Why Abortion should be Illegal

This essay will present arguments for why abortion should be illegal. It will discuss ethical, moral, and legal considerations, including the sanctity of life, potential psychological impacts on women, and alternative options to abortion. The piece will also explore the viewpoints of various religious, social, and medical groups on the abortion debate, presenting a comprehensive view of the anti-abortion stance. On PapersOwl, there’s also a selection of free essay templates associated with Abortion.

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Abortion is an issue in today’s society, people that agree or disagree about taking an innocent life away. Even though women now have the legal right to decide what to do with their bodies and to decide whether to end a baby’s life, there are options other than abortions. Each and every life is valuable, and babies should be able to experience a future ahead of them. Abortions should be illegal. Making abortion illegal could allow children to live a good life and to live with someone who would care and love them for the rest of their lives.

Adoption is an option for mothers, even though they would have to go through the pregnancy; the unwanted child is given to someone who will love them unconditionally. Some mothers decide to put their kids up for adoption because of school, jobs or are not financially stable, and many more reasons. Adoption allows children to be able to fulfill their dreams when they grow up. Abortion should be illegal because it is considered murder. Unborn babies are considered human beings by the United States government.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act states an embryo or fetus in the united states is considered a legal victim which means if you go through abortion it is considered murder. Those that do go through abortion should be punished for killing or maybe attempting to kill an unborn baby. Another reason why I’m against abortion is because of my religion, the sixth commandment of the bible’s old testaments says, “ Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), which is saying not destroy/kill an innocent unborn child’s life. Counterclaim There are also those who argue that abortion should be legal. They believe that abortion is right and that embryos or fetuses are not considered human beings. According to Fetal Rights, it states that fetuses are human beings and that they have the right to live but also the right of the fetus to be healthy and receive medical treatment. ( not, how to make a citation out of this).

The Unborn Victims of Violence have been passed by at least 38 states which means that fetuses or embryos are human beings and have the right to live. Abortion should be illegal because it is wrong and every child should experience life and happiness. Unborn babies have the right to live and the mother should not have the option to abort a child that has yet to be born. If the abortion continues then many families who can’t conceive will not have the opportunity to be able to adopt a child who they will love forever and the number of children in the world will decrease in numbers. 

Works cited

  • “Ethics – Abortion: Arguments against Abortion.” BBC, BBC, www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/mother/against_1.shtml.
  • “Fetal Rights.” Fetal Rights – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/fetal-rights.
  • “Pros & Cons – ProCon.org.” Abortion, abortion.procon.org/.
  • “Fetal Rights.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Feb. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_rights.


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There Are More Than Two Sides to the Abortion Debate

Readers share their perspectives.

Police use metal barricades to keep protesters, demonstrators and activists apart in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

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Earlier this week I curated some nuanced commentary on abortion and solicited your thoughts on the same subject. What follows includes perspectives from several different sides of the debate. I hope each one informs your thinking, even if only about how some other people think.

We begin with a personal reflection.

Cheryl was 16 when New York State passed a statute legalizing abortion and 19 when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. At the time she was opposed to the change, because “it just felt wrong.” Less than a year later, her mother got pregnant and announced she was getting an abortion.

She recalled:

My parents were still married to each other, and we were financially stable. Nonetheless, my mother’s announcement immediately made me a supporter of the legal right to abortion. My mother never loved me. My father was physically abusive and both parents were emotionally and psychologically abusive on a virtually daily basis. My home life was hellish. When my mother told me about the intended abortion, my first thought was, “Thank God that they won’t be given another life to destroy.” I don’t deny that there are reasons to oppose abortion. As a feminist and a lawyer, I can now articulate several reasons for my support of legal abortion: a woman’s right to privacy and autonomy and to the equal protection of the laws are near the top of the list. (I agree with Ruth Bader Ginsburg that equal protection is a better legal rationale for the right to abortion than privacy.) But my emotional reaction from 1971 still resonates with me. Most people who comment on the issue, on both sides, do not understand what it is to go through childhood unloved. It is horrific beyond my powers of description. To me, there is nothing more immoral than forcing that kind of life on any child. Anti-abortion activists often like to ask supporters of abortion rights: “Well, what if your mother had decided to abort you?” All I can say is that I have spent a great portion of my life wishing that my mother had done exactly that.

Steven had related thoughts:

I have respect for the idea that there should be some restrictions on abortion. But the most fundamental, and I believe flawed, unstated assumptions of the anti-choice are that A) they are acting on behalf of the fetus, and more importantly B) they know what the fetus would want. I would rather not have been born than to have been born to a mother who did not want me. All children should be wanted children—for the sake of all concerned. You can say that different fetuses would “want” different things—though it’s hard to say a clump of cells “wants” anything. How would we know? The argument lands, as it does generally, with the question of who should be making that decision. Who best speaks in the fetus’s interests? Who is better positioned morally or practically than the expectant mother?

Geoff self-describes as “pro-life” and guilty of some hypocrisy. He writes:

I’m pro-life because I have a hard time with the dehumanization that comes with the extremes of abortion on demand … Should it be okay to get an abortion when you find your child has Down syndrome? What of another abnormality? Or just that you didn’t want a girl? Any argument that these are legitimate reasons is disturbing. But so many of the pro-life just don’t seem to care about life unless it’s a fetus they can force a woman to carry. The hypocrisy is real. While you can argue that someone on death row made a choice that got them to that point, whereas a fetus had no say, I find it still hard to swallow that you can claim one life must be protected and the other must be taken. Life should be life. At least in the Catholic Church this is more consistent. I myself am guilty of a degree of hypocrisy. My wife and I used IVF to have our twins. There were other embryos created and not inserted. They were eventually destroyed. So did I support killing a life? Maybe? I didn’t want to donate them for someone else to give birth to—it felt wrong to think my twins may have brothers or sisters in the world they would never know about. Yet does that mean I was more willing to kill my embryos than to have them adopted? Sure seems like it. So I made a morality deal with myself and moved the goal post—the embryos were not yet in a womb and were so early in development that they couldn’t be considered fully human life. They were still potential life.

Colleen, a mother of three, describes why she ended her fourth pregnancy:

I was young when I first engaged this debate. Raised Catholic, anti-choice, and so committed to my position that I broke my parents’ hearts by giving birth during my junior year of college. At that time, my sense of my own rights in the matter was almost irrelevant. I was enslaved by my body. One husband and two babies later I heard a remarkable Jesuit theologian (I wish I could remember his name) speak on the matter and he, a Catholic priest, framed it most directly. We prioritize one life over another all the time. Most obviously, we justify the taking of life in war with all kinds of arguments that often turn out to be untrue. We also do so as we decide who merits access to health care or income support or other life-sustaining things. So the question of abortion then boils down to: Who gets to decide? Who gets to decide that the life of a human in gestation is actually more valuable than the life of the woman who serves as host—or vice versa? Who gets to decide when the load a woman is being asked to carry is more than she can bear? The state? Looking back over history, he argued that he certainly had more faith in the person most involved to make the best decision than in any formalized structure—church or state—created by men. Every form of birth control available failed me at one point or another, so when yet a 4th pregnancy threatened to interrupt the education I had finally been able to resume, I said “Enough.” And as I cried and struggled to come to that position, the question that haunted me was “Doesn’t MY life count?” And I decided it did.

Florence articulates what it would take to make her anti-abortion:

What people seem to miss is that depriving a woman of bodily autonomy is slavery. A person who does not control his/her own body is—what? A slave. At its simplest, this is the issue. I will be anti-abortion when men and women are equal in all facets of life—wages, chores, child-rearing responsibilities, registering for the draft, to name a few obvious ones. When there is birth control that is effective, where women do not bear most of the responsibility. We need to raise boys who are respectful to girls, who do not think that they are entitled to coerce a girl into having sex that she doesn’t really want or is unprepared for. We need for sex education to be provided in schools so young couples know what they are getting into when they have sex. Especially the repercussions of pregnancy. We need to raise girls who are confident and secure, who don’t believe they need a male to “complete” them. Who have enough agency to say “no” and to know why. We have to make abortion unnecessary … We have so far to go. If abortion is ruled illegal, or otherwise curtailed, we will never know if the solutions to women’s second-class status will work. We will be set back to the 50s or worse. I don’t want to go back. Women have fought from the beginning of time to own their bodies and their lives. To deprive us of all of the amazing strides forward will affect all future generations.

Similarly, Ben agrees that in our current environment, abortion is often the only way women can retain equal citizenship and participation in society, but also agrees with pro-lifers who critique the status quo, writing that he doesn’t want a world where a daughter’s equality depends on her right “to perform an act of violence on their potential descendents.” Here’s how he resolves his conflictedness:

Conservatives arguing for a more family-centered society, in which abortion is unnecessary to protect the equal rights of women, are like liberals who argue for defunding the police and relying on addiction, counselling, and other services, in that they argue for removing what offends them without clear, credible plans to replace the functions it serves. I sincerely hope we can move towards a world in which armed police are less necessary. But before we can remove the guardrails of the police, we need to make the rest of the changes so that the world works without them. Once liberal cities that have shown interest in defunding the police can prove that they can fund alternatives, and that those alternatives work, then I will throw my support behind defunding the police. Similarly, once conservative politicians demonstrate a credible commitment to an alternative vision of society in which women are supported, families are not taken for granted, and careers and short-term productivity are not the golden calves they are today, I will be willing to support further restrictions on abortion. But until I trust that they are interested in solving the underlying problem (not merely eliminating an aspect they find offensive), I will defend abortion, as terrible as it is, within reasonable legal limits.

Two readers objected to foregrounding gender equality. One emailed anonymously, writing in part:

A fetus either is or isn’t a person. The reason I’m pro-life is that I’ve never heard a coherent defense of the proposition that a fetus is not a person, and I’m not sure one can be made. I’ve read plenty of progressive commentary, and when it bothers to make an argument for abortion “rights” at all, it talks about “the importance of women’s healthcare” or something as if that were the issue.

