. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673606694816

Lawson, HW, et al (1994) Abortion Mortality, United States, 1972 through 1987. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1994 Nov, 171(5):1365-72. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7977548

Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll (2011) Aug 10-15. Polling Report. Retrieved from: http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm

Summary of Abortion Laws Around the World (nd) Pregnant Pause Organization. Retrieved from: http://www.pregnantpause.org/lex/world02.jsp

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