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Essay/Term paper: Abortion

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Abortion is the termination of pregnancy before birth, resulting in,

or accompanied by, the death of the fetus. Some abortions occur

naturally because a fetus does not develop normally. Or because the

mother has an injury or disorder that prevents her from carrying the

pregnancy to a full term. This type of abortion is commonly known as a

miscarriage. Other abortions are induced. Induced abortions are

intentionally brought on, either because a pregnancy is unwanted or

presents a risk to a woman"s health. Induced abortion has become one of

the most ethical and philosophical issues of the late 20th century.

Modern medical techniques have made induced abortions simpler and

less dangerous. But in the United States, the debate over abortion has led

to legal battles in the courts, in the Congress of the United States, and

state legislatures. It has proven to be spilled over into confrontations,

which are sometimes violent, at clinics where abortions are performed.

There are many different methods in having an abortion. Induced

abortions are performed using one of several methods. The safest and

most useful and appropriate method is determined by the age of the

fetus, or the length of pregnancy, which is calculated from the beginning

of the pregnant woman"s last menstrual period. Most pregnancies last an

average of 39 to 40 weeks, about 9 months. This period of time is broken

up into three parts known as trimesters. The first trimester is the first 13

weeks, the second trimester is from the 14 to 24 week and the third

trimester lasts from the 25th week to birth. Abortions in the first

trimester of pregnancy are easier and safer to perform, that is because the

fetus is smaller. Abortions in the second and third trimesters are more

complicated procedures, which present greater risks to a woman"s health.

In the United States, a pregnant woman"s risk of death from a

first-term abortion is less than 1 in 100,000. The risk increases by about

30 percent with each week of pregnancy after 12 weeks. Although it is so

dangerous many women continue to have abortions. There are even

some drug medications used to terminate a woman"s pregnancy. In a

method commonly referred to as the morning-after pill, a woman is given

large doses of estrogen which is a female hormone within 72 hours of

unprotected sexual intercourse and again 12 hours later. This high dose

stops the fetus from any further development at the earliest stages after

conception. Or the point when a man"s sperm fertilizes a woman"s egg.

Typical side effects of the morning-after pill may include nausea,

headache, dizziness, breast tenderness, and sometimes fluid retention.

During the first seven weeks of pregnancy a combination of two

drugs can be given in pill form to make a fetus. A pregnant woman first

takes a drug which blocks progesterone, which is a hormone needed to

maintain pregnancy. About 48 hours later she takes another drug which

is a hormone like chemical produced by the body that causes

contractions of the uterus, the organ in which the fetus develops. These

contractions expel the fetus. Misoprostol, which is another kind of drug

can also induce abortion when it is mixed with a different drug that

interferes with cell division. A doctor first injects a pregnant woman

with one kind of drug and about a week later the woman takes another

drug to induce contractions and to expel to fetus. When you combine

these two kinds of drugs it usually ends pregnancy effectively according

to the 95 percent of the woman who have taken them. Although, some

woman experience cramps, bleeding and nausea. Some of the cases are

more serious, such as pneumonia, edema, arrhythmia and they effect the

heart and lungs which may cause death.

After the first 16 weeks of pregnancy , abortion becomes more

difficult. One method that can be used during this period is called

dilation and evacuation. Which requires greater dilation of the cervix

than other methods. It also requires the use of suction of a large curette

and a grasping tool called a forceps to remove the fetus. Dilation and

evacuation are complicated procedures because of the size of the fetus

and the thinner wall, which usually stretch to accommodate a growing

fetus. Bleeding in the uterus often occurs. Dilation and evacuation must

be performed under general anesthesia in a clinic or hospital. It is

typically used in the first weeks of the second trimester but can be

performed up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Intact dilation and

extraction, also referred to as a partial birth abortion, consists of partially

removing the fetus from the uterus through the vaginal canal, feet first,

and using suction to remove the brain and spinal fluid from the skull.

The skull is then collapsed to allow complete removal of the fetus from

the uterus.

Abortion has become one of the most widely debated ethical

issues. On one side there are individuals who are for woman"s

reproductive rights, including the right to chose to have an abortion. On

the other side there are the pro- life advocates, who oppose abortion

except in extreme cases, as when the mother"s life would be threatened

by carrying a pregnancy to term. At one end of this ethical spectrum are

pro- choice defenders who believe the fetus is only a potential human

being until it is viable. Until this time the fetus has no legal rights. The

rights belong to the woman carrying the fetus, who can decide whether

or not to bring the pregnancy to a full term. At the other end of the

spectrum are pro-life supporters who believe the fetus is a human being

from the time of conception. The fetus has the legal right to life from the

moment the egg and sperm unite. Between these positions lies a

continuum of ethical and political positions.

