The debate about the legitimacy and ethics of abortion is still in progress, separating society into proponents and opponents of this medical procedure. Some countries banned abortion or allowed it with strict limitations, while others made this procedure completely legal. For example, some American states do not include abortion in medical insurance, making this procedure expensive for women (Boonin 143). Furthermore, in Alabama, abortion is considered a criminal act, leading to imprisonment for a doctor who agrees to perform it (“Abortion Laws in the US – 10 Things You Need to Know”). Abortion can be medical, where medications such as misoprostol can be used, and surgical, where a fetus is electrically aspirated or removed manually (Fathalla 3). Safe abortion procedures should be performed in a medical setting by a trained person who utilizes standardized methods (Fathalla 3). Incriminating this procedure in some countries makes women use unsafe abortion methods, causing approximately 14% of maternal deaths due to complications of incorrectly-performed termination of pregnancy (Fathalla 4). Therefore, abortion should be made legal because women need access to safe abortion methods and because some cases require abortion due to medical or social circumstances.
Maternal Health Safety
Abortion performed in a medical setting by a trained person imposes no danger to women’s health, whereas the unsafe procedure causes various complications. For example, more than seven million women in developing countries with legal restrictions to abortion were hospitalized for life-threatening complications due to hazardous pregnancy termination (Fathalla 4). Many of these women could not afford to receive private family planning consultation and could not pay for abortion in a medical institution; thus, they had to choose unsafe procedures. Complications of such abortion methods include infection, bleeding, sterility, and death; however, these complications can be prevented if pregnancy is terminated in a safe setting (Fathalla 4). Since access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, governments need to strive for the decriminalization of abortion, making it accessible to women worldwide. Indeed, placing legal restrictions on abortion does not reduce the overall rate of abortions, which means that women seek dangerous ways to end their pregnancies (“Abortion Laws in the US – 10 Things You Need to Know”). Therefore, it is unreasonable and unethical to prevent women from having access to their universal right to health by placing legal and financial obstacles.
Medical Reasons for Abortion
Despite religious and political objections against abortion, there are circumstances when pregnancy termination is medically advised. Although some countries allow medical abortion in cases of serious threat to maternal health or fetal developmental abnormality, long waiting times and restrictions by term of pregnancy create enormous obstacles for women (Boonin 157). For example, performing an abortion after 24 weeks of gestation, except for fatal genetic abnormalities in a fetus, may result in imprisonment in the UK (Freeman). Medical reasons for termination of pregnancy include chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down and Edwards’ syndromes, and developmental defects, such as fetal alcohol syndrome and neural tube defects. Moreover, many other circumstances may require abortion. For example, women with such health conditions such as congenital heart defect, severe pre-eclampsia, and abruption of the placenta may not survive until the delivery. These dangers to women’s health may require abortion for medical reasons. However, legalizing abortion should not mean that women will start ending their pregnancies at any point of the gestational period (Freeman). Conversely, removing legal restrictions and making family consultation and contraceptives available to everyone may reduce the need for abortions.
Social Circumstances That May Require Abortion
Some social circumstances may force women to choose the termination of pregnancies. One example of such situation can be the conception that was the result of rape or incest (Boonin 7). In this case, pregnancy was not chosen by a woman who was exposed to violence. Although many countries permit and may sponsor the procedure for the victims of such circumstances, stigmatization of abortion may pressure women to undergo unsafe practices to end their pregnancies (Fathalla 7). Therefore, it is essential to decriminalize and remove the social stigma about abortion. Another example of social circumstances when abortion may be needed is when a woman belongs to a socially and financially vulnerable group, making her unable to provide appropriate care for a newborn. Although adoption may be the solution for this problem, unfavorable living conditions and intense job requirements may hurt fetal development. Therefore, abortion may be a more reasonable choice for a woman and her unborn child. Ending pregnancy can be a difficult choice for a woman, but in most cases, they make this decision based on doctors’ advice and considering future consequences for themselves and their unborn children.
Anti-abortion movements that operate with religious or ethical views aim to make this procedure illegal worldwide. Religious groups claim that abortion for any reason is against God and that it is equal to homicide. However, the same people oppose blood transfusions, bone marrow transplantations, and many other medical interventions based on their religious views (Boonin 154). Restricting a human being from receiving medical help can also be considered a crime against God’s will. Other groups that oppose abortion for ethical reasons state that the right to life is universal to all humans, and all fetuses possess this right (Boonin 153). However, women also have the right to their bodies and health; thus, depriving them of these rights by creating legal restrictions to abortion and making it expensive creates danger for women. As discussed previously, incrimination of medical abortion forces women to terminate their pregnancies in unsafe places, often by people who are not qualified to perform abortions, causing complications and hospitalizations. Indeed, it appears that creating obstacles for abortion due to contradictory arguments of its opponents causes more financial losses for countries than sponsoring the procedure and medical consultations combined.
Legalizing abortion is essential to prevent danger to maternal health posed by unsafe procedures and support women’s choice in particular medical and social situations. Making abortion legal and accessible to all women can minimize unsafe practices and prevent danger to maternal health. Moreover, some pregnancies require medical termination in cases of severe threats to a woman’s health and serious developmental abnormalities of a fetus. In some social circumstances, when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or when a woman cannot afford to give proper care to her future infant, abortion should also be allowed. Opponents of this method claim that abortion is an act of homicide; however, their arguments are controversial because depriving women of their rights is a crime, too. Overall, placing legal restrictions on medical abortion causes enormous damage to women’s physical and emotional well-being. Therefore, legalizing abortion, developing family planning consultation programs, and providing access to different contraceptive methods will be more advantageous for people and governments, removing the need to imprison doctors for saving pregnant women’s lives.
“Abortion Laws in the US – 10 Things You Need to Know.” Amnesty International, 2019.
Boonin, David. Beyond Roe: Why Abortion Should be Legal – Even If the Fetus is a Person. Oxford University Press, 2019.
Fathalla, Mahmoud F. “Safe Abortion: The Public Health Rationale.” Best Practice and Research: Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology, vol. 63, 2020, pp. 2–12, doi:10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2019.03.010.
Freeman, Hilary. “Abortion Should Be a Medical Matter, Not a Criminal One. The Law Needs to Change.” The Guardian, 2019.