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Since its legalization in 1973, nearly 50 million abortions have been carried out in the United States alone. Is abortion simply “a woman exercising her rights over her body”? Or something much more grave?
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Thirty years after the Roe versus Wade case, which led to the legalization of abortion in the United States, the battle still rages on. Those on both sides of this issue, firmly entrenched in what they believe to be morally and ethically right, are taking their campaigns to the street, television studios, abortion clinics and, chiefly, Washington, D.C.
Some resort to political mudslinging to get their point across. Others to violence, murdering those they feel are guilty of the same crime! Adding to this chaos, developments in stem-cell research and the Laci Peterson murder case are causing some activists to lose sight of their political stance.
What confusion! Little did the Supreme Court imagine that their ruling would lead to such a divisive battle in the United States.
On the PRO-LIFE side (sometimes referred to as “anti-choice”), abortion is seen as the outright slaughter of innocent lives, as merely a convenient way for women to “resolve the problem” of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
By promoting abstinence in sex education programs, instead of merely the use of contraceptives, pro-life supporters reason that there would be fewer unwanted pregnancies. In addition, they suggest that any unwanted children could be adopted by one of the thousands of couples unable to have children.
In the wake of the murder of Laci Peterson and her eight-month-old unborn son, Conner, momentum is now building to make it a federal crime to harm a fetus. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, now dubbed “Laci and Conner’s Law,” seeks to treat a fetus as a separate victim. Under the law, anyone who harms a fetus would spend as much time in jail as if the mother were harmed. Additionally, handing abortion opponents their greatest victory in decades, Congress banned the procedure known as “partial-birth abortion” in June 2003. These developments are causing pro-life supporters to wonder whether the Bush administration is taking the much-anticipated steps to overturning Roe v. Wade.
On the PRO-CHOICE side (sometimes referred to as “anti-life”), advocates view abortion as a way of putting children who may be born with birth defects or diseases out of their misery. This allows the medical community to terminate fetuses that would otherwise have short lives and long, painful deaths caused by genetic disorders or other such maladies. Abortion is also seen as a way of reducing the number of unwanted children who would be born into abusive or poverty-stricken homes, thus reducing child abuse. Pro-choice supporters also state that if a woman happens to be a victim of rape or incest, she should have the option of abortion readily available.
Overall, the pro-choice movement states that a woman should have the right to choose whether to keep or abort the child growing inside her body. In effect, the reasoning is, “It’s my body, so I decide what to do!”
Therefore, the struggle continues, with many millions of unborn children caught in between. Whether single or married, parent or child, young or old, and regardless of race or religion, abortion has affected us all—in more ways than most realize.
Over thirty years ago, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. Before this time, abortion was illegal and simply considered an IMMORAL action that one would never think of actually debating.
This soon changed. Although Texas law prohibited abortion, except to save a pregnant mother’s life, Jane Roe, a resident of the state, filed a lawsuit seeking to obtain one. The court ruled that a woman had a constitutionally protected right to have the procedure, and that this fell within the right to privacy, as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision made it legal for a woman to have an abortion at any point during the pregnancy. It also defined levels for regulating abortion in the third trimester of the pregnancy—weeks 27 through 40.
In effect, the final verdict ruled that a child is the property of the parent—who has the right to decide whether the child is wanted.
Attempting to walk the tightrope allowed by the U.S. Constitution, Justice Harry Blackmun stated, “The Constitution does not define ‘person’ in so many words. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment contains three references to ‘person.’ The first, in defining ‘citizens,’ speaks of ‘persons born or naturalized in the United States’…But in nearly all these instances, the use of the word is such that it has application only postnatally. None indicates, with any assurance, that it has any possible pre-natal application…
“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer” (emphasis ours throughout).
As a result, this court ruling affected the laws of all 50 states.
Liberals and the feminist movement at the time viewed this as a monumental step in the “emancipation” of women—of leveling the playing field with men, who never had to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. Women now had the right to CHOOSE—a family or a career, marriage and a monogamous relationship with a husband or a single life of sexual freedom. Additionally, since unwanted children could now be aborted, child abuse would soon end.
