Abortion A MATTER OF CHOICE Essay, Research Paper



The topic of abortion is one of the most controversial of our times.

It has caused countless deaths and several violent confrontations between

the two separate parties of opinion. The fight between pro-life and

pro-choice supporters has been long and brutal. This is because, despite

what several people may believe, abortion is neither right nor wrong. It

is a matter of personal opinion. In this way, each side can say with

certainty that the other is wrong.

Therefore the question remains; should abortion be legal? Though

some may disagree on this point, the fact is that legalized abortion is

the only option that will protect the lives of American citizens. One

only needs to look into American history to see the results of prohibiting

abortions to women. The violence which occurs today because the of

pro-choice/pro-life conflicts is minimal in comparison to the thousands of

hopeless women who turned to the illegal abortions –either self-inflicted

or preformed by the backroom “professionals”– which resulted in

infection, massive blood loss, and death. It is better now that they have

a place to go where abortions can be performed cleanly and with minimal

risk. Legalization of abortion is the only choice no matter what side one

takes in the debate. Women will try to do what they think is necessary to

live as they wish, no matter what the risk. In order to live as she

chooses a woman may give up her freedom, her morals, her beliefs, her

family, or even her life.

Abortion has been around for thousands of years in every inhabited

corner of the globe. It has always been accepted as a means to prevent

the suffering of both woman and potential child. It has been practiced

widely in every society for many reasons including famine, war, poverty,

overpopulation, or simply because a woman felt she was not ready for a

child (Whitney 40). No one ever questioned a woman’s right to this

procedure. After all, who but God had the right to judge what a woman did

with her own body? This thought process lasted till the 1800’s. During

this era of change people began to turn their attention in a new

direction, the fetus. They began to protest abortion as cruel, inhumane,

and murderous. Filled with a new sense of purpose and the glory of a

fresh, righteous cause to uphold this new morality swept the countryside

enveloping everyone in its wake. Abortionists who were once revered and

depended upon were now scorned and threatened. Though abortions still

happened with regularity, they were kept silent and seen as a matter of

shame. “Over the next hundred years, public sentiment for the fetus

continued to rise until the inevitable happened in America during the

early 40’s; Abortion was made illegal.” (Cohen 17). There was much back

patting and congratulations among the pro-life supporters. And why not?

They had succeeded in saving the lives of the hundreds of innocent babies

who would have been senselessly slaughtered for the convenience of

selfish, ignorant, and irresponsible women. Because of this new law,

women would settle down and raise families or give these beautiful

children over into the hands of the hundreds of loving couples who were

just waiting for a baby to call their own. It seemed that the perfect law

had just been passed. Or had it?

It has been proven time and time again throughout history that the

human spirit will not allow prohibition. Something inside us feels the

need to strike out at that which restrains us and holds us from the life

we want. Just as prohibition of alcohol made a black market for liquor (a

virtual underworld was immediately erected to fulfill the new need for

abortions). Government, through regulation, had once again created a need

that would be fulfilled by the lawless. Most doctors, fearing

incarceration, refused to treat the women who so desperately wanted

abortions. Women, seeing no other solution to their problems, were often

desperate enough to turn to these “Back Room” clinics. These clinics were

located in poverty-ridden sections of the city and their conditions were

deplorable. The places themselves were layered in filth and disease.

Inexperienced butchers using dirty and crude equipment treated the girls.

As if these backroom clinics were not bad enough, there was an even more

appalling decision a woman might face. If a she were unable to pay the

exorbitant price for the illegal surgery, she would often perform the act

herself. “Knitting needles, coat hangers, antiseptic douches and poisons

were used most often” (Welton 123). “Emergency rooms primarily in the

more urban areas were reporting higher numbers of intractable bleeding to

the point of death. Pelvic inflammatory disease and other forms of life

threatening sepsis were on the rise. Self induced poisoning was another

complication.” (Boyer, 98). Partial abortions were also commonplace.

