Are you pro-choice or pro-life? – On Abortion Rights in America

Are you pro-choice or pro-life?

Before this article is done I’ll tell you what I believe and why.

I’m both.

Keep reading for why.

Let’s start by taking a look at the history and where we are now as a nation (United States of America).

While most of the polling on this subject didn’t consistently start until the early to mid-1990s, the debate dates back years.


Before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, abortion was an issue.

The Supreme Court never saw it as a constitutional issue before 1973.

There was a belief amongst the justices that abortion was a state matter.

When New York State decriminalized abortion in 1970 and thousands of well-off women started traveling there to obtain safe abortions while their disadvantaged sisters continued to risk death at home, the inherent unfairness of a legal patchwork was thrown into bold relief. Far from foisting a radical departure on an unready nation, the Supreme Court was responding to a decade-long buildup of popular sentiment for change.

When Abortion Was A Crime By Leslie Reagan

Despite that, the first laws concerning abortion in the US can be found as early as the 1820s.

Not even the Catholic Church considered a fetus in quickening a baby.

Meanwhile, most states placed restrictions on abortions forbidding it after the fourth month of pregnancy.

By 1900, the American Medical Association had done a masterful job of lobbying state legislatures and, on ethical and moral grounds, convinced most states to outright ban abortion. Nonetheless, the debate didn’t stop there. As one can imagine, outlawing behavior doesn’t stop said behavior. Across the country, people performed “back-alley” abortions that resulted in high maternal morbidity and mortality rates.

Allopathy versus homepathy and the establishment of what we know as the American Medical Association or AMA.

In one of the many curious twists that mark the history of abortion, the campaign to criminalize it was waged by the same professional group that, a century later, would play an important role in legalization: physicians. The American Medical Association’s crusade against abortion was partly a professional move, to establish the supremacy of “regular” physicians over midwives and homeopaths. More broadly, the anti-abortion sentiment was connected to nativism, anti-Catholicism, and, as it is today, anti-feminism.

Nonetheless, having achieved their legal goal, many doctors—including prominent members of the AMA—went right on providing abortions. Some late-nineteenth-century observers estimated that two million were performed annually (which would mean that in Victorian America the number of abortions per capita was seven or eight times as high as it is today).

Unless a woman died, doctors were rarely arrested and even more rarely convicted. Even midwives—whom doctors continued to try to drive out of business by portraying them, unfairly, as dangerous abortion quacks—practiced largely unmolested.

Unsurprisingly, the Depression, during which women stood to lose their jobs if they married or had a child, saw a big surge in the abortion rate. Well-connected white women with private health insurance were sometimes able to obtain “therapeutic” abortions, a never-defined category that remained legal throughout the epoch of illegal abortion. But these were rare, and almost never available to nonwhite or poor women. Even for the privileged, though, access to safe abortion narrowed throughout the fifties, as doctors, fearful of being prosecuted in a repressive political climate for interpreting “therapeutic abortion” too broadly, set up hospital committees to rule on abortion requests.

Some committees were more compassionate than others: at Mount Sinai, in New York, suicide attempts were considered an appropriate indication; at other hospitals, they were ignored. In one instance of particular callousness, when a teenager tried to kill herself after her request was turned down, the committee decided to hospitalize her for the rest of her pregnancy. (She eventually got her abortion, after her multiple suicide attempts proved too disruptive for the staff.)

When Abortion Was a Crime By Leslie J. Reagan

By the 1960s abortion as a topic had grown beyond feminists and medical professionals.

People from all walks of life were commenting for and against abortion as an issue of reproductive rights.

There were even those amongst the clergy who saw abortion as an issue of individual conscience.

Finally, the scene is set for the 1973 Supreme Court stepped in.

The Supreme Court in 1973

By the sixties the whole jerry-built structure of criminalization was crumbling, along with the ideology of gender and sexuality that lay behind it. Moderate reforms had already been tried: twelve states permitted abortion in instances of rape, incest, danger to physical or mental health, or fetal defect, but since most women, as always, sought abortions for economic, social, or personal reasons, illegal abortion continued to thrive (something to consider for those who advocate once again restricting legal abortion in this way).

The movement (to legalize abortion) was spearheaded by doctors who saw firsthand the carnage created by illegal abortion (more than 5,000 deaths a year, mostly of black and Hispanic women), and whose hands were now firmly tied by the hospital committees they themselves had created. They were joined by civil-liberties lawyers, who brought to their briefs a keen understanding of criminalization’s discriminatory effects; and by grassroots activists in the reborn women’s movement, who by the end of the 1960s were resisting the law, forming such groups as the Society for Humane Abortion, in California, which denounced restrictions as insulting and humiliating to women, and Jane, in Chicago, which began as an abortion-referral service and ended by training its members to perform abortions themselves.

When Abortion Was a Crime By Leslie J. Reagan

In 1973, a Texas (of course it was Texas) law criminalizing abortion was challenged.

It was decided by the Supreme Court during Roe v. Wade in 1973, that state abortion laws were subject to the 14th Amendment meaning abortion was a federal issue.

Furthermore, it was decided that abortion was a federally protected right up to a certain point.

To be specific, that point was the third trimester where the state’s interest in protecting potential life prevailed over that of the individual seeking abortion unless the woman’s health was at risk.