But since then, what has happened to this “brave new world” of women’s liberation and freedom—one supposedly free of child abuse?
Not exactly what was envisioned. In fact, aside from a high increase in sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, child abuse has skyrocketed since 1973, when 167,000 cases were reported in the U.S. In 1980, the number rose to 785,100; in 1987, there were 2,025,200 cases; in 1989, there were 2,435,000; and in 1999, there were 3,244,000 cases of reported child abuse (National Center on Child Abuse Prevention Research).
These numbers speak for themselves. Clearly, this is not the result foreseen by feminists and liberals in the 1970s.
Since 1973, has the “better, brighter tomorrow” envisioned by the feminist movement become reality? What has been the result of Roe v. Wade? To what extent have women in the U.S. sought abortions? The facts are staggering:
• Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures.
• The estimated number of legal abortions performed in America alone since 1973 is nearly 50 million—and this is said to be even greater, since it only represents abortions reported by licensed agencies.
• Every twenty-two seconds, an abortion takes place in the U.S.
• According to the Department of Defense, the total American casualties for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and the Iraq War, in addition to deaths attributed to September 11—all combined—is estimated at 1.27 million. In 2001, 1.31 million pregnancies in the U.S. alone ended in abortion—down from the all-time high of 1.61 million in 1990.
• At least one in three women in the U.S. will have had an abortion by age 45.
• By age 20, one in seven women in the U.S. will have had an abortion.
• About 19% of women having abortions in the U.S. are teenagers; 33% are age 20-24; 48% are age 25 and older.
• About 83% of abortion patients are unmarried.
• 26% of women seeking abortions have the procedure billed directly to their public or private insurance.
• The Alan Guttmacher Institute stated that the worldwide abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44) can range from a low of 6.5 in the Netherlands, to a high of 77.7 in Cuba.
The U.S. abortion rate is 21.3, comparable to other developed nations such as Sweden (18.7) and Australia (22.2).
• Black women are more than 3 times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are 2½ times as likely.
• About 43% of women obtaining abortions identify themselves as Protestant, and 27% identify themselves as Catholic.
• Over 60% of abortions are among women who have had 1 or more children.
The following is an overview of the growth process, from a fertilized egg to a cuddly newborn baby, illustrating the amazing transformation of what some term “fetal tissue.”
The First Trimester (weeks 1 through 13): Fertilization, or conception, takes place when the chromosomes of the sperm and the egg combine. Conception is calculated as occurring two weeks after the woman’s last period. (This is the date from which the weeks of pregnancy are determined.) Within the next week, the fertilized egg will bury itself in the lining of the uterus, where it can be protected and nourished throughout its growth.
This begins the development of the embryo’s physical characteristics, such as the backbone, spinal column, nervous system, kidneys, liver and intestines. By week three, the heart begins beating. At five weeks, the brain begins developing. In the seventh week, facial features, including the eyes, mouth and tongue, begin to be visible on the small, raisin-sized embryo. Blood cells develop, giving the unborn child its own blood type. The muscle system also begins development, allowing movement within the womb.
Also in week seven, brain waves can be measured. (Ironically, brain waves are one of the legal criteria in determining whether a person is alive. So, if one can be pronounced “dead” because there are no measurable brain waves, then how can one not be considered “alive” when brain waves are detected?)
Arms, legs and toes are growing, and the placenta can now provide oxygen for the baby to “breathe.” Blood is redirected through the almost completely formed heart. In week ten, teeth begin to bud in the unborn child’s mouth. Week twelve brings the production of vocal cords, and crying in the womb becomes possible, although quieted by the amniotic fluid. Because of the now fully developed brain and nervous system, the child can feel pain. Eyelids are formed, protecting the optical nerves until the eyes are opened in the seventh month. Also during this point, the unborn baby can often be seen through ultrasound sucking its thumb.
Over 88% of abortions take place within this first trimester of a pregnancy!
