The abortion debate is one of the most controversial current issues. Discussions often center on the legitimate, moral and religious reasons for induced abortions together with its long-term implications. Abortion typically involves the termination of a pregnancy and ending the life of an embryo. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), close to 50 million induced abortions are procured every year (“Abortion Statistics,” n.d.). Many of those who decide to terminate these pregnancies support the “pro-choice” movement that underscores the importance of women deciding whether or not to continue with a pregnancy to term. In a world where gender parity has been fully embraced, those in the “pro-choice” camp simply argue that women have an unassailable right to make decisions regarding their body without having to justify their actions. Conversely, the “pro-life’ movement argues that by the time conception has occurred, human personhood has already commenced (Abril, 2018, p. 34).
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It is this argument that they use to promote the idea of gestation to term and ultimately allowing a fetus to be born. Mainstream media has been awash with debates from both sides trying to prove their case and sway public opinion on the matter. These planned debates are also put together as part of a wider campaign to gain legal support on the issue since abortion represents a grey area in such matters. Anti-abortion laws are a reality in many jurisdictions which has prompted many campaigners to seek its legalization and the provision of a wider access to abortion. Thus, abortion should not be prohibited since it is a significant part of modern life and necessary in a progressive society.
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Abortion should be legalized because it allows women to have control over their bodies. It is critical to first acknowledge that abortion has been a hallmark of human life since ancient. It was considered a novel way of family planning and in ensuring that patriarchy prevails with regard to the inheritance of property. Rarely were the women and their bodily rights ever considered. The feminist movement that emerged in the late 1950’s dedicated its energies towards emancipating women from patriarchy’s yoke (“3. Abortion Privacy / Abortion Secrecy,” 2017, p. 47). Part of this campaign involved raising awareness about their duty to enlighten women regarding their rights and the fact that they also have a right over their bodies. Judith J. Thomson was vocal on such matters and made it her life’s work to present arguments for abortion. The common axiom has been that the fetus is a person and should, therefore, be accorded equal rights like any other individual. However, this argument is problematic. Embryos cannot be discussed as putative persons for they have not yet attained the legal status that is enjoyed by children in various jurisdictions. They cannot be classified under the law as “persons” and it is generally reasoned that they cannot enter into formal agreements (Bailey, 2011, p. 78). Also, they cannot sue or be sued which means that abortion cannot be termed as an offence against a person. Legalizing abortion is therefore practical since it affords women the luxury of controlling their life-support functions. A woman is better placed to terminate unwanted pregnancies since it is a question of making the right decision with regard to the use of one’s body.
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Legalizing abortion is fundamental in contemporary society since it is a viable option in the termination of pregnancies that have resulted from rape and incest and in the case of irreparable fetal defects. Sexual assault cases are a reality that we all have to contend with. Since most rape victims are of child-bearing age, 5% usually fall pregnant (Hamblin, 2012). Conception under such circumstances is a difficult road to travel for most women whose only practical option is procuring an abortion. The trauma involved often results in deep psychological and emotional wounds which may take decades to heal (Bonow & Nokes, 2018). From an ethical standpoint, a child conceived through rape and incest is blameless. Morality suggests that every child deserves to be given a chance to be carried to term and delivered just like any other sentient being. If pregnancies resulting from rape or incest are carried to term, they may present a host of new challenges for both mother and child. The mother may neglect the child in question due to a lack of attachment which may place them in unnecessary danger. They may proceed to utterly ignore the child in their time of need which may result in a host of developmental issues for the child. It is this perspective that informed the Irish government’s decision to repeal the Eighth Amendment, therefore providing easy access to abortion (Sanger, 2017, p. 45). Rape and incest victims in Ireland can now seek an abortion without having to first provide details of the unwanted sexual contact. Similarly, legalizing abortion allows doctors to terminate pregnancies if conclusive results indicate fetal abnormalities. These anomalies are usually apparent during the second trimester and may adversely affect the child and their quality of life (Stotland, 2013). Medical termination through an induced abortion becomes the next best option For instance, 90% of Down’s syndrome diagnosis are terminated as per the mother’s request as a way of alleviating future suffering resulting from the condition (Medoff, 2010, p. 23). Raising a child with physical disabilities presents a host of emotional and financial costs that many women are simply not willing to bear. It may affect their ability to care for existing children which is why abortion now becomes the only viable option.
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Detractors of abortion usually present the right to life argument as a reason why abortion should me made illegal. At the crux of their claim is the view that abortion is crime that can only be equated to murder. Pro-life advocates firmly believe that a fetus is an actual person and should be protected from harm (Simon, 2013, p. 17). Those seeking to promote the legalization of abortion have, time and again, claimed that life beginning at conception is a controversial issue that presents a wide range of difficulties when seeking to explore its legality. In addition to this, the argument is also bolstered by claims that a fetus feels pain as a result of the development of thalamocortical connections. Sensory and emotional factors come into play during fetus’s development, which is why abortion is sometimes considered an inhuman option. Part of this argument informed the Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 ruling of 1973 in the United States which essentially criminalized abortion (Ziegler, 2017). Although it had widely been accepted that women had a right over their health, their discretion had to be limited with the ultimate aim of protecting human life from harm.
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In conclusion, abortion still remains one of the most divisive contemporary issues globally. Nevertheless, it should not be made illegal for it is a necessity in a rapidly changing society. Abortion allows women to exercise power over their bodies and also essential when seeking to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. Still, cynics believe in the right to life, which is why disputes still surround this modern predicament.
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