They argue that the fetus only has the potential of developing into a full-fledged human being; in the same way as an acorn has the potential of developing into an oak tree. In their view it is as ludicrous to call an embryo an independent human being as it would be to call an acorn an oak tree. (Lewis, 2000)
Right of Woman Over Her Body
The main "pro-choice" argument is that a woman has a right of control over her own body and nobody, including the state or her family has the right to take away her right in this regard. According to this argument, the right of control over her own body includes a woman's right to terminate or continue with her pregnancy. (Ibid.)
The "pro-life" counter argument to this contention is that the fetus is a discreet individual with all the rights of a separate person; the mother has no right to take away its life as such an act involves infringement of the rights of a separate individual.
Fetus as a Parasite
Another common 'pro-choice' argument on the abortion issue is that the fetus is a parasite and during the time it remains inside a woman's body, it is fully dependent on the food she eats, the air she breathes, and uses her circulatory and respiratory system; therefore it has no rights as a separate individual. (Gordon, 1999) The 'pro-lifers,' on the other hand, contend that even infants or children are dependant on their parents or other adults for most of their needs; hence a small child is no different from a fetus in this respect and just as killing of one's children is a crime, so is the 'killing' of a fetus.
The pro-life advocates now also quote "scientific evidence" in support of their contention that an unborn fetus develops into a full-fledged individual much before it is born. They contend that an unborn fetus has a beating heart, tiny little fingers and toes by just 18 days after fertilization and is not just "a blob of tissue" to be callously discarded. Moreover, the pro-lifers argue that the fetus moves and is capable of sensations while inside the womb; hence it is a living entity and has an individual right to life. (Hughes, 2003)
The 'pro-choice' response to the first point is that there is no conclusive scientific evidence about the early development of human features -- and some of the so-called 'evidence' provided by the pro-lifers has been proved to be inaccurate and contrived; as for the second argument, they point out that individual rights are due to man because of his "rationality" rather than because of his existence as a "living entity." If the latter was the case, then all animals would have such rights because they move and have sensations and it would make any person who ate meat an accessory to murder! (Parker, 2002)
The Religious Belief
Most Christians, especially the Roman Catholics, are leading proponents of the 'pro-choice' argument that life starts from the moment of conception. Their stand against abortion is further cemented by the belief that God alone is Lord of the womb and the womb is an inviolable place. Moreover, since Mary chose to give birth to Christ in the face of adversity, devout Christians consider giving of life as a sacred duty and a chance provided to mankind for attaining salvation. Also, the unborn baby is considered as the most defenseless form of life created in the image of God; therefore abortion, according to Christian belief is violent murder.
The pro-abortionists, of course, dismiss all 'religious' arguments on abortion out of hand as unscientific and dogmatic. It is also their opinion that religious people are welcome to apply their beliefs about abortion on themselves but they have no right to force others to follow their beliefs.
The Feminist View on Abortion
Although the earliest U.S. feminist movement was opposed to abortion, the modern day feminists consider the right to abortion as the corner-stone of women's rights. Feminists regard its denial as just a legacy of the ancient, deep-rooted prejudice and an example of discrimination against the female sex by a male-dominated society that wants to keep women in their traditional place, i.e., shackled to babies and the kitchen sink.
The U.S. public opinion about abortion remains divided and complex. Unlike the hard-core 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' advocates, opinion polls show that the general public can be 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' at the same time. For example, in a 1973 survey carried out 3 months after the Roe v. Wade decision, 63% of the respondents agreed with the statement: "It's against God's will to destroy any human life, especially that of an unborn baby" while 68% agreed with the statement: "So long as a doctor has to be consulted, the matter of an abortion is only a question of a woman's decision with her doctor's professional advice." (Quoted by Ladd and Bowman, 1999, p. 2) recent (April 2006) poll on Roe v Wade, asked: "Do you favor or oppose the part of Roe v. Wade that made abortions up to three months of pregnancy legal?" 49% of respondents said yes while 47% indicated opposition. ("Abortion" 2006 -- Wikipedia) The U.S. public opinion on abortion, therefore, does not tilt decisively in either direction.
The Pros and Cons of Pro-Life & Pro-Choice Arguments
While recognizing that the issue of abortion is not to be taken lightly, I am of the opinion that the women's right over her own body takes precedence over all other arguments and she cannot be denied the right to control her own pregnancy. It is also preferable to make the abortion in the early stages of pregnancy and statistics for abortion in the U.S. show that this is already the case.
Another reason why I support the 'pro-choice' stand rather than the anti-abortion point-of-view, is the fact that the "pro-choice" position emphasis freedom of choice: it does not force its view on others; if anyone considers abortion immoral or unacceptable due to their religious convictions (or for any other reason), they are free to apply their belief on themselves. On the other hand, the pro-life supporters intend to force their belief about abortion on others. Such compulsion, to my mind, is unacceptable and contrary to the guarantees of individual freedom enshrined in the U.S. constitution.
Moreover, the consequences of making abortion illegal are most undesirable. History shows us that declaring abortion illegal does not eliminate the practice just as the U.S. prohibition on alcohol in the 1920s did not eliminate its production and use. Before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the abortion procedure in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, illegal and unsafe abortions were performed in the thousands in the "back alleys." If it is again declared illegal, similar conditions are likely to re-appear. The unsavory consequences of prohibiting abortion are already evident in countries where it is illegal. According to the Encyclopedia Encarta, illegal abortion accounts for an estimated 78,000 deaths worldwide each year, or about one in seven pregnancy-related deaths, and in some African countries, illegal abortion may contribute to up to 50% of pregnancy-related deaths. On the other hand, in countries where abortion is legal, less than 1% of pregnancy-related deaths are caused by abortion. (Mcgee and Merz, 2004)
Abortion continues to be a topic of controversy in United States too, even though the U.S. Supreme Court declared it legal in 1973 and the decision stands to date. As we saw in this paper, there is some merit in the arguments of both the pro-abortion ("pro-choice") and anti-abortion ("pro-life") advocates. On the whole, however, the pro-choice arguments seem more valid mainly because they emphasize freedom of choice, which is an important part of the U.S. Constitution and American psyche. Hence, even if we are personally opposed to abortion, we do not have the right to impose our views on others about such a deeply private issue. No one can possibly be in a better position to decide on whether to give birth or otherwise than the woman herself.
Abortion." (2006). From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved on May 30, 2006 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion#Public_opinion
Abortion in the United States." (2006). From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved on May 30, 2006 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_the_United_States
The Facts Speak Louder than 'The Silent Scream'" (1985) The Planned Parenthood. Retrieved on May 30, 2006 at http://www.plannedparenthood.org/pp2/portal/files/portal/medicalinfo/abortion/fact-abortion-silent-scream.xml
Gordon, D. (1999). "Abortion and Rights: Applying Libertarian Principles Correctly." Libertarians for life. Retrieved on May 30, 2006 at http://www.l4l.org/library/abor-rts.html
Hughes, A.C. (2003). "30-Year Massacre." Archdiocese of New Orleans. January 15, 2003. Retrieved on May 30, 2006 at http://www.archdiocese-no.org/archbishop/ah_archives/011503.html
Ladd, E.C., & Bowman, K.H. (1999). Public Opinion about Abortion (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: AEI Press.
Lewis, A. (2000). "Abortion: When do rights begin?" Capitalism Magazine. Retrieved on May 30, 2006 at http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=273