One thing most people do not think about is the fetus. If, as some say,

life and the sense of self begins at conception, how many atrocities have

been caused by the incompetence shown during this time? Some may wonder

what drove these women to such extremes just to have and abortion. Why

didn’t they just have the baby?

The answer lies in our most basic human instinct: to survive as best

we can. These women want to live their lives as they choose, not as it is

chosen that they live it. Being forced to bear a child could mean having

to support and give up dreams of a better life. Also they might be

pressured into a “shotgun wedding” to save their reputations. In the book

Back Rooms, by Ellen Messer, a woman named Liz, explains her reasons for

receiving an abortion. “People have said to me, ?How can you be in favor

of abortion? If you’d had one, you wouldn’t have these beautiful

children.’ But I would have had them. It just would have been later when

I was better prepared to care for them. And maybe they would have a nicer

man for their father. I would have been more prepared and all our lives

would have been so much easier. Even though I love my children dearly, I

regret that I did not have an abortion when I was given the option. I

should never have let others influence my decision.” (29)

For other women, being forced to bear a child would mean placing it

into the system. It is commonly thought that every orphan is just

temporary. That there is a family out there just waiting for it with open

arms. The truth of the matter is that many families did not want children

unless they were white and healthy. Most of the others were either

shifted through the system until they were 18 or sent to live with foster

families who were sometimes uncaring or even abusive (187). Women were

aware of these realities and many refused to bring a child into the world

and have it live in such a manner. Also was the fact that many women

wanted to hide their present state from families or employers. They knew

that they could be disowned or fired for their “shameful state”. They

were desperate to keep their secrets, so desperate in fact that they were

willing to risk their lives. This was a risk they should not have had to

take. In the book Abortion: A Positive Decision, Mrs. Lunneborg states

that “The desire not to have a child is by far the best reason for an

abortion. There are enough unwanted children in the world already.” (18)

And so these women risked, and often lost, their lives in these illegal

abortions. If they were caught afterwards, they were charged with murder.

But is abortion murder?

Abortion is defined as “The induced termination of a pregnancy before

it is capable of survival as an individual” (Frohock 186). Considering

this definition, at the time of most abortions, the fetus is not an

individual. The definition is far too simplistic. One needs to take into

consideration the developmental stages of the fetal life span.

Most abortions occur soon after the confirmation of pregnancy,

(usually prior to 12 weeks gestation.) The first twelve weeks is known as

the first trimester or the embryonic phase. At this time the fetus is

about 3-3.5 inches long having a weight of 15-20 grams. The neurological

system is primitive at best, demonstrating only vague swimming motions

(Rosenblatt 37). The second trimester heralds a time of rapid growth. At

about 20 months the mother usually first perceives fetal movement. At 24

weeks the brain resembles that of a mature person. The fetal weight is

about 650 grams. (39) The third trimester is from 24 weeks to birth

(approximately 40 weeks.). At 26 weeks the nervous system begins to

regulate some body processes. (40)

“When making the conscious decision to terminate the life of the

fetus one must take into account the development of the fetus. One

approach might be that of assessing the neurological development. It is

only logical that the more complex the neurological system the more likely

you are to induce pain or end a sense of self if in fact that sense exists

prior to birth” (Frohock 28). In many ways it is similar to the decision

to pull the plug on a comatose person. Here, one must decide whether or

not to withdraw that which the person needs to survive. Yet the decision

to terminate is not considered murder but an act of the deepest humanity,

an opinion that contrasts greatly to the shame and animosity faced by an

aborted mother during the time of the mass anti-abortion sentiment. How

long would women suffer this mental anguish? (Haddok 132)

Based on this information, presented in the Roe vs. Wade case, the

Supreme Court ruled that a woman was allowed by the Constitution’s 14th

Amendment to receive an abortion before the first trimester. It now

appeared that the pro-choice advocates had won the political tug-o-war at

last. However, violence continues between the two groups as the animosity

and resentment has grown to new heights. Now, more than ever, research

articles are coming out about a woman’s right to privacy vs. a fetus’s

right to life. The law may have been passed, but the war goes on.

