The Irony Behind Pro-Life


Conner Hua, Photography Editor

The World Health Organization reports that every year, approximately 42 million women terminate their pregnancies, with 20 million of them being unsafe abortions. On average, 70,000 of those unsafe abortions result in death, making unsafe abortion the leading cause of maternal death across the globe. Of those who are lucky enough to survive abortion in hazardous conditions, 5 million suffer long-term health complications as a direct result. The epidemic of unsafe abortion poses a serious threat to maternal health; however, the road to safe abortions and protection of maternal health is riddled with obstacles. Legislation and efforts to prevent unsafe abortion have been met with social, religious, and political challenges at every step of the way.

One of the most pressing topics in politics and current events is the issue of abortion. Every day, mothers across the globe face persecution for wanting to make decisions about their body and their children. The reasons these women possess for wanting to abort vary per person: however, common reasons include maternal health concerns, pregnancy resulting from rape, financial instability, fetal health concerns, and a fear of responsibility. However, women should be provided the legal choice of whether or not to keep their baby regardless of their reason.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled 7-2 on the case, Roe v. Wade, in a landmark decision that permitted abortion up to the third trimester of pregnancy across the U.S. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution affirms that “No State shall… deprive any person of life, liberty, or property”. Writing for the majority opinion, late Justice Harry Blackmun claimed that because an unborn fetus was not classified as a “person” under the U.S. Constitution, it is not provided the protection of “life” under the Constitution. The Court also decided to cite the right to privacy and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as a constitutional right to abortion. However, with their ruling also came a restriction. The Court defined fetal viability—the potential ability of a fetus to survive outside the mother’s womb—as being established in the third trimester. All abortions after fetal viability would be considered illegal.

From that day onward, Roe v. Wade has defined abortion for the U.S. legislature, effectively nullifying all state jurisdiction on abortion, and setting a precedent for legal abortion across all 50 states. However, since the Supreme Court’s decision, the GOP, conservatives, anti-abortionists, and many others have fought to reverse the decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. Opponents of abortion often cite the importance of protecting the life of the fetus over the mother. Thus, the two sides of the debate over abortion are coined “pro-life”—the conservative side of abortion that favors the life of the fetus—and “pro-choice”—the liberal side of abortion that favors a woman’s ability to choose. However, from looking at the aforementioned data about unsafe abortion, it is obvious to see the irony and misconceptions that arise from coining it “pro-life”. Let’s be clear: “pro-life” doesn’t value life over choice. Every day, pro-life policies and legislation jeopardize maternal and fetal health in countries across the nation.

What opponents of legal abortion fail to realize is that abortion as a practice will never be prevented. Regardless of how much legislation is passed to criminalize abortion, if a woman truly wants to terminate her pregnancy, it will happen. Abortion has existed ever since a baby could be conceived in a mother’s womb. By continually passing legislation to criminalize abortion and not provide access to safe abortion to women, states fail to deter abortion. The only thing these policies and legislation are doing is stripping the opportunity for safe and humane abortion, from both the fetus and the mother.

Across the globe, as a direct result of the criminalization of abortion, women are forced to resort to dangerous, inhumane methods of abortion. From ingesting caustic substances such as bleach, gunpowder, turpentine, and fungi, to beating the stomach with various objects, to the insertion of foreign objects into the uterus such as knitting needles, and most notably, clothing hangers, women jeopardize their safety and health. To see how a complete ban on abortion could affect our nation, we must look at Brazil to see the shocking detriments it will have. In Brazil, abortion is illegal except in extreme cases. Contrary to popular belief within the GOP, Brazil’s strict policies on abortion, as expected, have failed to deter women from terminating their pregnancies. In fact, according to a 2010 study by the University of Brazil, one in five women in Brazil have had at least one abortion, with 50% of those women hospitalized for complications afterward. This equates to approximately 3 million women in Brazil who have put their lives in danger in order to obtain their abortion.

In addition, through these alternative methods of abortion, women aren’t even guaranteed to swiftly and humanely end the life of their fetus; instead, they put their own lives at risk and hope to terminate the pregnancy, simultaneously subjecting these fetuses to an inhumane and painful death. To value the well-being of fetuses as pro-lifers claim, legal abortion is the only way to humanely and effectively abort, instead of forcing these fetuses to undergo these alternative methods. These mothers risk severe hemorrhaging, infection, damage to the genital tract and internal organs, and much more. How are we supposed to call the criminalization of abortion “pro-life” when women across the globe are swallowing bleach and hoping to kill their babies with clothes hangers?

With a 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court as a result from the appointment of Donald Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, legal abortion in the U.S. faces serious threats. The GOP has been clear in their intent to reverse Roe v. Wade. While the complete reversal of Roe v. Wade is highly unlikely, the conservative majority, over the span of their hold on the Court, could slowly chip away at the foundation of legal abortion by repealing certain aspects of legal abortion defined by Roe v. Wade, introducing new restrictions on abortion, etc.

As citizens with moral values, we must educate ourselves on the adverse effects of the “pro-life” movement and make abortion legal and accessible to all countries. Instead of allowing mothers across the Earth to throw their health to the wayside, and abort their fetuses through inhumane methods, we should be working to ensure that abortions are terminated in a humane, safe environment. The only way abortion policies can truly be “pro-life” is by protecting maternal health and respecting a woman’s right to make decisions about her body.