Abortion has been an extremely controversial social issue that has existed for decades. By the early twenty-first century, abortion has come to be one of the most heated political issues in the world. In many Western nations, abortion is a divisive topic that is usually argued between those who support the left political view and individuals who advocate for the right. Those on the left supports the rights of the mother to control her reproductive rights while the abortion opponents, often times labeling the procedure as. Those who advocate for the rights of the woman are called Pro-Choice while its counterpart is named Pro-Life supporters. In some other countries, once this procedure is legalized it often caused little to no change. As of 2017, an estimated two hundred thousand ten million abortions are performed yearly in various parts of the world, and at least twenty-one million of those are considered to be illegal. “Around thirteen percent deaths are due to the unsafe conditions and or abortion related complications.” This essay will examine the history of countries prior to the installation of abortion and the effects abortion has had on it once being instilled.
Until the late eighteen hundreds, abortion was generally legal in the United States and considered a common procedure throughout the nation. Historically, most abortions were performed with the assistance of friends, family members, midwives, and or doctors. Self-induced abortions, which had a very low success rate, were attempted through various methods that ranged from applying herbs and ointments to the skin, forceful internal and or external massages, and insertion of foreign objects, to even stomach binding. If all the methods failed, women sometimes resorted to infanticide. Infanticide is the crime of killing a child within a year of its’ life.
In the United States, the American Medical Association, founded in 1847, led a campaign to make abortion illegal. The basis of their crusade was to ultimately gain dominion and establish authority over those that provided the procedure to those in of it, such as the midwives etc. Also the theme of anti-abortion was also connected back to nationalism. Immigration at the time was thriving, those who were not white and or Catholic were flooding in while the rates of white Protestant women were declining. So naturally this movement was supported by many citizens. The advancement forced women desperate for an abortion underground and unsurprisingly the number of self-induced and “back alley” abortions increased greatly. Over time, prohibiting abortion morphed into outlawing all methods of birth control.
Birth control had been prohibited in various states up until the 1960s, when the second wave of the feminist movement increased immensely in response to the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963. This book had “described the pervasive dissatisfaction among women in mainstream America society in the post-World War II period.” Soon after, laws in favor of birth control began to commence. This is displayed in the Griswold v. Connecticut case which transpired in 1965, the end result of this was a law that guaranteed married couples access to birth control. Later this right was extended to single couples in Eisenstadt v. Baird case which occurred in 1972. Building on the right to famously known case, Roe v. Wade, (1973), which confirmed the right to privacy. In Roe, Justice Harry Blackmun developed the trimester method of determining a timetable for legal abortions based on the development of the fetus. Abortions were generally legal in the first trimester but restricted in the second and third trimesters. In the 1980s, the rise of conservatism added gasoline to the already heated abortion debate. Under the reign of presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, views on abortion became a litmus test for appointment to the Supreme Court. Congress began attaching abortion riders to unrelated bills and regularly renewed the Hyde Amendment of 1976, which banned Medicaid-financed abortions. This antiabortion stance also had grave consequences for women in developing nations because Congress had garnered foreign aid with that restrictions which limited access to family planning as well as to abortion.
One of the most controversial aspects of the abortion battle has been the conflict between abortionist opponents, who claim that the right to protest outside abortion clinics is guaranteed by the First Amendment, and prochoice advocates, who object to practices that limit entry to family planning and abortion clinics. After an increase in violence and the murder of two abortion-providing physicians, the Supreme Court held in NOW v. Scheidler, 510 U.S. 249 (1994), proclaims that states could pass laws that are designed to deter violence with increased fines and mounting punishment. The appointment of John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court in 2005 raised conservative hopes that Roe v. Wade would eventually be overturned. However, their hopes were crushed as that action never occurred. In year of 1994, the United Nations Conference on Population and Development, had “adopted the Programme of Action, which emphasized the fundamental role of women’s interests in population matters and introduced the concepts of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. A new definition of population policy was advanced, giving prominence to reproductive health and the empowerment of women.” To this day, this topic is still a hot button issue that is often debated between liberals and conservatives.
In the recent years the stance on abortion made by various states have since changed in an adverse direction for women who desire the procedure. In year 2016, more than 60 new restrictions on access to abortion were enacted by 19 states. These restrictions would further cause major obstacles and requirements for the women who want the procedure done. In that same year 2016 while still holding the role of governor of Indiana, Mike Pence signed a legislative package that contained two highly controversial provisions. “One that would forbid a woman form seeking an abortion based on the presence of fetal abnormality and the second would require burial or cremation of aborted fetal tissue.” Though Pence supported this decision, those who in support of women’s health saw this new law as an unnecessary burden on women who sought “legally protected health care.” In the following year, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would criminalize abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions of cases where the mother’s life is at risk and also in cases of rape or incest. This legislation was later adjusted by Iowa in 2018 to what has been deemed “the nation’s most restrictive abortion law.” This act bans most abortions “once a fetal heartbeat is detected, around the sixth week of pregnancy.”
