Abortion be Legal
Even in today's world, considered to be both morally and technologically advanced, abortion remains an issue of intense controversy. Those who are against it use reasons such as the rights of the unborn child and even the mental health of the mother in order to promote their points. Interestingly, human rights and mental health are also used to promote the opposite viewpoint, that abortion should not be legalized. Generally, there has been a divide between religious and non-religious grounds to promote either choice or life arguments in terms of the unborn fetus. Religiously devout persons for example tend to place abortion on the same level as murder. Those who favor the legalization of abortion on the other hand argue that human life cannot be said to begin as early as the conception of the baby, and should therefore be allowed. When considering all the issues involved, I would argue for the right of women to choose to have an abortion on the moral, legal, and practical grounds.
In terms of moral grounds, all human beings, whether men and women, have fundamental human rights. As such, human beings also have the right to choose the shape that their lives should take. Siegel (2007) makes the important point that women and men are both involved in creating an unwanted pregnancy, but that women are disproportionately required to take responsibility for the situation, while men are exempt from either having the child or choosing to abort it. In order to promote equality of human rights, the argument is then to legalize abortion for women. I would then take this legalization further by promoting the legalization of abortion as long as both parties involved consent to the termination of the pregnancy. This creates a platform for both parents to be involved in the decision regarding the continuation of the pregnancy or its termination. If the father appears disinterested, the choice of abortion should be with the mother.
In legal terms, authors such as Donahue and Levitt (2003) found a positive link between the legalization of abortion and a lower crime rate. At the basis for their findings lies that fact that unwanted pregnancies lead to a higher crime rate in two respects: crime by the impending parents to obtain funds either for an illegal abortion or to care for the children who were born after not having an abortion. Most of these children would then be raised by single-parent families, more likely than not in poverty.
In the second respect, children raised in such circumstances are likely to become involved in criminal activity themselves, having grown up in an environment where this was the norm. As adults, these children are then also likely to themselves become parents and repeat the cycle of crime and poverty started by their parents. Unless significant social intervention occurs, the cycle is likely to perpetuate itself, creating a legacy that is almost impossible to break away from.
A related argument is the unborn child's quality of life. If a mother does not feel that she can adequately care for the child, that it would be subject to abuse, abject poverty or lack of education, or indeed if there is a possibility of severe deformity or fatal illness, certainly it is better for both the parent and the unborn to end the life before the start of the suffering. Some women see this as their only choice in a world where other choices are limited, especially as these relate to the well-being of their unborn children.
In practical terms, Grimes et al. (2003) suggest that legalizing abortion would be beneficial for the sexual and reproductive health of women. Although there are risks to any type of abortion, making the choice to have an abortion illegal incurs the risk of desperate women seeking abortions from illegal sources, whether these are qualified or not. Some would go as far as inducing abortions themselves, creating an even greater risk. Abortions by unqualified parties can lead to reproductive and health risks, and even to death.
On these grounds, one might argue that abortion cannot be eliminated by making it illegal. Indeed, there will always be women who seek abortions. Hence, it is better to legalize the issue and give women the choice to seek the help of qualified professionals should they wish to have an abortion. This would greatly increase their chances of future reproductive and sexual health, which would ultimately lead to a generally healthier society. In short then, my argument is for the legalization of abortion, even though some hold the ideal that abortion should not occur at all. In my view, abortion, like many other controversial "evils," will occur, whether it is legal or not. What legalization changes is the recognition of women and their equality to men in society, as well as their right to qualified medical help and reproductive health should they need this.
Part II: Anti-thesis
Of course there are many arguments against abortion, the most popular of which are based upon religious and moral grounds. Most religious groups fro example argue that abortion is nothing short of murder, and that life begins the moment a baby is conceived. Hence, it is and should remain illegal to abort the child.
It is important to note that the anti-abortion argument is not only the domain of the religious fanatic. Indeed, its very controversy is based upon the fact that, while there are good arguments for abortion, there are also good, reasonable, and indeed legal, practical and secular arguments against it. It is in this that the difficulty of finding an acceptable middle ground lies.
The Minnesota Family Institute (2010) for example provides a list of common arguments for abortion and provides a reasonable argument to refute each. To the argument that each woman should have the right to choose what happens to her body, because it is her life and her right, the Institute for example raises the counter-argument that the unborn child is also a human being with rights. Indeed, such a child may even be regarded as having more rights than the woman involved, as it cannot yet speak for itself or defend its own life. In this, the rights of unborn babies are considered as equal to the rights of all children, whether they are yet born or not. The human rights argument in this sense is closely related to the religious argument for the right not to be murdered. Unborn babies are alive, and therefore have a right to continue their lives until such lives are ended naturally or accidentally. They have a right, like all other human beings, not to be murdered.
Even in the case of pregnancy as a result of rape, the Institute argues that the resulting child is innocent, not having caused the event that created it. Hence, it should not as it were receive the death penalty for the mother's suffering. The Institute furthermore argues that there are many options for women with unwanted pregnancies; adoption for example would provide not only a loving home for the child, but also the opportunity for parents who desperately want children to have and love them.
Another interesting point is that even women's rights groups have also raised arguments against abortion. According to the BBC Ethics Guide (2010), for example, women's rights groups who oppose abortion argue that women who choose abortion do so not because they have that right, but rather because society fails to cater for their needs when they fall pregnant. In this, the argument is that legalizing abortion would not liberate women. Instead, it would simply provide a license for a male-driven society to perpetuate the oppression of women, particularly when they fulfill their biological function.
In terms of the equality argument, this means that women who fall pregnant do not receive the support that is their due as equals to men. Indeed, pregnant women remain subject to discrimination on various grounds, and particularly in their attempts to pursue a career. This is not something that legalizing abortion would remedy. Indeed, legalizing abortion would simply encourage women who want a career to choose this option, whereas there are no mandates who force men to choose between family life and their careers.
A study by Fergusson, Horwood and Ridder (2006, p. 22) lends further substantiation to the anti-abortion argument by indicating that women who have abortions tend to experience these as traumatic and are subject to a greater degree of mental health compromise than those who do not. This is especially the case in the longer term. Reasons cited for this phenomenon are unaddressed emotional issues that occur concomitantly with the abortion event, including feelings of unresolved guilt and possibly anger. In this, the various circumstances surrounding the abortion must also be taken into account. Anger might be directed at a specific party such as an abusive partner or friends who as it were convinced the woman to have an abortion when she herself was…