Christopher expanded on that last argument:

Of the many competing ethical concerns, the one that trumps them all is the status of the fetus. It is the only organism that gets destroyed by the procedure. Whether that is permissible trumps all other concerns. Otherwise important ethical claims related to a woman’s bodily autonomy, less relevant social disparities caused by the differences in men’s and women’s reproductive functions, and even less relevant differences in partisan commitments to welfare that would make abortion less appealing––all of that is secondary. The relentless strategy by the pro-choice to sidestep this question and pretend that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy is the primary ethical concern is, to me, somewhere between shibboleth and mass delusion. We should spend more time, even if it’s unproductive, arguing about the status of the fetus, because that is the question, and we should spend less time indulging this assault-on-women’s-rights narrative pushed by the Left.

Jean is critical of the pro-life movement:

Long-acting reversible contraceptives, robust, science-based sex education for teens, and a stronger social safety net would all go a remarkable way toward decreasing the number of abortions sought. Yet all the emphasis seems to be on simply making abortion illegal. For many, overturning Roe v. Wade is not about reducing abortions so much as signalling that abortion is wrong. If so-called pro-lifers were as concerned about abortion as they seem to be, they would spend more time, effort, and money supporting efforts to reduce the need for abortion—not simply trying to make it illegal without addressing why women seek it out. Imagine, in other words, a world where women hardly needed to rely on abortion for their well-being and ability to thrive. Imagine a world where almost any woman who got pregnant had planned to do so, or was capable of caring for that child. What is the anti-abortion movement doing to promote that world?

Destiny has one relevant answer. She writes:

I run a pro-life feminist group and we often say that our goal is not to make abortion illegal, but rather unnecessary and unthinkable by supporting women and humanizing the unborn child so well.

Robert suggests a different focus:

Any well-reasoned discussion of abortion policy must include contraception because abortion is about unwanted children brought on by poorly reasoned choices about sex. Such choices will always be more emotional than rational. Leaving out contraception makes it an unrealistic, airy discussion of moral philosophy. In particular, we need to consider government-funded programs of long-acting reversible contraception which enable reasoned choices outside the emotional circumstances of having sexual intercourse.

Last but not least, if anyone can unite the pro-life and pro-choice movements, it’s Errol, whose thoughts would rankle majorities in both factions as well as a majority of Americans. He writes:

The decision to keep the child should not be left up solely to the woman. Yes, it is her body that the child grows in, however once that child is birthed it is now two people’s responsibility. That’s entirely unfair to the father when he desired the abortion but the mother couldn’t find it in her heart to do it. If a woman wants to abort and the man wants to keep it, she should abort. However I feel the same way if a man wants to abort. The next 18+ years of your life are on the line. I view that as a trade-off that warrants the male’s input. Abortion is a conversation that needs to be had by two people, because those two will be directly tied to the result for a majority of their life. No one else should be involved with that decision, but it should not be solely hers, either.

Thanks to all who contributed answers to this week’s question, whether or not they were among the ones published. What subjects would you like to see fellow readers address in future installments? Email [email protected].

By submitting an email, you’ve agreed to let us use it—in part or in full—in this newsletter and on our website. Published feedback includes a writer’s full name, city, and state, unless otherwise requested in your initial note.

Princeton Legal Journal

Princeton Legal Journal

abortion should be made illegal essay

The First Amendment and the Abortion Rights Debate

Sofia Cipriano

Following Dobbs v. Jackson ’s (2022) reversal of Roe v. Wade (1973) — and the subsequent revocation of federal abortion protection — activists and scholars have begun to reconsider how to best ground abortion rights in the Constitution. In the past year, numerous Jewish rights groups have attempted to overturn state abortion bans by arguing that abortion rights are protected by various state constitutions’ free exercise clauses — and, by extension, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While reframing the abortion rights debate as a question of religious freedom is undoubtedly strategic, the Free Exercise Clause is not the only place to locate abortion rights: the Establishment Clause also warrants further investigation. 

Roe anchored abortion rights in the right to privacy — an unenumerated right with a long history of legal recognition. In various cases spanning the past two centuries, t he Supreme Court located the right to privacy in the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments . Roe classified abortion as a fundamental right protected by strict scrutiny, meaning that states could only regulate abortion in the face of a “compelling government interest” and must narrowly tailor legislation to that end. As such, Roe ’s trimester framework prevented states from placing burdens on abortion access in the first few months of pregnancy. After the fetus crosses the viability line — the point at which the fetus can survive outside the womb  — states could pass laws regulating abortion, as the Court found that   “the potentiality of human life”  constitutes a “compelling” interest. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992) later replaced strict scrutiny with the weaker “undue burden” standard, giving states greater leeway to restrict abortion access. Dobbs v. Jackson overturned both Roe and Casey , leaving abortion regulations up to individual states. 

While Roe constituted an essential step forward in terms of abortion rights, weaknesses in its argumentation made it more susceptible to attacks by skeptics of substantive due process. Roe argues that the unenumerated right to abortion is implied by the unenumerated right to privacy — a chain of logic which twice removes abortion rights from the Constitution’s language. Moreover, Roe’s trimester framework was unclear and flawed from the beginning, lacking substantial scientific rationale. As medicine becomes more and more advanced, the arbitrariness of the viability line has grown increasingly apparent.  

As abortion rights supporters have looked for alternative constitutional justifications for abortion rights, the First Amendment has become increasingly more visible. Certain religious groups — particularly Jewish groups — have argued that they have a right to abortion care. In Generation to Generation Inc v. Florida , a religious rights group argued that Florida’s abortion ban (HB 5) constituted a violation of the Florida State Constitution: “In Jewish law, abortion is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman, or for many other reasons not permitted under the Act. As such, the Act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and thus violates their privacy rights and religious freedom.” Similar cases have arisen in Indiana and Texas. Absent constitutional protection of abortion rights, the Christian religious majorities in many states may unjustly impose their moral and ethical code on other groups, implying an unconstitutional religious hierarchy. 

Cases like Generation to Generation Inc v. Florida may also trigger heightened scrutiny status in higher courts; The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993) places strict scrutiny on cases which “burden any aspect of religious observance or practice.”

But framing the issue as one of Free Exercise does not interact with major objections to abortion rights. Anti-abortion advocates contend that abortion is tantamount to murder. An anti-abortion advocate may argue that just as religious rituals involving human sacrifice are illegal, so abortion ought to be illegal. Anti-abortion advocates may be able to argue that abortion bans hold up against strict scrutiny since “preserving potential life” constitutes a “compelling interest.”

The question of when life begins—which is fundamentally a moral and religious question—is both essential to the abortion debate and often ignored by left-leaning activists. For select Christian advocacy groups (as well as other anti-abortion groups) who believe that life begins at conception, abortion bans are a deeply moral issue. Abortion bans which operate under the logic that abortion is murder essentially legislate a definition of when life begins, which is problematic from a First Amendment perspective; the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prevents the government from intervening in religious debates. While numerous legal thinkers have associated the abortion debate with the First Amendment, this argument has not been fully litigated. As an amicus brief filed in Dobbs by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Center for Inquiry, and American Atheists  points out, anti-abortion rhetoric is explicitly religious: “There is hardly a secular veil to the religious intent and positions of individuals, churches, and state actors in their attempts to limit access to abortion.” Justice Stevens located a similar issue with anti-abortion rhetoric in his concurring opinion in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989) , stating: “I am persuaded that the absence of any secular purpose for the legislative declarations that life begins at conception and that conception occurs at fertilization makes the relevant portion of the preamble invalid under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution.” Judges who justify their judicial decisions on abortion using similar rhetoric blur the line between church and state. 

Framing the abortion debate around religious freedom would thus address the two main categories of arguments made by anti-abortion activists: arguments centered around issues with substantive due process and moral objections to abortion. 

Conservatives may maintain, however, that legalizing abortion on the federal level is an Establishment Clause violation to begin with, since the government would essentially be imposing a federal position on abortion. Many anti-abortion advocates favor leaving abortion rights up to individual states. However, in the absence of recognized federal, constitutional protection of abortion rights, states will ban abortion. Protecting religious freedom of the individual is of the utmost importance  — the United States government must actively intervene in order to uphold the line between church and state. Protecting abortion rights would allow everyone in the United States to act in accordance with their own moral and religious perspectives on abortion. 

Reframing the abortion rights debate as a question of religious freedom is the most viable path forward. Anchoring abortion rights in the Establishment Clause would ensure Americans have the right to maintain their own personal and religious beliefs regarding the question of when life begins. In the short term, however, litigants could take advantage of Establishment Clauses in state constitutions. Yet, given the swing of the Court towards expanding religious freedom protections at the time of writing, Free Exercise arguments may prove better at securing citizens a right to an abortion. 

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Police walk around abortion protestors holding up placards outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast. In July, the UN condemned Northern Ireland’s near-total ban.

A scientist weighs up the five main anti-abortion arguments

David Robert Grimes

In the last week alone, abortion has caused controversy in the US , the UK and in Chile . Medical science is often invoked on both sides of the debate. So what is the evidence on some of the main claims around abortion?

There are few topics in modern discourse quite as divisive, as fraught with misunderstanding and as rooted in deeply-held conviction as abortion.

Those on the pro-choice side of the spectrum argue that it is a woman’s right to choose whether she carries a pregnancy to term or not. On the other side, anti-abortion activists insist that from the moment of conception a foetus has an inalienable right to existence. In recent years, polarisation has increased and the topic has become exceptionally politically partisan, with the personal and political aspects increasingly difficult to separate.

Amid all the passionate argument, it is easy for misunderstandings and fictions to fill the void between opposing ideologies. Yet if we are to have a reasoned discussion about abortion rights, we have to jettison the persistent falsehoods that cloud the topic. If we are to choose reason over rhetoric, it is worth addressing some of the more pernicious myths that emerge each time the abortion question is raised.

Abortion leads to depression and suicide

Of all the myths surrounding abortion, I feel that the assertion that it leads to depression and suicide must rank as the most odious. It is a perennial favourite of anti-abortion groups. Anti-abortion campaigners call it PAS – post-abortion-syndrome, a term coined by Dr Vincent Rue . Rue is a prolific anti-abortion campaigner who testified before the US Congress in 1981 that he had observed post-traumatic stress syndrome in women who had undergone abortions. The claim rapidly mutated into the ominous and potent suggestion that abortion leads to suicide and depression. Yet despite the ubiquity of this claim by anti-abortion advocates, PAS is not recognised by relevant expert bodies. It does not appear in the DSM-V (the handbook of mental health), and the link between abortion and mental health problems is dismissed by organisations tasked with mental health protection including the American Psychological Association , the American Psychiatric Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists .

