Yesterday was NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day.
I don’t currently live in the US. However, I have a lot of friends who happen to have uteruses who live there, and the right to abortion is not solely an issue for citizens and residents of the US.
As the owner and operator of a uterus myself, I think it’s important to review why abortion is important, and so contentious.
Roe v. Wade was 38 years ago. According to Wikipedia, the US Supreme Court concluded that the woman’s constitutional right to privacy covered pregnancy termination until the fetus is viable (viability tends to depend on size rather that strict developmental age, between 24 – 28 weeks), wherein the state’s right/obligation to protect the fetus’ life begins to supersede.
The philosophical difficulty is the question of when a fertilized egg becomes an individual with rights, rather than a part of the woman’s body.
The critical elements here are the woman’s autonomy over her person, and the medical condition or pregnancy. People opposed to abortion object to the termination of what they see as a human life, often assuming that abortion is being used as a form of birth control, and a reflection of extreme selfishness.
Let’s look at the facts, shall we?
Pregnancy takes nearly 10 months. In a healthy, normal pregnancy, one can expect several weeks of vomiting, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, structural changes to the body (skin stretches, hips widen, etc), headaches, cramps, swelling in the legs and feet, and changes in eyesight.
Here are some possible complications of pregnancy:
- High blood pressure
- Pre-eclampsia (persistent headaches, flashing light, blurred vision and seeing spots, upper abdominal pain and sudden excessive lower leg swelling)
- Eclampsia (seizures and coma)
- Ectopic pregnancy (life-threatening)
Here are some possible complications that can happen to the fetus:
- Downs syndrome
- Sickle cell anemia
- Tay-Sachs disease
(read more about these exciting conditions here)
Choosing to become pregnant is probably the biggest decision a woman can make. If a man chooses to get a woman pregnant, he may support the woman throughout the process, or be held legally responsible for some financial support, but it is physically impossible for a man to experience the same intense physical and emotional changes that result from pregnancy and birth.
A woman’s body is changed permanently, and she puts herself medically and psychologically at risk. Choosing to have children can make this process delightful and exciting. To have it forced upon you is torture.
The state has no right to force anyone to go through the process of pregnancy.
Here are some statistics on abortion rates from Guttmacher.org:
- Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion.
- Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.
- 18% percent of U.S. women obtaining abortions are teenagers
- Women aged 20–24 obtain 33% of all abortions, and women aged 25-29 obtain 24%.
- 54% percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant.
- About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.
The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.
Sexism and misogyny make life hard enough for women. It affects how we are educated, how we work, how much we’re paid, how we feel about ourselves, and how others treat us.
The idea that something as intimate and drastic as pregnancy has anything to do with the state is obscene. Laws that hinder and prevent abortion arise from a notion that the woman cannot be allowed complete autonomy over her body.
Such laws are inspired by a ‘morality’ that determines that a fetus has a right to life at the expense of the person carrying it. This kind of morality would not be possible in a world where women were perceived as equal to men in value and capability.