The abortion issue in the United States is constantly over-debated and has only worsened in recent years. It is not something that will ever be agreed upon, with such strong feelings on both sides. It boils down to, "when does life begin". Some believe it begins at conception and abortion is murder without exception, while others believe life begins at birth or a variety of other gestational time frames. Many of the more conservative and religious groups that are hardcore anti-abortion claim emphatically that life begins at conception or oddly enough, even prior to conception. Who knew? They preach a right-to-life of the fetus as the only pro-life stance. It is politicized and used as a distraction to divide the nation. While disagreements on this issue are always going to exist, it must remain up to every woman to follow her own moral or religious beliefs in deciding what is best for her health and circumstances. One's religious and moral belief system cannot dictate another's life choices.
In 2011, 2012, and the beginning of 2013, there was a dramatic increase in the number of abortion restricting bills that were introduced on the state level. The bills included personhood amendments, ultra-sound and vaginal ultra-sound requirements prior to abortion, abortion criminalization after twelve weeks, abortion after rape criminalization as tampering with evidence, abortion restrictions and criminalization in cases of the health and life of the woman, and more. Other laws have been passed in several states that require abortion providers to maintain medically unnecessary structural or personnel qualifications that have threatened the closing of abortion clinics. In North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Arkansas, only one provider remains open in each state. Mississippi's clinic remains open, but is under threat of shutdown due to one of these laws. This is taking away choice and putting women through unnecessary medical procedures and emotional distress in what is already a difficult personal choice.
Many Republicans don't support a "life of the mother" exception. Former Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, is against the exception as is former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Former Illinois Congressman, Joe Walsh, called it a, "tool for abortions any time." Simultaneously, pro-life Congressman Scott Des Jarlais from Tennessee, was accused of pressuring his mistress to have an abortion, although, he has denied the claim. One example of a threat to the life of the mother is an ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo implants outside the uterus. Most of us know a woman who has suffered through this experience. It is an extraordinary threat to a woman's life and rare for the embryo to survive, almost non-existent. This is just one example of countless scenarios. Should this be legislated by government? Whether the mother lives or dies? According to the American Pregnancy Association, 64,000 women a year have ectopic pregnancies in the United States. With the majority of these pregnancies being wanted, it might be wise to take issue with labeling them as abortions in the first place. While medically speaking, abortion is the proper term for the procedure, the current connotation of the word 'abortion', created by the conservative religious right, villainizes women as emotionless, uncaring murderers. It is a difficult decision in any case for most women. It is insulting to suggest that women deal with abortion as they would filing their nails. How is forcing a woman to proceed with a pregnancy that would kill her and the fetus, pro-life? How is that in any way the moral high ground?
Many religious conservatives also believe that getting pregnant as a result of rape is God's will. Todd Akin, a Republican Congressman from Missouri, comically believes that women actually have a valve that shuts off to prevent pregnancy when raped, placing the responsibility of pregnancy from rape back on the woman. The question is, if your 11 year old daughter was raped and in fact, did get pregnant, would you want the decision on what should be done to be legislated or a personal family decision made with your daughter? Many people believe they know what they would do. It is often easy to judge
others until the situation arises on a very personal level. While this is indeed a very difficult decision, abortion may be the best option for the mental and physical health of the victim. This is further complicated by the fact that rapists are able to sue for visitation, forcing the rape victim to co-parent with her rapist. Would you want your 11 year-old, your 22 year-old, or your 44 year-old daughter to be forced to co-parent with her rapist? If the rape victim decides to have the child, would you want the custody of your grandchild shared with the man who raped you daughter?
Poverty, illiteracy, and drug abuse also play a role in the abortion debate. One cannot imagine these situations or experience the desperation that arises in another's life. It is impossible to know how one feels or how experiences affect them. There are so many complexities, so many things a person can't possibly understand about other's circumstances and struggles. The saying, "don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes" is never more applicable than in regard to abortion issues.
While the title of pro-life has been claimed by anti-abortion groups, it is also the pro-life individuals who try to justify violence and even murder for their cause. In 1993, Michael Fredrick Griffin, a born again Christian and pro-life activist, shot and killed Dr. David Gunn outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida. In 1994, again in Pensacola, Florida, religious fanatic Paul Jennings Hill assassinated Dr. John Britton, his body guard James Barrett, and wounded Britton's wife. John Salvi murdered two Planned Parenthood employees in Brookline, MA in 1994. Religious fanatic, Eric Rudolph, bombed an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998, killing off-duty police officer, Robert Sanderson. In 1998, Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot and killed outside his clinic in Amherst, NY by James Charles Kopp who was associated with a Roman Catholic, pro-life organization. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was killed in Wichita, Kansas by Scott Roeder. Roeder, a pro-life activist, claimed that killing an abortion provider was justifiable homicide. These are just the attacks that resulted in death. There are numerous bombings of clinics, death threats, and assaults that have occurred over the years. How can any of this be justified as a pro-life agenda? How does this remotely qualify as being pro-life? This is hypocrisy at its worst.
One of the most outspoken groups against abortion is the Catholic Church. Ironically, the church is also against birth control that would prevent many unwanted pregnancies. Interestingly, the number of Catholic women using birth control has been said to be as high as 98%. It seems that it is easier to preach than to practice for Catholics. Recently, St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colorado, owned by Catholic Health Initiatives, was sued for the wrongful death of Lori Stodghill and her unborn twins. Shockingly, the defense the Catholic organization used was that although Lori was seven months pregnant, the unborn babies were not covered by the Wrongful Death Act. They argued under Colorado Law that life begins at birth and won. While this case is not about abortion, it is about morality and conviction of one's beliefs. Catholic Health Initiatives went against their core value that life begins at conception in order to save money in the lawsuit. It was again easier to dictate their moral beliefs to the masses than to practice them. Why should Catholics be held to a moral standard that the Catholic Church doesn't stand by in a court of law?
With so many different individual scenarios, moral beliefs, scientific theories, and religious standards, one must allow the individual the ability and the liberty to make personal decisions. If you don't believe in abortion, don't have one. No one is suggesting that anyone should be forced to have an abortion, but don't take the choice away from women who, for whatever reason, have decided it is the best option for them. Legislating abortion based on one individual's morality or religion while disregarding another's is unacceptable and unconstitutional. This debate wastes much of the nation's time and money. The abortion issue was decided in Roe v. Wade in 1973. The continued debate distracts from progress that must be made to push the United States forward. We must agree to disagree and live our lives according to our own moral code while allowing others to do the same.