Abortion

Should Roe v. Wade have been overturned? Explore both sides of the abortion debateBy Published On:
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Introduction

Before diving into the details of either side's best arguments, we must first define abortion. Abortion, in political debate, usually refers to an induced abortion, which is when a pregnancy is ended by intentionally terminating the life of the unborn child.

Abortion is one of the most controversial and long-standing debates in American politics. The abortion debate has roots in the late 20th century, and since the adoption of Roe v. Wade, around 62 million fetuses have been aborted, and hundreds of thousands of Americans protest legalized abortion every year. Now that Roe has been overturned, abortion is a critical electoral issue and is at the forefront of political discussion.

While some would call abortion mass murder, others believe it to be an essential aspect of civil rights. When determining how to treat an unborn fetus, a central question is: "what constitutes a human life?" Those who believe that fetuses have personhood argue that they should have the same legal rights as born humans, meaning that abortion should be illegal. Conversely, those who advocate for abortion rights believe that a fetus is not alive in a legal sense and can be aborted without violating any critical ethical principle.

Question for Discussion:

Should the government limit access to abortion?

The government should limit access to abortion

Pro-lifers claim that the practice of abortion is unethical and constitutes the murder of an innocent individual. They believe that life begins at conception; thus, any infringement on this life would violate that individual's natural rights. Furthermore, notable Pro-life speakers have stated that any line drawn other than the line at conception is arbitrary and illogical. For example, they argue that using the presence of a heartbeat to distinguish whether a fetus would have natural rights could be easily applied to adults who use a pacemaker; similarly, using the standard of brain function would revoke the consideration of personhood from someone in a temporary coma; thus, this standard does not serve as a robust and consistent rule for determining an individual's rights. Similar contradictions arise when many other metrics for life, such as autonomy or the ability to feel pain, are brought up. Taking these beliefs to their logical conclusion would mean that we cannot abort the new life formed at conception regardless of the parent's wishes.

Pro-lifers, however, diverge in beliefs when it comes to cases of rape, incest, or when the continuation of pregnancy endangers a mother's life. Some believe that victims of rape and incest should not be able to terminate their pregnancies — even though the conception of that child was an injustice, killing that unborn child would not make the situation more just. In such cases, Pro-lifers would prefer that the child be put up for adoption if the mother were unwilling to raise the child.

The government should not limit access to abortion

Pro-choicers argue that a woman's right to choose is an essential extension of civil rights and a necessary social policy for the "common good." Many on the left consider the right to terminate a pregnancy central to a woman's independence and ability to determine her future. They also believe that since a fetus cannot feel pain due to the lack of a functioning cortex before the 26th week, abortion cannot be considered cruel or immoral. Many refute the belief that life begins at conception, given that the fetus is a single cell during that stage. Most Pro-choicers believe that sentience is the measure of life and that unborn fetuses have no sentience and have yet to be truly alive. Pro-Choice ideology also pushes the progressive idea that having an abortion is simply choosing not to have a child because they claim that the only thing killed is the possibility of life, not life itself. Pro-choicers also hold that there are positive social consequences that abortion results in as a social policy. For example, access to legal, professionally performed abortions reduces maternal injury/death sometimes caused by unsafe, illegal abortions. Abortions also allow for more financial stability and reduce the number of women below the poverty line. Lastly, abortion potentially provides an escape route from parenthood to rape victims who have fetuses with severe defects in the womb or cannot handle the financial burden that a child carries.

Pro-choicers are not monolithic in their beliefs. For example, while some believe that abortion should be a right for the whole nine months, many believe there should be limitations regarding when an abortion can occur. Within the pro-choice camp, there is significant disagreement as to what limits the government should place on abortions.

Roe v. Wade

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, laws regarding abortion are left to the states. Some states like Texas have trigger laws that activated as soon as Roe was overturned, making abortion illegal. Other states like California already had laws on the books that codified abortion as a right, meaning it would remain a pro-choice state. This decision asks whether abortion is a right, similar to the rights expressed in the constitution (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc.) or if it can be legislated at a state level.

Discussion Questions

  • What constitutes life?
  • Is abortion morally right or wrong?
  • Should abortion be allowed?
    • If so, should it be under the purview of the Federal or State Government?
      • Who should decide this, the Supreme Court or Congress?
    • What limitations, if any, should be placed on abortion?
    • Should the government subsidize abortions as healthcare?

Sources:

BBC. “BBC - Ethics - Abortion: Arguments against Abortion.” www.bbc.co.uk, n.d. https://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/mother/against_1.shtml.

MedlinePlus. “Abortion - Medical: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Medlineplus.gov, 2014. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007382.htm.

Procon. "Abortion ProCon.org." Procon.org, 2000. https://abortion.procon.org.

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. "Abortion | Pregnancy." In Encyclopædia Britannica, November 15, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/science/abortion-pregnancy.

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