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  • Izzy Matozzo

Should Women Have the Ultimate Choice to Decide Whether or Not She Should Have an Abortion?

Women are entitled to make the decision on their own to have an abortion. A woman should be able to make the choice without the input of anyone else, including the family, politicians, other women and strangers. Allowing abortions to be available for women is necessary for our country. They’re necessary because in some situations, the woman was raped or is the victim of incest, health risks of the pregnancy such as conditions that prohibit the woman from having a healthy and safe pregnancy, or the woman is still a child herself and can't biologically ensure that her child will develop safely and properly. Only the woman knows what’s best for herself and her child and is entitled to make the ultimate decision. Not placing restrictions on abortions and keeping them legal guarantees that women have a safe option, rather than taking illegal drugs or conducting their own abortions.


Many people believe that abortions are murder because it’s the process in which a fetus is terminated. According to "Pro-Life Women Do Not Want Reproductive Rights," pro-lifers believe that by limiting women’s access to abortion, and potentially illegalizing abortions “defends the defenseless.” The author, Rachel Lu, self-identifying pro-lifer, explains that the fetus is dependent on the mother and she is entitled to choose for herself, but based on America’s abortion rate, pro-lifers don’t believe that aborting the fetus is the best and most necessary option. While this may be agreed upon pro-lifers, they shouldn’t try to minimize or eliminate other women’s resources or try to control their options to have an abortion. Eliminating or restricting abortions is only more detrimental to women and their fetuses because they’ll become more desperate, and may acquire more dangerous, illegal means such as illegal drugs and/or illegal induced abortions which could result in the death of the mother.


Up until 1973, abortion was illegal in the United States, and women found other unsanitary and unhealthy means in terminating their pregnancies. In some cases, women would seek out people who worked in underground, and/or in black-market jobs to have illegal abortions; they’d take excess amounts of illegal drugs or even resorted to using a coat hanger or another foreign object to have an induced abortion. According to Geoffrey R. Stone, American law professor, noted First Amendment Scholar and the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University Of Chicago Law School, in “Here's What Life Was Like for American Women in America Before 'Roe v. Wade,.” these, procedures could be lethal, and sometimes even resulted in the mother’s death due to either the drug or because the “doctor” wasn’t a certified professional. Many women have come forward as witnesses or even victims of illegal abortions prior to Roe v. Wade. Forty-eight years ago, Dev Howerton, now 68 years-old, had an illegal abortion by an induced miscarriage. In 2018, Tessa Stuart, a writer for Rolling Stone, spoke with Howerton about her experience and wrote about it in “This Is What It Was Like to Have an Illegal Abortion before Roe v. Wade.” Howerton was just 19 when she discovered she was pregnant after having a one-night-stand. She didn’t know much about sex and was never properly educated about safe sex due to her devoutly abstinence-preaching Christian family. As an unmarried woman, Howerton didn’t have access to birth control. After she discovered her pregnancy, she was able to arrange an illegal abortion through a different guy she dated. Once it was arranged, the man she had sex with “didn’t really want to have anything to do with it [the baby],” and willingly paid for half the abortion (Stuart). After being brought to a room at a seedy one-floor motel, a man who claimed to be a doctor began the procedure. A long rubber tube was inserted into her uterus, and eventually a bloody mess of tissue was discharged from her body; she flushed the toilet and moved on with her life. Unfortunately, Howerton kept bleeding after the procedure, so she decided to go to a professional gynecologist. The gynecologist shamed her for having an abortion and she remembered, “feeling shameful... mad at him for his attitude,” (Stuart). Howerton got married a year after her abortion and Roe and Wade was finalized a few years following. Now, women wouldn’t have to experience the pain and trauma she did because she didn’t have the safe and legal resources they now did. By 26, she had her first planned pregnancy, got divorced, remarried and at 38 had her second planned child. Over the past few years, Howerton describes her anger and distrust at politicians and officials who are trying to control women, take away their right to a safe abortion, and make abortion illegal again. She became an advocate for abortions because of her first-hand knowledge and experience of having an illegal abortion and believes no one should have to resort to something as dangerous as she had.