Now, I don’t know about you but for me that’s enough debate on the topic.

I would think that Roe v Wade would clear the whole thing up and we could all go our separate ways and accept the result. But, of course, that would be wrong.

In 1992, Casey v Planned Parenthood affirmed Roe v Wade but also said that the state has the right to regulate abortion at any point from fetal viability and beyond.

This meant that abortion restrictions could come before the third trimester.

There were other important outcomes from the Casey v Planned Parenthood decision but I’m getting tired of trying to teach you everything so I suggest you learn how to use Google if you want to read more.

That brings us to today.

President Trump won an election in 2016.

As a consequence, he earned the right to appoint two justices to the Supreme Court.

Many opponents of abortion rights have viewed this as a clarion call to further restrict abortion rights since the court is believed to have a majority of conservative justices.

As of May 17, 2019 — eight states have passed laws that further restrict the procedure. Alabama (of course it would be Alabama) outright outlawed abortion.

Now, I promised at the beginning of this article to say what I think.

Am I pro-choice or pro-life?

Well, for me, I’m both.

I’m both because I have to be.

I’m pro-life because my mother was pregnant with me during her freshman year of college.

She was in a foreign country with no health insurance, no career, and no money.

All she had was a husband who loved her, family/friends who said they were there for her, and a supportive church.

She had faith and she had me.

Knowing this, I have no choice but to lead a life worthy to be lived.

Still, I have common sense.

I have enough sense to know that as a male, I have the luxury of being pro-life.

And, I have the luxury of not having to put my body through some of the most difficult challenges known to mankind.

I have enough sense to recognize the luxury of having a supportive family.

Finally, I have the luxury of being a man.

As such, I must be pro-choice because it is not my role to make that decision for all women.

Bottom line is — I think Roe v Wade got it right.

I think 6 months is enough time to find out whether or not a woman is pregnant and make a decision on whether or not to go through with the pregnancy.

But what do I know?

I’m just a man.

#LoveAlways #LetsGrow

Credits and Wildenotes

Written By Jaiah with W.D. Herstun.
Whew. This article was doozy. It was a challenge to edit because I did a lot research and the subject matter is incredibly dense, troubling, and kind of sad.
The American Medical Association has become a better organization I think. But how do erase a legacy that essentially invented the pharmaceutical industry to get paid?
They are almost directly responsible for the creation of the myth that outlawing abortion was possible and something we should vote for.
In my opinoin, aboriton is to personal a right for it to be voted on by anyone.
I support all other manners of protesting. Picketing, marching, making recent sufferers feel guilty when they walk out of Planned Parenthood. All harmless tactics aimed at changing hearts and minds so to speak.
To legislate from your feelings about abortion is an entirely diffrent matter in my opinion. Let us know what you think in the comments. Do you live in a state effected by the abortion bans popping up? Would u get an abortion or support your significant other’s abortion?
When Abortion Was a Crime by Leslie J. Reagan
Reagan, who is an assistant professor of history, medicine, and women’s studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, is the first to span the whole period of criminalization and to cover the subject in such depth.
Moving skillfully between a nationwide perspective and a detailed study of Chicago, Reagan draws on a wide variety of primary documents, many never before examined. Using patient records, transcripts of trials and inquests into abortion-related deaths, medical-society proceedings, and reports in the popular press, she reconstructs the complex, shifting network of arrangements and understandings that enabled illegal abortion to persist, and sometimes even to flourish, for more than a hundred years. In doing so she not only brilliantly illuminates a hitherto shadowy aspect of American life but also raises crucial questions about the relationship between official mores and the values by which people—including the promulgators of those official mores—make the decisions that shape their lives.
Katha Pollitt of The Atlantic May 1997 Issue.
Amazing how well this text has aged. Excellently written. I also enjoyed the book recommendation.

– Reagan argues persuasively that our image of nineteenth-century medicine is too monolithically hierarchical: while medical journals inveighed against abortion (and contraception), women were often able to make doctors listen to their needs and even lower their fees. And because, in the era before the widespread use of hospitals, women chose the doctors who would attend their whole families through many lucrative illnesses, medical men had self-interest as well as compassion for a motive. Thus in an 1888 exposé undercover reporters for the Chicago Times obtained an abortion referral from no less a personage than the head of the Chicago Medical Society. (He claimed he was conducting his own investigation.)

– Reagan describes clinics complete with doctors, nurses, receptionists, and printed instructions detailing follow-up care, and “birth-control clubs,” whose members would pay regularly into a collective fund and draw abortion fees from it as needed. It was only in the 1940s and 1950s that organized medicine and the law combined to force these long-standing operations out of business and to disrupt the networks of communication by which women had found their way to them. Our popular image of illegal abortion as hard to find, extremely dangerous, sordid, and expensive dates from this period, as do the notorious “abortion wards” filled with women suffering from botched operations and attempts at self-abortion (always the most dangerous method).

Published by Jaiah Scott


2 thoughts on “Are you pro-choice or pro-life? – On Abortion Rights in America

  1. Very well written. Personally I would never get an abortion but I have no right to tell another woman what to do with her body. I’m not going to step up and take care of her baby once she gives birth. I have no idea what her circumstances are to make her come to her decision. Who am I to tell another woman she is making the wrong or right decision?

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