A variety of ethical arguments have been made on both sides of

the abortion issue, but no consensus or compromise has ever been

reached because, in the public policy debate, the most vocal pro-choice

and pro-life champions have radically different views about the status of

a fetus. Embryology, which is the study of fetal development, offers little

insight about the fetus"s status at the moment of conception, further

confounding the issue for both sides. In addition, the point when a fetus

becomes viable is constantly changing with every passing year medical

advances make it possible to keep a premature baby alive at an earlier

stage. The current definition of viability is generally accepted at about 24

weeks gestation; a small percentage of babies born at about 22 weeks

gestation have been kept alive with intensive medical care.

In the abortion debate, the combination of medical uncertainties

and emotional political confrontations has led to considerable hostility .

However, for many people, the lines between pro-choice and pro-life are

blurred. The issue is also far less polarized. Many women, who consider

themselves pro-life supporters, are concerned about the danger of

allowing the government to decide what medical options are available to

them and the possible threats to reproductive rights. Similarly, many

women, who contemplate their view as the pro-choice view, are deeply

saddened by the act of abortion and seek to minimize its use through

more education about abortions, prevention"s of pregnancy and the use

of birth control. Many people on all sides of the controversy feel the

political debate has led to a stalemate because it ignores the nuances of

the issue. In response, participants in the abortion debate find common

ground in the admission that the issue is surrounded by complicated,

difficult questions that require more than simplified pro-life or

pro-choice supporters.

Abortion has been practiced around the world since ancient times

as a crude method of birth control. Although many religions forbade or

restricted the practice, abortion was not considered illegal in most

countries until the 19th century. There were laws during this time,

however, that banned abortion after quickening which is the time that

fetal movement can first be felt. In 1803 England banned all abortions,

and this policy soon spread to Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Throughout the middle and late 1800s, many states in the United States

enacted similar laws banning abortion. In the 20th century, however,

many nations began to be lenient about their laws against abortion. The

former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) legalized abortion in

1920, followed by Japan in 1948, and several Eastern European countries

in the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, much of Europe and Asia, along

with Canada and the United States, legalized abortion.

An estimate of about 50 million people have abortions a year. Of

this number a lot of the abortions that are performed are done illegally

which lead to immediate deaths. Illegal abortions are more likely to be

performed by untrained people, in unsanitary conditions, or with unsafe

surgical procedures or drugs. In many European countries it is more

likely for woman to have illegal abortions. In countries where abortion is

legal less than one percent of pregnancy related deaths are caused by


In the United States. the legalization of abortion became an issue in

1966, when Mississippi passed a law permitting abortion in cases of rape.

In the following four years, other states started to legalize abortion to

include cases in which a pregnancy threatens a woman"s health, the fetus

has serious abnormalities, or the pregnancy is the result of sexual

relations between close relatives. The Supreme court decided in the early

1973 two cases known as Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, that abortion was

legal for any apparent reason before the 24th week of pregnancy. The

reason for this is because the fetus has not yet become viable. The ruling

of the Supreme Court allowed individual states to change the law by

restricting abortion after viability. Except in certain cases when the

pregnancy presents a threat to the woman"s health, abortion is allowed

no matter how many weeks.

In 1976 the Supreme Court recognized the right of pregnant girls

under the age of 18, know as a minor, to terminate her pregnancy. The

court ruled three years later that states may require consent of one of the

parents of the minor, who wants a abortion. However, consent is not

needed if a confidential alternative form of review, such as a judicial

hearing. A judicial hearing is made for young women, who had chosen

not to involve their parents in their decision of abortion. The Supreme

Court of The United States also ruled that a judicial court may approve a

minor"s decision of abortion, in place of her parents, only if the judge

finds that the young girl is capable to make the decision on her own. If

the judge finds the minor not mature enough to make the decision of

abortion on her own, the court can rule whether the termination of

pregnancy is in the minor"s best interest.

Since these decisions many states have enforced parental consent,

or notification laws. Although some laws have been argued in courts for

years. For Example in 1990, Hodgson v. Minnesota, the Supreme Court

upheld a law requiring that prior notice of the minor"s parents must be

provided before and abortion is performed. In a similar case that

happened in Ohio, the Supreme Court upheld a requirement for notice or

consent of only one parent. In 1980 the Supreme Court upheld another

ruling restricting the availability of federal Medicaid funding for

abortions that were medically necessary. After that ruling, abortion

payments for the poor women were limited to cases in which the

pregnancy threatened the woman"s life. Also in 1977, the Supreme Court

allowed the city of St. Louis, Missouri to exclude elective abortions from

procedures performed in a public hospital.

In 1983, the court found it unconstitutional to require that a

woman considering an abortion should be given information developed

by the state, talking about risks and consequences and that they should

wait 24 hours after receiving the information about abortion. Also in

1986, the court struck down a law in Pennsylvania requiring that state-

developed materials about abortion being offered to woman that are

undergoing the procedure of abortion.

In 1989 there was a Supreme Court decision in Webster v.

Reproductive Health services, and since then the court has permitted

several state imposed restrictions to stand. The Webster case upheld a

Missouri law that prohibits the use of public facilities or public

employees for abortion and requires a physician to determine the

viability of a fetus older than 20 weeks before performing an abortion. In

1991, in the case of Rust v. Sullivan, the court upheld a federal policy that

prevented health care providers who received federal funding from

engaging in any activities that encouraged or promoted abortion as a

method of family planning. This policy was later annulled by President

Bill Clinton in 1993. One year earlier in 1992 the court decided Planned

Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which was a case in

which the court reaffirmed the central ruling of Roe v. Wade, that no

undue burden on access to abortion should exist for a woman over 18

years of age prior to fetal viability. That case also permitted states more

freedom in regulating abortion. The court overturned rulings which

made it possible for states to once again require that a woman be given

information about abortion risks and consequences and wait 24 hours

before actually performing the procedure.

The last bill enacted by the Congress was passed in 1996, banning

the practice of partial birth abortions. President Clinton rejected the law

because it failed to permit use of the procedure when a fetus displays

abnormalities, or when carrying a pregnancy to term presents a serious

threat to the woman"s life or health. Since then many states have passed

the law banning use of the procedure.

Since the Supreme Court ruling in 1973, pro-life supporters have

worked continuously to reverse the decision. They had state and federal

officials to place restrictions on women seeking abortions or on

individuals providing abortions. In 1994, the Freedom Of Access to

Clinic Entrances Act was enacted, which made it a federal crime to use

force, threat of force, or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, or

interfere with reproductive health care providers and their patients.

During that same year, in a case known as Madsen v. Women"s health

Center, the Supreme Court upheld the basic right to protest in peaceful,

organized demonstrations outside abortion clinics. More than two

decades since the Supreme Court first upheld a woman"s right to

abortion, the debate over the morality and the legality of induced

abortion continues in the U.S. Although pro-life and pro-choice

supporters still continue to argue the issue. A growing number of

individuals and organizations are kind of leaving the debate in search of

common ground. Many people hope that broadening the arguments to

include a wider spectrum of perspectives will improve the chances of an

end to the issue.

The argument for abortion is that women who accidentally get

pregnant have the option to get an abortion. Instead of just having the

baby and leaving it stranded abortion will not leave you in that situation.

In some cases the pregnancy is unwanted and therefore that is why I

think abortion should be legal. I feel that the woman should be able to

decide what happens to their body. Some woman must have the

abortion other wise it is a threat and risk to their lives and to their health.

Some parents might not be understanding and when they find out that

their child is about to perform and abortion, the parents won"t let the

child do it. Therefore the child is forced to have an illegal abortion which

is extremely dangerous. On the other hand, the argument against having

abortion is that it can be very risky. Some abortions are so severe that

they can kill you. Most of the abortions don"t necessarily have to protect

the mothers health since she wants to kill the baby. If the mother doesn"t

want to baby so badly than she should put it up for adoption. Majority

of the abortions performed in the United States are done in an unskilled

way, which leads to either woman dying or having horrendous side

effects such as the inability to have children. The woman who is having

the abortion should be responsible to prevent a pregnancy from the

beginning of the sexual relationship.

In conclusion I feel that abortion should be legalized through out the

world. I think an amendment should be passed for all those unwanted

mothers who either can"t afford to have a baby or who just don"t want it.

Obviously my position on this case is to allow the choice of an abortion in

any case. I hope I"ve proved my arguments for having an abortion. In the

future, I aspire that abortion will be legal in all states and not just selected

states through out the country. 

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