Today, many states have been putting restrictions on abortions, and others have been advocating to make abortions illegal again. In “State Abortion Laws: Do state abortion laws protect the health of women and unborn children, or do they violate women's rights?,” the authors argue that doing so will only increase the risk of women dying during illegal abortion procedures because they no longer have access to legal, safe, and certified abortions. In North Dakota in 2014, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland overturned the ban of abortions as early as six weeks, claiming “no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” (Balmert, Jessie, et al.). This means that if the fetus is inside the mother's womb, and has not been delivered, the mother has the right to opt for an abortion if she truly wants one. In addition, other states have implemented restrictions on abortions which only puts the mother and fetus at a higher risk; these restrictions include and are not limited to mandatory waiting periods, state mandated counseling, and parental involvement requirements (Balmert, et al.). Having these restrictions and the waiting time could make women more desperate for another solution; an illegal solution much like the solution women sought before Roe v. Wade. In 2018, Mississippi passed a ban on abortions after 15-18 weeks. Debie Dawkins, Mississippi state senator expressed that the ban is “is about removing the rights of women without means, whether anybody here is willing to admit it or not” and is bias against low-income, poor and/or rural women (Balmert, et al.). However, she doesn’t say whether she is for or against the ban, just that it’s unfairly bias because those specific women do not have the money or resources to obtain abortions after the 15-18-week period. This ban limits the options those women have in order to have a safe abortion, thus resulting in their reliance on illegal drugs or illegal abortions. Fortunately, the ban was temporarily blocked because, as Judge Carlton W. Reeves of Federal District Court claims (Blinder, Alan), it disregards and violates the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution as well as preexisting precedents on abortion rights by the U.S Supreme Court. A woman’s race, ethnicity, and income all affect her access to resources including healthcare, employment, legal conditions, social conditions, and abortion (Jacobson, Jodi). Not only does abortion biases affect American women, but it also affects women across the globe, especially regions where Medicaid funding is virtually nonexistent, such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These regions typically have low-income women and have little-to-no access to safe abortions. In addition, women in these areas are typically victims of human rights issues and are most susceptible to unsafe abortion fatalities, which lead to the deaths of approximately 47,000 women (Singer, Peter). Like riding a carousel, the debate of abortions keeps going around in the same circle, and rather than making abortions equally available for all women, the U.S is taking steps backwards into a time when abortions were illegal, and women depended on other illegal means instead.


Not only have states tried to restrict and ban abortions, but they have also instituted specific restrictions regarding how the fetus was conceived, I.e. rape, incest, etc. However, this concept is not fair nor is it ideal. Women can have consensual sex, but not want to get pregnant, and in many instances', protection, such as birth control, doesn’t always guarantee the woman won’t get pregnant. In other instances, a woman could be raped, or a teenager can be involved in a sickening incestualized relationship/rape. According to "Abortion Bans with Exceptions for Rape Are Hypocritical,” by Irin Carmon, 9,100 abortions each year are attributed to pregnancies that occur due to nonconsensual sex. In the minds of some people, there is difficulty determining the difference between “legitimate rape” and “consensual rape”; in other words, “[rape] that happens to good girls and not lying sluts who enjoy putting their lives before the criminal justice system” (Carmon). This belief alone is disgraceful and in no way should impact whether a rape victim deserves an abortion. No matter how the fetus was conceived, it is the mother’s choice whether she wants an abortion. In an interview with KTVI-TV, politician and former U.S. Representative of Missouri's 2nd congressional district, Todd Akins made absurd accusations about “legitimate rape” and the female body; he states, “[it’s] really rare… the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” (Moore, Lori). People were outraged at his inaccurate assumptions about the reproductive system of women. Other politicians were quick to express their disagreement with Akins, including former Senate chairperson, Senator Claire McCaskill, Mitt Romney, Former President, Barack Obama, and Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts. Akins also lost the support of those who were advocating for him, such as the “super PAC” affiliated with Karl Rove (Moore). In addition, there is no possible way for a woman’s reproductive organ to know whether sperm is good and welcomed, or bad and unwanted. Therefore, it's no one's right, especially a politician, to tell the woman that how she conceived was consensual or not; she is the only one who should be able to determine that. However, those who did have consensual sex shouldn’t be denied the right to have an abortion if they wanted one. Only the woman knows what is best for herself and her body, and how she conceived shouldn’t be a determining factor in her access to an abortion. (Carmon), explains that people believe they have a say whether a woman should have an abortion and that belief is disgraceful and unfair, “either you believe a woman has the right to decide not to be pregnant anymore, or you think you should get a say in her decision.” She goes on to defend women’s abortion rights by saying that women need to be respected for their choices regarding their bodies. In fact, a common reason some women opt for abortions is because of health implications of herself or the fetus. Sometimes the safest option is having the abortion rather than risking the fetus’s current condition.


