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Abortion doesn’t have to be the leading solution for coping with an unwanted pregnancy. Operation Rescue reports that, in America alone, 4 out of 10 unintended pregnancies are aborted (“Abortions in America”). No woman wants to find herself in that situation, faced with the grave choice of whether to abort or not. Most hide the fact that they had an abortion or are seeking one. Although abortion is legal in the US, women are still initially scared or unsure about choosing it. It’s a controversial issue where women are caught in the crossfire. Women deserve better. They deserve to be accurately informed about the stages of pregnancy, different abortion procedures, and the alternatives which are, contrary to popular belief, better in the long run.
One of the reasons women struggle with getting an abortion is that they don’t know when life actually begins in a pregnancy. There are a myriad of sources that report contrary facts. A majority of Americans believe that a fetus is just “tissue” and justify abortion at early stages of pregnancy. However, the opposing party claims that the fetus is a human life, a baby, from the very moment of conception. Let’s test this assertion by analyzing the development of a fetus throughout pregnancy. This development takes place in 3 stages or trimesters and is measured by gestational age. The 1st trimester begins with conception – when the egg is fertilized by the sperm. At this moment, sex is determined and a unique genetic code is set for future characteristics. The fertilized egg (zygote) will then implant itself onto the wall of the woman’s uterus. Within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, physical characteristics begin to form in the fetus. The eyes, muscles, arms, and legs all start to develop. Its heart beats regularly at 24 days and it’s estimated to be ¼ inch long (What They Never Told You). At four months, it enters the 2nd trimester and at seven months begins the 3rd trimester which ends at the 9th month. At simply 8 weeks, however, it is visibly a human baby in development and physical appearance, as can be seen on an ultrasound. Following this train of thought, a fetus is a baby even at conception and it is clearly distinguishable during the 1st trimester. According to the AGA/CDC, “89-92% all abortions happen during the first trimester, prior to the 13th week of gestation” (qtd. in “U.S Abortion Statistics”). In short, a large majority of women think they are simply terminating ‘tissue-like’ fetuses, not actually terminating their babies.
Abortion procedures are rarely ever talked about or advertised. Surgical abortion procedures, especially, since they can be traumatic experiences and result in unpleasant consequences. To begin with, procedures can be unsafe and have negative side effects on the female body, such as excessive uterine bleeding, scarring, or infection. Half of the women world-wide who have abortions undergo unsafe abortion because of restrictive abortion laws (Haddad, Nour). These procedures are unsafe because they are cheap, illegal, or executed by the unlicensed or untrained. Worst case scenarios lead to death if an error occurs or the procedure is compromised. The different abortion methods women have to choose from are vacuum aspiration or suction curettage, dilation and evacuation (D&E), partial-birth abortion (D&X), and oral medication, such as RU-486 (Mifepristone) (“Abortion Procedures”). Vacuum aspiration is the most commonly chosen method. Before it is performed, general anesthesia or deep sedation can be administered. The cervix must be dilated before obtaining access to the uterus. Forcing it open, however, can cause lacerations. Once ready, a cannula, or small tube, is inserted inside and then attached opposite to an aspirator which sucks everything out, thus “-pulling the developing human being to pieces in the process” (“Abortion Procedures”, par.6). An examination must be conducted afterward to make sure the procedure is complete, i.e. that no body parts are left inside. Furthermore, all of the methods, from surgical to chemical, can increase the risk of breast or uterus (ovarian) cancer. In the case of breast cancer, this is because abortion potentially hinders hormone levels and leaves breast cells in an undeveloped stage (Kahlenborn). However, further research is needed in this field to henceforth prove this. Breast cancer is the world’s leading cancer in women and many fall victim to it. Abortion slightly increases those odds.
It is also true, on the other hand, that women can come out after having an abortion relatively unscathed, physically and/or emotionally. One such woman, 29-year-old Yolanda, gives this testimony: “I didn’t have the money for an abortion, but the clinic gave me a number for a fund. I told them I had kids. They covered half of it. The clinic gave me copies of the ultrasound, and I keep them in a drawer. I never cried about it. I don’t feel guilty” (Winter, par. 2). Another woman offers her story about how despite the effects, she still was satisfied with her choice to abort, “When I was 19, I got pregnant for the first time. On the recommendation of a friend, I opted for a medical abortion. I was left to go through the process alone, which made the experience difficult. While my side effects were unusually strong, I was grateful and relieved to have been able to have an abortion” (Tran, par 6). These women, and still others, don’t regret their abortions.