It is difficult to gain valid and subjective information on the

topic of abortion. This is because much of the research has been colored

by the personal beliefs of the group or individual that collects it. There

may not be an intentional or even conscious effort to skew the facts in

this manner but it happens none the less. A person writing a paper on the

tragic effect of abortion on society’s moral values may tend to twist the

real statistics slightly to better serve his or her purpose. Another

doing a paper on the same topic may use the previous one as a reference

point and exaggerate the information even more. One can see how, very

soon, the “facts” are no longer recognizable as truth. Another

metamorphosis may occur in the way the original research is collected. In

order to prove a certain point, a researcher may choose to collect

information in a very select genres of people instead of wide and random

test groups taken from many diverse areas. A pro-choice researcher may

poll a feminist rally while a pro-lifer may choose a Catholic

organization. Thus the information becomes so varied and conflicting that

the objective data gets lost in the muddle. It is a case of ignoring the

whole truth and focusing on the part of it which best suits a specific

person and their ideals. Unfortunately, because of this lapse, many

Americans are confused as to the reality of the situation and tend to

avoid it as we have a tendency to do with subjects we do not understand.

Others simply grab the information they like best and sling it at their

opponents in the matter. The other side looks at this information and

sees that it contrasts with their own. Thus they dismiss it as lies. It is

a vicious circle and it has caused many deaths and injuries on both sides

from riots, bombings, and fights. Carrie, a San Diego nurse in an abortion

clinic, tells us what it was like when the building was bombed by pro-life


“At the initial explosion, I was knocked to the floor. A wave of

heat burst through the room followed closely by the fire. Burning papers

fell from my desk and caught on the leg of my scrubs. The pain was

unbelievable! I now know what hell must be like. I began to crawl to the

door when I heard a cry behind me. One of the young patients was running

down the hall with her gown on fire. I grabbed her and made her roll. Then

we got out… I suffered second and third degree burns on my legs and arms

and my lungs were filled with smoke and had to be flushed out. Still, I am

lucky to even be alive. Two of my best friends died in that bombing and

several of my co-workers. I can not help but think now, that it is a

bitter irony that the people who claim they are trying to save lives are

killing people to accomplish it.” (Interview with Carrie)

According to Jannet Lennelborg, “We must find an uncommon ground on

this issue.”(18). It is clear that these two groups will never join in

their ways of thinking. There is too much passion and conflict involved in

the debate. What we must do is find a compromise and “agree to disagree”

(18). If, just for a moment, we could just stop the finger pointing and

name calling, and just listen to what our so-called opponents have to say,

we may find that both sides have their points. Only then can we stop the

hatred and violence that has so ripped America in the last few decades.

In conclusion, my research leads me to believe that, while abortion

must be legal, a woman should also be provided with all the correct

information she needs to make a responsible and rational decision. I

believe that this is the only solution we can have which will conclude

this “private war” once and for all. The misinformation and violence

surrounding this issue has turned human against human for far too long.

Most of the negativity regarding the issue of abortion comes from the

religious rights who believe that the right to the life of the fetus

supercedes all else. Unfortunately there will always be a disparity

between logic and religion.


~Boyer, Mark. Abortion: The Straight Facts. Boston: Houghton Mifflan,


~Cohen, Marshall. The Rights and Wrongs of Abortion. New Jersey:

Princeton Press, 1978.

~Frohock, Fred. Abortion. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1989.

~Haddock, Martha. Abortion Today. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

~Interview- Interview with a former San Diego abortion clinic nurse who

was present when it was bombed in 1985.

~Lunneborg, Patricia. Abortion: A Positive Decision. New York: Bergin

& Garvey, 1992.

~Messer, Ellen. Back Rooms. New York: St. Martin’s press, 1989.

~Rosenblatt, Rodger. Life Itself. New York: Random House, 1993.

~Welton, K.B. Abortion…Is Not A Sin. California: Pandit Press, 1989.


~Whitney, Catherine. Whose Life? New York: William Morrow and Co.,


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