Abortion is one of the most controversial topics in the world right now, and it is coming up in a lot of political and policy discussions all over the place. The debate about whether or not abortion should be allowed is now open to the public. Abortion is a threat to cultures in both developed and developing countries, and it affects people of all ethnicities, religions, races, and creeds. Every day, over 100,000 women seek abortion care in different parts of the world (Sedgh et al., 2015). According to a World Health Organization study cited by Sedgh et al. (2012), worldwide abortion rates decreased significantly between 1995 and 2003. (35 percent to 29 percent). The rates further stalled between 2003 and 2008 (registered at 28%) across the globe; facts which almost relieved the debates on abortion is a global menace. Figure 1 shows the abortion rates in various parts of the world in 1995, 2003 and 2008 and justifies the figures stated above.
Table 1: abortion numbers and rates, 1995, 2003 and 2008 (Source: Sedgh et al. 2012, p. 627)
According to Finer & Zolna (2016), about four out of ten unwanted pregnancies in the United States were terminated through abortion in the year 2011. Abortion defined the fate of 19% of pregnancies registered in the United States in 2014 (Finer & Zolna, 2016). This accounted for, about 926,000 abortions across the United States in the same year. However, this rate was lower than that registered in 2011 (about 1.06 million abortions). Figure 2 shows the trends in abortion rates in the United States between 1973 and 2014 with 1981 being the year that registered the highest rates of abortion in the region.
Figure 2: Abortion trends in the US, 1973-2014 (Finer & Zolna, 2016, p. 847)
Despite the seemingly declining trends in abortion, the rising negative results recorded from such exercises remain a major concern around the world. According to Finer & Zolna (2016), more than 60% of abortions committed everyday end in serious, life-threatening results, mainly to the mother’s lives. These revelations further make the negative abortions being the most contentious issue in the world. This paper adds to the debates on the negative effects of abortion and whether or not it should be allowed.
The reasons for seeking abortion are diverse and limitless. Some of these include rape, incest, or when the fetus are confronted with fatal health problems. On various grounds, abortion has been considered when the life of the mother is endangered by the unborn child (Raymond & Grimes, 2012). Also, in the event of certain serious medical conditions that seems to threaten the lives of the unborn children such as congenital heart diseases, neural tube defects, and other life-threatening conditions, abortion has been recommended under the law (Raymond & Grimes, 2012). However, there are several negative issues surrounding abortion, and which have sparked debates on whether abortion laws should be done away with completely or not. On the majority of occasions under which abortion is committed, both the intentions and results have proven negative. The worrying trends of the negative outcomes of abortion are what has informed the intent of this research. Sometimes, women and mothers seek an abortion without paying the much-needed attention to the motivating factors, consequences and the legal issues surrounding it. On many occasions, abortion is done by unqualified doctors (quacks) who end up endangering or even ending the lives of their clients.
Negative effects of abortion
The ethical and legal issues on abortion
Other than the legal concerns surrounding the abortion issue, several ethical concerns have been raised about it too. Primarily, the balance between terminating the lives of the aborted children and their rights to live have been the key bone of contention. The questions being raised concerning this aspect is: When and due to what reasons should one be allowed to terminate lives or deny an unborn child the right to live? Other than these questions, there are other concerns on what and when abortion should be considered as murder. Also, the religious debates on abortion have been as divergent as the opinions regarding the issue.
Researchers and policy makers have sought to make a distinction between conscientious pregnancy and the pregnancies conceived under unclear circumstances; otherwise referred to as the unwanted pregnancies. According to Jones & Chaloner (2007), when a mature woman at the age of giving birth engages herself in a conscientious sex without considering an option of using contraceptives or any other form of protection and in the process gets pregnant, she signs a life-contract with the fetus to be conceived. This means that she ascents to protect and safeguard the life of the child through to birth and after that. This scenario is different from other unfortunate scenarios in which a woman may be raped such as rape, incest, etc. The major concern is between the two scenarios and under what circumstances, a woman would be allowed to secure an abortion. While the former scenario is considered conscientious, the later does not qualify for voluntary sex and consequently conception (Jones & Chaloner, 2007). A majority of the researches done in this area tend to contest the ethics of aborting a fetus conceived out of conscientious sex equating it to murder (Jones & Chaloner, 2007). Also, the laws and policies on abortion consider abortion conducted under the first scenario as murder and is subject to prosecution under the laws of many countries.
On the other hand, other proponents such as Badruddin (2016) have argued that every person has a right their bodies, and so do all women. The fetus is part of the woman’s body, and so, the woman has a right over the fetus to determine what goes on in her body and how it should be handled at all stages. This class of researchers supports the right of a woman to abort a fetus irrespective of whether or not, the woman conceived under voluntary or involuntary sex scenarios since they have a right to determine what goes on in their bodies. The major issue still lingers around abortion and ethics surrounding it and whether or not the fetus is considered a living being or not (Badruddin, 2016).