The Second Trimester (weeks 14 through 26): With the baby’s developing muscle system and growing arms and legs, the mother begins feeling kicks and movement. During weeks fifteen and sixteen, eyebrows, eyelashes, hair and taste buds appear. With fully developed hands and feet, the baby can now kick, grab and grasp.
By weeks sixteen through twenty, a doctor can determine the sex of the child through an ultrasound. The unborn baby now has fingernails, fully developed fingerprints, and can even recognize its mother’s voice. By this point of the pregnancy, the fetus, while not yet fully developed, could survive outside the womb.
About 11% of abortions take place within this second trimester of the gestation process.
The Third Trimester (week 27 through birth): The fetus is now completely formed and only needs time for growth and the maturing of internal organs. Legs are now proportionate to the entire body, and toenails, teeth, hair and eyebrows are now visible. A thin hair, called laguno, covers much of the baby’s body at six months, and a waxy covering, vernix, coats the skin. The baby breathes oxygen-rich amniotic fluid into its developing lungs. Most of the baby’s time will be spent sleeping during the seventh and eighth months. The baby also begins to experience REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which causes dreams. For several months, the baby has been feeding through the umbilical cord, drawing nutrients from the mother’s blood. Now that the baby is tightly confined to a small space within the uterus, the mother feels numerous squirms and wriggles. It is only a few weeks until the baby is born.
One percent of abortions take place within the third trimester of the pregnancy. While abortion advocates state that 1% is insignificant, keep in mind that it is 1% of an estimated 1.5 million abortions a year. What seems to be a small number is actually an estimated 15,000 third-trimester abortions a year—or 1,250 a month—about 40 a day! When seen in the proper context, this 1% is far larger than most care to admit.
Despite having sterile and clinical-sounding terms attached to it, such as “vacuum aspiration,” “D&C,” “D&E” and “D&X,” exactly what is involved in the abortion procedure? The following is a brief description of the most popular forms of first-trimester abortions. (Note: While the procedures are described in the least graphic manner, some explicit description is unavoidable.)
Mifepristone: Also known as RU 486 or the “morning-after pill,” mifepristone is a chemical that interferes with the woman’s hormones needed to maintain the womb lining—the baby’s source of nourishment and protection—which, in effect, causes the embryo to starve. A second drug is administered, causing the woman to expel the embryo—the unborn child! Mifepristone is relatively new and the exact long-term side effects are still unknown. However, one of its effects is heavy bleeding, for up to three weeks, after its use. (See “The ‘Morning-After Pill’” inset for more information on RU 486.)
Methotrexate: Though not FDA-approved for abortions, this chemical is also used as a treatment for arthritis and psoriasis—as well as a cancer treatment, when administered in higher doses. Injected five to nine weeks into the pregnancy, methotrexate creates a folic acid deficiency that stops cell division (the growth process), resulting in termination of the fetus. Suppositories are then administered to expel the unborn child. Possible side effects include severe bleeding, nausea, pain, diarrhea, bone marrow depression, severe anemia, liver damage and methotrexate-induced lung disease.
Vacuum Aspiration: This procedure takes place during weeks six to sixteen, and consists of a suction tube being inserted into the cervix and uterus, and sucking out the placenta and the fetus into a container. Often, because of the powerful suction, the unborn child is dismembered. To ensure that there are no pieces of the fetus remaining in the womb, body parts are accounted for (often by reassembling the unborn baby). The uterus can be punctured during this procedure, causing internal hemorrhaging. Severe infection is also common, as placenta often remains in the uterus.
Dilation and Curettage (D&C): Surgically expanding the cervix (the mouth of the womb), a loop-shaped steel knife is inserted into the womb and the abortionist slices the fetus into little pieces, as well as separating the placenta from the uterus wall. This procedure is administered between weeks six and sixteen of the pregnancy. Similar to vacuum aspiration, internal hemorrhaging and severe infections commonly occur after this procedure. (This procedure is not to be confused with the similarly named procedure to correct menstrual abnormalities.)
