23 April 2012
The topic of abortion is one that is very controversial and has been talked about for many
years. There are a few differing opinions, all with their own passionate supporters. Debate is
continuing about the laws surrounding abortion and whether or not women should have the right
to get an abortion. The majority opinion of the United States is slowly changing from supporting
abortion to being against it but whether or not the laws will change remains unknown.
Laws in the United States concerning abortion were first created in the 1820s. When the
laws were first created, abortion was illegal after the fourth month of pregnancy. By the 1900s,
abortions were almost completely outlawed, though some illegal abortions were still occurring.
In 1959, the American Law Institute (ALI) proposed a penal code for state abortion laws that
supported legalizing abortion under certain circumstances including poor health of the mother or
child and pregnancies resulting from rape, incest, or deformity. However by 1965 all fifty states
banned abortion with the only exceptions being in rape cases, incest cases, or when the fetus was
deformed. In 1967, Colorado became the first state to legalize abortions in cases of permanent
disability of the child or mother and in rape or incest cases. California, Oregon, and North
Carolina all passed similar laws soon thereafter. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court case United
States v. Vuitch concluded that abortion would only be permitted when the mother was having
health problems or if her life was in danger. However because the court ruled that health issues
included the woman’s “psychological and physical well-being,” abortions were readily available
to a woman for any reason. By the end of 1972, 13 states had passed ALI-type laws with four
states allowing abortions under any circumstances. The famous case of Roe vs. Wade that took
place in 1973 determined that forbidding abortions was unconstitutional. This case determined
that all laws forbidding abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy should be abolished
(“Abortion History”). In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that federal and state governments are
not responsible for funding abortions in assistance programs even if the abortion is considered
“medically necessary” through the cases of Maher v. Roe, Beal v. Doe, and Poelker v. Doe. This
ruling was upheld in the Supreme court case of Harris v. McRae in 1980. Harris v. McRae stated
that there is no constitutional right for women to have an abortion at the expense of the public. In
1986 the Supreme Court disapproved of state laws that mandated an abortionist to use the
method that will most likely allow the child to be born alive in post-viability abortions through
the ruling of Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The ruling
eliminated the requirement of a waiting period after the information about abortion procedures
are provided to a woman seeking abortion. The Supreme Court ruling of Webster v.
Reproductive Health Services in 1989 stated that the Constitution did not require public health
facilities to perform abortions. The election of President Clinton in 1992 brought many changes
to the abortion controversy since he was the first pro-choice president America had seen in
several years. Clinton lifted the ban on that disallowed any federal employees to refer a woman
to an abortion clinic and ordered military hospitals to perform abortions. He also wrote to the
Medicaid directors of each state, ordering them to provide payments for abortions when the
pregnancy was a result of rape or incest ("Abortion History Timeline").
All of the differing opinions and debates have led to the existing laws concerning
abortion. Ever since the ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortions have been legal in all 50 states
but certain restrictions vary from state to state. Some states have passed laws that restrict late
term abortions, some require minors to notify their parents before receiving an abortion, and
some require that women are informed of the risks of abortion before undergoing the procedure.
While some states have attempted to outlaw abortions, such as South Dakota in 2006, no
abortion is legally prevented in the United States ("Current legal situation"). Many differing
opinions still exist today leading to the controversy that surrounds abortion.
Wikipedia defines abortion as “the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or
expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo, resulting in or caused by its death.” When this
term is used, it most often refers to when a baby is aborted intentionally. More than one out of
three women in America has an abortion by the age of 45 (“Abortion”). There are several
reasons why women get abortions including birth defects, rape cases and most frequently,
unplanned pregnancies. For women that choose to have an abortion, there are two types
In-clinic abortion is one method that women can choose. This method is very effective
and it works almost every time that it is used. There are several ways that in-clinic abortions are
done with the most common being aspiration, also known as vacuum aspiration. Aspiration
procedures only take about five to ten minutes but additional time is needed for preparation,
talking to the provider, a physical exam, completing all of the paperwork, and the recovery
period (“In-Clinic Abortion Procedures”).