The reason for this dismissive attitude is simple: despite years of research there is no evidence that PAS exists. The hypothesis that women who undergo an abortion have worse mental health outcomes than those that don’t is at heart a scientific claim and can be tested as such. One recent study in Denmark charted the psychological health of 365,550 women, including 84,620 who’d had abortions. They found neither an increase in psychological damage, nor any elevated risk of suicide. This finding isn’t especially surprising, as previous investigations found that provided a woman was not already depressive then “elective abortion of an unintended pregnancy does not pose a risk to mental health”. In an article for the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled “The myth of the abortion trauma syndrome” , Dr. Nada Stotland eloquently stated the disconnect between the message of anti-choice organisations and the peer-reviewed literature on the subject: “Currently, there are active attempts to convince the public and women considering abortion that abortion frequently has negative psychiatric consequences. This assertion is not borne out by the literature: the vast majority of women tolerate abortion without psychiatric sequelae”, a conclusion echoed in systematic reviews .

But despite the science simply not supporting the assertions of the anti-abortion brigade, the myth persists. In a relatively recent move, some US states now require physicians to warn women seeking an abortion of the dangers to their mental health, in spite of the complete lack of scientific justification for doing so. In South Dakota, a 2005 state law not only mandated this perversion of informed consent, but also added a reprehensible smattering of emotional manipulation by insisting women be told they are terminating “a whole, separate, unique, living human being”. The jarring disconnect between scientific best evidence and the practices enforced by legislation is worrying, expressed with weary regret by the Guttmacher institute : “ ... anti-abortion activists are able to take advantage of the fact that the general public and most policy-makers do not know what constitutes “good science ... to defend their positions, these activists often cite studies that have serious methodological flaws or draw inappropriate conclusions from more rigorous studies”.

Contrary to the assertions of anti-abortion activists, the majority of women granted an abortion report relief as their primary feeling, not depression. The research also unveils a subtle but important corollary; whilst women are don’t generally suffer long-term mental health effects related to the abortion, short term guilt and sadness was far more likely if the women came from a background where abortion was viewed negatively or their decisions decried. Given this is precisely the attitude fostered by anti-abortion activists, there is a dark irony at play when organisations of this ilk increase the suffering of the very women they claim to help.

Abortion causes cancer

As if abortion were not already an emotive enough issue, elements of the anti-abortion movement have long postulated that women who elect to have an abortion are at a much increased risk of cancer, particularly of the breast. This is absolute unbridled nonsense of the highest order - the abortion-breast-cancer conjecture (ABC) was championed by prominent born-again Christian and anti-abortion campaigner Dr Joel Brind in the early 1990s . This alleged link is not supported by the scientific literature, and the ostensible link between breast cancer and induced abortion is explicitly rejected by the medical community.

But whilst there is scant scientific evidence for the ABC hypothesis, this didn’t stop the administration of George W. Bush altering the National Cancer Institute (NCI) website to suggest that elective abortion may lead to breast cancer in the early 2000s. The medical community reacted with disgust, and the New York Times slammed the rhetorical duplicity of the Bush administration as an “egregious distortion” . The NCI convened a workshop to look at the evidence in February 2003, and concluded that the hypothesis was devoid of any supporting evidence and was political rather than medical in nature. After this stinging rebuke, Brind resorted to hackneyed conspiracy theory, claiming that it was a “corrupt federal agency” and dedicated to “protecting the abortion industry” , as well as directing his ire towards the mainstream medical community .

Claims that abortion increases the risk of cancer are not credible, a position supported by bodies worldwide, including the WHO, the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Yet the ABC myth is still a potent weapon in the arsenal of anti-abortion campaigners. In 2005, Canadian anti-abortion protesters put up posters alleging a cover-up by national cancer bodies. Even today , some US state legislation demands physicians warn women about the risk despite the complete absence of a reason to suspect there is one. As an article in Medical History explains, this continuing focus on the non-existence of a link is the culmination of the “... anti-abortion movement’s efforts, following the violence of the early 1990s, to regain respectability through changing its tactics and rhetoric, which included the adoption of the ABC link as part of its new ‘women-centred’ strategy.”

Abortion reduces fertility

The suggestion that abortion can damage fertility is understandably terrifying, but based on out-dated understanding of abortion techniques. Early surgical abortions tended to be performed using a dilation and curettage (D&C) method, with an inherent but small risk of scarring that could potentially lead to complication. However, this technique is obsolete , replaced with a much safer and effective suction method in the early 1970s. In the 21st century, the WHO recommend a suction-based technique for surgical abortion, rendering the risk to future fertility negligible.

On top of this, across most of Europe the majority of abortions now take place early in the pregnancy , below 9 weeks. Abortions at this early stage are medical in nature, using compounds such as mifepristone (RU-486) which induce miscarriage. There is no evidence that either medical or modern surgical abortion impacts future fertility.

The foetus can feel pain

One of the most inflammatory arguments against abortion is rooted in the assertion that the foetus can feel pain, and that termination is therefore a brutal affair. This is extremely unlikely to be true . A foetus in the early stages of development lacks the developed nervous system and brain to feel pain or even be aware of their surroundings. The neuroanatomical apparatus required for pain and sensation is not complete until about 26 weeks into pregnancy. As the upper limit worldwide for termination is 24 weeks, and the vast majority of pregnancies are terminated well before this (most in the first 9 weeks in the UK), the question of foetal pain is a complete red herring. This is reflected in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’s report on foetal pain , which concludes “... existing data suggests that cortical processing and therefore foetal perception of pain cannot occur before 24 weeks of gestation”.

Despite its complete lack of veracity, this myth remains a powerful one, and in several US states legislation dictates that doctors can be fined for not warning women that the foetus might experience pain, despite the scientific advice suggesting “proposals to inform women seeking abortions of the potential for pain in foetuses are not supported by evidence. Legal or clinical mandates for interventions to prevent such pain are scientifically unsound and may expose women to inappropriate interventions, risks, and distress.”

Reducing access to abortion decreases demand for abortion

Anti-abortion campaigners often operate under the implicit assumption that additional hurdles towards obtaining abortions will decrease the number of abortion performed; this is demonstrably false. Reducing access to abortion doesn’t quell the demand for abortion, and making abortion illegal simply makes abortion less safe. Evidence suggests that the abortion rate is approximately equal in countries with and without legal abortion. A 2012 Lancet study found that regions with restricted abortion access have higher rates than more liberal areas, and restricted regions had a much higher incidence of unsafe abortion. Worldwide, about 42 million women a year choose to get abortions, and of these about 21.6 million are unsafe. The consequences of this are grim, resulting in around 47,000 maternal deaths a year . This makes it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%), and can lead to serious complications even when survived.

In the developed world where international travel is affordable, abortion restrictions make even less sense. Ireland, for example, has incredibly restrictive abortion laws, a hangover from the days when it was the last outpost of the Vatican in Europe (a situation I’ve alluded to before ). But whilst the Irish anti-abortion lobbyists boast of Ireland being abortion-free, this sanctimonious gloat ignores that fact that an average of 12 women a day travel to Britain for abortions, with others procuring abortificants online. These extra barriers do not dissuade women from seeking terminations, they merely add emotional and financial obstacles to obtaining them.

These are just some of the claims which surface, hydra-like, when abortion is discussed, and this article is by no means comprehensive. Abortion is an emotive issue, and there is an an entire spectrum of positions which one might subscribe to. And of course, people have every right to hold any opinion they like. But we do not have the right to invent our own facts, and perpetuating debunked fiction helps no one. Such cynical truth-bending is not only intellectually vapid, it compounds an already difficult situation many women face, substituing emotive and sometimes manipulative fabrications in lieu of clear information.

Dr David Robert Grimes is a physicist and cancer researcher at Oxford University. He is a regular Irish Times columnist and blogs at www.davidrobertgrimes.com . He was joint winner of the 2014 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science .

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abortion should be made illegal essay

Reproductive rights in America

7 persistent claims about abortion, fact-checked.

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Jaclyn Diaz

Koko Nakajima

Nick Underwood

abortion should be made illegal essay

Anti-abortion demonstrators watch as abortion rights protestors chant in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on May 5. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Anti-abortion demonstrators watch as abortion rights protestors chant in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on May 5.

Since the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision ruled that women have a constitutional right to end their pregnancies, proponents and opponents of abortion rights have worked to own the conversation over the issue.

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 629,898 legal induced abortions were reported across the United States.

Lingering claims circulate about abortion, including about the safety of it, who gets abortions and even who supports or opposes access to abortion.

Below, seven popular claims surrounding abortion get fact-checked.

According to the Pew Research Center's polls , 37% of Americans want abortion illegal in all or most cases.

But an even bigger fraction — around 6 in 10 Americans — think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Current abortion rates are lower than what they were in 1973 and are now less than half what they were at their peak in the early 1980s, according to the Guttmacher Institute , a reproductive health research organization that supports abortion rights.

In 2017, pregnancy rates for females age 24 or below hit their lowest recorded levels, reflecting a long-term decline in pregnancy rates among females 24 or below.

Overall, in 2017, pregnancy rates for females of reproductive age hit their lowest recorded levels, with 87 pregnancies per 1,000 females ages 15 to 44, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The annual number of deaths related to legal induced abortion has fluctuated from year to year since 1973, according to the CDC.

An analysis of data from 2013 to 2018 showed the national case-fatality rate for legal induced abortion was 0.41 deaths per 100,000 legal induced abortions, lower than in the previous five years.

The World Health Organization said people obtaining unsafe abortions are at a higher risk of death. Annually, 4.7% to 13.2% "of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion," the WHO said. In developing regions of the world, there are 220 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions.

Trans and nonbinary people have undergone abortions as well.

The Guttmacher Institute estimates in 2017 an estimated 462 to 530 transgender or nonbinary individuals in the U.S. had abortions. That same year, the CDC said, 609,095 total abortions were carried out in the country.

The Abortion Out Loud campaign has collected stories from thousands of people who have had an abortion. Included are stories from trans and nonbinary people who have had an abortion — such as Jae, who spoke their experience.

