On the Matter of Abortion
[Disclaimer: The subject of abortion is one that is filled with passions of moral outrage, animosity, and deep religious division; yet, prior to the continuation of this article let me first state that in no way does this opinion represent that of a specific group nor does it represent that of any religious or spiritual belief. The conclusion of this article will be my opinion and mine alone, and I do take ownership and accountability for all things said upon hereafter.]
In the United States, the topic of abortion is one of, if not, the most highly debatable issue in the political arena. Many on the political right (Conservatives) claim that abortion is socially immoral and can, and should, be considered murder. Many on the political left (Liberals) make the argument that abortion was legalized in the Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade (1973) and should be a choice for women, especially in the cases of sexual assault and when the mother’s life is at risk. All states have laws that restrict abortions after the third trimester, except for situations where the mother’s life is in danger or other specific circumstances. This article is not about just one’s own opinion on the matter. Instead, it is about: (a) discussing in depth, both sides of the topic; (b) the Constitutionality of abortion; and (c) debunking the myths surrounding abortion and abortion providers (i.e. Planned Parenthood). The conclusion of this article will be discussing my own beliefs and how I view abortion and abortion services. This article is not intended to offend, but instead to give an independent viewpoint which is supported by statistics and facts from non-partisan sources. Only the conclusion section will contain my own personal beliefs and arguments related to the topic at hand. All statistic within this essay is sourced and their sources shall be listed at the end of their use.
Division of the Topic
When discussing the topic of abortion in the public and in the private spheres, it can be considered a divisive topic that shouldn’t be discussed; much like the topics of money, politics, sports, and religion. Abortion, however, is a divisive topic because of the parties involved and their firm moral, sometimes spiritual, beliefs which infer the individual’s judgment and determination on the matter. In a recent Gallup poll, reported on June 9th, 2017, 50 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. In the same study, only 29 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legalized in all situations, while 18 percent say that it should be illegal in every circumstance. This trend has remained stable, according to Lydia Saad, the Senior Editor at Gallup, yet she also states that when pollsters who chose “certain circumstances” were then asked about whether those situations are ‘a few’ or ‘more than a few’ the findings were that 36 percent stated only a few compared to 13 percent who stated, ‘more than a few’. According to Saad, 54 percent of respondents implied that there should be some curtailing of abortion rights, while 42 percent sit more on the left side of the political spectrum.
When determining morality on abortion the results are more closely divided than the question on the legality of abortion. According to the survey, the question asked was, “Regardless of whether you think it should be legal…please tell me whether you personally believe that in general, it is morally acceptable or morally wrong….” In 2015, the findings of the survey were about tied at 45 percent to 45 percent, yet it is now two years later and the results are at a 49 to 43 split, leaning towards a morally wrong stance. However, this question does not count for the labels of “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” When those surveyed were asked to identify themselves as one or the other, 49 percent said they were pro-choice, against 46 percent saying they were pro-life. There is certainly no doubt that the majority of ‘Democrats’ are pro-choice, while the majority of ‘Republicans’ are overwhelmingly pro-life. ‘Independents’ on the other hand lean slightly ‘center-right’ on the spectrum.
In January of this year, Michael Lipka and John Gramlich of the Pew Research Center reported 5 Facts About Abortion which reports the results of their own survey on the topic of abortion. According to the findings of the Pew Research Center, roughly “six-in-ten” citizens believe that abortion ought to be legalized in “all or most cases.” The opposing side, who states that abortion should and ought to be illegal in all or most situations, currently sits at 37 percent. The difference between these two polls is that the Gallup poll discusses the legality and labels associated with the topic of abortion, while the Pew survey discusses public support or opposition towards abortion rights.
Constitutionality and the ‘Right of Privacy’
In 1965 the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case Griswold v. Connecticut concerning the “right to privacy” specifically within a couple’s marriage in relation to medical advice about birth control; which at that time was illegal according to a Connecticut statute. The statute banned individuals from providing counseling and other treatment to married couples for the purposes of preventing conception. The court concluded that the state statue was unconstitutional because it violated an implicit right to privacy that the Constitution grants to the nation’s citizens. The First, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments all give context to what the right to privacy entails.
The First amendment concerns the freedom of the establishment of religion (where the government cannot favor one faith over the other) and the freedom to practice a religion. The amendment also discusses the freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the petition. In the United States, citizens have a right to believe and practice their beliefs either in a place of worship or in the privacy of their own home, and therefore any level of government cannot impose a belief on its citizens, regardless of whether their concerns are legitimate.
The Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution concerns the individual right against “quartering,” which is defined as lodging or stationed, in a citizen’s home without the consent of the owner. This amendment gives the implicit right of privacy because it is unconstitutional for the government to govern what happens in the confines of a citizen’s home. The Fourth amendment continues this notion by protecting citizens against unlawful, meaning without a warrant, searches, and seizures.
The Ninth Amendment’s text is short but Judicial interpretations suggest that there are certain rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution that can and are considered rights of the people. As for the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically section one, the power of the Constitution applies to all citizens of the United State regardless of which state he/she may be from; as well as providing protections to citizens by trumping State’s powers.
