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Oklahoma Passes Bill Banning Abortions: An Expository Essay

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Roe vs. Wade didn’t settle the abortion debate for some states. This political essay explores the 2O16 Oklahoma banning abortions by making the act a felony.

Oklahoma's effort to criminalize abortions

The Oklahoma Senate Bill 1552 is in conflict with the current federal law (Editorial Board). Organizations in opposition to the legislation indicate the law would be unconstitutional and promise to bring the case to court. The current seminal case on abortion in the United States is Roe v Wade (1973). The law provides a woman with the right to have an abortion during her first two trimesters (Supreme Court Legalizes Abortion). States are allowed to regulate or limit abortions and can develop trigger laws only as it relates to late-term abortion, in the third trimester, which is when a fetus becomes viable outside the womb.

The first abortion debate: Roe v Wade (1973)

Roe v Wade (1973) has been a lightning rod case in the American sociopolitical landscape for over the last forty-three years (Supreme Court Legalizes Abortion). The subject arose during the time when women sought to take control of their own bodies. Abortion is a highly divisive issue, and similar to politics, can be an extremely emotional hot topic. The players in the debates are essentially divided into the pro-choice and pro-life camps. The subject of a woman’s right to have an abortion is so intense that some people have become members of one political party or the other, based solely on the parties’ general perspective on the subject.

Historically, the Republican Party has supported the pro-life position and the Democratic Party has supported the pro-choice perspective (“Republican Party on Abortion”). Republican President Ronald Reagan and George Bush attempted to restrict abortion clinics by legislating requirements that had a prohibitive impact through the utilization of their executive authority. Yet, the Supreme Court, in three separate instances, narrowly reaffirmed Roe v Wade. President Bill Clinton reversed Reagan and Bush’s legislative efforts as soon as he took office (“Republican Party on Abortion”). 

Prior to Roe v Wade (1973), when abortions were illegal, women still had access to obtaining the service (Garrow). If you had money and you had connections, you could have a safe, albeit illegal abortion. The service was widely available across the United States. The women who did not have the ability to have a safe, illegal abortion were those who were poor. The impoverished woman was subjected to obtaining an abortion in a back alley environment, often under the supervision of, or at the hands of a quack. This disparity between the dire consequences experienced by the poor, often major physical impairment or death, and those who had money, the standard conflict between the haves and the have nots, is what fueled the struggle to protect women who were dying on almost a daily basis (Garrow). The argument for the legalization of abortion evolved into a woman’s constitutional right, as an extension of the idea that women had the right to use contraceptives, arising out of the influential case, Griswold v Connecticut (1965) (Garrow).

The pro-choice arguments

In Roe v Wade (1973), the U. S. Supreme Court has held that the ability to have an abortion is considered a woman’s fundamental right ("Pro Legal Abortion"). Abortion is a right which is guaranteed under the U. S. Constitution. This right arises from our right of privacy, which stems from the Fourth Amendment (U.S. Const. am. 4.). The right of privacy, which was initially tested in Griswold (1965), meant that a woman has the right to determine what happens to her body. Pregnancy does not simply lead to the birth of a baby, but it changes lives and impacts families. A woman who gives birth to a child is indelibly changing her future choices and the trajectory of her life. Many view a woman’s right to an abortion, the right of the woman to true equality, the right to set her own path, and the ultimate liberator ("Pro Legal Abortion").

The viability of a fetus, the ability to survive outside of a woman’s womb, does not occur until a woman is in her third trimester ("Pro Legal Abortion"). Consequently, a fetus is not considered a person, nor does it achieve personhood, until that time. Roe v Wade (1973) gives a woman the power to decide what happens to the embryo inside her body until such time as that fetus becomes a person. Most specifically, a fetus is not a person at conception but becomes a person at the point of viability ("Pro Legal Abortion").

Right to a safe abortion

Provision of safe, legal abortions protects women from having unsafe, illegal, back alley abortions, saving women’s lives and protecting them from injury ("Pro Legal Abortion"). Statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that abortions, conducted in unsafe circumstances, leads to 68,000 or more women’s deaths per year. As a legal procedure, gynecological and obstetric studies indicate that abortions are safer than giving birth, and as a result concern over health issues and implications is not valid. In addition, there is documentation that women benefit from less mental health problems than women who are denied access to abortions. Research indicates that women who were prevented from having an abortion often had regrets and were generally less happy with their choice, than women who had access to an abortion and made the choice to have the abortion ("Pro Legal Abortion").

Abortion provides women, whose fetuses suffer from severe abnormalities, such as organs which develop outside the body, missing brains, or congenital defects, the ability to terminate the birth early, rather than suffer through giving birth to a child who will certainly die shortly thereafter ("Pro Legal Abortion"). In addition, abortion helps prospective mothers, who do not have the capacity or the emotional wherewithal, to properly deal with nonfatal conditions, such as a child with Downs Syndrome, the option to prevent the birth ("Pro Legal Abortion").

Related Reading: Infographic on abortion debate

Denying abortion hurts economy

Research shows that women who are restricted from accessing abortions often eventually live below the poverty line, seek welfare and public assistance, lose their jobs, if they had one, and remain in abusive relationships, often leading to domestic violence ("Pro Legal Abortion"). The inability to obtain an abortion has a substantial financial impact on a woman’s life. As well, many women simply do not have the resources required to raise a child. Having a child, almost certainly guarantees that a woman will earn less money, no matter what her initial income level status ("Pro Legal Abortion"). Also, forcing a woman to give birth in less than desirable financial conditions could increase the likelihood the child would turn to criminal activities.

