The Case Against Abortion Restrictions

8 Jul

Canada, one of only 3 countries in its particular position, provides an excellent case study with respect to the argument against restrictions on abortions. As of the R. v. Morgentaler decision in 1988, Canada began a time of no legal restrictions on abortion (For a more thorough discussion of the history of Canada’s abortion laws, you can read about it on the Pro-Choice Action Network). What the decision in Morgentaler means is that technically a woman can walk into a clinic at 35 weeks and abort. Legally, there is nothing stopping her. Practically speaking, even if a woman were to ask to terminate a healthy fetus at 35 weeks, chances are next to zero that a doctor would do it. Realistically, and most importantly, women don’t do that. This is where the “trust women” phrase comes into play. You, me, the government, everybody, needs to trust that women will do the right thing. Women who want abortions will get one done as soon as possible. Unfortunately, in the US, a woman will often have to pay for an abortion out of pocket. This means she has to spend time raising money, which can lead to her being later in the pregnancy at the time of the procedure. In Canada, where most abortions are covered by health insurance, many women are able to have an abortion as soon as possible, since they don’t have to spend time raising money towards the cost of the procedure. This means that more Canadian women have abortions in the first trimester. That is the best argument for why abortions should be publicly funded.

When you look at the (Canadian) statistics, abortions rates after 12 weeks are extremely low, and negligible after 20 weeks. From ARCC:

90% of abortions in Canada are performed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and just over 9% of abortions take place between 12 and 20 weeks of gestation. A mere 0.4% of abortions take place after 20 weeks of gestation. These are considered late term abortions.

What this tells us is that there is no need for restrictions on abortions. Late-term abortions (after 20 weeks in Canada) are typically done on wanted pregnancies, thus restrictions are simply harmful to women who are going through the worst time in their life. If the government covers the cost of abortions, women will have it as soon as they can get an appointment. I was sent a link to a great video summarizing the American College of OBGYNs position on fetal pain and consciousness. Basically, they can say with considerable certainty based on our current medical technology that a fetus feels no pain and is not conscious before 24 weeks (that is not to say they can feel pain/are conscious after 24 weeks). So whilst at 8 weeks the fetus has the potential to become a child, it is not a feeling, thinking, living, and breathing human being. Until 24 weeks, at viability, the fetus is dependent on the woman for any semblance of life and it is unethical to require women to provide their body as a life-support system for the fetus against their will.

There are a number of compelling arguments for why ultrasound laws are nonsensical, how parental notification laws are harmful, and how restrictions on late-term abortions hurt women. The fact of the matter is there is zero need for laws relating to abortion outside making it safe, accessible and cheap/free. Clearly the antis will disagree vehemently with me, but I am curious about pro-choicers who believe restrictions are necessary, and what those restrictions might be. Is there a counter-point that I missed or are restrictions just to appease the antis?

3 Responses to “The Case Against Abortion Restrictions”

  1. Shayna July 8, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    I have never seen the need for restrictions — Should I need an abortion I would greatly prefer to do it as soon as possible – for emotional, as well as physical reasons. Though I am now well out of my teenage years, I can remember being scared at the idea of not being able to have access to an abortion due to parental notifications, waiting periods, etc. The terror I felt during health class while I sat next to a girl who had a baby because she could not (for a variety of reasons, none of them medical) have an abortion… No, there is no reason.

  2. NewsCat_in_DC July 9, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    I’ve been finding lately when I express support for lifting all restrictions on abortion, I’m asked by people, even “pro-choice” people “well do you support a woman aborting a 39 week pregnancy?” Support meaning the same as condone in this context. I find the “do you support a 39 week abortion” is like those who use the “ticking time bomb” hypothetical to argue with people who say “we shouldn’t EVER use torture.” Whether such a scenario ever happens (in either scenario) is unlikely, it still seems to be the way people probe the moral of the scenario, but it’s hypothetical most extreme version. (“You support abortion? Oh yeah! Do you support THIS?”) I’ve been trying to find the right reply.

  3. Not Guilty July 9, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    I don’t get that very often since there are no restrictions up here, but I think the best way is to turn the question back on the person. What on EARTH makes them think a woman would abort at 39 weeks? It is such a ludicrous proposition that it doesn’t even warrant an answer! I think it is very much like the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”. I mean, there is no right answer.

    I suppose when posed with a question like that, you say, “Well abortion is ending the pregnancy, so ya, I support a woman’s right to deliver the baby and end the pregnancy. Don’t you?” It makes it particularly easy when they throw out 39 weeks since so many women deliver before that point! If you use that retort, let us know how it goes!

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