By Olivia Haas
Since when has the government had the power to dictate what individuals do to their bodies? Regardless of the harm an individual inflicts upon himself or herself, the government does not and should not have the authority to control people’s private lives. When an individual attempts to commit suicide, however damaging their actions may be, the government cannot legally interfere. When a man chooses to reverse his sexual organs, the government cannot stop his course of action. And when a woman chooses to have an abortion before a certain point in her pregnancy, the government should not be allowed to interfere with her decision.
The argument is made that women harm more than themselves when they have an abortion; they harm their unborn “child.” But at what point in a woman’s pregnancy is a mass of cells considered a “child”? Putting aside religious attitudes, the embryo is not medically considered a fetus until the 10th week of pregnancy. Over 90% of abortions are performed far before this point, usually during the first few weeks. Thus, the images used by pro-life groups of horribly mangled, bloody, and mutilated almost fully-grown aborted babies manipulate the fact that only a small number of women perform abortions later in their pregnancies. Let me make a clear distinction: I am not supporting partial-birth abortions (abortions performed in the third trimester of pregnancy). I do believe, however, that women should not be prevented from having abortions at the earlier stages of pregnancy, as it is their life and quality of life that is at stake.
Further arguments are made that abortion is a form of “modern day slavery.” Pro-life advocates contend that just as non-Caucasians were considered “non-persons,” and just as abolitionists were told to keep their morality to themselves and not impose it on slave owners and their property, so too are pro-life advocates told to keep their morality to themselves and off a woman’s womb (her “property”). However, the obvious difference lies in the fact that slaves were fully developed people who lived and breathed regardless of whether or not they were enslaved. Before a certain point in a woman’s pregnancy (during the time when I believe that abortion is acceptable), the fetus is not viable outside the womb—it is not a person. The life of a fetus is not the same as the life of a live human-being, as were the slaves. Therefore, people do not have the right to dictate what a woman may do to her own body. And furthermore, yes: a woman’s body (and thus everything in her body) is her property and she may do with it as is in her best interest. When taken literally, this is NOT comparable to slavery because slaves were not part of their master’s literal body.
For men to say that women shouldn’t be allowed abortions is horribly medieval. It patronizes women, treating them as if they cannot make decisions for themselves. This is the 21st century, people. We’ve moved past female repression and male domination. If a woman wishes to have an induced abortion, she has control of her body, and so she may have it. Although the Constitution of the United States does not state explicitly the right to privacy, there is a definite, implied right that protects a woman’s right to control her body as she chooses. Besides, imposing abortion laws based on morality is a blatant violation of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, as doing so respects the establishment of certain religions (those who believe abortion is an unforgivable sin) over others.
After all this argumentative analysis, I have ultimately come to the following conclusion: people who have no experience with abortion such as myself, should not be the judges of who can and cannot have an abortion. It’s easy for me to sit here and write that abortions should be legal if we wish to protect women’s rights just as it is easy for anyone else to write that abortions should be illegal for moral reasons. But who am I to say what’s right and wrong when I have no experience with the subject matter? I am not the product of an almost-aborted pregnancy; nor have I had to face the hard choice of whether or not to have an abortion. However, despite the fact that I ultimately have no say in the state of abortion legislation and do not have the personal experience to have a fully-formed opinion regarding the matter, I do believe that women should have the ability to choose what happens to their bodies, for better or worse. For if there should come a time that I would have to make that hard decision, I certainly would not want it to have been made for me already…by upper-class, bureaucratic men garbed in suits.