Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reproductive Rights: What's Your Opinion?

I've been in Washington D.C. this past week at a conference. Today, I had the opportunity to tour the Supreme Court. Such a beautiful building. The actual courtroom was elegant--I really wish I was here during an open session so I could sit in on arguments. We were told, though, that for controversial and/or highly publicized cases, people spend the night outside in line for tickets to get into the courtroom. Reminds me of black Friday for the Supreme Court.

Being inside the Supreme Court made me think about all of the significant cases that have passed through that building--that very room. In particular, I thought about Roe v. Wade. The issue of pro-choice/pro-life has remained controversial for decades (and undoubtedly will continue to be). Considering the information that has been in the news (and that I posted about previously) regarding the eugenics programming of the U.S., it calls to question the ability of the government to chose reproductive matters for a woman, but the lack of choice a woman has over her own body.

Often, the arguments I hear against giving individual women choice over their own pregnancies are based in religious beliefs, protection of the unborn and arguments of personhood (two different claims, really), and at times (though much less frequent) the demand that perhaps abortion is acceptable as long as both parents are in agreement and perhaps sign consent forms or something of the nature.  

1) Religious arguments: I tend to hear cites of Genesis, Psalms, and Exodus introduced. Suggestions that abortion is murder (Exodus) or that humans are made in the image of God and thus life is precious (Genesis) are present.

2) I am not going to delve into the argument of personhood. If you'd like to participate in this dialogue, you are more than welcome to do so in the comments. I request, however, that all individuals remain respectful and that we remember differences in opinion help us to grow and learn. The other argument here is similar to one I made regarding the Penn State scandal--protection of those that cannot protect themselves. Again, these two elements are linked. If one does not see a fetus as a person, then the need for protection can be questioned.

3) There are concerns that women could abort a fetus without the other parent knowing. Questions of fairness are introduced. It is the right of the other parent to know about the pregnancy and to be given options.

Opposing these views, however, are issues of maternal safety, managing consequences of sexual assault, and the medical status of pregnant women. I'll briefly discuss these things.

1) When maternal safety is introduced it may be a three-fold argument. First, there are particular claims regarding pregnant women who have cancer and their inability to treat themselves through chemotherapy without putting the unborn fetus at risk. Additionally, there are concerns regarding the consequences of banning abortion. Women will not stop seeking abortions, but instead the procedure will go underground. Stories of using hangers, unclean objects, and lacking anesthesia come to the forefront. So, here we hear the argument that if abortion were outlawed, we would see an increase in the deaths of women who are/were pregnant just prior to death. cited a recent 2009 Guttmacher report estimating that "70,000 women die annually from unsafe abortions, and millions of women are seriously harmed." Finally, there are arguments that if women birthed all pregnancies, women would die prematurely. In some countries women average 6-8 children each and the maternal death rate is much higher (see Somalia and Niger as examples).

2) There are also questions about how we would handle women who become pregnant as a result of rape and/or sexual assault. I find this argument tricky. Some individuals claim this would be an exception and that in these cases abortion would be acceptable. I question, however, whether we would see an increase in rape reporting because this would be the only legal means of obtaining an abortion. Also, considering young girls are beginning menstruation at younger ages, how do we handle cases of 10-year-olds who become pregnant as a result of rape?

3) Finally, the particular claim is introduced regarding women who are pregnant and also need chemotherapy or other series, long-term treatment that may harm the fetus. I question whether this should also be restricted if we are going to restrict abortion. 

There are other arguments from both sides of this debate, of course. But, I'd like to hear from you. Considering all of these things, I've decided to do a series of polls. Today is just the first in this series. I hope you'll stay posted and participate in this series.  And, leave a comment if you feel comfortable. Remember, you can remain anonymous if you feel the need. I hope, however, that this blog provides a safe and comfortable space for all opinions. Dialogue is meant to be productive. I remember seeing a bumper sticker that stated, "Debate, not Hate." Great motto, I think.

1 comment:

  1. What a great presentation of information! While I myself was presented with the task of having an abortion and could not go through with it, it doesn't mean that my decision is what is best for everyone. Now as a mother I do see how precious the life of my child is. I do think all babies lives should be spared but I am also realistic and know that it isn't my decision to make. I really think the government should worry about the well being of the moms who do make the choice to abort. I could imagine that would be a very traumatic event to move forward from. Instead of focusing their energy on outlawing it because like it was mentioned in the post it will continue, just underground; I think they should think about resources to provide these women with. It could be any number of resources from counseling to contraception education to prevent future unwanted pregnancies. I know I don't have all the answers and no one really does, but so many times we are only thinking about the unborn child. While the is so important we can't forget about the mother that is providing that unborn child with life as well.