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Understanding Abortion Laws
Abortion is widely considered to be a moral, societal, and political issue. From the pro-life and pro-choice campaigns, to women's rights issues and fetal rights issues, there's no doubt that there's a thick air of complexity surrounding the two. What's more, multiple forms of legislation have been passed regarding these issues, and court cases on the matter have resulted in verdicts that are, at the very least, unclear. This has led states to pass their own laws regarding abortion, many of which have led to the passing of anti-abortion legislation.
A Brief History of American Anti-Abortion Laws
Abortion legislation has had a long, complicated history in America. Generally speaking, abortion laws have been used to regulate, restrict, permit, or even outright prohibit abortion entirely. These laws have been dictated by both liberals and conservatives alike, as well as other decisive political decisions that have affected many lives, regardless of gender or age.
Abortion had started to take the center stage of politics when, in 1973, the U.S Supreme Court ruled in Roe vs. Wade ruled that abortion should be legalized nationwide. The Court, in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, reaffirmed the Roe vs. Wade ruling.
This, in turn, has launched what could be called a social war between liberals and conservatives. For example, since 1995, Congressional Republicans have attempted to pass laws banning different abortion procedures. Then-President Bill Clinton vetoed those measures, and since then, attempts at pushing those laws forward have mostly been unsuccessful. Even so, in 2003, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was passed, where a doctor may face prison time of up to 2 years, though the woman was spared from punishment.
Many states have also pushed the boundaries in regards to anti-abortion laws. North Dakota issued an act called the Personhood of Children Act whose purpose was to protect all human beings, regardless of their stage in development. In Texas, while efforts have been made to try and restrict abortion, in 2014, District Judge Lee Yeakel dismissed House Bill2, stating that the bill would place a heavy burden on women, particularly affecting those living in impoverished parts and rural parts in the state. In Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco signed a ban in 2006 pertaining to most forms of abortion, although will be allowed if the life of the mother was in danger. In regards to rape or incest, she merely said she would not make decisions based on those instances.
The Problem with Anti-Abortion Laws
With the religious and societal beliefs revolving around abortion, it's easy to see why anti-abortion laws have garnered a multitude of support. Despite this however, there are long-term consequences regarding anti-abortion laws, ranging from the nonexistent impact anti-abortion laws have on overall abortion statistics, to the degradation of women's health. For example:
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- A study from the Lancet Medical Journal has shown that anti-abortion laws do not reduce the number of abortions. In fact, according to the Independent, 34 out of 1000 women will have an abortion if their own country legalizes abortion. On the other hand, 37 out of 1000 women have had abortions if their country has made abortion illegal.
- Women will often go to other places where abortion is legal, or may even seek out unsafe abortions. According to the New York Times, these unsafe abortions consist of poor conditions that may jeopardize the life of both the child and the mother.
- In a report by the Center for Reproductive Rights, they've found that states with more anti-abortion laws also suffer from poorer quality in women's and children's health.
- In some countries, women could even be sentenced to prison for having an abortion. This has been the case in El Salvador, where women who have had an abortion, or have even miscarried, "can face up to 50 years in prison."
Shaming Those Who Have Had An Abortion
One of the main reasons why politicians enact these laws is because of their own beliefs, many of which may be quite controversial. Some have differing opinions as to when human life begins, while others take offense to specific processes as to how to handle an unwanted pregnancy. Despite this, there is no doubt an underlying stigma in regards to abortion.
Despite the many cultural and religious distinctions between groups, oftentimes, abortion is treated as a shameful thing. Many people believe that abortion violates the roles of traditional womanhood, while others view it as a threat to femininity in general. Anti-abortion laws have reinforced the belief that abortion is wrong, and is even viewed as unhealthy, both for the woman and her family. What's more, many groups, including pro-life and pro-choice groups, have capitalized on this stigma. Even more damning is the fact that women who were seen as having abortions are often treated as children, that they didn't know any better, that they were simply too naive to understand the consequences.
This, of course, has been reflected in academic studies. For example, according to The University of Chicago, many women anticipate experiencing this stigma when they first learn about an unwanted pregnancy. Approximately 58% of women feel they need to keep their abortion a secret from their loved ones. When patients see protesters outside abortion clinics, they may report feeling uncomfortable, even traumatized.
What We Can Do About It
Oftentimes, abortion has been considered an issue that affects us morally, socially, and culturally. From the various anti-abortion laws, to the shame surrounding women who get abortion and those who even support their services, there's something to be said about the way we deal with abortion in this country. Because of how politicized abortion has become, we're afraid to discuss the matter openly out of fear of ridicule or worst. What's more, because of this fear, this hinders women from learning just how these services could benefit them, whether it be psychologically or physically. This stigma has even extended to contraceptive techniques, techniques that have been used to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
To be honest, this entire situation is more than a bit hypocritical. Because while these laws are further making it difficult to get legal, safe abortions, they are also limiting options for women. A decision that should be between the woman and her doctor, or even a woman and her loved ones, is being devalued to the point where there seems to be just one side or the other. It makes the entire thing seem so…inhuman.
There should be other options that women use so they can learn whether or not the abortion would best suit their needs. There should be more information regarding different contraceptive techniques that prevent unwanted pregnancies. There should be support for those who are struggling financially with their children. There should be groups that offer women and their families support, and that don't shame them just because of what'd happened in their past. Because while it's easy for us to pass all these sorts of anti-abortion laws, it's harder for us to acknowledge the fact that sometimes, we need to deal with these issues on a personal level, not a political one.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 Robin Goodfellow