Although there are numerous religious organizations that are opposed to abortion, many are pro-choice. The Presbyterian Church, the Unitarians, and the United Methodist Church, are pro-choice. In the case of Catholicism and the Lutheran Church, these organizations are considered pro-life, yet many members of the churches believe abortion is the right choice for women to have. Though pro-life believers would argue, there is no specific reference to abortion in the Bible ("Pro Legal Abortion").

The pro-life arguments

Pro-lifers generally believe that abortion is murder. Their position is that the fetus is a human being and thus abortion is homicide ("Con Legal Abortion"). Those who support this point of view generally see conception as the beginning of life and that the fetus represents an unborn child. The point of fertilization represents the point at which a genetic identity is created. The pro-life collective believe that abortion is inhumane because fetuses feel pain during the first trimester of the abortion process. In addition, reference is often made to the Bible and the Sixth Commandment, that “Thou shalt not kill.” Supporters believe that there is no distinction made between a fetus and a baby, and that upon conception, a baby is recognized by God ("Con Legal Abortion").

In addition to the Christian faiths, the Hindu religion, and Traditional Buddhism, both reject abortion, as well. Pro-Life supporters believe that Roe v Wade (1973) is wrong and needs to be overturned. Deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, stated that the privacy argument made in Roe was simply invalid, that the Constitution does not provide for this type of right to privacy. In his dissenting opinion in Roe, Justice William H. Rehnquist, stated that abortions are not a matter of privacy, and that furthermore, the privacy protected in the Fourth Amendment (U.S. Const. am. 4.), that of search and seizure, is not even a distant relative to the concept of a woman’s right to reproductive privacy. As well, the Fourteenth Amendment (U.S. Const. am. 14.), prevents the state from denying "any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" (U.S. Const. am. 14.). Rehnquist posited that Roe was an overreach on the part of the majority of the Justices ("Con Legal Abortion").

Planned Parenthood

Some opponents of abortion succumb to emotion and never use rational thought to justify their actions, as seen with the Planned Parenthood shooting in 2015. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States (“Planned Parenthood Shooter”). As the dominant pro-choice presence in America, and legal watchdog, the organization suffers at the hands of those who disagree with its policies and procedures. In November 2015, three people in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic were killed, and nine individuals were wounded, by gunman Robert Dear (“Planned Parenthood Gunman”). Dear, who said he was on a “righteous crusade,” bears no guilt over his actions. He indicated, effectively, that it was the victims’ own fault since they chose to be in a “war zone” where infants were being killed.

Dear added that casualties should be expected in this type of setting. In an interview with a CBS reporter, Dear stated that he admired Paul Hill, a minister, who murdered Doctor John Bayard Britton, who performed abortions, and his bodyguard (“Planned Parenthood Shooter”). Hill was executed for his actions in 2003. Charged with 179 counts, Dear will be tried for murder, attempted murder and assault. He also faces a mental competency hearing to determine if he is able to fully understand the charges he is faced with and to aid in his defense. Closed for three months, the clinic opened once again to service the community (“Planned Parenthood Gunman”). 

Abortion – The great divide

The abortion issue has divided family and friends, religions and political parties for the last forty years, and it appears that there is simply no end in sight, to the level of divisiveness regarding the prickly subject. Many issues of the day cause conflicting opinions, but in the case of the abortion debate, the conflicting opinions border on sheer hatred of the opposing side. In the case of those like Dear, it can go beyond hate, and take the form of murderous intent. Sadly, it appears, we will simply have to live with the hate and anger abortion inspires, while we reflect on the fact that abortion is a constitutionally protected right, as sanctioned by Roe v Wade.

Works Cited

Brandes, Heidi. "Oklahoma lawmakers approve bill to revoke licenses of abortion doctors." Reuters. Thomson Reuters. 29 April 2016. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://www.reuters.com/article/us-oklahoma-abortion-idUSKCN0XJ29I>.

"Con Legal Abortion" ProCon.org. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://abortion.procon.org/>.

Editorial Board. "Oklahoma’s Unabashed Attack on Abortion." The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 25 April 2016. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/26/opinion/oklahomas-unabashed-attack-on-abortion.html?_r=0>.

Fourth Amendment (U.S. Const. am. 4.). 

Garrow, David, J. "Abortions Before and After Roe v Wade: An Historical Perspective." HeinOnline. Albany Law Review. 1998-1999. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://www.davidgarrow.com/File/DJG%201999%20AlbanyLRAbortionArticle.pdf>.

Griswold v Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).

"Planned Parenthood Gunman: I'm on 'Righteous Crusade'." CBS News. CBS Interactive, Inc. 11 April 2016. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/planned-parenthood-gunman-robert-dear-im-on-righteous-crusade/>.

"Planned Parenthood Shooter Admired Abortion Foe Who Killed Fla. Doctor." CBS News. CBS Interactive, Inc. 11 April 2016. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/planned-parenthood-shooter-robert-dear-admired-abortion-foe-who-killed-florida-doctor/>.

"Republican Party on Abortion." On the Issues. 27 August 2012. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://www.ontheissues.org/Celeb/Republican_Party_Abortion.htm>. 

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).

"Pro Legal Abortion" ProCon.org. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://abortion.procon.org/>.

"Supreme Court Legalizes Abortion” History.com. A&E Television Networks, LLC. n. d. Web. 4 May 2016. <http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/supreme-court-legalizes-abortion>.

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