One of the most tentative issues globally and nationally is abortion. The views on women’s rights to this procedure changed in popularity, affecting the legislature and public presentation. While it is considered a medical procedure that a woman undergoes when she wants to terminate a pregnancy, this act carries a much deeper meaning to the woman, the fetus, and the environment in which they exist. People’s views on abortion are polarizing – only 20% support full access to abortion, while 20% and 55% are opposed to it or support the limited use of the procedure, respectively (Woodruff et al., 2018). Currently, the laws on abortion are diverse and are based on state representatives’ decisions. Before 2022, the decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) protected women’s right to an abortion, but now each state can enact different laws in order to ban or restrict the procedure locally (Hendricks, 2022). The arguments presented in this essay support the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and demonstrate why a ban on abortions can be a response to ethical and mental health concerns.
The first argument against abortion that is widely debated is the personhood of the unborn fetus. While the moment of conception does not immediately produce a fully-grown child, the fetus quickly reaches a state where the term “human” fully applies to it. Fetuses develop very quickly – the cardiovascular system starts to operate 22 days following conception (Szoch, 2021). Other systems, organs, and limbs develop fast as well, and the brain begins functioning at some capacity only six or seven weeks after conception (Szoch, 2021). Therefore, the period of time when a woman realizes that she is pregnant, she is likely to have a fetus that is developed enough to be considered a person with related cognitive and physical attributes. Based on this information, it can be argued that abortion is a life termination process–an act contrary to all ethical and moral societal systems. According to statistics, almost half of Americans believe abortion to be morally wrong (Woodruff et al., 2018). Thus, banning abortion is a choice against the murder of developed persons whose lives are ended without their agreement and recognition.
Aside from the moral argument against abortion, one has to consider the influence of allowing this procedure on society’s behavior. Swartz et al. (2020) note that many women are not aware of the details behind the legality of abortion in their state, and many people misunderstand the issues and implications. Moreover, Cleland (2020) argues that abortions are the main outcome of rejecting other contraceptive strategies. As a result, an invasive procedure that impacts women’s physical health and their future possibility of having children is treated without the necessary precaution and responsibility. Interestingly, Woodruff et al. (2018) find that women who have been denied abortions are less likely to support free access to abortions for other women. This statistic shows that women’s life experience often changes their view on abortion to view it more negatively. Therefore, one can conclude that access to abortions without restrictions leads to their misuse and the lack of education among people about the procedure’s risks and consequences.
The third argument against abortion is the procedure’s effect on women. Studies show that women who underwent spontaneous abortions one or more times are more likely to have depression and anxiety (Adib-Rad et al., 2019; deMontigny et al., 2020). Moreover, women are stricken with perinatal grief after the procedure, which suggests the fragility of women’s mental well-being in relation to abortion. The decision to have an abortion results in a tremendous mental toll on the woman, as it ends an unborn life. These consequences can affect women in the long term and result in higher rates of mental health disorders (Adib-Rad et al., 2019). As deMontigny et al. (2020) find, the symptoms of mental distress are not connected to the time that passed after the procedure, implying that depression and anxiety do not disappear after some time, affecting one’s entire life. Combined with the previous arguments, it is apparent that abortion carries a significant ethical burden and influences one’s perspective on life in general.
People who view the right to abortion as necessary provide counterarguments to the points outlined above. One of the arguments is that the fetus is not a person, linking the moment of one becoming a human to birth and not conception (Nobis & Grob, 2019). However, as noted above, this argument is not supported scientifically and relies on the individualistic understanding of what attributes separate human beings from non-human beings. The second counterargument addresses women’s health, stating that abortion is a safe procedure medically (Nobis & Grob, 2019). Nevertheless, the argument focuses on the physical health of women who underwent the procedure and does not account for their mental well-being. The studies described above show that one’s mental health is greatly affected by abortion and that the procedure negatively impacts women’s lives.
Finally, a major argument for the right to abortion relates to bodily autonomy. It is argued that women have the right to their bodies regardless of whether the fetus is human, as they are not required to lend their bodies to another person to sustain them. Here, a scenario is discussed where a person is demanded to contribute blood to a sick individual, and the two are tied to one another for nine months (Hendricks, 2022). In this case, one may argue that it is immoral to restrict one person’s freedom to save the other. However, as Hendricks (2022) argues, this scenario is inconsistent with other societal regulations and norms. For example, the author reviews several cases where a mother starves her children by denying them food. Not feeding one’s child with baby formula or breast milk is considered negligible and is treated as a criminal offense (Hendricks, 2022). These cases contradict the argument about bodily autonomy – mothers are required to feed their children. Thus, one can continue the discussion, finding women responsible for the fetus and its well-being.
To conclude, abortion is an ethical issue, and the discussions surrounding it focus on moral, health, and philosophical ideas. First, it is an immoral procedure that goes against the basic societal laws of human life, and the fetus’ humanity is supported medically. Second, access to abortion undermines other methods of contraception and puts women at risk of using invasive procedures without considering safer preventive measures. Third, women who undergo abortions often encounter mental health problems and are more likely to suffer from the long-term effects of this procedure. The arguments that describe abortion as the issue of bodily autonomy do not account for the existing laws and principles around parental responsibility. Based on these arguments, abortion should be banned as it contradicts the moral norms of society.
Adib-Rad, H., Basirat, Z., Faramarzi, M., Mostafazadeh, A., & Bijani, A. (2019). Psychological distress in women with recurrent spontaneous abortion: A case-control study. Turkish Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 16(3), 151-157. Web.
Cleland, J. (2020). The complex relationship between contraception and abortion. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 62, 90-100.
deMontigny, F., Verdon, C., Meunier, S., Gervais, C., & Coté, I. (2020). Protective and risk factors for women’s mental health after a spontaneous abortion. Revista Latino-Americana De Enfermagem, 28. Web.
Hendricks, P. (2022). My body, not my choice: Against legalised abortion. Journal of Medical Ethics, 48(7), 456-460. Web.
Nobis, N., & Grob, K. (2019). Common arguments about abortion. In N. Levin (Ed.), Introduction to ethics: An open educational resource (pp. 64-74). N. G. E. Far Press.
Swartz, J. J., Rowe, C., Morse, J. E., Bryant, A. G., & Stuart, G. S. (2020). Women’s knowledge of their state’s abortion regulations. A national survey. Contraception, 102(5), 318-326. Web.
Szoch, M. (2021). The best pro-life arguments for secular audiences. Family Research Council.
Woodruff, K., Biggs, M. A., Gould, H., & Foster, D. G. (2018). Attitudes toward abortion after receiving vs. being denied an abortion in the USA. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 15(4), 452-463. Web.