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An abortion is the deliberate premature termination of a pregnancy resulting in the death of any or all carried unborn infants. The ethics, morality, medical ramifications and legality of abortion is the subject of intense debate throughout the world.

U.S. Laws

The current legal status of abortion in the United States is based on the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. This ruling states that abortion is legal prior to the third trimester of pregnancy, after which time a state may regulate the procedure. After viability, the state's interest in fetal protection increases, and a state may more heavily regulate abortion.

The Roe v. Wade decision overturned many state laws regarding abortion by claiming that abortion is a constitutional right and therefore state legislatures did not have the right to follow the will of the citizens with regard to laws on abortion. This is controversial because abortion is obviously not mentioned in the Constitution. And the justices on the Supreme Court are mandated to base their decisions on the Constitution, not their personal opinions and wants.

Legal Issue

Most experts on constitutional law regard the decision on the Roe v. Wade case as a tremendous legal mistake. The Supreme Court interjected itself into what should have been a legislative matter. The Constitution doesn't address this issue, and as the Tenth Amendment affirms, on issues where the Constitution is mute, we have state and federal legislatures to write our laws. The Constitution is sort of the Bible for the United States of America, and the justices of the Supreme Court are essentially the theologians who decide what it means. They aren't supposed to write a new one. They're supposed to figure out what it means. When a change in the Constitution is needed, we have a mechanism to change it.

Most legal scholars believe it would be better for everybody if the matter of abortion was returned to the state legislatures. In that way the people's elected representatives can write the laws in accordance with the will of their electorates. We'd only have a hodgepodge of laws across the country, and in some areas abortion would be illegal if the electorate wants it that way. That's how democracy works.

What we call law is nothing more or less than the public's collective belief, their conviction of what right and wrong is. Whether it's about murder, kidnapping, or running a red light, society decides what the rules are. In a democratic republic, we do that through the legislature by electing people who share our views. That's how laws happen. We also set up a Constitution, the supreme law of the land, which is very carefully considered because it decides what the other laws may and may not do, and therefore it protects us against our transitory passions. The job of the judiciary is to interpret the laws, or in this case the constitutional principles embodied in those laws, as they apply to reality. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court went too far. It legislated; it changed the law in a way not anticipated by the drafters, and that was an error. All a reversal of Roe will do is return the abortion issue to the duly elected state legislatures.

The Science

Although some will say that abortion is not a matter of life and death, arguing that a fetus is not a "person", or a "human being", medical research proves that the fetus is a living organism from the moment of conception.

A sperm has 23 chromosomes and no matter what, even though it is alive and can fertilize an egg it can never make another sperm. An egg also has 23 chromosomes and it can never make another egg. A solitary egg or a solitary sperm does not have the complete genetic code for a separate human being. The ovum and the sperm are each a product of another's body: unlike the fertilized egg, neither is an independent entity. Neither one is complete. Like cells in someone's hair or fingernails, an egg or sperm does not have the capacity to become other than what it already is. Both are essentially dead-ends, destined to remain what they are until they die in a matter of days. This negates one common argument - that the unborn isn't human, or else every time a man ejaculated, or a woman menstruated, an "unborn" dies. Obviously this is ridiculous - a sperm without an egg and an egg without a sperm does not constitute human life.

Once there is the union of a sperm and egg, the 23 chromosomes are brought together in one cell with 46 chromosomes. Once there are 46 chromosomes, that one cell has all of the DNA, the whole genetic code for a genetically distinct human life. It isn't a "potential" human life, or some "other" type of life because something non-human does not magically become human by getting older and bigger - whatever is human must be human from the beginning. Everything that constitutes a human being is present from that moment forward - the only thing added from that point on is nutrition so the unborn can grow. This new life is not a sperm or an egg, or even a simple combination of both. It is independent with a life of its own, and the development is actually self-directed. A sperm can't do that - neither can an egg. They do not "develop".

The baby's blood supply is also completely separate from the mother's. If they were not separate bodies, the mother and child having different blood types would be impossible. If a child's and mother's blood mix, it can be fatal for the child if the Rh factors are different. There is a shot to prevent this, but if there is not, and the blood of different Rh factors mix, the baby can die.


Even most medical texts and pro-choice doctors agree with pro-choice geneticist Ashley Montagu, who has written: "The basic fact is simple:life begins not at birth, but at conception." The beginning of human life is not a religious, moral, or philosophical issue; it is a scientific and biological one. From the time those 23 chromosomes become 46 onward, the unborn is a living, developing individual with a unique genetic makeup.

Distribution of recurrent spontaneous abortion according to causes
Distribution of recurrent spontaneous abortion according to causes

Many people think abortion is acceptable because it's done before the fetus is what they consider "viable." However, viability is not something which should be used to determine whether someone is "human enough" to have the right to live, since viability is based on current medical science. Medical science does not determine when someone becomes human. Ten years ago, a 25 week-old fetus could not survive outside the womb. Now it can. Maybe in ten years, a 15 week old fetus will be able to be sustained outside the womb. Does this mean that the fetus, in 1999, is not human, but a fetus of the same age in 2007 is somehow more human? The point of viability constantly changes because it is based on medical technology, not the fetus itself. What if one hospital had the technology to keep a 20 week old fetus alive but another hospital only had the technology to keep a 28 week old fetus alive? Is the fetus "human" and worthy of life in one hospital but not in another?

Those are pro-choice and downright pro-abortion claim that abortion "liberates" women, when in actually it does not, in fact it instead "liberates" men. Abortion on demand liberates men who want sex without strings, promises, or responsibility. And if the woman has the baby? "Hey, that's her problem. She could have obtained an abortion - she chose to carry the child; let her pay for her choice." Abortion also "liberates" others - not the pregnant woman. For instance, employers do not have to make concessions to pregnant women and mothers. Schools do not have to accommodate to the needs of parents, and irresponsible men do not have to commit themselves to their partners or their children.

Political Angle

Politically, this is a highly charged issue. Even the two labels - "pro-choice" and "pro-life" are framed in such a way that the opponents would object to the opposite meaning of the framing.

There are many pro-choice liberals that strongly object to abortion on personal and moral grounds. They would never have one, participate in one, or counsel a loved one to have one. Their belief is simply that it should not be illegal - that a moral or philosophical belief does not equate to a legal mandate.

Other pro-choice liberals believe that abortion, while an emotionally traumatic experience, is also a valid and moral choice for people seeking to keep control over their lives, choices, and futures. Some believe pregnancy should always be a product of conscious intent, and a pregnancy that is not as such or a "happy accident" is suspect. Religious beliefs can also result in a person viewing an abortion as the right choice in these cases.

At its simplest, pro-choice and pro-life citizens that aren't simply trading on abortion for other political agendas can agree on one aim: to reduce the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies.


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