Arguments For and Against Abortion
A U.S. novelist and poet, Alice Walker (1944) speaking to defend women in abortion said that, for most women, abortion was beyond an experience of suffering past all men would ever know. She said that, abortion was itself a merciful act as well as an act to defend oneself. Abortion is the act of terminating a pregnancy before the child is born which results to death of the fetus. Not all abortions are done consciously. Some occur naturally due to complications in the formation of the fetus. Other causes may be due to injury to the mother through an accident or a certain disorder in her body which cannot allow the pregnancy to be undertaken till maturity. In this case, it is no longer referred to as abortion but a miscarriage (Walker 48-49). This study is aimed at discussing the arguments presented to support and oppose abortion in the world based on the legal, religious and biological factors.
From history, abortion has been greatly opposed. For instance, in the US, abortion laws began surfacing in the early 1800. The laws at this time were against those who carried abortion from the fourth month onwards. Feminists opposed abortion on the grounds that it was not a safe medical procedure thus endangered the life of mothers as well as their health. They further sought to educate on safe and the effective control of births as a way to prevent abortion (Lewis, par 3-4). Lewis (par. 11) further states that “the latest major conflict over abortion laws has been over termination of late pregnancies, termed “partial birth abortions” by those who oppose them.”
There is no direct opposition which can be drawn from the bible on the issue of abortion. The reason raised by Christians and Jews against abortion is that it was an act which no one could have imagined to originate from an Israelite woman. This was because having a child was viewed as a gift from God. Also the bible indicates that it is God who opens and closes the womb so that a woman either conceives or remain barren, a condition viewed as a curse. In Psalm 139, a scripture used by both the Jews and the Christians, the narrator states that even before he was being conceived and when being formed in his mother’s womb, God was involved in the process (Anderson par 1-7). Exodus 21:22-25 also stands against abortion, which in this case implies equal right to both the born baby and the unborn in the mother’s womb. On this chapter, different conclusions have been made. It has been argued that, since a fine is imposed on the person who causes the injury to the mother, the unborn baby cannot carry the same rights with the born baby. In whichever the case, the final statement the bible gives in this situation is that, this was a criminal offense and it was punishable by the law (Anderson, par 1-7). The Muslims have always opposed abortion and regard it as “haram” (forbidden). However, many have agreed that it should be conducted whenever the pregnancy places the life of the mother in danger. However there are those would allow abortion if conducted before sixteen weeks elapse. Different views arise due to the fact that just like in the bible, the Koran is silent on the issue (BBC).
Both pro and anti abortion sentiments have been raised by the debaters of this issue. Biology has shown that the genes of the embryo are generally different from the genes of the mother. These genes also differ from the sperm and egg which fused to form it. For instance, human beings have got 46 chromosomes unlike the sperm and egg which have got 23. The DNA of a grown up cannot be differentiated from the DNA of an embryo. However, the geneticists have shown that there is a distinguishing factor between the DNA from an embryo and that from the egg and sperm. Moreover, it is obvious that the failing of the heart to beat in a human being symbolizes death. It has been argued that, the same can be applied to define life. In this case, the knowledge that the onset of the heart beat occurs approximately on the 18th day after conception has been used to outlaw abortion (Anderson, par 16-20).
In support of abortion, it is argued that abortion is legal in cases where the life of the mother is in danger and needs to be saved. Also, abortion is necessary where the health of the mother needs to be preserved. Further still, the Americans say that abortion should be allowed if the pregnancy came as a result of rape. Others believe that it should be allowed if there are enough proofs that the unborn child will be delivered with some physical impairments (Sussman, par 3).
The legal arguments
Restrictive criminal laws on abortion have existed since the second half of the nineteenth century. In the ancient times, Greeks as well as the Romans practiced abortion. The Hippocratic Oath taken by medical students before they get to practice their profession binds them to give no remedy to abort or succumb to any pressures from within or outside to do anything intended to terminate the life of the other person .This oath indicates rigidity and an accepted code of behavior in the medical ethics which is revered up to date (Rubin 1-10).
Under the common law, abortion in the 16-18th week of pregnancy was not considered a serious thing. The time lapse between fusion and formation of the fetus was not well defined. Some fixed it to be 40days for males and 80 days for the females. After an agreement was arrived about this number of days, the fetus was taken to be part of the mother before it attained these days and hence destruction was not homicide. However this still remained disputed among the people under the common law (Rubin 1-10).
According to the English law, abortion was a crime. However, it imposed lesser penalties for abortions done before the quickening period. Recently, the law allowed abortion on the condition that it is carried out by a qualified physician in agreement with other two physicians. This was allowed for cases such as where the pregnancy risks the life of the mother, her health or affects other children in the family (Rubin 1-10).
From this discussion, it clearly seems that abortion should not be allowed in the society. Though there are points to support its legalization, it should be only allowed in that area where the life of the mother is in danger or even her health. It can also be allowed but with sufficient proof that the child will be born with physical impairments. Penalties should be induced to those caught committing the crime for they deny the right to a human being to live. Public awareness and education on effects of abortion should be undertaken so as to bring abortion cases to a low level. Sex education and effective birth control methods should be used to reduce the cases of unwanted pregnancies. This means that conducting of an abortion should be prescribed not in general terms but in a specific context.
Anderson K. (2001). Arguments against abortion. Probe Ministries, 2001. Web. 23
March 2010, <http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4219435/k.6699/Arguments_Against_Abortion.htm>.
BBC. Islamic teachings on abortion. Sanctity of life, 7 July 2009. Web. 26, March,
Rubin, Eva. Abortion Politics and the Courts: Roe v. Wade. New York: Greenwood
Lewis Jone. A brief history of the abortion controversy in the United States. Abortion
History. The New York Times, 2010. Web. 24 March, 2010,
Sussman. D. Poll: Thirty years after Roe vs. Wade, American support is conditional.
ABC News, 2003. Web. 23 March, 2010,
Walker, John. Abortion and the Question of the Person. International Journal of
Sociological and Social Policy, 19, 3/4 (1999), 48+