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A pro choice argument on the issue of abortion in the united states of america

Abstract Four decades after Roe v. Wade, abortion remains highly contentious, pitting a woman's right to choose against a fetal claim to life. Public health implications are staggering: Sentiment regarding abortion is roughly evenly split among the general public, yet fundamental debate about abortion is largely absent in the public health community, which is predominantly supportive of its wide availability.

Absence of substantive debate on abortion separates the public health community from the public we serve, jeopardizing the trust placed in us. Traditional public health values—support for vulnerable groups and opposition to the politicization of science—together with the principle of reciprocity weigh against abortion. Were aborted lives counted as are other human lives, induced abortion would be acknowledged as the largest single preventable cause of loss of human life. Four decades after Roe v.

Wade, abortion remains highly divisive. Absence of substantive debate separates the public health community from the public it serves.

  1. Pro-choice women's rights activists do not take a casual or callous attitude to the foetus; the opposite is usually true, and most of them acknowledge that choosing an abortion is usually a case of choosing the least bad of several bad courses of action. So, this question leads to questions below.
  2. They are invitations to humility, to question our assumptions, and above all to honest debate. African-Americans in particular have suffered greatly from these historical injustices and continue to do so.
  3. At this juncture one often hears that opposition to abortion is based on sectarian religious beliefs that have no place in setting public policy in a secular society. Abortion surveillance—United States, 2011, surveillance summaries.

In the wake of this and companion decisions, the US has one of the world's most liberal abortion regimes, allowing early abortion for any reason and extending to viable fetuses throughout pregnancy for reasons related to the mother's physical or mental health.

Far from settling the issue, there has been continuous and fractious debate in society at large over persistent ethical and legal issues Kaposy 2012 ; Marquis 1989 ; Nathanson 1979 ; Thomson 1971. Yet within the public health community, discussion about fundamental ethical aspects of abortion has been largely absent, and there is broad and vocal support for its wide availability APHA 2003.

Reflections The absence of substantive debate in the public health community represents a danger to our profession and society, because we thereby distance ourselves from the communities we serve, jeopardizing our credibility and the trust placed in us.

At this juncture one often hears that opposition to abortion is based on sectarian religious beliefs that have no place in setting public policy in a secular society. This is an arguable point because our social and legal systems have religious roots impossible to disentangle fully from the secular, and I will not address that topic here.

Rather, I hold that the application of reason, in the context of our shared secular ethical values as considered below, militates against abortion. We stand with the vulnerable and marginalized Our public health community has a proud history of championing the rights of marginalized and voiceless groups, such as immigrants, the poor, and others, often to angry opposition from society's powerful.

Yet we must also acknowledge our historical complicity with decidedly illiberal forces. In the previous century members of the public health community were important proponents of the eugenics movement, which argued for forced sterilization, denial of citizenship, and other sanctions against groups considered undesirable Pernick 1997.

African-Americans in particular have suffered greatly from these historical injustices and continue to do so.

  1. Journal of Philosophy 86 4. Why did this have to take place in 1960s?
  2. This notion is present in nearly all societies, religious and secular, and expresses the idea that we should treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated in similar circumstances. And, through mid to late 19th century, Doctors hold out a campaign to ban abortion.
  3. They also regard the right to control one's own body as a key moral right, and one that women could only achieve if they had were entitled to abort an unwanted foetus.
  4. National Vital Statistics Reports 58 19. Abortion surveillance, United States, 1984—1985.
  5. It is clear which sex bears the brunt of this practice. Single issued associations are formed to achieve one goal, and when it is achieved, they dismiss.

Planned Parenthood, the US abortion industry's largest provider, was founded by Margaret Sanger, an outspoken racist and eugenicist who believed that artificial contraception was necessary for controlling the populations of non-White races. Today, African-Americans are 3.

Let us take justifiable pride in our history, but not be blind to its cautionary tales. They are invitations to humility, to question our assumptions, and above all to honest debate. We cherish truth and guard against the politicization of science The previous US administration raised concern to high levels over attempts to deny, distort, and suppress fact and opinion interfering with cherished political goals Union of Concerned Scientists 2004.

We in public health must avoid falling into the same trap. With respect to abortion, the inconvenient truth that is often ignored or obfuscated is the biologic status of the human embryo or fetus.

The biologic nature of the fetus is in the realm of verifiable scientific fact and admits but one answer: To argue otherwise is irrational and deeply anti-scientific. The question—is the fetus a person? The answer to the question of fetal personhood and associated rights depends on whom, where, and when one asks.

Prior to 1973 in the US, the human fetus had certain legal protections for its life; today it does not. This notion is present in nearly all societies, religious and secular, and expresses the idea that we should treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated in a pro choice argument on the issue of abortion in the united states of america circumstances. Some groups extend reverence for life to all animals, but the most universally prevalent form, and that to which I refer here, is limited to members of the human species.

Despite obvious individual exceptions such as suicidality accompanying physical or mental illness, human life universally acts to sustain itself. Because we act to preserve our own lives, reciprocity holds that it is therefore wrong to take the lives of innocent others.

In the context of abortion, because we ourselves appreciate living, and therefore not having been aborted, we in turn should not take human life through abortion.

Under the principle of reciprocity, the developing human's stage of development and legal standing as a person—the basis of today's denial of the fetus's right to live—are irrelevant. Marquis reaches a similar conclusion in pointing out that the wrong of abortion lies in robbing the fetus of its future, regardless of the fetus's cognitive capabilities at the moment of abortion Marquis 19892008. This approach elevates non-judgmentalism to the highest possible value, above even life itself.