The following are second (or third) trimester abortion procedures:
Dilation and Evacuation (D&E): This is a common procedure for pregnancies between weeks thirteen to twenty four, and is similar to D&C. The cervix is again forced open, and forceps grab the unborn child’s body parts and tear them out from the mother’s womb, piece by piece. Since the skull is hardened to bone by this time, the abortionist crushes the head inside the womb and extracts all the pieces. During such an operation, the fetus can be seen on an ultrasound recoiling from the abortionist’s forceps.
Describing the D&E procedure, Dr. William Hern, an abortionist from Colorado, stated in a 1978 report to the Association of Planned Parenthood, “We have produced an unusual dilemma. A procedure is rapidly becoming recognized as the procedure of choice in late abortion, but those capable of performing or assisting with the procedure are having strong personal reservations about participating in an operation which they view as destructive and violent…Some part of our cultural and perhaps even biological heritage recoils at a destructive operation on a form that is similar to our own, even while we may know that the act has a positive effect for a living person.
“No one who has not performed this procedure can know what it is like or what it means; but having performed it, we are bewildered by the possibilities of interpretation. We have reached a point in this particular technology where there is no possibility of denial of an act of destruction by the operator. It is before one’s eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current…The more we seem to solve the problem, the more intractable it becomes” (“What About Us? Staff Reactions to the D&E Procedure,” Hern, Corrigan).
Saline Abortion: This abortion procedure is used after week sixteen of the pregnancy, and entails the insertion of a needle into the woman’s abdomen, which removes about eight ounces of amniotic fluid, replacing it with an equal amount of a concentrated salt solution. The baby then inhales the salt, causing its lungs and flesh to burn. Death occurs within the hour, and a dead, shriveled child is delivered within twenty-four hours. Side effects can include uncontrolled blood clotting throughout the body, severe hemorrhaging, seizures, coma, serious side effects on the central nervous system, or even death.
Digoxin Induction: This technique is used between weeks twenty and thirty-two, and involves the injecting of chemicals directly into the child’s heart. Once dead, suppositories allow the mother to expel the unborn child.
Hysterotomy: Similar to the procedure followed when performing a c-section, the fetus and placenta are removed from the womb and simply “disposed of.” This procedure is used between weeks twenty-four and thirty-eight.
Partial-Birth Abortion (D&X): Also called “dilation and extraction,” partial-birth abortion was banned by Congress in June 2003. This procedure is used for twenty to thirty-two week pregnancies, and involves pulling out the unborn child through the birth canal, making sure that the head remains in the mother. If the unborn baby were completely pulled out at this point, it would be alive. (Ironically, in any other circumstance, the doctor would be required to make every heroic effort to save the child’s life.) However, the abortionist makes an incision on the back of the head, and removes the child’s brain with suction through a catheter. The head then collapses, allowing the child to be removed “intact.”
If abortionists could see face-to-face the countless millions of babies who have been aborted in the above procedures, would their opinion on the morality and legality of abortion still be the same? Would they still see them as nothing more than “fetal tissue”?
The mountain of evidence proving abortion’s impact on mortality rates in the U.S. is unmistakable. Thousands of pages would be needed to detail the numerous accounts of psychological trauma and life-threatening effects abortion has had on those involved in the procedure—not to mention the overall affects on a society that legalizes the termination of innocent life. In effect, we live in a world that relies on murder as a means of contraception and of dealing with social problems!
Abortion advocates firmly state that the Supreme Court’s ruling provides strict guidelines regulating second- and third-trimester abortions.
But what exactly are those guidelines? What reasons could allow the state to grant an abortion during the final three months of the child’s development?
Justice Blackmun, author of the Roe v. Wade decision, divided the full-term pregnancy into three trimesters. He ruled that states had no right to restrict abortions within the first six months (the first and second trimesters), and that a woman can abort her pregnancy during this time for whatever reason.
Concerning third-trimester abortions, the ruling continued that the state had a right—not an obligation—to restrict the procedure only to pregnancies that posed a health risk to the woman. However, this third-trimester ruling hinged on how the state defined exactly what poses a “health risk.”
In “Roe v. Wade: Abortion on Demand,” Dr. Frank Beckwith helps clarify the court’s definition of a “health risk,” by examining the ruling made in another abortion case, Doe v. Bolton: “In Bolton the court ruled that ‘health’ must be taken in its broadest possible medical context, and must be defined ‘in light of all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well being of the patient. All these factors relate to health.’”
In effect, as long as the pregnant woman can convince her physician that the birth will be a “risk” to her physical, emotional, psychological or familial well-being, the state can grant her an abortion up until a few weeks prior to her due date!
Dr. Beckwith continues, “It is safe to say, therefore, that in the first six months of pregnancy a woman can have an abortion for no reason, but in the last three months she can have it for any reason. This is abortion on demand.”
With four simple words—“IT IS SO ORDERED”—the Supreme Court legalized the practice of abortion. While Norma McCorvey, otherwise known as “Jane Roe,” is now a staunch pro-life supporter, her lawsuit caused a decision that drastically changed multiple millions of lives.
No doubt, abortion has deeply affected today’s society. There are countless opinions on the legality and morality of ending unwanted pregnancies. If you ask 100 different people for the basis of their opinion, they will offer almost as many different reasons.
Yet, without adding one’s individual opinion, TWO simple questions slice through personal commentary and philosophies, once and for all settling this controversial issue. They answer the CRUX of the never-ending debate over legalized abortion:
WHEN does LIFE begin?—and—WHO has the RIGHT to give or take away life?
Recall Justice Blackmun’s statement in Roe v. Wade, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”
But these questions can and MUST be resolved. Doing so removes all doubt of whether abortion is simply a woman’s CHOICE—or whether it is sanitized MURDER. Answering these questions also reveals the lasting effects abortion has had on the marriage and family institutions, and exposes the media bias around the world. We will analyze all these and more, in the second part of this two-article series.
There has been much written over the last few years about mifepristone (trade name mifeprex), also know as RU 486 outside the U.S. This is often referred to as the “morning-after pill,” because of the perception that this non-surgical “pill” is actually just an after-the-fact contraceptive.
In reality, the “pill” is a series of treatments and follow-up visits to the doctor. The initial visit involves the pregnant mother taking three pills—either in the doctor’s office or at home. This is followed a few days later by another drug dispensed by the doctor. A third visit is then required approximately fourteen days later to verify that this process has terminated the pregnancy. This procedure is successful in ending early pregnancies (49 days or less from last menstrual cycle) approximately 95% of the time. The other 5% still require a surgical abortion.
When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this in September 2000, many felt it would be a much easier way to end a pregnancy, when compared to a surgical abortion. What has become clear is that this is anything but an easy way out. It requires more follow-up with the doctor, more pain over an extended period, the potential for serious side effects (scores of deaths have resulted from its use), and a significant psychological impact on the pregnant woman.
Some, willing to take the risks, have said it felt like a “more natural way to go” because they could feel changes in their body as it reacted to the powerful drugs, which block hormones and cause the woman to go into contractions. In essence, this forces a miscarriage. Women have said that they likened the pain and discomfort to a type of “penance.”
Though not as popular as anticipated, RU 486 is a way for women to avoid the stigma of a surgical abortion, and “running the gauntlet” of protesters outside clinics. No matter how medical science tries to sanitize the process of ending innocent life, numerous women have found that there is no avoiding the emotional scars inflicted by their actions.
The June 2, 2003 issue of TIME reported that the health center of the publicly funded James Madison University had prescribed the “morning-after pill” over 2,000 times. When discovered by a state legislator, a measure was proposed to the J.M.U. senate, which would end its distribution to university students. It was approved, and the health center stopped dispensing the pill.
The result?—2,714 university students signed a petition stating that the decision affected the health and safety of the student body, and that the center should continue prescribing the “pill.” The bill, however, was not overturned. (However, the president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League [NARAL]: Pro-Choice America personally invited the two women who led the campaign to attend a five-day training course in the Gloria Steinem Leadership Institute.)
In effect, no matter how people may want to simplify it, the “morning-after pill” is merely an abortion in tablet form.