In the Asian country of China, abortion was perceived as an acceptable method in controlling accelerating populations. During the era of the one-child policy, women who have already given birth to a child and fall pregnant again, were pressured and or threatened into terminating their pregnancy. In rural areas, “enforcers” threatened to take away useful and or vital possessions from the woman, however in a city setting the consequences were a bit more detrimental. If the woman worked a civil service job, her occupation would be threatened almost immediately. However, once the woman terminated her pregnancy all the actions that were used to intimidate her, would disappear. To say most Chinese women were restricted by the government’s one-child policy would be an understatement. Though abortion is legal in modern day China, there are multiple barriers that hinder women from garnering the procedure. It ranges from, “a difficulty in finding doctors who are willing to perform the procedure, substandard conditions in health facilities, lack of awareness of the legal status of abortion and fear of stigmatization for terminating a pregnancy”. Some women are in fact demonized for ending their pregnancy and as a result, stigmatized for committing the action.
This is similarly witnessed in the other Asian country, India. Though abortion is permitted in the country, it is still quite difficult to attain for women in the poor rural regions of the country considering the government hospitals are at a great distance away. This inadvertently forces the women to look towards unprofessional practitioners for help. Due to this obstacle, botched abortions that could result in horrid side effects are taken place. “An estimated two-thirds of abortions performed are unsafe, done illegally at home or by quacks and midwives, and the annual death toll is about 4,600. Many women end up with life-long health problems.” Though abortion is legal, it is still essentially unattainable for some. In addition to this sentiment, India’s abortion laws are often times considered to be a “conditional right”. This is said due to there being a time limit of twenty weeks of pregnancy before an abortion can be considered a crime; the courts are left to be the deciding factors in cases where the pregnancy is passed the twenty weeks.
Though women in various countries do have the opportunity to be granted an abortion, others are still being denied their human rights. In Northern Ireland, the rights of women are being violated daily. The accessibility to an abortion isn’t necessarily legal or offered to women, only under certain circumstances. These conditions being the pregnancy posing a dangerous risk to the woman’s life, which includes the possibility of suicide. However, the acts of rape, incest or even fetal abnormalities is not included. This ultimately means that to perform an abortion under those conditions is illegal and those who do in fact terminate their pregnancy after falling pregnant due to rape or incest, can face criminal charges and the maximum prison time of fourteen years. Though the 1967 Abortion Act, a law rendering the procedure legal, was passed it didn’t affect Northern Ireland in the slightest.
In the African countries of Cape Verde and Tunisia, which allows unrestricted abortions, and most of the other African nations who retain restrictive and aged colonial laws that forbid the practice of abortion, ultimately contribute to the high numbers of abortions that have taken place. These unrestricted abortions result in heinous effects on the women who use them. A common method is known as the RPG, which is a rocket propelled grenade has the deadliest effects. “”Some herbs that they have been preparing according to what they have been telling us, they mix it with some substances and broken pieces of glass bottles and they insert it into them,” says Dr. Kohn. Some girls who try to induce abortion die because of severe laceration of the cervix. And in addition to that, “”It burns all the vagina … They open it’s all acid … three months ago a woman died from toxic shock,”” says Dr. Kohn. This practice is common in Liberia, she says.” As a consequence of abortion being outlawed, women who are in dire need of them risk their lives in order to terminate their pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 4.2 million African women seek unsafe abortions each year, with thirty thousand maternal deaths resulting. While 10 percent of the world’s abortions occur in Africa each year, its women comprise half of the resultant deaths. It’s a safe assumption that African women have suffered immensely from these unsafe abortion practices.
Oftentimes in countries where abortion is legal, maternal death rates are much smaller. For instance, South Africa’s number of deaths due to unsafe abortions fell by 90 percent from 1984 to 2001, after that country legalized abortion. Eighty percent of the countries in North Africa and the Middle East outlaw abortion in some fashion: 21 percent prohibit abortion under all circumstances, 55 percent prohibit abortion except to save the woman’s life, and 24 percent allow abortion to preserve the woman’s physical or mental health. The restrictive laws and, in many cases, lack of effective family planning programs contribute to the number of unsafe abortions and related deaths in this region.
Abortion has been an extremely controversial social issue that has existed for decades. By the early twenty-first century, abortion has come to be one of the most heated political issues in the world. In many Western nations, abortion is a divisive topic that is usually argued between those who support the left political view and individuals who advocate for the right. Those on the left supports the rights of the mother to control her reproductive rights while the abortion opponents, often times labeling the procedure as. Those who advocate for the rights of the woman are called Pro-Choice while its counterpart is named Pro-Life supporters. In my opinion I believe having abortion legalized in a country is extremely better than not having it. The country that had prohibited the procedure, possessed a very high rate of unsafe abortions and in turn resulted in a high percentage of maternal deaths. Having the procedure legalized grants the female citizens of that country a safer way of terminating their pregnancy.