Why is Abortion STILL an issue?


Abortion is still making headlines. A quick scan of current political fodder reveals these gems:

Ridge: GOP would accept abortion-rights VP

Group wants to attack Obama on abortion

Sharing stage, Obama and McCain split on abortion

As a woman, I resent the fact that in the 21st century we are STILL discussing abortion as if it were something the State had a right to interfere with. Ever since the 80’s, Right-to-Life groups (a rabid a group of fundies to be sure!) have been inundating the Republican Party (to its peril) pounding its anti-abortion drum relentlessly, and managing to make abortion a dirty word, alongside other such “dirty words” as “liberal” “gay rights” and “feminist.”

The history of Abortion in this country is enlightening. For example, abortion was legal when the first settlers arrived in this country (source: pro-choice.org )

Abortion has been performed for thousands of years, and in every society that has been studied. It was legal in the United States from the time the earliest settlers arrived. At the time the Constitution was adopted, abortions before “quickening” were openly advertised and commonly performed.

The real reasons abortion became illegal:

In the mid-to-late 1800s states began passing laws that made abortion illegal. The motivations for anti-abortion laws varied from state to state. One of the reasons included fears that the population would be dominated by the children of newly arriving immigrants, whose birth rates were higher than those of “native” Anglo-Saxon women. (Living in CA, I hear xenophobic comments about Hispanic baby-making proclivities impacting this state all the time)

During the 1800s, all surgical procedures, including abortion, were extremely risky. Hospitals were not common, antiseptics were unknown, and even the most respected doctors had only primitive medical educations. Without today’s current technology, maternal and infant mortality rates during childbirth were extraordinarily high. The dangers from abortion were similar to the dangers from other surgeries that were not outlawed. As scientific methods began to dominate medical practice, and technologies were developed to prevent infection, medical care on the whole became much safer and more effective. But by this time, the vast majority of women who needed abortions had no choice but to get them from illegal practitioners without these medical advances at their disposal. The “back alley” abortion remained a dangerous, often deadly procedure, while areas of legally sanctioned medicine improved dramatically. The strongest force behind the drive to criminalize abortion was the attempt by doctors to establish for themselves exclusive rights to practice medicine. They wanted to prevent “untrained” practitioners, including midwives, apothecaries, and homeopaths, from competing with them for patients and for patient fees. The best way to accomplish their goal was to eliminate one of the principle procedures that kept these competitors in business. Rather than openly admitting to such motivations, the newly formed American Medical Association (AMA) argued that abortion was both immoral and dangerous. By 1910 all but one state had criminalized abortion except where necessary, in a doctor’s judgment, to save the woman’s life. In this way, legal abortion was successfully transformed into a “physicians-only” practice.

The prohibition of legal abortion from the 1880s until 1973 came under the same anti-obscenity or Comstock laws that prohibited the dissemination of birth control information and services. Criminalization of abortion did not reduce the numbers of women who sought abortions. In the years before Roe v. Wade, the estimates of illegal abortions ranged as high as 1.2 million per year. Although accurate records could not be kept, it is known that between the 1880s and 1973, many thousands of women were harmed as a result of illegal abortion. Many women died or suffered serious medical problems after attempting to self-induce their abortions or going to untrained practitioners who performed abortions with primitive methods or in unsanitary conditions. During this time, hospital emergency room staff treated thousands of women who either died or were suffering terrible effects of abortions provided without adequate skill and care. Some women were able to obtain relatively safer, although still illegal, abortions from private doctors. This practice remained prevalent for the first half of the twentieth century. The rate of reported abortions then began to decline, partly because doctors faced increased scrutiny from their peers and hospital administrators concerned about the legality of their operations.

Since Roe:

The reaction to Roe was swift. Supporters of legal abortion rejoiced and generally felt their battle was won. However, others faulted the Court for the decision. Those opposed to legal abortion immediately began working to prevent any federal or state funding for abortion and to undermine or limit the effect of the decision. Some turned to measures directly aimed at disrupting clinics where abortions were being provided. Their tactics have included demonstrating in front of abortion clinics, harassing people trying to enter, vandalizing clinic property, and blocking access to clinics. As time passed, the level of anti-abortion violence escalated. Increasingly, clinic bombings, physical attacks, and even murders endanger abortion providers and create a hostile environment for women seeking abortions.

