What thoughts form when the word abortion comes to mind? In all probability, ideas of fierce protests and hateful opinion are the first things associated with this current debate. Many support the practice, fighting against regulation of safety-net organizations that provide the “basic health care women need – and deserve” (Gold 2017). However, anti-abortion activists, such as the National Right to Life Organization, presently denounce what they see as the “premature, willful, and violent penetration of a closed and safeguarded system” (Is Abortion Safe?). Groups such as this believe that abortion is wrong in any form and should be banned altogether; they also believe that an unborn child’s life is precious, and the right to take that life does not belong to anyone, not even the mother. So, how do two polarized sides – pro-life and pro-choice – come to terms with an agreed-upon compromise? Since anti-abortion and pro-abortion activists disagree on the fundamental concept of abortion, a compromise can be reached by providing more affordable and widespread contraceptives; in the case that an accidental pregnancy still occurs, specific laws will be set in place to regulate the abortion process.
The National Right to Life Committee is on the front lines of the pro-life fight against abortion, calling itself “the nation’s oldest and largest pro-life organization”. The people involved in the group pride themselves in battling what they view as an immoral practice. Using the Constitution’s “right to life” policy as evidence, these members think that everyone, unborn and extremely elderly, has the right to live his or her own life (Statement of National Right to Life 2013).
These rather devout beliefs didn’t gain popularity until a few centuries ago, however. According to Castuera, abortion before the 1860’s was regarded as a fairly insignificant moral problem (2017). In fact, difference in opinion really obtained traction when the American Medical Association called out to legislators to ban the removal of any sort of fetus from the pregnant woman. After this incident, a percentage of the American public (including the Catholic Church) gradually began to take the AMA’s side in opposition to the practice (Castuera 2017). Since then, the following centuries have seen the rift widen and viewpoints become more engrained. This remains the primary reason why so many people voice their opinions in opposition; they simply do not believe that the termination of a lifeform, especially a human life, is ethically or morally justified.
On the contrary, organizations such as Planned Parenthood fully support abortion and loudly proclaim all the benefits that a woman would receive. For example, a Guttmacher Institute study, which surveyed African American teenage women, some who went through with their abortions and some who did not, found that the ones who had abortions were better-off financially and more likely to graduate high school (Zabin 1989). In reading this study, one can deduce that the reason women may perform higher in these categories is because of the absence of responsibility for another human being. While anti-abortionists may think behavior such as this to be lazy or selfish, many women do go through these struggles and do not believe that there are many other options.
Planned Parenthood tries to make itself as informational as it can to the public. Its website lists reasons for choosing to have an abortion, such as being the subject of sexual abuse, being at a time in one’s life when one is not ready to have a baby, or simply not wanting to be a parent (Planned Parenthood). Another page within the site compares in-clinic abortion steps to at-home steps, even offering success rates of an abortion at different stages of pregnancy (Planned Parenthood).
Many people feel that the more restrictions placed on organizations like Planned Parenthood, the less of a reach it has to people in need. A recent study showed that “without publicly funded family planning, rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion would have been 67% higher” (Gold 2017). This means that in providing other contraceptive services, unintended pregnancy rates were significantly less than they would have been, had centers not been available to the public. For reasons such as this, many people feel that organizations like Planned Parenthood should be publicly funded, or at least available, to as many people as possible.
The issue lies in making a compromise between the two sides. It seems to be a battle of morality, for even if some debate the fact of when life begins or how available contraceptive organizations should be to women, pro-life and pro-choice advocates both agree on one thing: the safety and wellbeing of the pregnant woman. This is, quite possibly, the only common ground between otherwise polar-opposite opinions. For this reason, the pregnant woman must be the foundation by which a compromise may be reached.
To satisfy both parties, raising the availability of contraceptives and restricting abortion policies would have to go in effect. In another study, it was found that “a total of 6.2 million women received publicly funded contraceptive services from some type of safety-net health center, which helped them to avoid 1.3 million unintended pregnancies.” (Gold 2017) In looking at the obvious benefit of contraceptives, one can see that there are so many instances in where one can eliminate the question of abortion entirely. For example, a study done in Iowa concluded that with the rise of contraceptive availability, a decline in abortions soon followed as a result (Biggs 2014). The one issue with better availability, as a result, is expense. Not every woman can afford reliable methods, such as the IUD. To combat this, bipartisan legislation would go through on the federal level to make contraceptives covered, or at least mostly covered, by Medicare. As a result, taxes would have to increase by a small margin. However, millions would now be more willing to use safer and more effective methods of avoiding pregnancy and therefore not having to deal with the question of abortion at all.
This compromise also has to be feasible in the case of accidental pregnancies, as well. A solution would be allowing abortions in a certain time frame and under certain circumstances. For example, sexual abuse, extreme financial instability (this would be classified by federal standards), or endangerment to the pregnant woman would constitute an abortion, but only in those situations. As far as the time frame, three months (or the first trimester) is agreed upon in most states; it is also the time in which the most abortions are performed (Abortions After the First Trimester). This would be the only period (with acceptance to endangerment of the woman’s life) that a woman could apply for an abortion as part of the compromise with pro-life supporters. All abortion laws except for the broad legality of the issue would be handled by the states themselves, although there would be little room for variance with these basic conditions.
The debate on abortion is not one that is simply put to bed by a few facts; it is a complex issue, filled with moral ambiguity and divided opinion. The best compromise is one in which no one has to deal with an abortion; advanced availability and affordability of contraceptives provides a clear solution. A “failsafe” option would also have to be included to set up clear rules in the case that an unintended pregnancy occurs. In implementing these plans, many people on both sides will be able to step across the aisle and make a beneficial decision together for the sake of all involved.
- “Abortion After the First Trimester in the United States.” Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthood.org/files/5113/9611/5527/Abortion_After_first_trimester.pdf.
- Biggs, M. A., et al. “Did Increasing Use of Highly Effective Contraception Contribute to Declining Abortions in Iowa?” NeuroImage, Academic Press, 4 Nov. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010782414007331.
- Castuera, Ignacio. ‘A Social History of Christian Thought on Abortion: Ambiguity Vs. Certainty in Moral Debate.’ The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, no. 1, 2017, p. 154. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgao&AN=edsgcl.482211909&site=eds-live.
- Gold, Rachel Benson, [email protected] and Kinsey1 Hasstedt. ‘Publicly Funded Family Planning under Unprecedented Attack.’ American Journal of Public Health, vol. 107, no. 12, Dec. 2017, pp. 1895. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.304124.
- “Is Abortion Safe?” National Right to Life, www.nrlc.org/abortion/medicalfacts/safety/.
- Planned Parenthood. “Should I Get An Abortion? | Information to Help You Decide.” Planned Parenthood, National – PPFA, www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/considering-abortion.
- Planned Parenthood. “What Facts about Abortion Do I Need to Know?” Planned Parenthood, National – PPFA, www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/considering-abortion/what-facts-about-abortion-do-i-need-know.
- “Statement of National Right to Life Regarding the Importance of the Single-Issue Focus of the Right-to-Life Movement.” National Right to Life, 6 Aug. 2013, www.nrlc.org/communications/releases/2013/tobiasstatement080613/.
- Zabin, Laurie Schwab, et al. “When Urban Adolescents Choose Abortion: Effects on Education, Psychological Status and Subsequent Pregnancy.” Family Planning Perspectives, vol. 21, no. 6, 1989, pp. 248–255. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2135377.