CASTELLI: Pro-choice debate must be reconsidered
Opinions Column: Conservative Across the Aisle
On March 30, the Senate passed a bill allowing states to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers that perform abortions, ending a President Barack Obama-era precedent that prohibited states from denying funds from these organizations. Understandably, this has caused a feud between the Democrats and Republicans. Democrats criticized the measure as an attack on women’s rights. Republicans defended the decision as a way to defer power to the states to decide where to allocate the funds.
Conservatives often find themselves in a conundrum about the abortion debate with respect to the delegation of governmental power. Because conservatives believe in limited government, no branch should be telling individuals what they can or cannot do with their bodies. Yet, conservatives also believe that abortion is immoral since it involves the death of a potential life, something in which the government must protect. The abortion debate is often conflated as being a pro or anti-feminist position which, to a certain degree, is unsurprising. The feminist platform believes the woman’s right to choose and in "safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education." It is ignorant to believe that pro-life advocates are anti-women or that their position is based on a solely theological position. The following argument will not discuss the legality of abortion, but rather the morality of the vast majority of abortions performed on healthy, consenting women.
The fundamental heart of this discussion begins with the question of life: at what point is a fetus considered a living person with intrinsic moral value and, consequently, a right to life? No matter where the line is drawn, there is always an adult equivalence that compromises the argument. Let’s assume that life begins when the brain is functional. The brain, spinal cord and other vital organs begin developing during the third week of the first trimester. If an adult person is in a coma with the potential to wake up, do they have a right to life? Let’s assume that life begins when the the heart begins to pump blood. Between approximately the fourth and fifth week of the first trimester, the fetus’s heartbeat begins to beat at a steady rhythm. If an adult person needs a pacemaker as a substitute for a heartbeat, do they have a right to life? More callously, let’s assume that fetuses are bundles of cells in a woman’s womb and are thus morally similar to a tumor or mole. All living things — such as animals and humans — are considered bundles of cells and vary based on complexity. Do animals and humans have a right to life?
Another important if not crucial part of the abortion debate is the issue of women’s rights. Does a woman’s rights supersede that of her child in the womb? To clarify: does a woman have control over her own body? Absolutely, women deserve full autonomy of their person, no exceptions. But the fetus is a separate body from the mother. While it is attached to the mother in order to develop, it will grow into a distinct person independent from its mother. Even so, will aborting the fetus physically affect the woman in any way? Most abortions performed at organizations such as Planned Parenthood are safe and complications are rare depending on how late the mother gets an abortion. What many women fail to consider is the risk of developing Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome. Similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it is a form of psychological or emotional trauma associated with abortions that can last years. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, anxiety, flashbacks of the abortion procedure, emotional coldness and increased alcohol or drug abuse. Women with a prior history of abortions are 65 percent more likely to score in the ‘high-risk’ range for depression after controlling age, race, education, income, marital status and history of divorce.
It is because of these reasons that conservatives wish to eliminate federal funds from Planned Parenthood. According to its 2014 annual report, the organization’s total services were approximately 11,000,000, with 330,000 being abortions, or 3 percent. Yet, this statistic is misleading. According to the Washington Post, “each service is listed separately, many clients (receiving multiple services). A woman may get a pregnancy test, birth control and a pap smear, but she would be counted three times, one for each service, in the annual report." Each discrete clinical service is counted individually, and inflates their health services drastically. When you divide the number of abortions by the services, you get that 3 percent figure.
If women choose to have sex, they should be more sexually responsible and conscious of the consequences of not using birth control. That is not to say that all women should be abstinent, but that they should make better decisions concerning their sex life. Contraceptives are readily available in many convenience stores, so there is little to no excuse for unexpected pregnancies (with the exception of rape). Women need to be reminded that they are responsible for their own actions and take accountability for their decisions rather than carelessly sleeping around without considering potential repercussions.
Giana Castelli is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science. Her column, "Conservative Across the Aisle," runs on alternate Fridays.
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