Whether you identify as pro-choice or pro-life, each group has one thing in common — they both want abortion rates to decrease for the sake of the mothers and babies.
Receiving an abortion can be a wildly traumatic experience for the mother and is never easy. Where these two parties differ, however, is in their perceived best methodologies to reduce abortion rates. On the pro-choice side, we see more of a push for accessible birth control, sexual education, and available abortion resources. The pro-life side supports the elimination of abortion access altogether.
Abortion rights are a highly controversial topic, especially in the U.S. By acknowledging the most effective method of reducing abortion rates, we can implement said methodology and successfully decrease abortion numbers. Through analysis of statistics and various studies, accessible birth control and abortion procedures curb the number of abortions performed. Contrary to popular belief, providing safe and legal abortions can actually save lives.
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Not so long ago, the thought of getting an abortion was unheard of. The option to receive an abortion (in some states) was reintroduced to America in the 1960s alongside a new wave of feminism. This new reproductive right was a step forward in the fight for women’s equality, though the legislation was motivated by a different factor.
People wished to minimize the gap between medicine and law in order to better legally protect doctors who performed abortions at the time. This first change in policy sparked a wish for further abortion reform. This resulted in the Roe v. Wade case, which eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1973, the Supreme Court deemed accessible abortions a constitutional right.
Though many hoped this decision would depoliticize abortion, it unfortunately had the opposite effect. The matter of abortion became a highly popular and controversial topic in America as most people took sides on whether or not to support the act. Pro-choice and pro-life parties became extremely polarized in society as tensions rose.
Today, there is still extreme hostility between the two groups. The pro-life side emphasizes the idea that a fetus is a person just as much as the mother, so it should therefore have just as much of a right to live. This side is also focused on morality. When looking at the fetus as a person, abortion is often compared to murder. The pro-life side wishes to ban abortion in order to save the lives of unborn fetuses. In opposition to this, the pro-choice argument views the fetus as an embryo, or a part of the mother’s body she has power over.
This side also advocates for an individual’s right to choose to get an abortion or not. The pro-choice’s take on morality is more focused on ensuring individuals’ bodily autonomy rather than viewing the fetus as a living person. Despite the clashing viewpoints, neither side wants abortions to occur.
Getting an abortion can be highly traumatic, and can come with a debilitating stigma. The problem with the pro-life and pro-choice labels is that both sides want to protect life, but the scope of the debate has pinned the sides against each other in their methods and beliefs. However, these groups do not have to be enemies — there are ways to effectively reduce abortion rates while still protecting women’s reproductive rights.
What’s the way forward? Increase access to abortions, birth control, and sexual education. In a 2019 study conducted to determine the relationship between contraceptives and abortion, it was determined that over 90% of abortions performed were on unintended or unwanted pregnancies. The study also finds that about 70% of unintended pregnancies are due to the lack of use or misuse of contraceptives.
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This high percentage of non-use and misuse can be attributed to a lack of knowledge of contraceptives. From these statistics, it’s clear no one wants to have an abortion. Even in cases of abortions performed on intended pregnancies, the reasoning to do so normally stems from a fatal abnormality in the fetus or a life-threatening scenario for the mother. By this logic, the most effective way to curb the number of abortions is to first curb the number of unplanned pregnancies.
With proper education and access to birth control methods, the number of unintended pregnancies will decrease, resulting in a lower number of abortions. This method of reducing abortion rates could also help to eliminate the stigma that comes along with abortion. In a 2011 journal focusing on women’s health issues and abortion stigma, experts note the shame paired with abortion perpetuates the misogynistic ideals society places on women — including expectations to be a nurturing mother-figure and to maintain sexual purity.
These two stereotypes further the idea that a woman’s core role in society is to be a mother. And not just a mother figure, but a mother figure who only has sex for the purpose of procreation. This ideal carries on oppressive gender norms and dehumanizes women.
Despite these reasons to support accessible birth control, education and abortion, some people will still argue abortion should be outlawed completely. They’ll argue that making abortion illegal is the best way to end abortions. That if abortion was fully illegal in America, there would be far fewer — if any opportunities — to get the procedure. Admittedly, this logic makes sense and is even backed up in a 2020 study by JAMA, which concludes that highly restrictive abortion policies coincide with low abortion rates.
But the study records several limitations and acknowledges that restrictive abortion is known to harm those who need abortions for medical purposes. Though this study gives evidence to a counterclaim, there is far more research supporting the push for accessible abortion. Data from a 2017 article discussing the dangers of illegal abortions found that restricting abortion access does little to deter women from seeking out abortions. It does, however, increase abortion-related mortality rates as more women are forced to resort to unsafe procedures. It also notes that unsafe abortion rates were much higher in countries with restrictive policies compared to more liberal countries.
When women are stripped of the ability to receive safe abortions, they are pushed to find other solutions. Illegal abortions are commonly dangerous and can be fatal. The data from the 2017 study displays that restricting abortion access increases the likelihood the woman and fetus will experience harm from unsafe abortions.
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Clearly, abortions aren’t just about the fetus, they’re about the mother, too. Easy access to reproductive health services like abortions and birth control don’t just reduce abortions, but also reduce maternal mortality rates. These policies protecting abortion rights are necessary to save lives. With the purpose of exploring the connection between abortion restrictions and maternal mortality rate, a 2021 journal found that, in general, states with harsher restriction policies have broader hostility towards women’s health. The specific example the study gave was the lack of support for medical policies that can help maternal outcomes, like Medicaid.
In addition to this, it is much harder for women with medical conditions that result in high-risk pregnancies to receive abortions. This can be detrimental to both the mother’s and fetus’ well-being. Because these policies lack care for women’s health, these women are much more susceptible to harm than they would be with protective policies.
Some marginalized groups are also more susceptible than others. Since women of color experience greater barriers to healthcare as is, heavy reproductive restrictions affect their demographic disproportionately. Putting the argument of pro-life and pro-choice aside, restricting abortion accessibility strengthens racial disparities in America.
More people need to realize the effects of restrictive abortion on women. When the issue of abortion is watered down to an argument of whether or not a fetus is a person, the most crucial details of this situation are left out. Maintaining restrictive abortion policy perpetuates sexism, harms women’s physical and mental health, and doesn’t actually reduce the rate of abortions. If the pro-life and pro-choice stances remain polarized, society’s views and policies on abortion won’t change.
Both sides want the same outcome of preserving life, and by providing accessible abortion, birth control and sexual education, this outcome is achievable. We can reduce abortions and protect women by implementing these policies, effectively saving lives, but only if both stances can find some common ground. Maybe then modern America’s divided society would find itself to be a little more unified.