Abortion And A Debate On Whether It Should Be Legalised Or Illegal
This report will attempt to tackle the pivotal question “Should Abortion be Legalised?” To make a fair assessment, this report will study this issue from a global perspective, using Venezuela, El Salvador, and The United States as specimens, as well as from a national and local perspective in my home country Egypt. Local research was done through interviews with women in the child bearing age. These women were relatives and family friends, with an age range of 28-48 years.
I chose this topic as there are 25 million unsafe abortions carried out annually, and 25% of pregnancies worldwide end in abortion. (World Health Organization, 2018).
Venezuela is a country in South America that is currently undergoing a financial crisis, with reproductive rights suffering considerably in the aftermath (Chowdhury, 2018). To lay some groundwork, according to Guttmacher Institute, Abortion is strictly prohibited in Venezuela except if the woman’s life is in danger. Abortion is punishable by up to 2 years in prison (Guttmacher Institute, 2018)
Given the financial crisis, there is a significant shortage of contraceptives in Venezuela (Brand, 2017). This has fostered an environment where women are buying contraceptives at black market prices or through informal exchanges through social media, and some are even turning to sterilization (Chowdhury, 2018) and (Brand, 2017).
Abortion in Venezuela is the 2nd leading cause of death of women aged 12-49, as well as being the cause of 16 percent of maternal deaths; many Venezuelan women are using unsafe methods to induce abortion that have dangerous side effects, such as taking a drug called Misoprostol (Barbarani, 2016). To quote
WebMD, “In rare cases, serious complications (e.g., uterine rupture) have occurred when misoprostol was used to start labor or when used in combination with another drug to cause abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy.”
Analysing the information above, it seems like it would be prudent for the Venezuelan government to lift the ban on abortion, as the ban has only created an underground climate of unsafe practices that threaten the lives and wellbeing of women and their fetuses. The effects are intensified due to the scarcity of contraception and the failing economic conditions.
Abortion in The Republic of Salvador is illegal (Guttmacher Institute, 2018). According to Lakhany, 2015: Miscarriages are commonly treated as induced abortions, and women are regularly prosecuted. There has been a significant crackdown on abortion by the government, going as far as convicting women of homicide; according to the guardian, 250 women were reported to the police for having an abortion between 2000 and 2014. To illustrate, a particular story is especially cruel in the case of Teodora Vásquez, who has been convicted of aggravated homicide after suffering a still birth while delivering her rapist’s child at her job in 2007.
Much like Venezuela, contraception is not incredibly prevalent in use; though contraceptives are available and used to a much higher degree compared to Venezuela, birth control pills require a prescription, and other contraceptives can be unaffordable for poorer families, so a disproportionate amount of women still tend to opt for sterilization (Krisch, 2016).
To analyse, it’s especially evident in the case of El Salvador that banning abortion is ultimately doing more harm than good; these laws are used to imprison women for having still births. It’s also especially strange that the law can equate killing a non-sentient being such as a fetus that cannot sustain itself without the mother (and may also not feel any pain), to killing an actual sentient human being.
Abortion in the United States is completely legal following the aftermath of the seminal case of Roe v. Wade, which was argued in 1973 and guaranteed women the right to abortion according to their own choice, and thus abortion was recognized and considered protected under the 14th amendment, which guarantees the right to privacy (Oyez, n.d.).
In February 2019, President Trump has made efforts to cut state funding to non-governmental organisations such as Planned Parenthood that offer reproductive healthcare to women and redirecting funds towards anti-abortion or religious-based healthcare providers (Belluck, 2019). This can lead to disastrous consequences; to quote Guttmacher institute, 2016: “More than six in 10 women who obtained care at a publicly funded center providing contraceptive services in 2006–2010 considered the center their usual source of medical care. For four in 10 women who obtained care at a family planning center specializing in the provision of contraceptive care, that center was their only source of health care,”
To analyse, America’s abortion laws are quite flexible and offer a lot of freedom to women. Up until the second trimester, women are generally given complete autonomy and agency over what they choose to do with their own bodies without resorting to illegal and dangerous abortion methods. It’s very plausible to say that there will be fewer deaths related to abortion as long as the state is offering professional help to women who need to have an abortion, which is a net positive in all cases.
Abortion is illegal in Egypt (Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, 2017). To illustrate, it’s important to consider that Egypt is a religious country, with its own cultural and religious sensitivities regarding family planning, abortion and sexual education; 66% of Egyptians consider abortion morally wrong, and 23% consider family planning or birth control to be also morally wrong (Pew Research Center, 2013).
