On Abortion Rights Essay
On Abortion Rights
The debate over abortion generally focuses on the issue of rights – those of a woman versus those of a fetus. Though there are steady arguments on both sides of the debate – most of which will herein be addressed – this paper will underscore why a woman’s right to choose outweighs and should outweigh any rights of a fetus. As will be shown in analyzing the following three articles (including, most importantly, the decision of Roe v. Wade), the right of a woman to choose to terminate or carry out her pregnancy outweighs any right of an unborn fetus.
Why Abortion Rights are Essential In 1973, the United States Supreme Court held it illegal for any state to outlaw abortion. In Roe v. Wade, the Union’s highest Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to termination her pregnancy. ” Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113, 153 (U. S. 1973). According to the ruling, a woman’s right to abortion outweighed the rights of a nonviable fetus, and therefore prohibited a state’s interference.
Even thereafter the period of nonviability, the Court went so far to rule that states must allow abortions that would save women’s lives. Id. at 163. Since Roe was decided, abortion advocates have praised Roe “for recognizing that a woman’s right to control her body takes precedence over a fetus’s right to life. ” The Roe v. Wade decision is based on practicality and less on ethics or morals.
The Court examines the competing interests of the states in legislating, a woman in deciding whether to maintain or terminate her pregnancy, and, to some extent, a fetus. The Court concludes that the interests of the individual – in this case, the woman – to the liberty interests protected by the Fourteenth Amendment are greater than any other. The Court additionally recognizes that the practical consequences of outlawing abortion in situations where having a child would injure a woman in some fashion.
Illegalizing abortion may save some unwanted children, but lead to the deaths of many desperate women. Though abortion has been legal now for over thirty (30) years, during its period of illegality in the States, the commission of illegal abortions (some committed by women themselves) led to the deaths of many women. In 1972 alone, for example, the last year before abortion was legalized, 39 women died from illegal abortions. Such practices thus led to the unequivocal death of a human life – a woman’s.
The deaths of desperate, poor women would therefore increase should abortion be illegalized in the States. Similar to the pro-life/pro-death penalty irony, the reintroduction of abortion illegality would “save” a potentially nonviable life while running the risk of ending the lives of adult women. In contrast to the view expressed by some anti-abortionists that abortions are sometimes practiced as a method of birth control, there are numerous imaginable and real circumstances in which a woman (even one not necessarily pro-choice) finds herself in a position in which abortion is the only realistic option.
These situations, imagined, by in Roe v. Wade, underscore why abortion rights are essential. “Among th[o]se situations are those where the woman was raped, her health or life (or that of the fetus) is at risk, contraception was used but failed, or she feels unable to raise a child. ” Forcing a woman to bear a child when, for example, the pregnancy is the result of rape – or, worse, incest – punishes her to a potentially psychologically damaging degree.
Similarly, forcing a woman to carry and give birth to a child whose physical well-being may be compromised if she does so places the rights of an unborn child above those of an adult woman, an inversion of interests which makes little logical sense. Just as importantly, imbuing a woman with the right to choose an abortion where necessary vests her with the right to deal with her body as she decides. Carrying and giving birth to a child involves and changes a woman’s body for the ninth months of gestation and many thereafter.
Therefore, denying a woman the right to an abortion takes away the liberties that the United States was founded on. In “Abortion Rights are Pro-life,” Leonard Peikoff advocates that the phrase “right to life” applies equally to women as well as fetuses. He argues that we must not confuse “potentiality with actuality,” insofar as an embryo is a potential human being, not an actual one. According to him, rights do not belong to someone who has not yet been born.
This argument makes a great deal of sense, particularly when placed in the light of competing interests: If the competing interests are between a woman, who no one doubts is alive and living, and the interests of a fetus who’s viability is undetermined, it would seem irrational at best to tip the scales in favor of the fetus. Peikoff also reminds us that abortions are “private affairs and often involve painfully difficult decisions with life-long consequences. ” They can be brought about through accident, rape, as a result of a birth defect or health concern.
These issues are akin to those considered by the Supreme Court, and underscore, as Peikoff mentions, why government intrusion into this area is inappropriate. Aside from the interests of the woman, little remembered are the effects unwanted childbirth has on the children themselves. Though anti-abortionists tend to focus solely on saving fetuses, they seldom mention or consider what happens to those fetuses should their host mothers be forced to give birth to them. The Pro-Action Network (“The Plight of Unwanted Children”) examines the abortion question from this perspective: The unwanted child’s.
According to it, the anti-abortionist may “suffer” from the “fetus focus fallacy. ” These individuals may put fetuses ahead of everything else, including the eventual suffering of the unwanted children after birth. Several studies conducted in the United States and elsewhere have documented long-term developmental problems suffered by children whose mothers did not want them. The studies focused on women who tried but failed to get abortions, finding that their children were more likely to suffer from emotional handicaps, stunted development, anti-social behavior, troubled home life, abuse, and dissatisfaction.
Thus, in the long run, depriving a woman of the right to choose may ultimately punish the unwanted child. Thus, ironically, the interests at stake when undertaking the abortion question are not limited to that of the state, woman, and fetus, but also encompass consideration of the unwanted child. When considered in totality, the practical effect of outlawing abortion is to potentially damage not only a woman’s life (sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally), but also an unwanted child’s.
The greatest analysis of the abortion question is within the text of Untied States Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision itself. There, examining the abortion problem in great detail, Justice Blackmun, writing on behalf of the States’ highest court, reasoned: Th[e] right of privacy . . . is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon a pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved.
Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of brining a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. . . . Roe, supra, 410 U. S. at 153. The importance of the individual rights recognized by the Supreme Court and leading to its decision in 1973 are no less today than thirty-four years ago.
While the pro-life population will continue to speculate as to the viability of a fetus and the moral question of “murdering” a potential human being, the costs associated with taking away the rights of a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy are both known and unequivocal. While the arguments for and against abortion rights are varied, as the Supreme Court of the United States recognized in its Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to privacy mandates that the right of a woman to choose whether to complete or terminate her own pregnancy outweighs any rights of a fetus.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 27 February 2017
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