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Friday, July 29, 2011

Essay on Abortion - Why Some Women are forced to Undergo Abortion

Abortion is a practice that has been allowed for so many centuries.    Several centuries ago, pregnancies were terminated by the administration of abortive herbs, use of sharpened instruments, engaging in violent exercises, lifting of heavy objects and even riding of animals.  In the19th Century, abortion was prohibited during the fourth month of pregnancy in countries like United States and United Kingdom because it places in danger the life and health of the pregnant women.  (Dorothy McBride Stetson 247)  During this time, abortion was allowed only if the continuation of pregnancy will endanger the life of the mother.    

However some pregnant women still underwent abortion.  Women who were determined to discontinue unwanted pregnancy had no choice but to resort to illegal abortionists.  Most of the time these people are not even licensed physicians and the patients are not aware of this.  On the other hand, some licensed physicians who are practicing it had to perform these operations in secluded places for fear of harassment and losing their patients and clients.

Those who have the means were lucky because they could afford to go to another country where abortion was allowed.  Those who lacked financial resources to go other countries were often victimized by doctors practicing illegal abortion.  Most of these illegal abortionists either charged very high or were rough and sadistic in their operations.  Other women also suffered severe infections and hemorrhage under doctors who practiced unsanitary abortions leading to their deaths.  In these cases, the women can have no other recourse but to suffer. 
It was only in the mid-part of the 20th Century that the efforts of pro-abortion movements and other women movements were recognized.  A number of reforms were made and these include: some states liberalizing their own abortion laws by allowing abortion in cases of pregnancy arising from rape, incest or when the child is below 15 yrs of age; in some states like New York abortion during the 24th week from the last menstrual period was allowed.  Despite all these reforms, very few women still were benefited as only a very limited number had the financial resources to go to New York.  Thus illegal abortion was still rampant in some states especially to those economically disadvantaged.

On January 22, 1973, in the landmark case of Roe v Wade decision the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutional right to abortion when it declared that “the right to privacy… founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate the pregnancy” (Roe v. Wade)

The United States Supreme Court decision was considered a victory by the pro-abortion movements.  (Eva R. Rubin. Ch 4) As a result, affordable abortion services and sanitary abortion practices became accessible to majority of the women.  Licensed physicians can now openly practice it in other states without fear of being subjected to harassments and criticisms by the people.  The women benefited by these reforms were mostly those who were financially disadvantaged as better, cheaper and safer abortion services became available in their own states. 

In July 1976, however, as a result of the lobbying and pressures coming from the anti-abortion groups headed by the Catholic Church, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment which banned Medicaid funding for abortion unless the woman’s life is in danger.  The effect of this is that many states stopped their funding on abortions which they consider as ‘unnecessary.’  Their primary reason was that funding the hospital bills of women who have undergone unnecessary abortions involve wastage of public money which should instead be utilized for the basic needs of the people. 

This resulted in the discrimination against the women who lacked the financial resources as they were the ones who were in need of the government assistance for their unwanted pregnancies. Consequently, pregnant women were forced to look for abortionists who charged relatively small amount for their services.  This resulted in the increase of number of unsafe abortions. 

It is clear that the legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court is not enough to provide economically disadvantaged women with safe and affordable abortion services.  Adequate health care services in terms of government assistance must be allocated to assist women having unwanted pregnancies.  Restrictions such as requiring a patient to secure parental consent from both parents and imposing criminal liability to doctors who practice abortion must also be removed. 

However this cannot be done if the society still considers abortion as immoral.  The public must realize that pregnant women who are not ready for the responsibilities of a parenthood will always have abortion as one of their adoptions.  This will not stop even if we condemn women or if we ostracize doctors who are practicing it.  Unless we fully embrace the fact of abortion and instead give adequate basic services to pregnant women who want to undergo abortion we will continue to receive reports of women dying from undergoing illegal abortions.  

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