"Most abortions in 2019 took place early in gestation," according to the CDC . Nearly 93% of abortions were performed at less than 13 weeks' gestation.

Abortion pills, which can typically be used up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy, made up 54% of abortions in 2020. These pills were the primary choice in the U.S. for the first time since the Food and Drug Administration approved the abortion drug mifepristone more than 20 years ago.

State legislatures have been moving to adopt 20-week abortion bans, with abortion opponents claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point. Roughly a third of states have implemented an abortion ban around 20 weeks .

But this contradicts widely accepted medical research from 2005. This study , published in the Journal of the American Medical Association , concluded that a fetus is not capable of experiencing pain until somewhere between 29 or 30 weeks.

Researchers wrote that fetal awareness of pain requires "functional thalamocortical connections." Those thalamocortical fibers begin appearing between 23 and 30 weeks' gestational age, but the capacity for pain perception comes later.

The argument against abortion has frequently been based on religion.

Data shows that the majority of people who get an abortion have some sort of religious affiliation, according to the most recent Guttmacher Institute data , from 2014.

The Pew Research Center also shows that attitudes on whether abortion should be legal vary among evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics.

Here's what could happen now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade and the future of reproductive rights in America

Here's what could happen now that roe v. wade is overturned.

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2.5: Common Arguments about Abortion (Nathan Nobis and Kristina Grob)

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11 Common Arguments about Abortion Nathan Nobis and Kristina Grob 27

1 Introduction

Abortion is often in the news. In the course of writing this essay in early 2019, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri passed legislation to outlaw and criminalize abortions starting at six to eight weeks in pregnancy, with more states following. Federal law, however, generally permits abortions, so it is unclear what the legal outcome here will be.

Abortion is a political issue – with different political parties tending to have different perspectives on the issue – because abortion is a moral or ethical issue. (These two words mean the same thing).

Some believe that abortions are typically morally permissible , or not wrong , and so believe that abortions should be legal. If doing something isn’t wrong, it shouldn’t be illegal: criminalizing actions that aren’t wrong is a form of injustice.

Other believe that abortion is morally wrong, that it’s often wrong, maybe nearly always or even always .

Some people argue that even though they believe abortion is wrong, it should remain legal: after all, if every morally wrong action was illegal, we would all be in jail! Seriously though, there are many actions that are morally wrong, even really hurtful, that the government shouldn’t try to prevent or punish. (You can supply the potential examples to make the point). They might also think that, for a variety of other reasons, their personal moral views on the issues shouldn’t be made into law for all.

Others argue that abortions are wrong and should be illegal. What types of wrongdoing should be illegal? This question isn’t easy to answer: it’s abstract and general. One answer is that seriously, extremely wrong actions should be illegal . This might seem plausible, since many illegal actions are seriously wrong, but since there are other very wrong actions that shouldn’t be illegal, this answer isn’t perfect.

2 Defining “Abortion”

Abortion might personally affect you or someone you know: you or a partner, spouse, relative or friend may have had an abortion, have considered abortion, or will have an abortion. But what is an abortion? There are a number of common definitions, some of which are better and others which are worse:

Definition 1 : An abortion is the murder of an unborn baby or child .

Definition 2 : An abortion is the intentional termination of a fetus to end a pregnancy.

Definition 3: An abortion is the intentional killing of a fetus to end a pregnancy.

Definition 3 is best. We’ll explain why after we show the problems with the first two definitions.

2.1 “Murdering Babies”

Definition 1 is common with certain groups of people, but even people who think abortion is wrong should reject it.

“Murder” means “wrongful killing,” and so this definition implies that abortion is wrong by definition , which it isn’t. This definition means that to know that abortion is wrong, we’d just need to reflect on the meaning of the word, and not give any reasons to think this. Murder is wrong by definition, but to know that any particular killing is murder, we need arguments. (Compare someone who calls the death penalty murder : we know it’s killing, but is it wrongful killing? We can’t just appeal to the definition of “murder”: we need arguments that this is wrongful killing). This definition also means that someone who claims that abortion is not wrong says that “Wrongful killing is not wrong,” which makes no sense. We can even call this a “question-begging” definition, since it assumes that abortion is wrong, which can’t be assumed . So this definition is problematic, even if abortion is wrong.

Definition 1 also describes fetuses as “babies” or “children.” While people are usually free to use whatever words how they want, people can say things that are false: calling something something doesn’t mean it’s really that thing. And the beginnings of something are usually not that thing: a pile of lumber and supplies is not a house; fabric, buttons and thread are not a shirt, and an embryo or early fetus is not a baby or child. So it’s false and misleading to call embryos and early fetuses “babies” or “children.”

Defining abortion in terms of “babies” seems to again result in a “question-begging” definition that assumes that abortion is wrong, since it is widely and correctly believed that it’s wrong to kill babies. We understand, however, that it’s wrong to kill babies because we think about born babies who are conscious and feeling and have other baby-like characteristics: these are the babies we have in mind when we think about the wrongness of killing babies, not early fetuses. Describing early fetuses as “babies” characterizes them either as something they are not or, at least, assumes things that need to argued for, which is misleading, both factually (in terms of what fetuses are like) and morally (insofar as it’s assumed that the rules about how babies should be treated clearly and straightforwardly apply to, say, embryos).

Part of the problem with this definition is that terms like “babies” and “children” encourage strong emotional responses. Babies and children are associated with value-laden terms such as innocence , vulnerability , preciousness , cuteness , and more. When we refer to unborn human beings as fetuses , some people become defensive because they see the word “fetus” as cold and sterile. But “fetus” is merely a helpful, and accurate, name for a stage of development, as is “baby,” “child,” “adolescent,” and “adult.” Distinguishing different stages of human development doesn’t commit anyone to a position on abortion, but it does help us understand what an abortion is .

In sum, defining abortion in terms of “murdering babies” is a bad definition: it misleads and assumes things it shouldn’t. Even those who think that abortion is wrong should not accept it.

2.2 “Termination”

The second definition describes abortion as an intentional action. This is good since a pregnant woman does not “have an abortion” if her pregnancy ends because of, say, a car accident. And “spontaneous abortions” or miscarriages are not intentional actions that can be judged morally: they just happen.

Definitions, however, are supposed to be informative, and the vague word “termination” doesn’t inform. If someone had literally no idea what an abortion was, it would be fair for them to ask what’s exactly involved in a “termination” of a pregnancy. A discussion between persons A and B – who knows nothing about abortion – might go like this:

“There is a pregnant woman (or girl) who does not want to have a baby, a living baby, obviously. And so we are going to do something to something insider her – that is developing into that living baby – so she does not have that baby. The action we are going to do is the ‘termination.’”

“ That something inside her, developing into that living baby, it is living? ”

“Yes. It started from a living egg and sperm cell.”

“So you are making something living not living , right? That sounds like killing something, right?”

Person B’s reasoning seems correct: abortions do involve killing. The word “termination” obscures that fact and so makes for an unclear definition. This doesn’t make the definition wrong ; to “terminate” something means to end it in some way , and abortion ends the development of a fetus. But it doesn’t say how abortion ends that development and so is not ideal.

Why might someone accept this definition? Probably because they are reasoning this way:

Killing is wrong. So if abortion is killing, then it’s wrong. But I don’t believe that abortion is wrong, or I am unsure that abortion is wrong, so I don’t want to call it a ‘killing,’ since that means it’s wrong.

The problem here is the first step. Not all killing is wrong . Lots of killing is perfectly fine and raises no moral issues at all: killing mold, killing bacteria, killing plants, killing fleas, killing random cells and tissues (even ones that are human, say cheek cells or skin cells), and more. We don’t even need to observe that it’s sometimes not wrong to kill adult human beings to make the point that not all killing is wrong.

This means that it’s not problematic to define abortion in terms of “killing.” The important questions then are, “Is abortion wrongful killing, or killing that’s not wrong?” and “When, if ever, might it be wrongful killing and when, if ever, might it be permissible killing? And why ?”

2.3 “Killing”

A final definition understands abortion in terms of an intentional killing of a fetus to end a pregnancy . This definition is accurate , informative since it tells us how the fetus would be “terminated”, and morally-neutral : it doesn’t assume that the killing involved in abortions is not wrong or that it’s wrong. This is a good definition. 28

3 Why Most Abortions Occur

The Guttmacher “Fact Sheet” 29 provides an overview of the research on why abortions occur and other relevant information:

This information suggests, at least, that if women were economically better off, had better access to affordable child-care and other forms of support, and had ready access to more reliable forms of contraception, there would likely be fewer abortions.

4 Bad Arguments: “Question-Begging” Arguments & “Everyday” Arguments

We’ll now discuss some commonly given arguments about abortion that, unfortunately, are rather poor.

4.1 “Question-begging” Arguments

Many common arguments about abortion are what’s called “question-begging,” which means the reason given for the conclusion assumes that conclusion. This means that you wouldn’t accept the reason as a good reason to believe the conclusion unless you already believed that conclusion! This is circular reasoning, and arguments like this are always bad.

4.1.1 “Against” Abortion:

Many common arguments against abortion are question begging. Here are some:

Abortion – killing fetuses to end pregnancies – is wrong because:

These premises all assume that abortion is wrong. To explain:

People would believe these claims only if they already believed abortion is wrong, so these claims should not sway anyone who wants to think critically about the issues.

4.1.2 “For” Abortion:

People who think abortion should be allowed also sometimes give question-begging arguments. Here are a few:

Abortion is not wrong because:

These premises likewise assume their conclusions. To explain:

Question-begging arguments are common, on many issues – not just abortion, and they should be rejected, by everyone, always.

4.2 “Everyday” Arguments

Now we will discuss some other common arguments, that you might often hear or read about, that are also poor but often not because they are question-begging. We’ll begin with some arguments against abortion.

4.2.1 “Against” Abortion “Abortion ends a life.”

People often ask, “When does life begin?” Some people wonder if fetuses are “alive,” or when they become “life.” Some argue abortion is wrong because “life begins at conception,” whereas those who support abortion sometimes respond that “fetuses aren’t even alive!” There are a lot of debates here, and to get past them, we need to ask what is meant by alive, living or a life .

This is often considered a “deep” question, but it’s not. Consider this: are eggs (in women) alive? Are sperm cells alive? Yes to both, and so when a sperm fertilizes an egg, what results is a biologically living thing. Above, we defined abortion as a type of killing and, of course, you can only kill living things. So, yes, fetuses are alive, biologically alive , from conception: they are engaged in the types of life processes reviewed on page 1 of any biology textbook.

Some people think that fetuses being alive shows that abortion is wrong, and so they enthusiastically argue that fetuses are biologically alive. Some who think that abortion is not wrong try to argue that fetuses are not even alive. These responses suggest concern with an argument like this:

The second premise, however, is obviously false: uncontroversial examples show it. Mold, bacteria, mosquitos and plants are biologically alive, but they aren’t wrong to kill. So, just as acknowledging that abortion involves killing doesn’t mean that abortion is wrong, recognizing that biological life begins at conception doesn’t mean that abortion is wrong either.

Now, perhaps people really mean something like “morally significant life” or “life with rights,” but that’s not people what say: if that’s what they mean, they should say that. “Abortion kills babies and children.”

Classifying fetuses as babies or children obscures any potentially relevant moral differences between, say, a 6-week old fetus and a 6-day old baby or 6-year old child. This claim assumes that fetuses – at any stage of development – and babies are the same sort of entity. This claim involves loaded emotional language, is inaccurate and is question-begging, as we discussed above in the section on definitions: this saying doesn’t contribute to a good argument. “Abortion is murder.”

Murder is a term for a specific kind of killing. As a moral term, it refers to especially wrongful killing. As a legal term, it refers to intentional killing that is both unlawful and malicious. Since abortion is legal in the US, most abortions cannot be legally classified as murder because they are not illegal or unlawful. Moreover, abortions don’t seem to be done with malicious intent. When people claim that abortion is murder, what they seem to mean is either that abortion should be re-classified as murder or that abortion is wrong , or both. Either way, arguments are needed to support that, not question-begging slogans. “Abortion kills innocent beings.”

Fetuses are often described as “innocent,” meaning that they have done nothing wrong to deserve being killed. Since killing anyone innocent is wrong, this suggests that abortion is wrong. “Innocence,” however, seems to be a concept that only applies to beings that can do wrong and choose not to. Since fetuses can’t do anything – they especially cannot do anything wrong that would make them “guilty” – the concept of innocence does not seem to apply to them. So saying that banning abortion would “protect the innocent” is inaccurate since abortion doesn’t kill “innocent” beings: the concept of innocence just doesn’t apply. “The Bible says abortion is wrong.”

People often appeal to religion to justify their moral views. Some say that God thinks abortion is wrong, but it’s a fair question how they might know this, especially since others claim to know that God doesn’t think that. In reply, it is sometimes said that the Bible says abortion is wrong (and that’s how we know what God thinks).

But the Bible doesn’t say that abortion is wrong: it doesn’t discuss abortion at all. There is a commandment against killing , but, as our discussion above makes clear, this requires interpretation about what and who is wrong to kill: presumably the Bible doesn’t mean that killing mold or bacteria or plants is wrong. And there are verses (Exodus 21:22-24) that, on some translations, suggest that fetuses lack the value of born persons, since penalties for damage to each differ. This coincides with common Jewish views on the issue, that the needs and rights of the mother outweigh any the fetus might have.

However any verses are best interpreted, they still don't show that abortion is wrong. This is because the Bible is not always a reliable guide to morality, since there are troubling verses that seem to require killing people for trivial “crimes,” allow enslaving people (and beating them), require obeying all government officials and more. And Jesus commanded loving your neighbor as yourself, loving your enemies and taking care of orphans, immigrants and refugees, and offered many other moral guidelines that many people regard as false. 30 Simple moral arguments from the Bible assume that that if the Bible says an action is wrong, then it really is wrong (and if the Bible says something’s not wrong, it’s not wrong ), and both premises don’t seem to be literally true.

This all suggests that people sometimes appeal to the Bible in selective and self-serving ways: they come to the Bible with their previously-held moral assumptions and seek to find something in the Bible to justify them.

There is an interesting Biblical connection here worth mentioning though. Some argue that if women who want abortions are prevented from having them, that forces them to remain pregnant and give birth and that this is like forcing women to be like the “Good Samaritan” who went out of his way, at expense to himself, to help a stranger in great need (Luke 10:25-37). (The analogy is imperfect, as analogies always are).

The problem is in no other area of life is anyone forced to be a Good Samaritan like a pregnant woman would: e.g., you can’t be forced to donate an organ to anyone in need (even to your child or parent); you can’t even be forced to donate your organs after you are dead! Nobody other than pregnant women would be forced by the government – under threat of imprisonment or worse – to use their body to help sustain someone else’s life. It is unfair to require women to be Good Samaritans but allow the rest of us to be like the “priest” and “Levite” in the story who helped nobody.

Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that laws should not be based on any particular religions. If you are not, say, a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a Rastafarian, you probably don’t want laws based solely on one of those religion’s values. Laws should be religiously-neutral; on that we all should agree. “Abortion stops a beating heart.”

This claim, if given as an argument, assumes that stopping a beating heart is wrong . The assumption, however, is just obviously untrue: e.g., during open heart surgery, surgeons temporarily stop the patient’s heart so that repair can be made to the still heart: they would permanently stop that heart if they replace it with an artificial heart. If there were somehow an independently beating heart, attached to nobody, that heart wouldn’t be wrong to stop. Whether a heart is wrong to stop or not depends on who is around that heart and their value or rights, not anything about that heart by itself. Finally, embryos and early fetuses do not even have hearts , as critics of recent “heartbeat” bills have observed! (The heart fully develops much later in pregnancy.)

If, however, this widely expressed concern about a heartbeat isn't meant to be taken literally, but is merely a metaphor or an emotional appeal, we submit that these are inappropriate for serious issues like this one. “How would you like it if . .?”

Some ask, “How would you like it if your mother had had an abortion?” Others tell stories of how their mother almost had an abortion and how they are grateful she didn’t. Questions and stories like these sometimes persuade, but they shouldn’t. Consider some other questions:

All sorts of actions would have prevented each of our existences – if your parents had acted differently in many ways, you wouldn’t be here to entertain the question: at best, someone else would be 31 – but these actions aren’t wrong.

Some might reply that if you had been murdered as a baby, you wouldn’t be here to discuss it. True, but that baby was conscious, had feelings, and had a perspective on the world that ended in being murdered: an early fetus is not like that. We can empathetically imagine what it might have been like for that murdered child; we can’t do that with a never-been-conscious fetus, since there’s no perspective to imagine.

In sum, these are some common arguments given against abortion. They aren’t good. Everyone can do better.

4.2.2 Common Arguments “For” Abortion

Many common arguments “for” abortion are also weak. This is often because they simply don’t engage the concerns of people who oppose abortion. Consider these often-heard claims: “Women have a right to do whatever they want with their bodies . . .”

Autonomy , your ability to make decisions about matters that profoundly affect your own life, is very important: it’s a core concern in medical ethics. But autonomy has limits: your autonomy doesn’t, say, justify murdering an innocent person , which is what some claim abortion is. The slogan that “women can do what they want . .” does not engage that claim or any arguments given in its favor, so it’s inadequate. “People who oppose abortion are just trying to control women.”

They might be trying to do this. But they might be trying to ban abortion because they believe that abortion is wrong and should be illegal . Speculations about motives don’t engage or critique any arguments they might give to think that. (If you doubt that thinking critically about arguments and evidence here would do any good, do they have any better ideas that might do more good?). “Men shouldn’t make decisions about matters affecting women.”

Insofar as women profoundly disagree on these issues, some women must be making bad decisions about matters affecting women: all women can’t be correct on the issues. And some men can understand that some arguments (endorsed sometimes by both women and men) are bad arguments and give good arguments on the issues. Someone’s sex or gender has little to no bearing on whether they can make good arguments about matters that affect them or anyone else. Furthermore, the existence of transgender men who have given birth further undermines the thought that one sex or gender is apt to have more correct views here. “Women and girls will die if abortion isn’t allowed.”

This is true . However, this fact is apt to not be persuasive to some people who think that abortion is wrong: they will respond, “If someone dies because they are doing something wrong like having an abortion , that’s ‘on them,’ not those who are trying to prevent that wrong.” Observing that women will die if abortions are outlawed doesn’t engage any arguments that abortion is wrong or give much a reason to think that abortion is not wrong. Again, this type of engagement is necessary for progress on these issues.

In sum, while we agree that people who think that abortion is generally not morally wrong and should be legal are correct , they sometimes don’t offer very good reasons to think this, just like the opponents of abortion. An analysis of the more nuanced reasons in favor of abortion provided by philosophers will yield proper support for this viewpoint.

For Review and Discussion:

1. Do the reasons that people get abortions matter for its moral permissibility? Why or why not?

2. Describe the common arguments against abortion and assess them. Are they good or bad arguments? Do they make assumptions or claims that are problematic? Do the reasons provided actually provide evidence and reasons to oppose abortion?

3. Describe the common arguments for abortion and assess them. Are they good or bad arguments? Do they make assumptions or claims that are problematic? Do the reasons provided actually give evidence and reasons to support abortion?

The negative health implications of restricting abortion access

Ana Langer

December 13, 2021— Ana Langer is professor of the practice of public health and coordinator of the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Q:  Roe v. Wade may soon be overturned by the Supreme Court, while at the same time other countries are loosening restrictions around abortion rights. What are your thoughts on the current climate around this issue?

A: The trend over the past several decades is clear: Safe and legal abortion has become more widely accessible to women globally, with nearly 50 countries including Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand, Thailand, and Ireland liberalizing their abortion laws. During the same period, however, a few countries have made abortion more restricted or totally illegal, including El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Poland.

In the U.S., legal frameworks are increasingly limiting access to abortion. Even while Roe is in place, many people are currently unable to receive abortion care.

If the Supreme Court were to limit or overturn Roe, abortion would remain legal in 21 states and could immediately be prohibited in 24 states and three territories. Millions of people would be forced to travel to receive legal abortion care, something that would be impossible for many due to a range of financial and logistical reasons.

This situation does not surprise me because of the deep polarization that characterizes public views on abortion, and the growing power and relentless efforts of anti-choice groups. Furthermore, it does not surprise me because of the important gender gap that exists in this country, which is to a great extent due to the lack of strong and consistent policies and legal frameworks to support women in their efforts to better integrate their reproductive and professional roles and responsibilities.

The U.S. legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago, at a time when it was legally restricted in many countries around the world, setting an important international precedent and example. It disappoints me to see that while important progress has been made towards equality in other culturally polarized areas such as same-sex marriage, women’s right to terminate an unwanted or mistimed pregnancy is now severely threatened.

Q:  How do laws that restrict abortion access impact women’s health? 

A: Restricting women’s access to safe and legal abortion services has important negative health implications. We’ve seen that these laws do not result in fewer abortions. Instead, they compel women to risk their lives and health by seeking out unsafe abortion care.

According to the World Health Organization, 23,000 women die from unsafe abortions each year and tens of thousands more experience significant health complications globally. A recent study estimated that banning abortion in the U.S. would lead to a 21% increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths overall and a 33% increase among Black women, simply because staying pregnant is more dangerous than having an abortion. Increased deaths due to unsafe abortions or attempted abortions would be in addition to these estimates.

If the current trend in the U.S. persists, “back alley” abortions will be the last resource for women with no access to safe and legal services, and the horrific consequences of such abortions will become a major cause of death and severe health complications for some of the most vulnerable women in this country.

The legal status of abortion also defines whether girls will be able to complete their educations and whether women will be able to participate in the workforce, and in public and political life.

Improving social safety net programs for women reduces gender gaps and improves girls’ and women’s health and chances to fulfill their potential, and could help reduce the number of abortions over time. Women who are better educated, have better access to comprehensive reproductive health care , and are employed and fairly remunerated will be better positioned to avoid a mistimed and unwanted pregnancy, hence the need for termination will become less common.

Q: Should abortion be considered a human right?

A: Numerous international and regional human rights treaties and national-level constitutions around the world protect the right to safe and legal abortion as a fundamental human right. Access to safe abortion is included in a constellation of rights, including the rights to life, liberty, privacy, equality and non-discrimination, and freedom from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Human rights bodies have repeatedly condemned restrictive abortion laws as being incompatible with human rights norms.

While a supportive legal framework for abortion care is critical, it is not enough to ensure access for everyone who seeks the service. For universal access to become a reality, policies that cover the cost of abortion care and its integration into the health care system, in addition to societal measures that destigmatize the procedure, are needed.

— Amy Roeder

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Should Abortion Be Legal Or Illegal?

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The Looming Decision That Could Get Pro-Choice Voters to the Polls

A photograph shows a sidewalk on which a person’s shadow is cast, along with several slogans written in chalk, including “My body  my choice” and “Abortion is a human right.”

By Mary Ziegler

Ms. Ziegler is a law professor at the University of California, Davis, and the author of “Roe: The History of a National Obsession.”

If you had asked me at the start of this Supreme Court term what the blockbuster abortion case would be, I would have focused on the one that could limit access to mifepristone, a drug used in a majority of U.S. abortions . But oral arguments last month suggested strongly that the justices might not even think that case has standing — which is to say, that decision is likely not to make much of a difference.

But a decision in the second case, on access to emergency abortions, may have much more profound consequences, both for November’s election and the ongoing struggle over reproductive rights. The case centers on the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, known as EMTALA, a federal law that was passed in the 1980s to prevent hospitals from turning away emergency-room patients who could not afford to pay. At issue is whether EMTALA requires physicians to offer emergency abortions even when state abortion bans — including those enacted after the overturning of Roe — do not permit them. The Biden administration brought suit against Idaho in federal court, arguing that federal law does pre-empt state policy on the matter.

Listening to Wednesday’s oral arguments, it was hard to say with certainty which side will prevail. But given the questions asked by the court’s conservative majority, and the fact that the court had allowed the state’s law to remain in effect during the litigation, the strongest possibility is that the court will side with Idaho. If that happens, pregnant women facing medical emergencies will be more likely to be refused care, and the Biden administration will face a searing reminder of the risks of litigating before the conservative Supreme Court supermajority. Such a loss for the Biden administration could, at the same time, provide a political opportunity for the Biden campaign — and that could matter deeply in the long term, given the high stakes of this election, not least for abortion access.

The decision will affect more than people seeking abortions. Just last week, The Associated Press detailed the stories of a wide range of patients experiencing pregnancy-related complications, including miscarriage, who were turned away by hospital emergency departments in states with criminal abortion laws. In such states, emergency rooms “are so scared of a pregnant patient, that the emergency medicine staff won’t even look. They just want these people gone,” Sara Rosenbaum, a health law and policy professor at George Washington University, told The A.P.

The Biden administration tried to prevent incidents like these around the country from snowballing by looking to EMTALA, issuing guidance just weeks after Roe was overturned asserting that the federal law pre-empts state law on this matter. The administration then took Idaho to court, arguing that EMTALA’s mandate to provide “necessary stabilizing treatment” required doctors to provide abortions to patients in medical emergencies — and that the federal statute trumps Idaho’s law, which makes it a crime to perform abortion except in cases of rape or incest or when “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.”

This move was a gamble, and not one the administration takes very often: Sooner or later, the case was likely to land the administration before the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority, with its demonstrated hostility to abortion rights. And indeed, if the court sides with Idaho, that will serve as a powerful reminder that until the Supreme Court’s composition changes, being in federal court may blow up in any pro-choice president’s face.

If Idaho does win this case, there’s a question of how broad that opinion would be — or on what foundation the court will rely. That was difficult to parse on Wednesday. At a few points, Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch cited language in EMTALA that refers to the “unborn child” — seeming to suggest that EMTALA does not require access to abortion in emergencies because it treats both fetuses and pregnant people as patients deserving of stabilizing treatment. This was a nod toward fetal personhood — the anti-abortion movement’s ultimate goal , to secure full legal rights for fetuses. But it seems unlikely the court will issue a decision that significantly advances the personhood cause in this case.

More likely is that the court rules on whether EMTALA creates a standard of care that requires physicians to protect the health of pregnant patients, as the Biden administration argues — or whether the statute imposes no limit at all on states like Idaho.

What is certain is that there will be more uncertainty for physicians and patients until the court hands down a decision, most likely in June.

An irony is that the politics of a loss in the Supreme Court could ultimately swing in President Biden’s favor, even as it compounds the dangers facing pregnant patients in states across the country. Donald Trump’s campaign strategy has been to cast abortion as an issue that has largely been resolved, at least at the federal level. That strategy makes sense: Most Americans disagree with the strict abortion bans Republicans have championed, and Mr. Trump would prefer the electorate focus on anything but abortion. Losing the EMTALA case could help Mr. Biden remind voters that overturning Roe was not the end of the anti-abortion movement’s project. It will be made clear once again that the Right may be able to keep turning to the Supreme Court to further roll back reproductive rights.

Such a loss would also be a reminder of the stakes of this election. Some of Mr. Trump’s supporters are hoping that if he is re-elected, he will lean on the Comstock Act — a 150-year-old law that criminalizes the mailing or receiving of a wide range of items deemed to be obscene — to effectively ban abortions nationwide. (That’s because all abortions in the United States involve instruments and other items sent by mail or common carrier.) If the Supreme Court holds that the Comstock Act can indeed be used in such a way — ignoring nearly a century of precedent — Mr. Trump’s Department of Justice will decide whether to initiate prosecutions against drug companies, providers, or even women who mail or receive abortion-related items.

A second Biden administration may be more cautious about defending reproductive rights if it loses the EMTALA case. But the impact of losses like the one that seems to be coming in this case will sting less for reproductive rights supporters if Mr. Biden remains in office. In the case of the Comstock Act, for example, Mr. Biden’s Department of Justice would almost certainly not prosecute abortion providers and patients, regardless of how the court interprets the 1873 obscenity statute.

A loss in the EMTALA case may not convince some voters to overcome the skepticism with which they view Mr. Biden. But it will make abundantly clear that whatever Mr. Trump may suggest, the abortion struggle at the federal level is not over by a long shot.

Mary Ziegler is a law professor at the University of California, Davis, and the author of “Roe: The History of a National Obsession.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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An advertisement for Chichester's Pennyroyal abortifacient pills

A Brief History of Abortion in the U.S.

Abortion wasn’t always a moral, political, and legal tinderbox. What changed?

A bortion laws have never been more contentious in the U.S. Yet for the first century of the country’s existence—and most of human history before that—abortion was a relatively uncontroversial fact of life.

“Abortion has existed for pretty much as long as human beings have existed,” says Joanne Rosen, JD, MA , a senior lecturer in Health Policy and Management who studies the impact of law and policy on access to abortion.

Until the mid-19th century, the U.S. attitude toward abortion was much the same as it had often been elsewhere throughout history: It was a quiet reality, legal until “quickening” (when fetal motion could be felt by the mother). In the eyes of the law, the fetus wasn’t a “separate distinct entity until then,” but rather an extension of the mother, Rosen explains.

What changed?

America’s first anti-abortion movement wasn’t driven primarily by moral or religious concerns like it is today. Instead, abortion’s first major foe in the U.S. was physicians on a mission to regulate medicine.

Until this point, abortion services had been “women’s work.” Most providers were midwives, many of whom made a good living selling abortifacient plants. They relied on methods passed down through generations, from herbal abortifacients and pessaries—a tampon-like device soaked in a solution to induce abortion—to catheter abortions that irritate the womb and force a miscarriage, to a minor surgical procedure called dilation and curettage (D&C), which remains one of the most common methods of terminating an early pregnancy.

The cottage abortion industry caught the attention of the fledgling American Medical Association, which was established in 1847 and, at the time, excluded women and Black people from membership. The AMA was keen to be taken seriously as a gatekeeper of the medical profession, and abortion services made midwives and other irregular practitioners—so-called quacks—an easy target. Their rhetoric was strategic, says Mary Fissell, PhD , the J. Mario Molina professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. “You have to link those midwives to providing abortion as a way of kind of getting them out of business,” Fissell says. “So organized medicine very much takes the anti-abortion position and stays with that for some time.”

Early 19th century and before

Abortion is legal in the U.S. until “quickening”

AMA campaigns to end abortion

At least 40 anti-abortion statutes are enacted in the U.S.

Comstock Act makes it illegal to sell or mail contraceptives or abortifacients

Late 19th century

OB-GYN emerges as a specialty

Griswold v. Connecticut decision finds that the Constitution guarantees a right to privacy, specifically in prescribing contraceptives, paving the way for Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade enshrines abortion as a constitutional right

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey protects a woman's right to have an abortion prior to  fetal viability

Four states pass trigger laws making it a felony to perform, procure, or prescribe an abortion if Roe is ever overturned

Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey overturned; 13 states ban abortion by October 2022

In 1857, the AMA took aim at unregulated abortion providers with a letter-writing campaign pushing state lawmakers to ban the practice. To make their case, they asserted that there was a medical consensus that life begins at conception, rather than at quickening.

The campaign succeeded. At least 40 anti-abortion laws went on the books between 1860 and 1880.

And yet some doctors continued to perform abortions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By then, abortion was illegal in almost all states and territories, but during the Depression era, “doctors could see why women wouldn’t want a child,” and many would perform them anyway, Fissell says. In the 1920s and through the 1930s, many cities had physicians who specialized in abortions, and other doctors would refer patients to them “off book.”

That leniency faded with the end of World War II. “All across America, it’s very much about gender roles, and women are supposed to be in the home, having babies,” Fissell says. This shift in the 1940s and ’50s meant that more doctors were prosecuted for performing abortions, which drove the practice underground and into less skilled hands. In the 1950s and 1960s, up to 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed each year in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute . In 1965, 17% of reported deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth were associated with illegal abortion.

A rubella outbreak from 1963–1965 moved the dial again, back toward more liberal abortion laws. Catching rubella during pregnancy could cause severe birth defects, leading medical authorities to endorse therapeutic abortions . But these safe, legal abortions remained largely the preserve of the privileged. “Women who are well-to-do have always managed to get abortions, almost always without a penalty,” says Fissell. “But God help her if she was a single, Black, working-class woman.”

Women who could afford it brought their cases to court to fight for access to hospital abortions. Other women gained approval for abortions with proof from a physician that carrying the pregnancy would endanger her life or her physical or mental health. These cases set off a wave of abortion reform bills in state legislatures that helped set the stage for Roe v. Wade . By the time Roe was decided in 1973, legal abortions were already available in 17 states—and not just to save a woman’s life.

But raising the issue to the level of the Supreme Court and enshrining abortion rights for all Americans also galvanized opposition to it and mobilized anti-abortion groups. “ Roe was under attack virtually from the moment it was decided,” says Rosen.  

In 1992 another Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey posed the most significant existential threat to Roe . Rosen calls it “the case that launched a thousand abortion regulations,” upholding Roe but giving states far greater scope to regulate abortion prior to fetal viability. However, defining that nebulous milestone a became a flashpoint for debate as medical advancements saw babies survive earlier and earlier outside the womb. Sonograms became routine around the same time, making fetal life easier to grasp and “putting wind in the sails of the ‘pro-life’ movement,” Rosen says. Then in June, the Supreme Court overturned both Roe and Casey .

For many Americans, that meant the return to the conundrum that led Norma McCorvey—a.k.a. Jane Roe—to the Supreme Court in 1971: being poor and pregnant, and seeking an abortion in a state that had banned them in all but the narrowest of circumstances.

The history of abortion in the U.S. suggests the tides will turn again. “We often see periods of toleration followed by periods of repression,” says Fissell. The current moment is unequivocally marked by the latter. What remains to be seen is how long it will last.

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About six-in-ten Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases

Note: For the latest data on views of abortion, read this July 2022 report .

Abortion has long been a contentious issue in the United States, and it is one that sharply divides Americans along partisan, ideological and religious lines.

A line graph showing the public's views of abortion from 1995 to 2022

Today, a 61% majority of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. These views are relatively unchanged in the past few years. The latest Pew Research Center survey , conducted March 7 to 13, finds deep disagreement between – and within – the parties over abortion. In fact, the partisan divide on abortion is far wider than it was two decades ago.

Related: Explore an interactive look at Americans’ attitudes on abortion.

In the latest survey, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are 42 percentage points more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases (80% vs. 38%). This gap is little changed over the last few years, but the current divide is wider than it was in the past. For instance, as recently as 2016, there was a 33-point gap between the shares of Democrats (72%) and Republicans (39%) who supported legal abortion in all or most cases.

Pew Research Center conducted this study to better understand Americans’ views on abortion. For this analysis, we surveyed 10,441 U.S. adults in March 2022. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .

Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology .

A line graph showing that the partisan gap in views of whether abortion should be legal remains wide

This wider gap is mostly attributable to a steady increase in support for legal abortion among Democrats. In 2007, roughly two-thirds of Democrats and Democratic leaners (63%) said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Support among Democrats has risen by nearly 20 points since then, and 80% now say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Views among Republicans have remained relatively steady during this period. In 2007, around four-in-ten Republicans (39%) said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; today, 38% say this.

A bar chart showing wide ideological gaps in both parties in views of abortion

There are ideological differences within both parties over abortion, though the divide is starker within the GOP. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 60% of moderates and liberals say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with just 27% of conservative Republicans.

While liberal Democrats are 18 percentage points more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, wide majorities of both groups (90% and 72%, respectively) say this.

Support for legal abortion varies by race and ethnicity, education and religious affiliation.

A bar chart showing a modest gender gap in views of whether abortion should be legal

Majorities of adults across racial and ethnic groups say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. White adults and Hispanic adults, however, are slightly less likely to say this than Black and Asian adults. Roughly six-in-ten White (59%) and Hispanic adults (60%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with larger majorities of Black (68%) and Asian (74%) adults.

Support for legal abortion is greater among those with higher levels of education. While majorities of those with a postgraduate degree (69%), bachelor’s degree (64%) and those with some college experience (63%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, adults with no more than a high school education are more divided on the issue: 54% say abortion should be legal in at least most cases, while 44% say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

White evangelical Protestants continue to be opposed to abortion in all or most cases. Nearly three-quarters of White evangelicals (74%) say it should be illegal in all or most cases, while 24% say it should be legal in at least most cases. In contrast, a majority of White Protestants who are not evangelical (60%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.   Religious “nones” – those who are religiously unaffiliated – overwhelmingly support legal abortion. Over eight-in-ten (84%) say it should be legal in all or most cases, while just 15% say it should be illegal.

Among the public overall, there is a modest gender divide in views of whether abortion should be legal: 58% of men and 63% of women say it should be legal in at least most cases. Within both parties, the views of men and women are largely aligned. Among Democrats, 80% of both men and women say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Similarly, 36% of Republican men and 39% of Republican women say the same.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published July 17, 2017. Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology .

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Hannah Hartig is a senior researcher focusing on U.S. politics and policy research at Pew Research Center

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Editorial: Pregnant women are not incubators. Antiabortion states should not deny them emergency care

A person carries a sign that says, "Pro-life is a lie. You don't care if women die," during a march.

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It’s absurd that in the 21st century, the Supreme Court is debating how close to death pregnant women need to be before doctors can perform a medically necessary abortion.

But that’s where we are nearly two years after this same court in the Dobbs decision overturned the constitutional right to an abortion — and launched a profusion of state abortion laws that range from repressive to downright dystopian. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging a law in Idaho that falls into the latter category. It outlaws all abortions except in the case of rape and incest (and then, only in the first trimester of pregnancy) or when a patient is in danger of dying if they don’t have an abortion. Doctors who violate that could face up to five years in prison.

PRODUCTION - 17 January 2024, Berlin: In the cell laboratory at the Fertility Center Berlin, an electron microscope is used to fertilize an egg cell. Photo: Jens Kalaene/dpa (Photo by Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Editorial: A right to IVF or abortion will never be protected if fetuses and embryos are declared people

An Alabama court decision brought national attention to the creeping personhood movement that seeks to extend legal protection to fetuses and embryos.

March 4, 2024

But that death exception conflicts with the 1986 federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act — known as EMTALA. Under the law, emergency rooms in hospitals that receive Medicare funding (which most do) must treat and stabilize a person who has an urgent medical condition. A patient can be transferred elsewhere if medical resources are lacking at the hospital.

Abortion care in the ER wasn’t much of an issue before Dobbs. Now it is. The Biden administration argued in federal court that the portion of the Idaho ban that allows abortion only to stave off death is a violation of the law. EMTALA does not require that the serious medical condition be life-threatening. A federal court agreed and ruled that portion of the ban unenforceable. The Supreme Court put that lower court ruling on hold until it decides the case.

Pro-abortion rights demonstrators rally in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 15, 2024. The top court in Arizona on April 9, 2024 ruled a 160-year-old near total ban on abortion is enforceable, thrusting the issue to the top of the agenda in a key US presidential election swing state. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Abcarian: Here’s how antiabortion absolutists plan to drag California back to the 19th century

Zombie laws, in the hands of antiabortion zealots and the ultraconservative Supreme Court, are coming for more than abortion rights.

April 21, 2024

“Today, doctors in Idaho and the women in Idaho are in an impossible position,” said U.S. Solicitor Gen. Elizabeth Prelogar, arguing for the U.S. on Wednesday. “If a woman comes to an emergency room facing a grave threat to her health, but she isn’t yet facing death, doctors either have to delay treatment and allow her condition to materially deteriorate, or they’re airlifting her out of the state so she can get the emergency care that she needs.”

Fortunately, both liberal and conservative justices seem skeptical of the argument by Joshua Turner, representing the state of Idaho, that the federal government was overreaching by telling Idaho doctors how to practice medicine instead of letting them follow state medical licensing laws. “If ER doctors can perform whatever treatment they determine is appropriate, then doctors can ignore not only state abortion laws but also state regulations on opioid use and informed consent requirements,” he said.

A message reading "My body my choice" is projected onto the Eiffel Tower after the French parliament voted to anchor the right to abortion in the country's constitution, in Paris, on March 4, 2024. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Abcarian: Bravo to France for enshrining the right to abortion in its constitution — a worldwide first

Fearing that a future government could do what the U.S. Supreme Court did — reverse the right to abortion — France champions women’s rights.

That’s ludicrous, but this whole issue is ludicrous. Turner seemed to suggest that even under the abortion ban, doctors could decide to perform abortions in cases where pregnant women weren’t quite at death’s door but were, well, close enough.

