As women’s rights and child rights are being increasingly highlighted by the media and in the public, one issue emerges that everybody doesn’t agree on: abortion. There are two distinct camps in this debate – pro-life and pro-choice. The pro-life camp or pro-lifers strongly believe that the zygote or foetus inside a woman’s body has every right to be born and that aborting it is tantamount to murder. The pro-choice group, on the other hand, believes the woman’s rights take precedence over those of the unborn and the choice should be completely her own. The divide between the two factions is pretty much even; about 51% of the citizens of the United States are pro-life and the other 49% are pro-choice. I am strongly pro-choice – only the mother has the right to decide whether her baby should be born or not.
Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended and four out of ten of these end in abortion. Putting a stop to abortion would thus result in 20% more babies being born – that’s 20% more unwanted children in the country – and millions of women are forced to undergo a process that is often problematic, painful, invasive and potentially harmful. The World Health Organization defines reproductive health as the ability to have a safe and satisfying sex life, the capability to bear children, and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Clearly, the access to safe and effective abortion is an inherent aspect of a woman’s reproductive health.One of the main objections pro-lifers raise to abortion is that it is the murder of another human being. There are some basic facts here that need to be examined: a foetus is a developing mammal, it cannot in any way be compared to a fully functioning person, since only the rudiments of organ systems are present and it is incapable of sustaining life outside the mother’s womb or of conscious thought or essential breathing. It is instead an in-utero foetus with the potential of becoming a child. Nine in ten abortions occur in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, at which stage the brain and nervous system are still at a very early stage of development and without a cerebral cortex (the gray matter covering the brain) the foetus is incapable even of receiving or perceiving any pain impulses. So to abort a foetus, that is only developing, has no proper organ systems, cannot sustain life outside the womb, cannot think or breathe and cannot feel any pain or regret is, in no way, the same as ending the life of a fully-developed, conscious, thinking and feeling human being.I personally have a point to add to this particular topic, that is not often discussed even by those who are pro-choice. More than half of the total abortions performed are done on economically disadvantaged women or on women below the age of twenty-five. In fact, approximately 40% of young women become pregnant before they reach the age of twenty and more than half of them are seventeen years old or younger. Now, when a woman is so young or so poor or both, what kind of life will she be able to provide her child with? If she is a child herself (as I consider all teens to be), how will she look after it and care for it properly? It is infinitely better to end a life when the foetus will feel no pain, has no desires and no regrets than to bring an unwanted child in the world who will have to go through an unloving childhood, a disturbed adolescence and a problem-ridden adulthood. I honestly believe quality of life is more important than life itself; if that wasn’t true, we would never strive for anything in our lives – we’d just be glad to be alive. Since a baby is so precious and it does absolutely nothing to come into the world, why should it have to go through the trauma and agony of being an unwanted child? Babies deserve to be loved and taken care of; their parents should be able to ensure a certain modicum of safety, security and opportunity in their lives.Pro-lifers would refute my claim by stating that adoption is always an option. Adoption is an option, but there’s no guarantee that the baby will go to a good home or to any home at all. We all know that a lot of orphanages aren’t what they are supposed to be and children there don’t get the kind of love there that they would with parents and a home of their own. All children deserve to be loved; they deserve happy, healthy childhoods and bright futures with opportunities. A large number of kids in orphanages don’t get this. The data available for adoptions in the United States in the context of the total number of children in orphanages is very limited, but it has come up again and again in the course of conversations, debates and discussions that most people prefer to have their own children rather than adopt and one of the leading motivating factors for adoption is the biological inability to have a child. I, for one, would not be willing to go through a pregnancy and give my baby up for adoption on the off-chance that some sweet, caring couple will notice it, adopt it and love it like I would for the rest of their lives.Religious factors often come into play when discussing the abortion issue. A lot of Christians are against the process for religious reasons. I would like to point out to these pro-lifers that the United States is a free country where people are allowed to believe in whatever religion or sect they want and live their lives accordingly. If a person does not believe in abortion because of his or her own religious beliefs, he or she has no right to impose those same beliefs on another person.Several groups in the United States are campaigning for the prevention by law of abortion. Aside from the simple fact that legally restricting abortion will not prevent it from taking place (while 26 million women in the world legally get abortions every year, another estimated 20 million are performed in countries where it is prohibited) and it will only make the process dangerous if it is done by unqualified doctors or quacks. Also, the Government cannot decide whether a woman should have a child or not. To have a child is a very personal, lifelong commitment and it should only be made when the parents feel ready for it or both the rights of the mother and the baby will be infringed, as demonstrated above. I am pro-choice not because I am anti-life, but because I am pro-women’s rights and pro-quality of life. It is a woman’s individual choice to have or not to have a baby and there is nobody else in the world who is entitled to make that choice for her.Aishwarya Jha[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dreamsjung/2202486803/]