A Woman’s Right to Choose
With so many women choosing to have abortions, it would be expected that it would not be so greatly frowned up, yet society is still having problems with its acceptance. Every woman has the fundamental right to decide for herself, free from government interference, whether or not to have an abortion. Today, more than ever, American families do not want the government to trample on their right to privacy by mandating how they must decide on the most intimate, personal matters. That is why, even though Americans may differ on what circumstances for terminating a crisis pregnancy are consistent with their own personal moral views, on the fundamental question of who should make this personal decision, the majority of Americans agree that each woman must have the right to make this private choice for herself. Anti-choice proposals to ban abortions for “sex-selection” or “birth-control” are smokescreens designed to shift the focus of the debate away from this issue and trivialize the seriousness with which millions of women make this highly personal decision. Any government restriction on the reasons for which women may obtain legal abortions violates the core of this right and could force all women to publicly justify their reasons for seeking abortion.
Most people agree that abortion should be a rare procedure. To accomplish that ideal, our society must proactively, by providing resources and support, offer pregnant women the hope that carrying their babies to term is not the end of their plans and dreams. Then their difficult decisions would really be true choices vice acts of desperation. After all, it is just as much “pro-choice” for a woman to take charge of her life and courageously carry her baby to term as it is for her to abort it. Responsible parents should also be involved when their daughters face crisis pregnancies. In fact, most teenagers do turn to their parents for guidance. But the government cannot mandate healthy family communication where it does not already exist. Laws that restrict minor’s access to abortion by mandating parental involvement actually harm teens and families they mean to protect, by increasing illegal and self-induced abortions, family violence, suicide, later abortions, and the teenage birthrate. The real agenda behind laws enabling parents to veto their daughter’s abortion decisions by requiring parental consent or notification is to deprive your women access to abortion. Opponents of choice are seeking to use the issue of parental consent to paint the pro-choice position as extremist and anti-family. The true pro-family position is the pro-choice position.
Having a pro-choice viewpoint is not something that a person chooses overnight. I went through seven years of sexual education before I really understood abortion and could make an educated decision on my choice of sides. I have gone from being totally against the abortion procedure, to fully accepting it. I believe that before you can really say that you do not believe in abortion you have to come up against it in your own life. I know several women who have had abortions, not so they could party or have fun, but so they wouldn't ruin their entire lives because of a mistake. They weren't particularly overjoyed about it - no one is - and all are good, decent people who had one abortion when they were teenagers or in their twenties, and they are now happy, well-adjusted mothers. Someone wise once told me that in order to really understand a person’s situation you have to walk ten miles in that person’s shoes. I stand behind that firmly because I have been the person trying to walk in the shoes, and have turned into the owner of those shoes.
The Planned Parenthood Federation Online has provided me with countless amounts of information and answers to questions that I have pondered. A particular part of the Planned Parenthood website that I found helpful was their history with abortion in the court system. This excerpt is a timeline that shows how far abortion has come within the courts in past 25 years, including the problems that they still face.
1976- The Missouri legislature’s attempt to impose husband and parental consent for an abortion and a ban on the most common second-trimester abortion method (then saline amniocentesis) is struck down in a suit brought by Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri. Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52 (1976).
1979- A Missouri requirement that abortions after the first trimester must be performed in hospitals is found unconstitutional in a case filed by Planned Parenthood of Kansas City. Another anti-abortion law, mandating parental consent or court authorization for an abortion, is upheld. Planned Parenthood of Kansas City, Missouri v. Ashcroft, 463 U.S. 476 (1979).
1979- John Franklin, medical director at a Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood affiliate, succeeds in challenging a vague state law that places unnecessary restrictions on doctors performing abortions when a fetus is or "may be" viable. Colautti v. Franklin, 439 U.S. 379 (1979).
1986- Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood affiliates join in a challenge to several state abortion restrictions, which leads to a resounding affirmation of a woman’s constitutional right to choose abortion. State-scripted lectures biased against abortion and extreme, health-threatening limits on post-viability abortions are struck down. Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747 (1986).
1989- A law declaring that life begins at conception, mandating viability tests after 20 weeks gestation, and barring the use of public facilities for abortion services is found constitutional despite the legal challenge by Missouri clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood. The decision marks the first time that five Justices do not explicitly reaffirm Roe. Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490 (1989). 1990 Minnesota’s two-parent notification requirement for an abortion is struck down, but a version of the law containing a judicial waiver is allowed to stand. Physicians and clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood had challenged the law, providing testimony about its harmful impact on teenagers and their families. Hodgson v. Minnesota, 497 U.S. 417 (1990).
1990- Planned Parenthood lawyers argued unsuccessfully against an Ohio law mandating notice to a parent or a court waiver before a young woman’s abortion. Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 497 U.S. 502 (1990).
1992- A case brought by a Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood affiliate results in a reaffirmation of a woman’s constitutional right to choose abortion. Husband notification is struck down, but several other measures – including mandatory 24-hour delay and biased anti-abortion information and one-parent consent with a judicial bypass – are upheld. A new standard for deciding whether abortion restrictions are constitutional is announced. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).
(A History of Protecting Reproductive Health Services in the Courts, Jan. 2000)
There have been several different opinions posed towards abortion in the readings that I reviewed, but there were two in particular that really caught my attention. The opinions are both pro-choice and pro-life. The first quote is taken from an article, “Conservatives fighting congressional battles over choice,” in a July 1998 Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service. H. Fields Grenee speaks about how congress has taken a woman’s right to choose and blown in out of proportion. Grenee says:
“Once upon a time, I thought we lived in a democracy. I thought each person, even women, after Roe v. Wade in 1973, had the legal right to choose what they thought was best for their lives. But I’m not sure anymore. Congress seems intent on telling women which contraceptives they may or may not use.” (Grenee 71)
The second quote is from an article about being pro-life. It is a comment from the author, and within that comment she includes a comment from another columnist. The article “The Abortion Debate Is Over,” came from a 1999 issue of Christianity Today. Author, Frederica Mathewes-Green reported:
“People longed to be in the pro-choice in crowd and avoid pro-life stigma, and to keep abortion handy. Yet deep inside they knew it was wrong, and a rising generation appears ready to tell us so. Columnist Paul Greenberg put it best:”
“Some questions will not be answered till they are answered right.”
“That answer gets clearer every day,” said Mathewes-Green. (86)
I spoke before about women that I know that have had abortions and what it has been like for them. There is one person that I know whose story is particularly interesting to me. Just listening to a brief bit of what she had to say, I learned a great deal. She asked me to keep her name disclosed for her personal privacy. She gave me a brief descriptive explanation of what she has gone through in her life. She told me this:
I'm one of those people who chose abortion in an effort to keep from "ruining my entire life. "Unfortunately, I wasn't privy to the information I have today regarding the abortion procedure that was performed on me. More unfortunate is that my choice was based on a spur of the moment desire to recapture the life I had prior to pregnancy and escape the inevitable responsibility and obligation I owed to the child I carried within me. I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic and was told if I aborted the child, I could return to my life unfettered and the procedure was no more harmful to me than "pulling a tooth." (I'm quoting the "counselor.") I was made aware that there could be some risks, but none of the phenomena I have experienced was explained. I wasn't told the risk of miscarriages triples following abortion, or that my health and emotional/mental stability could be threatened. Following my abortion, I have experienced a miscarriage. The one pregnancy I carried to term was threatened by a bowel obstruction, which almost took my life, and my daughter's. When she was delivered, it was by emergency C-section because my cervix was too damaged too dilate and give birth naturally. Further, my third (wanted) pregnancy was an ectopic which threatened my life so severely that I was forced to undergo a complete hysterectomy at 27 to save my life. Not many women would choose to be rendered completely sterile so young. This is what I owe to abortion.
What she had to say about her experience had a very big impact on me, and the decisions that I make and will continue to make in my life. She ended by saying something that I will never forget, “I beg you to abandon the stereotypes because educated, intelligent people usually realize that these are products of ignorance.” As profound as what she said may be, I will continue to believe in the pro-choice decision.
In conclusion, I will not be choosing sides, I will just be explaining about how I feel about each side. What the two sides have in common is this: each of us would like to see a world where women no longer want abortions. I don't believe that even among the most fervent pro-choice people there is anybody who rejoices over abortion. I think we both wish that there were better solutions that could make abortion unnecessary, or prevent pregnancies in the first place. We'd like to see the demand for the procedure reduced, by resolving women's problems and alleviating the pressure for abortion. We can go along this road together as far as we can, and there will come a time when pro-choicers are satisfied and pro-lifers want to keep going, but that doesn't mean we can't go together for now.
Works Cited List
Name disclosed for privacy. Interview May 12, 2000.
Family Planning Council, 2000. http://www.familyplanning .org/
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 1998-2000. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
Greene, H. Fields. “Conservatives fighting congressional battles over choice.” Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service 15 July 1998: 71-73.
Mathewes-Green, Frederica. “The Abortion Debate Is Over.” Christianity Today 6 Dec. 1999: 86
Word Count: 1976