Abortion remains one of the most controversial subjects on human sexuality that has generated immense arguments and will continue to generate debate over the next few decades. The decision to abort or not affects a woman physically, mentally, and emotionally bearing in mind the numerous changes take place in her body. Though a legal process in a number of countries, abortion still present major ethical and human right issues, therefore abortion should only be permitted in instances where the life of the mother is in danger and only an induced abortion can save her life.
Proponents of abortion argue that the unborn child or the fetus grows inside the woman body and carrying the pregnancy will have a major effect on the woman’s life. The decision to procure an abortion or not should be the woman’s decision. They argue that a woman has a right to a healthy and fulfilling life, and there is no need for a woman to experience physical and emotional pain arising from a pregnancy, yet it was possible to procure a safe and legal abortion. The argument is that the fetus is not yet a living being and a woman can terminate the pregnancy at any stage. In the U.S. alone, more than 20 million abortions have been procured since abortion was legalized in 1973 when the Supreme Court, in a 7-2, upheld as legal the right of a woman to have an abortion in the case Roe v. Wade. Notably, the number of abortions procured has decreased, with 2014 reporting the lowest number of abortions at 652,639 compared to 1,429,247 reported in 1990 (Haugeberg, 2017).
Nonetheless, solid scientific research has dissented with the above opinion. In many instances, carrying a pregnancy to full term has been proven not to pose any serious threats to the life of the mother and consequently, the basic nature of the life of the fetus should take precedence over the life of the mother. Mothers are known to sacrifice their lives for their newborn children and the right of the unborn child to live is not in any way different to the right of life of a born child. Medical science has proved that the human embryo should be classified as a human being since it is biologically separate from its mother. Indeed, immediately after conception, a new life is formed that has a different genetic composition from that of its father and mother. The immediate environment in which the fetus grows does not constitute the woman’s body; rather, it is created by the fetus and has the fetus’ chromosomes. Thus, termination of a pregnancy that has had few complications amounts to terminate another human life (Haugeberg, 2017).
In addition, in 2004, the then U.S. president George W. Bush signed into law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act that criminalized killing or harming unborn children in case of an attack on the mother. An attack on the mother would also imply an attack on the unborn child thus an attacker would be liable for two attacks. Pro-abortion activists vehemently opposed the Act arguing that the Act gave statutory rights to the fetus. Previously, unborn children were not covered as victims of violent crime and the attacker would only be charged for the harm done to the mother. It follows that the law recognizes a fetus as a human being and thus abortion is an offense committed against a human being. Moreover, the argument for abortion has centered on a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body but silent on the rights of the father. A man‘s involvement does not revolve around the woman’s choice but the responsibility he has towards the woman and the unborn child. The fact that the rights of the father rarely features in the abortion debate shows that it is a selfish act that needs to be seriously reviewed by all stakeholders (Haugeberg, 2017).
Abortion has a great impact on the mental well-being of the mother compared to miscarriage and childbirth. A study undertaken to assess the correlation between abortion and depression as well as other disorders such as anxiety, substance abuse, and loss of self-esteem showed a positive correlation. In the study, women who had an abortion presented higher risks of suffering from mental disorders compared to women who gave birth. Even in instances where the pregnancy was unplanned and the mother carried it to full term, loss of self-esteem and suicidal thoughts were higher on women who procured abortions. Women who experienced miscarriages initially experienced short-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while those who aborted suffered from long-term PTSD as well as depression. Out of all women involved in the study, clinical depression was recorded in 17% of women who gave birth to live children as compared to 26% of those who aborted. Moreover, bipolar disorder and depression were present in 43.2% of women who had a miscarriage, in 45.5% of women who aborted, in 28.7% who had a normal birth and less than 25% in women who had never been pregnant (Bellieni & Buonocore, 2013). Women who aborted showed a higher dependence on drugs including alcohol and nicotine at a range between 21-34%. Women who miscarried or gave birth had a dependence level that was between 10-15% less. The study concluded that abortion is a great risk factor for subsequent mental disorders or illness compared to childbirth, miscarriage and unplanned pregnancies. Proponents of abortion have failed or refused to accept the fact that loss of a fetus is a traumatic experience and contributes immensely to mental illnesses among women. Further research needs to be carried out to show how abortion contributes to each mental disorder and also assess the features of women who are at a greater risk to develop the symptoms (Bellieni & Buonocore, 2013).
Although it is a largely popular practice in the US, the number of people opposed to abortion is on the rise and more people identify themselves with literature that supports life for the fetus. The 2006 life-affirming film Bella, which is also the title of the 2008 book has garnered numerous awards indicating widespread support for the anti-abortion movement. Nina, a key character in the film is pregnant without any social support that would motivate her to keep the pregnancy but as a result of the love she gets from Jose’s family, she chooses to keep the pregnancy. The film has generated more than $12 million views both locally and internationally, which is clear evidence that the American people support the cause against abortion. The 2009 film Sarah’s choice is also popular for its life-affirming status even when the characters are faced by situations where abortion would appear the better option. Though it may appear odd for policymakers to derive policy recommendations from literature, they should understand that literature entertains and teaches. Therefore, literary critics should have a say in the formulation of social policies. Literature can be used to offer guidelines on how the American society can avoid family destruction and fragmentation, prominent in abortion literature. The mother, the father, and the unborn child all deserve respect as they form a triad. The debate on abortion has laid too much emphasis on women making choices on their reproduction. However, the rights and the respect that the father of the unborn child deserves is largely neglected. Policies that would encourage more women to exercise the right to give birth and programs supporting fatherhood would significantly reduce abortion in the country (Koloze, 2014).
Although the campaign against abortion faces major hurdles, evidence carried through medical, legal, ethical, and literary approach affirms that legal abortion should be tightly regulated. Many women who have previously procured abortions tend to live with the regret for most of their lives as scientific research and literary work have proved. The legal aspects of abortion do not take into account the feelings of the mother after she has carried out the abortion. For instance, the guilt arising from the act is expensive to the economy in the end, as many mothers will resort to unhealthy practices such as substance abuse to numb the guilt feelings (Stotland, 1998). Stakeholders both government and non-government should join hands and promote positive social practices such as abstinence and programs that support pregnant women and fatherhood, thus reducing incidences of abortion that are costly to the economy. The abortion debate should encompass all persons involved-mother, father, and the unborn child and should act as a guide to policymakers.
Bellieni, C.V. & Buonocore, G. (2013). Abortion and subsequent mental health: Review of the literature. Journal of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 67(5), 301-310.
Haugeberg, K. (2017). Women against abortion: Inside the largest moral reform movement of the twentieth century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Koloze, J. J. (2014). Abortion in contemporary literature: Life-affirming messages in fiction and films and public policy implications. Life issues.net. Retrieved from http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/kol/kol_36lifeaffirmingmessages.html
Stotland, N. L. (1998). Abortion: Facts and feelings: a handbook for women and the people who care about them. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
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