While attractive at first glance, this argument does not survive scrutiny. A century and a half ago in the US, this same logic was used to support slavery. As with abortion today, many tried to stifle debate by arguing that slavery was a matter of settled law based on US Supreme Court decisions e. Sandford, 1857 and therefore not a matter for further discussion.

Prefiguring today's pro-choice arguments, many who were personally opposed to slavery accepted slaveholder arguments that they had no right to prevent others from exercising the constitutionally guaranteed property right to own slaves.

Abolitionists responded that, although property rights were important, these and other rights must be considered within a hierarchy of values. Thus, one's right to property should not, in a rational and humane society, be held higher than another's right to his or her own life.

Where these two values directly and unavoidably conflict, life deserves primacy. Judith Jarvis Thomson triggered decades of robust debate about abortion with a series of analogies, most famously including one involving an uninvited violinist requiring attachment to a host's body for nine months to survive Finnis 1973 ; Thomson 1971 ; Williams 2004. Thomson argued the fetus's right to life was secondary to a woman's right to control her body throughout gestation.

In its essence, this argument holds that maternal autonomy may not be constrained by any living thing—neither fetus, nor father, nor family—and neither by society. Thomson's analogy has been criticized on several grounds, including its failure to take into account limits on autonomy in other contexts and their implications for pregnancy, the direct role of the parents in bringing the new human life into existence cases of rape and coercion exceptedand the familial relationship.

There are deep historical and ethical responsibilities, many codified in law, that we have toward our own flesh and blood. Thomson's analogy takes on a different complexion if the violinist is the host's dependent offspring. I find argument based on reciprocity in the context of a hierarchy of values compelling and relevant to abortion.

In our society most agree that a mother's right to control her own life should not outweigh the newborn's right to live. Thus, parents may not kill a newborn because they suddenly realize the unwelcome changes parenthood will bring in their lives.

Support for abortion means that the principle of protection for human life above a parental interest in autonomy does not hold for the days, weeks, and months prior to delivery.

  • While the number remains indeterminate, the toll would be affected by social and economic factors and thus amenable to social and government action in support of women with an unintended pregnancy;
  • Yet nowhere else do we declare that those in similar states of dependency or reduced function, even when that state is permanent, must forfeit their lives based on the opinions and desires of others, be those others family members or not.

Thus, calls for reproductive justice and compassion apply only to the woman with an unintended pregnancy and not to the human life she temporarily shelters. Is there something deficient about that human life prior to birth that upends the rational ordering of values, with life at its head?

Yet nowhere else do we declare that those in similar states of dependency or reduced function, even when that state is permanent, must forfeit their lives based on the opinions and desires of others, be those others family members or not.

Abortion and public health: Time for another look

The modern face of eugenics Whereas abortion has traditionally been justified based on developmental abnormalities or social hardship, scientific advances in prenatal diagnosis since Roe v.

Wade have increasingly opened its use for selection based on parental preference for normal human characteristics.

  • Abortion surveillance—United States, 2011, surveillance summaries;
  • Eugenics and public health in American history;
  • It disrupts her body.

Sex-selective abortion reprises society's and our profession's century-old dalliance with eugenics. Societies where this is most prevalent face dire demographic and social consequences, such as trafficking of women and girls, child marriage, and large numbers of single men with little likelihood of establishing families Hvistendahl 2011. There is evidence that sex-selective abortion occurs in certain demographic groups in the US Almond and Edlund 2008.

Does our public health community have nothing to say about abortion for sex selection, except to affirm it as a right? It is clear which sex bears the brunt of this practice. Conclusion As heretical as some may view it, core public-health values—concern for the vulnerable and respect for scientific fact—coupled with reciprocity and belief in a rational and humane hierarchical ordering of values support the conclusion that the human life prior to birth has intrinsic worth and deserves protection.

Living or dying during a period of temporary dependency should not hinge on whether the fetus is wanted by others. Public health and clinical medicine are professions endowed with compassion and deep concern for human rights. We must acknowledge that the first human right is to live one's life. The public health implications of this view are staggering: We in the health professions teach that tobacco is the leading actual cause of death in the US Mokdad et al.

Yet if aborted lives were counted as others are, abortion would be acknowledged as by far the largest single preventable cause of loss of human life, far outstripping the 480,000 annual deaths ascribed to tobacco U. Department of Health and Human Services 2014. We must also consider the public health cost in lives should abortion become legally unavailable.

How many such deaths might occur is uncertain, but that total would be small in comparison to the more than one million fetal lives lost annually to legalized abortion in the US.

In 1972, the last full year before Roe v. While the number remains indeterminate, the toll would be affected by social and economic factors and thus amenable to social and government action in support of women with an unintended pregnancy.

Arguments in favour of abortion

Any death from abortion is one too many, be it maternal or fetal. Forty-two years after Roe v. Wade, it remains a modern tragedy that the energy and resources devoted to abortion are not instead dedicated to supporting both women in crisis and the human lives they bear. Son-biased sex ratios in the 2000 United States Census. Support for sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and Abroad.

The rights and wrongs of abortion: A reply to Judith Thomson. Ethics and the golden rule.

Why should the baby live? Journal of Medical Ethics 39 5: Abortion and the golden rule.

Choosing boys over girls, and the consequences of a world full of men. Abortion incidence and service availability in the United States, 2011. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 46 1: Two stalemates in the philosophical debate about abortion and why they cannot be resolved using analogical arguments.

Abortion surveillance, United States, 1984—1985. Why abortion is immoral. Journal of Philosophy 86 4: