Abortion has been an intensely debated and often polarizing topic. Those who argue in favor of legalizing abortion ground their reasoning on salient points that include the freedom of pregnant women to choose and concerns related to their health and wellbeing. However, those who argue against such base their points on the morality of terminating a pregnancy. This article lists down and describes the major arguments about the pros and cons of legalizing abortion.
Pros: Pro-Abortion Arguments or the Major Reasons for Legalizing Abortion
1. Autonomy of Pregnant Women Over their Bodies
One of the major arguments for legalizing abortion centers on the need to promote and protect the right of women over their bodies. Unwanted pregnancies force women to bear and rear children even if they are mentally, emotionally, and financially unprepared.
Most feminists and supporters of abortion rights believe that women should have autonomy over their bodies. Even the United Nations has explained that women should be given the right to make decisions concerning their bodies and their intention to reproduce.
Preventing them to terminate unwanted pregnancies means that societies and individuals or groups that support anti-abortion laws are depriving pregnant women the freedom to choose what they believe is best for them.
Note that there are also pregnant women who need to have an abortion not because of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies but due to medical-related reasons. Some pregnancies need to be terminated to save the lives of pregnant mothers.
2. The Inevitability of Unwanted Pregnancies
Some would argue that women should practice safe sex and use forms of birth control if they do not intend to get pregnant. However, the fact remains that unwanted pregnancies are prevalent either due to a lack of sex education or access to contraceptives.
Some women still get pregnant even though they followed preventive measures. In these instances, the most conservative adherents of anti-abortion laws have argued that these women should not be engaging in sexual intercourse in the first place.
However, those who have argued both for abortion rights and the rights of women to choose have also argued that individuals should have the freedom to enjoy their sexual lives with their partners without fear of becoming unprepared parents.
3. Widespread Prevalence of Unsafe Abortion
A study by Gilda Sedgh et al. showed that 56 million abortions were performed each year from 1990 to 2014. About 45 percent of these procedures were carried out without the supervision of qualified healthcare providers.
The World Health Organization also noted that unsafe abortions account for 4.7 to 13.2 percent of maternal deaths. Around 220 women in developing countries die for every 100,000 unsafe procedures intended to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
Nevertheless, the WHO has argued that the widespread prevalence of unsafe abortion is the main cause of maternal deaths and morbidities. However, these deaths are preventable through access to proper and high-quality health care.
Some of those who survive unsafe procedures experience physical and mental health complications. These facts represent another argument for legalizing abortion: the need to attend to the health care needs of women who want to terminate their pregnancies.
4. Socioeconomic Impacts of Unwanted Pregnancies
Unwanted pregnancies can also burden women personally and financially. The Turnaway Study concluded that denying women access to safe procedures to terminate their pregnancies experience an increase in household poverty that lasts for at least four years.
The same study explained that women often fall behind the poverty line because they do not have enough money to cover basic living expenses. Children women also suffer as a result of the financial burden that came with unplanned child-rearing.
Another negative impact of anti-abortion laws is that it burdens society in such a way that unprepared women are forced to quit their studies or participate in the workforce. The society fundamentally losses productive members of the workforce.
Cons: Anti-Abortion Arguments or the Major Reasons for Criminalizing Abortion
1. Abortion Should Be Considered a Murder
One of the major and strongest arguments against legalizing abortion or more specifically, one of the supposed reasons for criminalizing abortion is that the termination of unwanted pregnancy should be considered similar to murder
Supporters of anti-abortion laws have argued that life begins at conception or when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg cell. Fertilization begins the process of cell division. The division of cells has been argued as one of the important characteristics of living organisms.
It has been argued that life begins at conception because when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg cell and when cell division takes place, the process creates a new and integrated organism with its own DNA distinct from a singular cell and the parent organisms.
Terminating this unborn organism from developing further has been seen as equivalent to murder. Therefore, for groups and individuals who oppose the legalization of abortion, the process has an ethical issue and should have a legal consequence.
2. Normalization of the Disposability of Life
Further rationale for explaining the notion that abortion is murder centers on the fact that human organs are starting to develop at the third week of conception, thus strengthening further that those who terminate their pregnancies are killing unborn human lives.
The decision of these pregnant women to abort their unborn children has been considered by religious leaders such as Pope Francis as part of the pervasiveness of the so-called throwaway culture in which society has become too attuned to disregarding items.
For those who promote anti-abortion laws or the criminalization of abortion, those who terminate their pregnancies and their supporters are also treating life as if it is readily disposable, thereby representing a failure to acknowledge the sanctity of human life.
3. Availability of Birth Control and Social Services
Another argument against abortion is that there are available options for women to take control of their bodies and reproductive health. Proponents have explained that unwanted pregnancy is avoidable because of the availability of birth control.
In addition, several governments around the world have allocated and utilized resources to make sex education and family planning available for individuals and families, especially among impoverished communities and in learning institutions.
Other countries have health insurance programs that allow men and women to avail of contraceptives at minimal to no cost. Some have also provided relevant social welfare services such as financial assistance for single parents and poor households.
Nevertheless, for the supporters of anti-abortion laws, the aforementioned facts make abortion unnecessary. It is up to women or their partners and families to maximize the resources available to them to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Foster, Diana Greene. 2020. The Turnaway Study: The Cost of Denying Women Access to Abortion. Scribner. ASIN: B0831S4XB2
- Sedgh, G., Bearak, J., Singh, S., Bankole, A., Popinchalk, A., Ganatra, B., Rossier, C., Gerdts, C., Tunçalp, Ö., Johnson, B. R., Jr, Johnston, H. B., and Alkema, L. 2016. “Abortion Incidence Between 1990 and 2014: Global, Regional, and Subregional Levels and Trends.” The Lancet. 388(10041): 258-267. DOI: 1016/s0140-6736(16)30380-4
- World Health Organization. 2017. “Worldwide, An Estimated 25 Million Unsafe Abortions Occur Each Year.” The World Health Organization. Available online