The developmental biologists such as Wu et al. (2004) hold to the fact that the fetus can grow inside the womb because they are alive, though unconscious. Such studies justify the facts that committing an abortion amounts to ending the life or a living being; albeit in its unconscious state. According to this school of thought, abortions induced concerning the right of the woman as the superior being charged with the responsibility to decide over her body is permissibly ethical and legal as far as the right of the mother is concerned. However, the abounding concern is whether the right of the mother to her desires supersedes the rights of the fetus to life. From an ethical and religious point of view, abortion amounts to taking away the rights of a fetus to life and thus has been perceived largely under the social banner as murder (Baruddin, 2016).
Induced abortions, premature births and breast cancer risks
Abortion has been linked to severe risks of breast cancer in the women who secure it. A study by Lipworth et al. (1995) is among the scientific discoveries which unveiled the connection between induced or spontaneous abortion with breast cancer risks in some 795 Greek women and another 820 control patients. According to Lipworth et al. (1995) study, the risks vary depending on whether or not a woman was parous or not. The parous women with induced abortion were found to be more vulnerable to developing cancer 2.06(OR=1.45-2.90) compared to those with spontaneous abortions 1.10(0.82-1.40). Also, studies conducted lately have also confirmed these facts, affirming that women who undergo induced abortions are at higher risks of developing breast cancer.
A meta-analysis study conducted by Shah & Zao (2009) confirmed that induced abortion escalates a womans risks of premature births in the first and subsequent births besides increasing the risks of developing breast cancer. Swingle et al. (2009) explain that upon conception, a woman’s immature, cancer-vulnerable breasts tissues develops quickly and becomes cancer-resistant tissues buffering them from any risks of breast cancer. For instance, Swingle et al. (2009) observe that upon conception, approximately 85% of the woman’s breast tissues mature fully into type 4 lobules in preparation for the first milk, colostrum. This infers that the molecular changes occurring in a woman’s breast shield her from breast cancer. The supporters of this fact indicate that never having a full-term pregnancy is an indication for an escalated risks of developing breast cancer in women as the breast tissues remain particularly cancer-vulnerable. Termination of birth due to abortion, therefore, prevents the breast tissues from developing into cancer-resistant tissues and in turn, exposes the women to greater risks. Studies with nuns have revealed this connectivity (Swingle et al. 2009).
Although many studies have confirmed termination of pregnancy to hinder maturity of breast tissues in women and to expose women to the risks of breast cancer, other studies have objected to these findings on various grounds. For instance, Michels et al. (2007) produced a widely disseminated research which concluded that none of the population studied in their cohort study research who underwent an induced or spontaneous abortion was found to be at risk of developing breast cancer. The conclusion was arrived at following a 10-year follow-up on women involving more than 105,000 women. Although the results from this study seem unambiguous, there are several concerns regarding the possible confounding factors which might have hindered getting the right impression.
The main confounding factor is the age of the participants which constituted a relatively young or old cohort populations. For young women, the transient risks of breast cancer follow a full-term pregnancy with a high likelihood of the risks first appearing in the women who are aged over 25 years (Michels et.al. 2007). These risks tend to disappear 15 years into the post-partum period. For these reasons, studies conducted with women in their young ages and later over the years are likely to suggest a lack of breast cancer risk. With the participants in Michels et al.(2007) study being 39-59 years old, negative correlational results would be the most likely outcome. The position of the existing literature, however, is that women with delayed births due to induced abortion or other mechanisms are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Particularly, abortion induces a forced delay of birth instead, making it a preventable risk as opposed to the natural causes. Also, Schedin (2006) summarize their findings by noting that for each year that a woman delays pregnancy after the age of giving birth (preferably, age 20), she incurs a 5% increase in the risks of developing pre-menopausal breast cancer. Also, at the same age with delayed pregnancies, a woman incurs another 3 percent increase in the risks of postmenopausal breast cancer for every one year delay. The risks of breast cancer in women, although not very large in women with pregnancies delayed due to abortion, consistent or repeated abortion cases is likely to increase the vulnerability rates for the disease either in the prepartum or postpartum statuses.
