The subject of legal abortion has lead to a nationwide, often emotion-filled, debate that has endured for many years and will for many years to come. People are decidedly either in the ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life’ camp.
There are no compromises to be negotiated: one concerned with the life of a child; the other, the freedom of choice and woman’s health. Laws that force women to carry their pregnancy to term contradict the precepts of the U.S. Constitution as well as any definition of compassion and decency.
It is unconscionable that a nation founded on and dedicated to civil liberties could allow its citizens to resort to dangerous self-abortion procedures. However, before the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 which legalized abortion in the U.S., this practice was commonplace.
A nation founded on and dedicated to civil liberties should not require its citizens to resort to dangerous self-abortion procedures. According to John Adams, “Our Constitution was made for a moral people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (Beach 1988). Those opposed to legal abortions are also in the same camp that opposes programs that aid the impoverished and abused children who are the result of unwanted pregnancies. They point to ‘Christian morals’ and ‘family values’ as justification for the loss of liberty, discrimination of the poor, and the increased cases of injured women who attempt to perform abortions themselves as had been the case before its legalization. ‘Pro-life’ groups seldom encourage their members to adopt the children of unwanted pregnancies. They do not want to take on the role they are forcing on other women. Maybe a child in their life would so severely alter it as to be a major detriment to their entire future. This is a valid argument they do not afford women who became pregnant at just the wrong time in their life. Possibly, they could be a college student who would have to drop out of school thus sacrificing their future family’s well-being.
The Roe v. Wade case, brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, resulted in the Court’s determination that women have the constitutional right to have an abortion before when the fetus is viable, meaning when it can survive on its own outside the woman’s womb.
The decision invalidated any state law that restricted a woman to have an abortion or a doctor to perform an abortion during the first three months (first trimester) of a pregnancy. It also restricted abortions during the second trimester unless a woman’s health was in jeopardy (“Roe v. Wade”, 1997: 312).
When most people speak disapprovingly of the Roe decision, they base their objection purely on moral grounds but scholars, lawyers, and especially judges who condemn the decision should only do so based on constitutional grounds in addition to voicing their moral objections.
The argument against the decision should address the 9th Amendment which states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people” (“Bill of Rights”, 2006). Those opposed have said that the ninth, or any other amendment, does not specifically mention abortion therefore the Constitution is not applicable when attempting to determine the legality of abortion rights. This opinion, however, very obviously contradicts the short and to the point statement that is the Ninth Amendment which encourages the recognition of abortion and all other rights over and above what is contained in the Constitution. Just because the word ‘abortion’ does not appear, the Constitution is still the origin for legal precedence for this issue as it is for all other civil rights cases. The Constitution also answers those that argue that the issue should be decided on the state level.
Legal Abortions Reduce Crime
In his paper “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” Steven Levitt shows that the access to legal abortions actually reduces crime, a fact not well circulated by the media. Levitt justifies his claim based on two basic theories. 1) “Legalized abortion leads to fewer ‘unwanted’ babies being born,” and 2) “unwanted babies are more likely to suffer abuse and neglect and are therefore at an increased risk for criminal involvement later in life.” (Levitt, 2001) The first theory is simple and straightforward, fewer people produces less crime. The second theory has been evidenced by more than 30 years of research on the subject. It is an uncomfortable yet somewhat obvious truth. Unwanted kids grow up in a less than ideal circumstance fostering emotional and psychological problems which are not experienced in the same numbers as kids that were wanted by the parents. “If one accepts these two assumptions, then a direct mechanism by which the legalization of abortion can reduce crime has been established.” (Levitt, 2001)
Before abortion was legal, many thousands of young women were mutilated and died attempting to end a pregnancy though the wealthy were able to have illegal abortions safely. The wealthy were able to travel abroad or pay high fees to a local doctor willing to perform the procedure for a price but a poor woman must resort to less safe options. Prohibiting abortions does not and has never stopped them from occurring; it just acts to harm women. Women should have access to safe abortions. Setting aside the Constitutional and moral arguments, every child should be wanted, it is better for them, their parents and society as a whole.
Beach, W. (1988). Christian Ethics in the Protestant Tradition. Atlanta: John Knox Press.
“Roe v. Wade: 1973.” (1997). Women’s Rights on Trial. 1st Ed. New York: Thompson Gale.
“United States Constitution Bill of Rights.” (2006). Cornell Law School. Legal Information Institute. Web.
Levitt, Steven (2001) “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Web.