Initially, the framework of Roe v. Wade was the basis by which the constitutionality of state abortion laws was determined. In recent years, however, the Supreme Court has begun to allow more restrictions on abortion. For instance, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 established that states can restrict pre-viability abortions. Restrictions can be placed on first trimester abortions in ways that are not medically necessary, as long as the restrictions do not place an “undue burden” on women seeking abortion services. Many states now have restrictions in place such as parental involvement, mandatory waiting periods, and biased counseling. Only the requirement that a woman involve her spouse in her decision was disallowed.

The focus changing from the mother to the fetus was sheer spin on the part of the fundies, calculated to elicit an emotional response for the “helpless” fetus whilst totally marginalizing the mother as unimportant—nevermind she was the host vessel for the fetus! I agree with this assessment, that the underlying reasons for criminalizing abortion are more insidious:

The anti-abortion leaders really have a larger purpose. They oppose most ideas and programs which can help women achieve equality and freedom. They also oppose programs which protect the health and well-being of women and their children. Anti-abortion leaders claim to act “in defense of life.” If so, why have they worked to destroy programs which serve life, including prenatal care and nutrition programs for dependent pregnant women? Is this respect for life?

Anti-abortion leaders also say they are trying to save children, but they have fought against health and nutrition programs for children once they are born. The anti-abortion groups seem to believe life begins at conception, but it ends at birth. Is this respect for life? Then there are programs which diminish the number of unwanted pregnancies before they occur: family planning counseling, sex education, and contraception for those who wish it. Anti-abortion leaders oppose those too. And clinics providing such services have been bombed and people have been killed. Is this respect for life?

Such stances reveal the ultimate cynicism of the compulsory pregnancy movement. “Life” is not what they’re fighting for. What they want is a return to the days when a woman had few choices in controlling her future. They think that the abortion option gives too much freedom. That even contraception is too liberating. That women cannot be trusted to make their own decisions. source

I am sick to death of MEN telling me what I can or cant do with MY OWN BODY. Wouldn’t the tables be turned if Vasectomy were mandatory?

or, put another way:

Keep OFF!

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~ by irishgrl on August 19, 2008.

5 Responses to “Why is Abortion STILL an issue?”

  1. I think abortion will always be an issue because it is about killing. Same thing as vegetarianism will always be a issue, sort of. I mean, not in the same level, but still.
    People are uncomfortable with the idea of killing something. This is the same reason why cloning isn’t taking on. Nobody wants to be in charge of it.
    Abortion isn’t the same as cloning either.
    I’ll just stop now.
    Either, way, I think it should be the woman’s choice. If she doesn’t want the baby, I thinks she should have every choice about it. I don’t necessarily think they are good things, but I’m not the pregnant one.
    I do know that if I were to get pregnant, while still at home, my mom would make me get one. At least she sounded serious in that conversation….Long story….=P

  2. with all due respect, that argument (its about killing) doesnt make sense because the same folks (fundies) that are anti-abortion are also PRO death penalty. Oh sure, they’ll justify it by saying a convicted criminal isnt the same thing as an innocent baby, but the truth is, a death is a death. And in this country over 80% of the abortions performed are done before 12 weeks, when the fetus is about an inch long. Its not like a newborn…and I think thats what most people envision when they think of abortion–a newborn. Somewhere along the line the WOMAN was shoved to the background. And that is just WRONG. Its HER body and HER choice in my opinion. (Im glad we agree on that point anyway) And if there’s anything that fundies cant stand, its a woman with the ability to CHOOSE.

  3. Okay, well I forgot about the death penalty part….
    I think the “fundies”, as you call them, just can’t stand that someone wants to go against what they want….Time and time again the different sects and parties are against each other, and a lot of it is because they aren’t willing to see it from a different perspective. They are all too blind-sighted, thinking that they are right, while not taking the time to look at the other side of the issue – that is the major flaw in the world, in my opinion. Then again, I could be wrong – I don’t know that much, after all.

  4. I think you know more than you give yourself credit for ❤

  5. Maybe. Who knows.
    ❤ *hugs* 😀

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