Texas had a statute that a woman could only have an abortion to save the mother’s life and in December of 1971, the Supreme Court would hear the first arguments of what would become one of the most famous Court rulings in the history of the Supreme Court. In January of 1973, after a second argument, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, that the state of Texas violated the Constitution and that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment which was mentioned in case precedent of Griswold v. Connecticut 1965. The decision of Roe has continued to be the precedent used in all cases and laws for the past 30 to 40 years.
[There have been numerous cases on abortion that the Supreme Court of the United States has heard and decided over the decades. I specially chose these two cases due to the magnitude that these cases possess in the arena that our society calls ‘politics.’ I will continue to do research on more cases and ask that my readers also conduct their own research.]
Fact versus Myths
Over the decades of debate, there has been growing myths and falsified statistics that have led to misinformation concerning abortions. For starters, there is a misconception that there are more abortions now than there have been in previous years; yet this is false and according to the CDC there has been a significant decrease abortion since 1996. In 2013, the CDC reported that there were roughly 664,500 abortions performed (please note that not all states reported to the CDC during this statistical analysis and this is a rough estimate).
The second misconception is that abortions are dangerous. According to a TIME magazine article about the myths of abortions, the CDC reported that in the year range of 2003 and 2009 “the national morality rate was 0.67 deaths per 100,000 abortions.” If simplified into a percentage this statistic equals 0.0000067% of abortions and in 2009, only eight women died of abortion complications out of the total of 789,217 abortions reported to the CDC.
The next myth is that women are coerced into having abortions and this could not be further from the truth. According to a 2005 Guttmacher Institute survey of 1,209 women, twenty percent said that they got abortions because of pressure from their significant other (14%) or from their parents (6%). However, according to the TIME article, which references the survey, these percentages are down from 1987 where 24% of women had said it was because of their partners and 8% said it was their parent’s wishes.
The last misconception that I want to discuss surrounds this notion that Planned Parenthood (PP) is using Federal funds to provide abortion services. FactCheck.org’s, Lori Robertson discusses in her article posted in April of 2011 that under federal law, no funding can be used for abortion services. Planned Parenthood does provide abortion services, yet many politicians and opponents of abortion overestimate the number of abortions that PP does. In 2009, Planned Parenthood reported that only “3% of their services…were abortion,” while “the other 97% of services were contraception, treatment, and tests for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, and other women’s health services.” It is true that PP receives federal funding but from two primary sources: “Title X Family Planning Program and Medicaid.” According to the PP reports, about $70M comes from Title X while the rest ($293M) comes from Medicaid and yet both programs have restrictions about abortion services. Under Medicaid, the Hyde Amendment only allows for abortion in cases of “rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother.” States have the right to use their own Medicaid funds to go past that, which seventeen states have already done.
Knowing the statistics on this topic along with the precedent set by the justices of the Supreme Court, it is my belief that regardless of how immoral an individual may find abortion, each citizen has the inalienable rights of life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. Regarding these natural rights, I fully believe that a woman has a right to live her life as she wishes, without interference from the government nor another citizen without her consent. Regarding the right of property, a woman has a right to take care of herself (individual property) and if the mother is in a situation where there are concerns for her own health and well-being, she has every right to get an abortion (the Hyde Amendment). The right of liberty is connected to the right of privacy, that the Supreme Court has deemed implicit, and it is a violation of a woman’s and her family’s privacy to determine what is best, reproductively, for her. Finally, the woman is allowed a right to happiness and it is immoral and a violation of her natural rights for anyone to determine what should make a woman happy.
I recognize that abortions are considered morally and spiritually wrong in terms of one’s faith/religion; yet one’s connection with God; Adonai; Allah; etc. is their own. I believe that the Constitution bars the government from imposing restrictions based on a religious text or religious principle, due to the First Amendment’s establishment clause. Secondly, each person’s morals are subjective and one’s own principles, that may be rooted in Christianity, for example, may not be the same as someone’s who’s principles are rooted in a different faith, or no faith at all. Therefore, it is my belief that religion/spirituality/faith is sufficient for individuals to have principles (morals, ethics, virtues, etc.) and not necessary.
If a woman and her partner decide to have an abortion, then that is her/their decision and in no way, does the decision affect me. I can say that I will always support a woman’s right to choose what she deems best for herself, especially in terms of reproductivity. Yet, I do believe in regulations and making sure that abortions continue to be safe procedures. I also believe that there should only be abortions within the first and second trimester, unless there is a medical situation where: the life of the mother is at risk, there is a stillbirth, or it has been determined that there is a malformation which will not allow the fetus to survive outside the womb.
[I understand that there will be some backlash over the passages above, yet I do not wish to have an argument with any of my readers. As I mentioned at the start of my essay, this last portion is my opinion and I will respond to comments and questions that are thought-out and respectful. Any comment that does not meet this requirement, shall be discarded. I welcome any questions or comments on topics that I did not answer or perhaps missed in this essay. Thank you.]