The only solution to reducing the rate of abortions without eliminating or restricting women’s opportunities to them is sex education. Many men and women, just like Dev Howerton, lack the resources to get information on safe sex. It is important to society and even more important that women have the choice of having an abortion. Having the access to abortion allows women to choose for themselves. In addition, there shouldn’t be bans or restrictions so only rape or incest victims can get abortions. Not placing restrictions on abortions and keeping them legal guarantees that women have a safe option, rather than taking illegal drugs or conducting their own abortions. It is the mother’s ultimate decision on whether she should get an abortion, and no stranger or politician should be able to take away that decision.



Works Cited

Balmert, Jessie, et al. "State Abortion Laws: Do state abortion laws protect the health of women and unborn children, or do they violate women's rights? " Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 3 Oct. 2014, http://icof.infobaselearning.com/recordurl.aspx?ID=14678. Accessed 14 N o v . 2 0 1 8 .


Blinder, Alan. “Judge Blocks Mississippi Law Banning Abortions after 15 Weeks.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Nov. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/11/20/us/mississippi-abortion-law.html.


Carmon, Irin. "Abortion Bans with Exceptions for Rape Are Hypocritical." Are Abortion Rights Threatened?, edited by Tamara L. Roleff, Greenhaven Press, 2013. At Issue. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010869207/OVIC?u=nysl_li_dahs&sid=OVIC&xid=2d0811c9. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018. Originally published as "Rape Exceptions Aren't Legitimate," Salon, 20 Aug. 2012.


Eligon, John, and Michael Schwirtz. “Senate Candidate Provokes Ire With 'Legitimate Rape' Comment.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Aug. 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/us/politics/todd-akin-provokes-ire-with-legitimate-rape-comment.html


Jacobson, Jodi. "Safe and Legal Abortion Benefits Public Health." Abortion, edited by Tamara Thompson, Greenhaven Press, 2015. Current Controversies. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010946220/OVIC?u=nysl_li_dahs&sid=OVIC&xid=041e9940. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018. Originally published as "Is Abortion a Public Health Issue? Sotomayor Hearings, Day Two," RH Reality Check, 15 July 2009.


Lu, Rachel. "Pro-Life Women Do Not Want Reproductive Rights." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/IVSPZO594682750/OVIC?u=nysl_li_dahs&sid=OVIC&xid=9252a3bc. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018. Originally published as "Some women don’t want reproductive rights. I’m one of them," The Week, 14 Feb. 2018.


Moore, Lori. “Rep. Todd Akin: 'Legitimate Rape' Statement and Reaction.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Aug. 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/us/politics/rep-todd-akin-legitimate-rape-statement-and-reaction.html.


Singer, Peter. "The Choice of a Pregnant Woman Always Outweighs the Life of a Fetus." Ethics, edited by Noël Merino, Greenhaven Press, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010431266/OVIC?u=nysl_li_dahs&sid=OVIC&xid=7aca1f46. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018. Originally published as "The Real Abortion Tragedy," www.project-syndicate.org, 13 Aug. 2012


Stone, Geoffrey R. “Here's What Life Was Like for American Women in America Before 'Roe v. Wade'.” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 10 July 2018, www.thedailybeast.com/heres-what-life-was-like-for-american-women-in-america-before-roe-v-wade.


Stuart, Tessa. “This Is What It Was Like to Have an Illegal Abortion Before Roe v. Wade.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 10 July 2018, www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/abortion-before-roe-v-wade-697382/.

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