But how close is close? Is a ruptured amniotic sac, which could lead to infection, sepsis and a possible hysterectomy, enough of a reason to do an abortion? Or do doctors have to wait until the person is hemorrhaging uncontrollably?

Turner’s argument that doctors use their judgment to determine that on a case-by-case basis isn’t reassuring. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted, that puts doctors in an unfair bind. For example, “your doctor says, I can’t, with a medical certainty, say she’s going to die, but I do know she’s going to bleed to death if we don’t have an abortion, but she’s not bleeding yet, so I’m not sure.”

There is now an alarmingly large swath of the country living with laws crafted with the patriarchal view that pregnant women are little more than vessels for what abortion opponents oxymoronically refer to as “unborn children.”

Idaho’s restrictive abortion ban has done enough damage by upending reproductive healthcare across the state, but it should not be allowed to withhold abortion care from people whose lives will be gravely harmed without it. We hope that the Supreme Court agrees that all Americans, pregnant or not, should have equal access to what Prelogar called the “simple but profound” promise of EMTALA — the stabilizing emergency medical care they need.

More to Read

FILE - Amanda Zurawski, one of five plaintiffs, speaks in front of the state Capitol in Austin, Texas, March 7, 2023, as the Center for Reproductive Rights and the plaintiffs announced their lawsuit, which asks for clarity in Texas law as to when abortions can be provided under the "medical emergency" exception. All five women were denied medical care while experiencing pregnancy complications that threatened their health and lives. The women are headed to court Wednesday, July 19, as legal challenges to abortion bans across the U.S. continue a year after the fall of Roe v. Wade. (Sara Diggins/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

How treatment of miscarriages is upending the abortion debate

April 25, 2024

Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Supreme Court sounds wary of Idaho’s ban on emergency abortions for women whose health is in danger

April 24, 2024

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 17, 2024: Dr. Barbara Zipkin consults with patient Anna, 24, about her options for an abortion at Camelback Family Planning on April 17, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. Anna had heard about the Arizona Supreme Court ruling reinstating an 1864 law banning abortion. "God this makes me so mad," she told her partner. Anna decided to take a pregnancy test and then made an appointment with the clinic before time would run out. Dr Zipkin is accompanied by her support dog Scooter.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Inside an Arizona abortion clinic: Uncertainty looms and optimism reigns

April 22, 2024

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  • Why we aim to make abortion illegal, unthinkable, and unnecessary

abortion should be made illegal essay

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade , it will be a historic moment for the dignity of human life. We will rightly celebrate the thousands and thousands of lives that will be saved. Yet, while we pursue every opportunity to make abortion illegal by creating laws that protect life, an equally important goal is for abortion to be unthinkable and unnecessary in the hearts and minds of our culture. There will only be widespread change when we all see life—holistically—as having inherent value.

A post- Roe world is good, but a post-abortion world is what we continue to fervently work to achieve by reaching vulnerable women where they are in their time of need. Laws are critical, but they cannot change the fact that there will still be thousands of women who will face an unplanned pregnancy. Many of them will be afraid, unprepared, and unsure of what to do and where to turn. And even if Roe is overturned, it is critical we inspire, equip, and mobilize a new generation to defend the dignity of all human life, transforming our culture so they see abortion as unnecessary and unthinkable.

Is unnecessary, necessary?

Many may be asking the question, “When is abortion really ever ‘necessary’?” We use the word “unnecessary” to directly counter the constant narrative of lies that Planned Parenthood has fed to women for the last 50 years, including: “In your situation, an abortion is necessary for you to live a full life. An abortion is necessary for you to earn a living. An abortion is necessary for you to flourish.”

When we say we want to make abortion “unnecessary” in our lifetime, we aren’t using that term because we believe it is necessary, but because so many women believe abortion is their only option. We are seeking to speak their language as we address them because they often feel scared, trapped, shamed, and don’t know where to go. All these factors make women in vulnerable situations feel abortion the only choice to make.

This is what these women have heard. This is what they feel. This is what they believe. We don’t need to be an echo chamber in our own community, using words and language that we approve and make us comfortable. Rather, we must reach abortion-minded and abortion-vulnerable women where they are and speak with compassion, empathy, and relevancy to their situations, which are often messy, complex, and dire.

Miss D’s story

Miss D was just that kind of young woman (her real name is changed for her privacy and safety). When D was 6 years old, she was removed from her mother, and parental rights were terminated. From that time until she aged out of the foster care system at 18, she had 13 foster families. While in the foster care system, a family adopted her, and the father physically abused her. She was removed from that home, and the parental rights of the adoptive family were terminated. When D aged out of the foster care system, she had no family, no support, and nowhere to go. She began using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain from her trauma. This led to her being trafficked, and she eventually became pregnant unexpectedly.

Against all odds, she carried her baby to term. DHS removed the baby from her care and terminated her parental rights because she was unable to care for her baby. Continuing down this dark path, she had a second unplanned pregnancy. This time, D was committed to having an abortion. She had no family, no protection, could barely care for herself, and had no support. Through a mutual friend, D met an advocate from a pro-life organization who began to walk alongside her in love, compassion, and empathy and showed her that she had other choices. The advocate told D she would foster her daughter, connect her to a church, and help her with resources to provide ongoing support through a continuum for care. Again, counter to the “necessary” message she was told by culture, D courageously chose life. Abortion became “unnecessary” in her eyes because God sent someone to her who told her she did not have to believe that lie. Today, Baby E is alive and ready for a forever family!

Welcoming vulnerable women with open arms

We need to recognize that most women like D who are considering abortion are doing so because they feel afraid, overwhelmed, unsupported, and have limited options. Some can hardly support themselves, let alone a child. Some are pressured by their partner and don’t have anyone else in their life to help them. Others think that the church will shame them because they are pregnant outside of marriage.

So as the church is facing a potential post- Roe world, we need to welcome these women with open arms, love them, value them, support them, and yes, communicate in a way that reaches them with a sense of empathy—all while keeping Christ’s truth, love, and compassion for the broken and hurting front and center.

We want the church to be the first place that women go in their time of crisis to receive care and support, not judgment. As we continue to work tirelessly toward laws that protect our vulnerable, preborn neighbors, protect family flourishing, and meet the needs of women so that no woman ever views abortion as thinkable or necessary, let us also stand for life in this historic moment by unifying our efforts, continuing our critical work, and making the church the most supportive and hopeful place to go in a vulnerable woman’s time of need. And then, perhaps, God will use our efforts to turn this moment into an opportunity to change our culture’s entire view of life.

Elizabeth Graham

Elizabeth Graham serves as CEO for Life Collective, Inc. Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband Richmond enjoy raising their two children in east Tennessee. Read More by this Author

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Sign up for your free reminder for bringing hope to an election year, article 12: the future of ai.

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24

abortion should be made illegal essay

Tennessee would criminalize helping minors get abortions under bill heading to governor

N ASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee is poised to become the second state in the nation to make it illegal for adults to help minors get an abortion without parental consent , a proposal that is likely to face immediate legal challenges should Gov. Bill Lee sign it into law.

Tennessee's GOP-dominant Statehouse approved the bill Wednesday, clearing the way for the measure to head to the Republican governor's desk. While Lee hasn't public commented on the proposal, he has repeatedly defended enacting the state's sweeping abortion ban and stressed his opposition to the procedure.

Yet, even if Lee signs the measure into law, reproductive rights advocates are expected to move quickly to ask a court to block the statute from being enforced. Last year, Idaho became the first state to enact the so-called “ abortion trafficking ” law, but a federal judge has since temporarily blocked the law after reproductive rights groups sued to challenge it.

“This bill is a direct attack on me, on my family, on my friends, on my network that support Tennesseans who are pregnant and vulnerable minors that need access to care to go across state lines and receive the necessary care,” said Democratic Rep. Aftyn Behn while debating the bill Tuesday evening.

According to the legislation, Tennessee would make it illegal for an adult who “intentionally recruits, harbors, or transports” a pregnant minor within the state to get an abortion without consent from the minor’s parents or guardians. Yet supporters changed the proposal at the last-minute to exempt ambulance drivers, emergency medical services personnel and other common transportation services.

Those convicted of breaking the law would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which requires a nearly one year imprisonment sentence.

Republican Rep. Jason Zachary, the bill's House sponsor, specifically referenced Behn's previous public promise to help any young person travel out of state if they needed an abortion “even if it lands me in jail.”

“That's what recruitment looks like,” Zachary said as Behn pointed at herself while he read her statement.

Meanwhile, Zachary also argued that the bill was necessary by pointing to a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Missouri's attorney general.

Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey has accused Planned Parenthood of illegally taking minors from Missouri into Kansas to obtain abortions without parental consent. The lawsuit, based on a video from a conservative group that has promoted false claims on other issues, is asking a state district court to stop Planned Parenthood from engaging in the conduct it alleges.

“This piece of legislation protects parental rights,” Zachary said. “We are not relitigating abortion. That issue has already been settled in Tennessee fortunately.”

However, critics have countered that the bill does not contain exemptions for minors who may have been raped by their parents or guardians. Instead, the legislation states that the biological father of the pregnant minor may not pursue a civil action if the pregnancy was caused by rape.

Among the top critics of the measure is California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who launched an advertising campaign criticizing the Republican-backed bill by showing a young frightened woman handcuffed to a hospital bed and crying for help with a sexual assault evidence collection kit visible in the frame.

Tennessee bans abortions at all stages of pregnancy but there are exemptions in cases of molar pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, and to remove a miscarriage or to save the life of the mother. Notably, doctors must use their “reasonable medical” judgment — a term that some say is too vague and can be challenged by fellow medical officials — in deciding whether providing the procedure can save the life of the pregnant patient or prevent major injury.

A group of women is currently suing to clarify the state’s abortion ban. A court decision is expected soon on whether the lawsuit can continue or if the law can be placed on hold as the legal battle continues.

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in 2022 , anti-abortion advocates have been pushing states to find a way to block pregnant people from crossing state lines to obtain the procedure.

FILE - An abortion-rights demonstrator holds a sign during a rally, May 14, 2022, in Chattanooga, Tenn. On Wednesday, April 10, 2024, Republican lawmakers in Tennessee advanced legislation making it illegal for adults to help minors get an abortion without parental consent. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)


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