Leah Foote Holly Dillard English Composition 1301 October 27, 2004 Abortion- The Controversy on Morality Abortion's legalization through Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade, has allowed for one in three pregnancies to end in abortion. This means that 1. 5 million abortions are performed in the United States each year (Flanders 3). It ranks among the most complex and controversial issues, arousing heated legal, political, and ethical debates. The modern debate over abortion is a conflict of competing moral ideas and of fundamental human rights: to life, to privacy, to control over one's own body.
Trying to come to a compromise has proven that it one cannot please all of the people on each side of the debate. Many people describe the abortion debate in America as bitter and uncompromising, usually represented on both sides by people with an intense devotion to their cause, and usually with irreconcilable positions. Many of those who are pro-choice insist that a woman's right to abortion should never be restricted, while those who are pro-life maintain that a fetus has a right to life that is violated at any stage of its development if abortion is performed. Discussions between both sides are usually very competitive, and sometimes violent, so any attempt at coming to a mutual agreement is drowned out. How can anyone hear if they refuse to acknowledge the other side, except to argue? Since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion, compromises that limit or allow abortion have taken two forms: those based on the reasons for abortion, and those based on fetal development at different stages of pregnancy.
The first compromise would allow abortion for extreme, or "hard" cases, which include rape, incest, or risk of the life or health of the pregnant woman, but not for the soft cases like financial hardship, inconvenience, possible birth defects, or failure of birth control. Compromises of the second type would allow abortions, but only until a given stage of pregnancy, which is usually much earlier than the medically accepted definition of viability- when the fetus can survive outside the womb (Flanders 8). Although compromises based on reasons for abortion have been incorporated in laws such as the Hyde Amendment, which restricts Medicaid funding for abortion to so-called "hard" cases, many people now focus on time-based restrictions. This idea is more realistic and practical than banning abortion all together since there would still be many women who would find a way to have the procedure done even if it became illegal or highly restricted. Agreeing to a time-based restriction could protect older fetuses and still safeguard the rights of most of the women seeking abortions, who are usually within 12 weeks of pregnancy. Coming to an agreement as to when the fetus is truly alive, is the next step to coming to a time-based restriction agreement.
Medical science has advanced the ability of the fetus to survive outside the womb from about 28 weeks to about 23 to 24 weeks. Since the progression of medical technology is always changing, suggestions for compromise propose a cutoff date for elective abortions at eight to sixteen weeks, which is well before viability (Flanders 25). One of the strictest proposals includes prohibiting abortions after approximately the eighth week when fetal brain waves can be detected. Some say that this is appropriate because this is the same way that doctors determine the end of a person's life. Some supporters go so far as to say that there should be a sixteen week allowed time period, opposed to the eight week.
Pro-choice people argue that this restriction would be less objectionable than the eight-week restriction since ninety percent of all abortions are performed within the twelfth week of pregnancy (Drie fus 101). Millions of pro-choices and pro-lifers believe that any such compromise would be impossible. From different ends of the argument, they criticize any proposal of time limits that would violate the rights of women or violate the rights of fetuses. They all agree that denying some fetuses life and some women liberty is hardly a solution to this very heated debate.
Since abortion is going to remain a fact of our time, a compromise based on the time-based restriction should be resolved. While the abortion debate is continuing and compromises are still being argued over, a new method of abortion is about to become available in the U. S. , Mifepristone (a. k. a.
RU 486 or the abortion pill) is an abortion method and medical advance that has created yet another heated controversy in this debate. The development of a safe and effective compound has been the goal of researchers in the field of reproductive biology for decades (Points 106). The ingenious work of French scientists led to the approval of RU 486 to be used as an alternative to surgical abortion in France in September of 1988. RU 486 is not a magic pill that allows a woman to have an easy or painless abortion. In fact, a RU 486 abortion, which can be done up to the forty-ninth day of pregnancy, requires three office visits over more than two weeks. On the first visit, a physical exam, medical history and a possible vaginal ultrasound (to determine how far along the woman is in her pregnancy) is performed.
Then she swallows three RU 486 pills to block the action of the hormone that makes the uterus receptive to an embryo. She waits half an hour (in case she vomits) and goes home. Two days later, her second visit, she is given a second drug, a, to trigger contractions that cause a miscarriage. She waits at the clinic or doctor's office for several hours while the miscarriage occurs. Between the two appointments, the woman may experience bleeding, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. A third visit is necessary to confirm that the abortion was complete (Points 106).
The long- and short-term effects of using RU 486 are unknown. It would be impossible to compare the death rate from surgical abortions to that of present RU 486 figures because only 100, 000 RU 486 abortions have been performed (Bender 145). One major difference is that the majority of RU 486 abortions were performed under strict trial conditions. Accidents are more likely to happen in less controlled general use. A drawback to RU 486 becoming legalized in America for general use is that since 30 percent of fertilized eggs are spontaneously aborted, large numbers of women may be unnecessarily exposed to the drug.
Once approved, this drug should be administered only by physicians and under strict conditions to protect women from possible extreme reactions. RU 486 does not seem to make abortion painless, but it would make it more available. Research shows that doctors who do not perform surgical abortions today would offer the drug to their patients once it is legalized for use in America (Carlin 6). Even if it is legalized, many women may still prefer to have a surgical abortion instead.
Surgical abortion may be opted for over RU 486 since many women may be against using drugs with unknown long- and short-term effects. Surgical abortion requires less time spent at the hospital or clinic than that of a RU 486 abortion. In a surgical abortion, the doctor inserts a long tube into the uterus, which is used for suctioning the fertilized egg out of the womb. The woman will feel some cramping, but the pain should not be intense.
The doctor then checks for any excessive bleeding and instructs the patient to return for a checkup in two weeks to confirm that the abortion was successful. What kind of abortion to have is a personal, and often difficult, decision. Some women find that a chemical abortion is troubling because of the unknown long-term effects the chemicals may have on the body although, to date, no health problems have been associated with RU 486 (Alcorn 88). Some women prefer surgical abortion because it is more convenient for them since less time is required at each visit. Other women would prefer RU 486 because they do not want surgical instruments put inside their uterus. With either procedure, less than one percent of women suffer serious complications.
Many poor women are having children, many of them illegitimate, simply because they are unable to a ff.