The term abortion refers to the termination of a pregnancy, achieved through removing the fetus from the uterus. In essence, abortion is the premature expulsion of a fetus from the womb. While this definition seems harsh to the unborn child,women chose to have an abortion for a wide array of reasons. These reasons are informed by medical reasons or as a personal choice.
Abortion is one of the most controversial topics in today’s society. The abortion debate continues to go despite the fact the right to an abortion has been enshrined in American law for several decades now. The continued debate is a consequence of the fact that abortion is a social issue. Conservative elements of the political class have in the past made attempts tto ban the practice unsuccessfully, forcing them to result to putting in place measures that frustrate women’s access to abortion. These attempts have made abortion one of the most divisive issues in today’s society.
Supporters and critics of abortion define themselves as being pro-life or pro-choice. Pro-choice base their arguments in support of a woman’s right to make decisions about her body. On the other hand, those pro-life argue that life begins at conception and that a fetus is a human life and deserves to be protected and respected(Pollit, 2015).
Abortion rights have undergone continue changes and restrictions put in place to essentially discourage women from reviving the procedure. This US legislation needs to place more focus, funds, and emphasis on sexual education and the use of contraceptives instead of restricting women of their reproductive right to receiving an abortion.
History of Abortion Rights
Before America was founded and during the reign of Britain, America was governed by the common law of England which allowed abortions in so far as the fetus had not quickened. The term quickened refers to the first feeing off the fetus movement in a woman’s uterus.
The independence of America gave them the legal mandate to develop laws. It is at this point in America’s history that the American Medical Association and religious leaders rooted for the passage of laws banning abortion. As a consequence of this lobbying, all states criminalized abortion.
It was not until the 1960’s that women groups, doctors and lawyers started agitating and lobbying for a reform on the abortion laws. These reformers justified the need for reform by citing inequalities between men and women that were a result of women’s inability to control their reproductive system. However, these lobbying efforts were frustrated by the fact that the constitutionally mandated law-making organ was male-dominated.
The women rights organizations led by the National Organization for women decided to take the battle to court, forcing states to soften their stand and entertain the idea of abortion law reform. However, victory was far from sight. The women groups continued to fight and agitate for unfettered access to abortion services for women. These agitation prompted anti-abortion groups to respond, arguing that a womans right to reproductive freedom was equal to the right of an unborn child to be born. This battle found its way to the Supreme court, and the case of Roe V Wade dealt with this issue to totality. Roe V Wade the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is legal, the court went on to provide a basis for the states to develop their abortion laws. These guidelines divided pregnancy into three 12- week trimesters;
- During a pregnant woman’s first trimester, state law is barred from regulating abortion save for requiring that the procedure be performed by a licensed doctor and in medically safe conditions.
- During the second trimester states may regulate abortion in so far as the regulations are reasonable related to the health of the pregnant woman.
- During the third trimester, States enjoy absolute jurisdiction in protecting the potential human life. At this stage, the interests of protecting the potential human life outweigh the woman’s reproductive rights. In this instance, states may prohibit abortions unless an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother.
Post Roe V Wade
Roe V Wade was a major win for women rights groups. However, despite the decision in the landmark case, the topic of abortion continues to elicit serious debate. These debates have found their way into politics by virtue of abortion being a social issue. While the case of Roe V Wade offers the much-needed caution to women from the criminalization of abortion, conservative legislators have preyed on the loopholes of the judgment to impose laws intended to frustrate access to abortion(Grossman 2016). These limitations extend to the development of physician gag laws requiring doctors to disclose certain information about abortions or the requirement to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion.
The nobility of these added legal requirements has been questioned in the social and judicial arena. The most recent legal confrontation was in the 2016 case; Whole Woman’s Health V Hellersterdt, where the Supreme Court held two requirements to be unconstitutional and struck them down. These requirements provided for by Texas law and included;
Admitting privileges; that required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges aa hospital within 30 miles of their clinic; and
Minimum health and safety standards; that required abortion clinics to meet the minimum health and safety standards that other ambulatory surgical centers are obligated to abide by.
Proponents of the law submitted that these laws were designed to protect women’s health, while those opposed to the law submitted that the laws were designed to cause an undue burden on women seeking abortions without substantiated medical reason. In rendering its judgment, the Supreme Court held that in as much as the restrictions were designed to protect women’s health, the laws were unconstitutional because they unduly burdened women seeking abortions.
The requirements placed on doctors and abortion clinics by Texas legislation is proof of the continued attempts by the conservatives to frustrate women seeking an abortion. More so, the provisions of these laws prove the fact that conservatives design laws under the guise of protecting the rights of the woman while in reality these laws are developed to curtail the rights of women.
Women Right to Choose
Women should and must enjoy the right to have choose if to have an abortion or not. This choice is their fundamental freedom that guarantees the right to control their bodies. Sadly, society is yet to come to terms with the fact that women have a right to control and dictate what happens to their bodies and that this right is not subject to negotiation. As a result, many individuals have been drawn into this debate and have made attempts to curb the enjoyment of this privilege(Williams, 2016).
Women have come a long way from fighting for the right to vote to being considered and given equal legal recognition to men, attempting to take away the right to control what happens to their body is not only backward but also has a negative impact on the progress made by women.
Abortion qualifies to be considered as a social issue, and there is a need for society to continue having the abortion conversation. However, those involved in this conversation ought to acknowledge that what may be the right decision for one individual may not necessarily be the best decision for others. More so, the conversation should build on the progress made in recognition of women rights and their reproductive health and not track back on the progress.
The abortion debate ought to appreciate the fact that the decision to terminate a pregnancy does not come easy. The reality is that women who make the decision to terminate a pregnancy go through serious psychological trauma before and after having an abortion. In fact, women dread abortion not because of the medical complications the procedure attracts but because of the thought of ending the life of their own children.
Also. Women rights have come a long way and have a long way to go for women to be totally emancipated from oppression. Women in the 21st century continue to deal with oppression from all spheres of life, and these chances increase if the woman is poor or belongs to a minority group. Granting women the right to control their own bodies empowers them to overcome this suppression.
Sex education and Contraceptives
The rates of Abortions in the United States have increased significantly since Roe V Wade. This increase in the number of abortions is not a consequence of the existence of women rights but a consequence of the governmental neglect of its duty to provide for and fund sex education(Mercier, 2016).
Living in the 21st-century society no longer emphasizes chastity or encourage it. The government has continuously failed to make this observation and develop sex education strategies that offer the much-needed sex education to teenagers and adults(oakley). Sex education is not only effective in reducing abortion rates but is also important in reducing the number of people infected with sexually transmitted infections.
Also, the government should seek to fund the provision of family planning methods. Currently, the majority of teenagers lack knowledge on the subject of contraceptives and also lack the financial might to access contraceptives. The government should cure this defect by providing contraceptives at a subsidized price or for free.
It is important for society to recognize and appreciate that abortion is not preferred to women, and the fact that they choose to terminate a pregnancy does not make it any easier. Attempting to infringe on the right of women to control their own bodies is extremely unfair.
The abortion debate should be focussed on building on the wins provided for by the case of Roe V Wade. Also, the government should wake up to the realization that providing sex education and funding access to contraceptives would have the effect of making abortions safe, legal and rare.
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