As regards, premature births McPherson, Steel & Nixon (2000) explains that while giving birth, a woman’s cervix is dilated and contracted naturally to create a smooth passage for the child to be born. The dilation process, however, occurs after many hours. This happens during labor. However, during an abortion, the cervix is dilated instantaneously and forcibly using insertion instruments such as dilators. This instantaneous dilation doesn’t only expose the women to incurring wounds in their cervices and the interior parts of the birth canal but also poses risks such as infections and cervical fractures. These factors are associated with the risks of premature births in the subsequent pregnancies. Despite these, some studies such as McPherson, Steel & Nixon (2000) observes that all women are at risks of giving birth prematurely in their subsequent pregnancies depending on the risks and circumstances involved in giving birth during their first births. However, forcible dilation of the cervix to induce abortion is attributed to higher chances of premature births in subsequent pregnancies.
In each of the cases above, premature births are regarded as births which occur before the 37th week of conception. According to McPherson, Steel & Nixon (2000), however, pregnancies terminated before the 32nd week following conception are termed as premature and do not aid the development of cancer-resistant tissues in the breast. That is to say, the cancer-resistant tissues in women begin to develop after the 32nd week of conception. These positions point to the fact that with chances of premature births being increased in women who have undergone an abortion, their chances of developing cancer-resistant breast tissues is marred by these incidences. As a result, their risks of developing breast cancer is increased considerably. Debates about these facts are shrouded in mystery as very few studies have explained the relationships between breast cancer, induced abortion, and premature births. Also, there is no research which has reported the connection between spontaneous abortion and breast cancer risks or premature births in the subsequent pregnancies. This makes it hard, therefore, to draw a conclusive connection between abortions in general to the premature births in subsequent pregnancies and consequently the increased risks of breast cancer.
Abortion and mental health issues
This is also another largely debated, researched and contested aspect relating to the negative effects of abortion (induced or spontaneous). However, the authenticity of any side of the debate depends on the reasons for securing abortion by the respective women, the circumstances under which the women under consideration conceived and their perception about the act. A lot of the debates in this area revolves around the ethics of murder through termination of pregnancies or conscientious right of termination. Overall, studies have associated induced abortion with instant or delayed cases of mental health in various observed circumstances (Trybulski, 2006). Particularly, the last two decades have been characterized by serious debates and intensified research regarding the relationships between mental health and abortion among women.
Relating abortion and mental health has been conducted in different ways within the research community. However, in talking about abortion concerning mental health outcomes, it is good to distinguish between the cause’ and risks’ associations. On numerous occasions, researchers have worked based on the assumptions that if prior histories of abortion were characterized by risk factors such as depression, then the conclusion is that abortion is the cause of depression (Trybulski, 2006). However, it is obvious that many things can result in mental health related effects such as depression. For mental health anomalies to occur, various factors play a joint role in aiding in the development of the conditions. For instance, age is a known risk factor for Alzheimer disease although it isnt the only factor which contributes to the disease other than being a predisposing factor. Despite these facts, the observed assumptions correlating abortion to mental health issues have continued to dominate the literature; especially for subsequent abortions.
According to Reardon & Cougle (2002), the majority of the abortions committed are of unwanted pregnancies, i.e. untimed pregnancies, rape or incest. As a result, women decide to terminate these pregnancies for various reasons. The most common reasons are unpreparedness or financial issues relating to child upbringing or even relationship issues. Also, about 1% of the pregnancies are terminated because they are regarded as incest or are as a result of rape. Also, the women who decide to terminate wanted pregnancies have indicated doing so due to complications with the fetus. A study by Reardon et al. (2004) confirmed that whichever the case, abortion is a highly traumatic experience for the women since it involves taking away life (human murder). Reardon & Cougle (2002) research on women who had undergone abortion highlights various issues resulting to the mental health problem in women after committing an abortion. The reasons for the noted feeling of guilt in the women surveyed by Reardon et al. (2004) included violent deaths of their children, the forfeiture of parental responsibilities, and the unacknowledged grief. Additionally, Reardon et al. (2004) study recorded feelings of guilt, remorse, trauma and depression in women following the loss of children through abortion. These findings approve of the fact that abortion has serious mental issues in women
The subject of abortion has been debated in various quarters for a long time. Although the act is legalized in some countries such as the United States, the circumstances under which it should be practiced, the motivations behind the need to secure abortions and purported outcomes continue to boggle the minds and memories of not only the victims but also the research communities. Abortion, itself involves termination of an existing life as studies confirms about the developing fetus. Under such circumstances, abortion qualifies as murder whose outcomes continue to ring in the minds of the women who commits it as long as they live. Besides, abortion has been associated with exposure to various risks such as breast cancer, premature births in subsequent pregnancies and even death of the mothers. Although the public and scientific debates point to the pros and cons of the matter, it is obvious from the literature that the negative effects of abortion far outweigh its benefits. This calls for a sober consideration by the public, the research community and policy makers regarding the authentication and abolition of abortion in societies.
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