Due to cultural norms and moral uncertainties regarding birth control, Egypt is suffering from a disproportionate amount of unintended pregnancies leading to abortions; To quote a report by the Population Reference Bureau conducted in 2010: “Egypt’s 2005 Demographic and Health Survey showed that 56 percent of married women use modern contraception, and yet one in five births are reported as unintended.” To continue, “One study of 1,300 Egyptian women by the Cairo Demographic Center showed that one-third had tried to terminate a pregnancy—a rate comparable with some developed countries.” This is mostly due to lack of knowledge; sexual education is practically nonexistent in the Egyptian curriculum, as it was completely scrapped in 2010 (Massa, 2011). Thus, women resort to unsafe abortions due to a lack of information; to quote the aforementioned Population Reference Bureau report, “a small study in Upper Egypt found that 41 percent of women in one rural area had at least one abortion, and that 25 percent had more than one. The vast majority of these women (92 percent) did so without the help of a medical professional.”
Interpreting the information above, there’s a general lack of knowledge about reproductive health due to the failing educational programs, thus leading to poorer health choices; if women are better educated about the nature of their bodies and contraception, they would make healthier and safer choices when engaging in sexual relations. This information failure will likely only amplify the adverse effects discussed above
It becomes apparent that Egyptians tend to perceive most issues through a religious lens. Such is the case for Faten Gerges, a 48 year old Christian housemaid. When asked about her stance on abortion, she said that she is completely against abortion and that it should be banned, referencing her religion and asserting that abortion is “wasting God’s blessings,” however it’s acceptable if the mother is not willingly aborting the baby for personal reasons, only for health reasons. When asked if she personally knows of any abortion cases, I’m surprised to see that there she knew several women who have had abortions, not for health reasons either. She also said that she once went with a friend of hers to support her through this process.
When I tried to discuss this issue with four other women, who were mostly married relatives and family friends in the child bearing age (28-39) through an interview, it mostly boiled down to the same model answers and religious platitudes; That abortion is inherently wrong and should be illegal. Yet three out
of these four women have personally known women who had abortions, some through questionable methods. It is worth noting that all of these are educated women, with three of them working in commerce, and one working in healthcare.
This interesting dichotomy is why I think that when deciding on a solution, it’s important to tackle this issue with a pragmatist approach. As evident by my research, it’s an undeniable truth that many women are having abortions. It’s not plausible that all of these women are murderers or have questionable moral character.
Banning abortion harms women and causes health complications; as illustrated many times in this research, women end up having abortions in unsafe methods that backfire and harm their health, possibly causing death.
Another consequence of banning abortion is that in a system where abortion is illegal, a natural course of action for many unintended pregnancies would be putting up children for adoption. In such situations, many parents are often traumatized. They feel guilt and shame due to certain social stigmas around adoption, or because they are keeping the abortion a secret. They also go through phases of guilt or feel a sense of loss for their child (Child Welfare Information Getaway, 2013).
A further consequence is that if women are forced to bear children, this affects their employment opportunities. Research shows that a very sizeable percentage of employers (41%) believe that pregnant women presents an undesirable cost burden on the workplace, and around half of the employers (51%) believe that there is hostility in the workplace towards pregnant women or women who are on maternity leave (Equality and Human Rights Commision, 2018).
As a result of extensive research, I believe that women should ultimately be given the choice to have abortions. Weighing the costs and benefits, it seems like the most obvious solution.
To remedy the problem of abortion, it’s important to prevent unintended pregnancies that may lead to abortions. The most practical solution would be to educate the public about the importance of safe sexual intercourse through contraceptives to prevent pregnancies and STDs. The government should mainly focus on the education system to provide this information to young teens in school. Governments should consider breaking the taboo of talking about sexual topics for the sake of safety of young teens. Teachers should be trained to communicate this issue to students academically without shame.
Finally, after much consideration, it is plausible to demand that world governments legalise abortion. As stated many times during this research, women are not having less abortions due to restrictive laws, they are only resorting to unsafe and illegal practices to terminate their pregnancies. It is more practical that governments simply offer women the proper healthcare they need to deal with this issue in a safe manner.
My personal perspective has not necessarily changed after this research, but rather I realised the severity of the issue. The World Health Organization statistic outlining how many people have unsafe abortions worldwide has illustrated that more people should be having this conversation rather than throwing blanket statements such as “abortion is wrong” to justify their religious or cultural biases.
I believe that all countries should legalise abortion. Banning abortion seems to only achieve an overall worse outcome, as women still have abortions but they are having them in ways that harm their physical wellbeing. Thus, governments should protect these women by providing the necessary medical support they need while they’re taking such a pivotal decision in their lives.
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