Unbeknownst to most of the population, 64% of abortions in America are coerced (“Forced Abortion”). It is not unique to communist countries, such as China and their one-child policy. Women do not always get to choose what they would like to do with their bodies or babies. Social pressure, relationship problems, family issues, finical instability, and religious reasons are all examples of women choosing to abort even when they personally are against it or uncomfortable with the procedure. Men stand forefront as a major leading factor in a women’s choice to abort, whether it’s because he didn’t want a child or because he was no longer in the picture (Bauer, Allot). Often times, boyfriends or husbands will threaten to leave or stop supporting the pregnant women if she doesn’t abort. Even worse, they will physically threaten them. Thus, abortion is used as leverage in manipulating relationships.
This is especially true in the case of rape and incest. While naturally most women want nothing to do with a child conceived in rape or incest, aborting the pregnancy also terminates the evidence that such a crime was even committed. Abortion additionally compounds the trauma of the rape. Another victim whose name is Jackie confesses, “I soon discovered that the aftermath of my abortion continued a long time after the memory of my rape had faded. I felt empty and horrible. Nobody told me about the pain I would feel deep within causing nightmares and deep depressions. They had all told me that after the abortion I could continue my life as if nothing had happened” (Reardon, par. 5). From this we can gather that abortion for most female rape victims cause additional stress, instead of helping to ease the already-present trauma. According to two studies done on pregnant rape victims, 70% of them surprisingly chose to keep (Terzo). It should be noted that none of these women regretted giving birth rather than having an abortion.
The alternatives to abortion are parenting, interim or short-term foster care, reaching out to the father, and adoption. While parenting seems impossible because the pregnancy is unwanted, women should reconsider whether they truly can or cannot be mothers. After all, it’s a natural phenomenon. Yet, there is a lot of negative connotation surrounding pregnancy and raising children in modern society, especially in the case of teen moms. The reasons being that it hinders education, career goals, work, etc. Furthermore, the changes a women’s body makes during pregnancy are made out to be unattractive and burdensome. While it’s true that an unplanned pregnancy may be difficult to adjust around a certain lifestyle, it’s not impossible. In fact, it can serve to motivate higher education, according to National Women’s Law Center (“Pregnant & Parenting”, par. 1). There are resources available in the community to help pregnant women and teens who decide to keep, such as Pregnancy Care Centers. These centers provide contact information to Maternity Homes, provide baby clothes, food, and other forms of aid. Granted, there are still issues, such as financial, for teens or single moms who are rearing children. These can only be changed by appealing to the State and therefore needs to be initiated by the public.
If a woman feels she is in no way ready to parent at the moment (i.e. work, age, difficulties, etc.), she can always put her child up for short-term foster care, or ‘crisis care’. This is when the baby is put in the foster care system for a period of time and then, when the mother is ready, she can take the child back. However, generally speaking, there are setbacks in the foster care system. Most children will be moved from one placement to another, not finding any comfort in a secure ‘home’. There are cases where children have not been reunited with their families soon enough and instead are stuck in the system (“Foster Care”). Like most welfare systems, foster care isn’t perfect. While it’s unfortunate that these things can occur, foster care is still a valid system to consider. And if it’s not preferable, then there is still one last option.
The final alternative to abortion is adoption. There are three kinds of adoption, open, semi-open, and private. Open adoption is when the birthmother or parents meet with a couple of her/their choice through an agency before and after the adoption. The level of interaction varies from case to case, but there are no limitations. The birthmother has the right to request medical or school related information at any time along with visitation rights. 3, 980 pregnant women contacted the Independent Adoption Center, or IAC, in 2014 considering adoption (“Adoption Statistics”). Semi-open adoption is the same as open adoption on a basic level, except some confidentiality is maintained. Private, or closed, adoptions are strictly confidential. The birth mother or parents have no contact whatsoever with the adopted parents and vice versa. In the possibility that a mother does not want to choose either foster care or adoption, there’s always the father and his family, if they are still involved. They should also be held responsible for the child’s care and well-being. So if they are safe, a woman doesn’t need to hold back asking them to take care of the child.
In conclusion, abortion not only terminates a child’s life, but it can also harm the mother, physically and emotionally. Women should consider the alternatives, such as adoption, because it does neither. Adoption is a wonderful choice since it grants a couple who can’t normally have children a chance to create a family. It gives a child the chance to live. Irene Van der Wende, a rape victim from the Netherlands who regrets choosing abortion, shares a moving insight:
It doesn’t matter how you’re born, whether you’re created with wine and roses and love, or whether you’re created in violence. We all have just the same right to life, and have the right to make something of our lives. Our lives are not dependent on how we were conceived, but it depends on what we make of life. (qtd. in Schneible)
In response to the controversy over abortion, mothers and unborn children need to be treasured together equally, regardless of the circumstances. It is a tragedy that so many pregnancies are unwanted. If we understood and properly addressed the causes of unintended pregnancies, such as inefficient sex education, we would one step closer to preventing abortion (Hass). Women are capable of being responsible; they’re capable of being mothers. Consider the alternatives; abortion is not the right answer to an unwanted pregnancy.
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