Another type of abortion that is available is the abortion pill. This method can generally
be used up to nine weeks after the first day of the woman’s last period. The official name of this
pill is mifepristone and was called RU-486 while it was being developed. This method, along
with aspiration, is very effective as it works about 97% of the time. In the rare occasion that the
pill is not effective, a woman then needs to have an in-clinic abortion because the pill will cause
serious birth defects if it does not cause an abortion. Medication abortion involves three steps.
The first step is simply taking the abortion pill, which will block the hormone progesterone,
causing the lining of the uterus to break down and not allowing the pregnancy to continue. The
next step is to take a second medicine called misoprostol, which will cause the uterus to empty.
This medicine usually causes women to abort in only a few days and more than half of these
women abort within only a few hours of taking this medicine. The final step in this process is a
follow up which is needed to ensure that the abortion was successful and the woman is healthy.
This procedure is done safely most of the time but as in all medical procedures, there are some
health risks. These risks include allergic reactions, incomplete abortion, infection, ectopic
pregnancy, and heavy bleeding. The cost of these procedures ranges from $350 to $650,
depending on whatever tests must be done (The Abortion Pill (Medication Abortion)).
The movement to legalize abortion is called “Pro-Choice” and it is the belief that women
should have the option of abortion open to them with no restrictions. People who share this belief
support it by saying that the fetus is not yet a human but is only a “mass of tissue”, and therefore
abortion should not be illegal. Other support for this argument is that women should have control
of their own body. They believe that the government telling women what they can and cannot do
with their body is unconstitutional. One of the main supporting ideas of this belief is that women
should not be forced to keep a child conceived in a case of rape or incest because they believe
that women should not have to suffer from something that they could not control. Another
instance in which people feel that abortion is necessary is if there is something wrong with the
fetus (“I am Pro-Choice”). Opponents of abortion, called “Pro-Life” supporters, oppose these
People who support a child’s right to life are called “Pro-Life” supporters. These
supporters think that abortion should not be available to all women because they regard it as
murder and find that it can have negative effects on the mother such as depression and health
problems. Supporters of this opinion believe the fetus is a living thing that begins development
immediately after the egg is fertilized. They also believe that abortion is the worst kind of abuse
that exists. Not only does abortion lead to the death of the fetus but it can have many side effects
on the mother as well. It may cause physical effects such as abdominal pain and cramping,
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and spotting or bleeding. Other more serious side effects of abortion
are heavy bleeding, infection or sepsis, damage to the cervix, scarring of the uterine lining,
perforation of the uterus, damage to other organs, or even death. Though these risks are all rare,
they can occur. Many women who go through abortions also deal with emotional scars as they
are forced to live with their decision to abort their baby for the rest of their life. Many of these
emotional problems arise when the women think about what could have happened if they had not
aborted their child (“Pro-Life Arguments Against Abortion”). Some also feel the guilt for what
they have done and may regret the decision that they made. Lisa DiFilippo, who had an abortion
at age 21 said, “I never thought I would have an abortion. Once I did all of the justifications that
I had were gone. The things that I had believed were a lie. I was forced to live with this decision
but it was not easy. It was very isolating for me.” Some people who call themselves “Pro-Life”
will find exceptions in rape and incest cases.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers are located across the United States and their mission is to share
their Pro-Life opinion with women who are unsure about their plan for their pregnancy. These
centers inform women of all of their options, but never recommend abortion to a woman. In
addition to providing advice to women, they also provide diapers, food, and other supplies to
women once their child is born. The executive director of the Creative Choices Crisis Pregnancy
Center in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Lisa DiFilippo said “While we never recommend an
abortion to women, we are nonjudgmental in speaking with these women. Many people believe
that we coerce women and try to influence their decision but we actually just try to help the
women decide what is best for them.” She also added that her experience with abortion in her life
has led her to form her Pro-life opinion (DiFilippo).
Not all pro-life and pro-choice supporters think that the federal government should decide
what the laws on abortion should be. Some people think that the federal government should have
no influence over the laws concerning abortion and instead feel that these laws should be decided
by each, individual state. The majority opinion among the 2008 Republican Presidential
Candidates was that the state legislatures should be the ones to decide whether abortions should
be banned or not (Opinions and Views on Abortion).
A poll conducted by Gallup reveals how much the majority opinion on the issue of
abortion has changed since 1995. 2009 marked the first year that more people considered
themselves pro-life than pro-choice since Gallup began asking the question in 1995. 51% of
Americans considered themselves pro-life in 2009 compared to only a mere 33% who had this
opinion in 1995. In 2010, the majority of people remained Pro-Life supporters but in 2011, the
majority opinion changed again as more people called themselves Pro-choice than Pro-life. This
change in opinion leads to continued debate on the issue and leads lawmakers to continue
debating on what the laws should be (Americans Still Split Along "Pro-Choice," "Pro-Life"
The different opinions regarding abortion have led to physical and violent protest in
opposition to abortions. These protests have included the destruction of property, murder and
bombings. In 1984, Randall Terry organized Operation Rescue which blocked access to clinics
that provided abortion services and even bombed three abortion clinics on Christmas Day in
1984. Those who were convicted of the bombs claimed that their actions were a “birthday
present to Jesus” (Abortion History). Operation Rescue also made and distributed wanted-style
posters that showed abortionists as criminals that were wanted for their crimes. Dr. David Gunn
was the target of one of these posters and he was fatally shot during a protest on March 10, 1993.
Violence by anti-abortion protestors towards abortion providers has killed at least eight people,
including four doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard and a clinic escort. The National
Abortion Federation reports that there has been at least 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats,
153 situations involving assault or batter and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion
providers since 1977 in the United States and Canada ("United States").
Abortion has been talked about and debated for hundreds of years. The laws regarding
abortion have evolved over time and they currently make abortion legal to all women under any
circumstances, though some states have passed laws to try to set restrictions on abortions that are
performed. The debate over these laws continues as there are several different opinions regarding
abortion, all with their own supporters. Some support abortion in all situations, some in only a
few situations, and some do not support abortion under any circumstances. The differing
opinions on the issue have led to much controversy and have even led some to resort to violence.
The strong opinions of both pro-life and pro-choice supporters require the debate over abortion
laws to continue.
"Abortion." Wikipedia, 2011. Web. 8 Mar 2011.
"Abortion History Timeline." National Right to Life. Web. 23 Apr 2012.
"The Abortion Pill (Medication Abortion)." Abortion. Planned Parenthood, 2011. Web. 8
Alcorn, Randy. Pro Life Answers to Pro Choice Arguments. Portland, OR: Multnomah
Books, 1992. Print.
"Current legal situation." Abortion in the United States. Wikipedia, 21 April 2012. Web. 23 Apr
DiFilippo, Lisa. Personal interview. 19 March 2012.
Gallup. U.S. Adults’ Opinion on Abortion. 23 May 2011. Web. 5 May 2012.
Head, Tom. "Opinions and Views on Abortion." Civil Liberties. About, Web. 21 Feb
"I am Pro-Choice." AbortionFacts, 2006. Web. 21 Feb 2011.
"In-clinic Abortion Procedures." Abortion. Planned Parenthood, 2011. Web. 8 Mar 2011.
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Abortion History." Women's History. About. Web. 21 Feb 2011.
"Possible Physical Side Effects." American Pregnancy Association, 09 2007. Web. 21 Feb 2011.
"Pro-Life Arguments Against Abortion." ChristiaNet. Web. 21 Feb 2011.
Saad, Lydia. "Americans Still Split Along "Pro-Choice," "Pro-Life" Lines" Gallup, 23 May
2011. Web. 16 May 2012.
"United States." Anti-Abortion Violence. Wikipedia, 17 April 2012. Web. 24 Apr 2012.