“Prosecutors dismissed a manslaughter charge against an Alabama woman who was indicted for “intentionally” causing the death of her fetus after someone else shot her in the abdomen. The decision follows the arrest of Marshae Jones, 28, who was charged on the allegation that she started a scuffle that led to her being shot by another woman. The fight took place in a parking lot in Pleasant Grove, just outside Birmingham.” -NPR reports
As you may have seen on the news state by state controversies about abortion clinics have been on the rise. But what is abortion, how is it legal, why is it important, and which states have these controversies?
According to Merriam Webster the definition of abortion is the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.
So what is the most recent case of abortion being legal? That would be the 1973 Roe V Wade case. According to the ACLU or the American Civil Liberties Union, “The Court ruled that the states were forbidden from outlawing or regulating any aspect of abortion performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, could only enact abortion regulations reasonably related to maternal health in the second and third trimesters, and could enact abortion laws protecting the life of the fetus only in the third trimester. Even then, an exception had to be made to protect the life of the mother.”
However, this was not the first time abortion had been legal within the United States. Abortion was practiced throughout the United States until the early 1800’s. Abortion is also not a modern practice. According to Dr. Kenneth R. Niswander, article “Medical Abortion Practices”, “Abortion is undoubtedly an ancient practice. The records of almost every civilization indicate knowledge of abortifacient agents and abortive techniques. Among primitive people, these were gruesome when practiced in the extreme, and remain so among certain tribes today. One tribe encouraged large ants to bite the woman’s body, and on occasion the insects were taken internally.'” Gross traumatization of the pregnant abdomen was a popular method of attempting to induce abortion and is still used by some primitive groups. The early Hebrews knew abortive techniques although they strongly disapproved of the practice. The Greeks, on the other hand advocated abortion in order to control population size and insure good social and economic conditions among the people.” Dr. Kenneth R. Niswander continues to write that “Plato and Aristotle dearly encouraged abortion on social or economic grounds. Hippocrates practiced abortion but wanted only physicians to abort patients.”
However, this legal abortion practiced in the ancient world came to an end during the early 1800’s. The United States in particular, has continued the recent trend of outlawing abortion. According to Dr. Acevedo, the United States followed this trend of anti-abortion primarily because the attitude of abortion was reflected from the colonies original controlled country. The British colonies abortions were legal if they were performed prior to quickening. In the French colonies abortions were frequently performed despite the fact that they were considered to be illegal. In the Spanish and Portuguese colonies abortion was illegal. From 1776 until the mid-1800s abortion was viewed as socially unacceptable; however, abortions were not illegal in most states. Most of these laws were ambiguous and difficult to enforce. To enforce these laws abortion was criminalized by the late 1880’s.
In fact, between 1880 and 1965 criminalization of abortion did not reduce the numbers of women who sought abortions. It only increased the maternal death rates of the illegal abortions received. According to Guttmacher institute of policy review “Special Analysis on Abortion” In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women—nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined to just under 1,700 by 1940, and to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion). By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher.
As I write this article there are 9 states that have passed bills to limit the ability for women to access abortion services. The states are as follows:
Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio stopped short of outright bans, instead passing bills banning abortion from six to eight weeks of pregnancy. This is effectively outright banning abortion since most women discover they are pregnant between four to seven weeks.
These are not the only states to enact bans however these are just the most stringent bans. According to the ACLU there are thirty-one states that have some sort of restriction which are as follows:
AL, AK, AZ, AR, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MI, MS, MO, MT, NE, NJ, NM, ND, OH, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, WV, WI.
While these historical statistics are favored by the pro-choice movement, the anti-choice movement has created its own narrative. Instead of rephrasing statistics, the antichoice movement has dedicated themselves to making the movement to challenge an individual’s moral compass. While the pro-choice movement has relied on statistics and historical data —the antichoice movement has relied on a combination of religious texts, romantic language, and few of any statistics.
We can see the use of religious texts to support antichoice decisions through the language of law makers:
“Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act. To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God.” Tweet from Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey
“Jeremiah 1:5 says, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you,’” Inhofe continued. “To everyone who comes to the March for Life, know that we hear you and we are standing with you, just as we have in the past.” JIM INHOFE using bible verses for his speech at March for life.
To further energize the antichoice movement, journalists and activists will use emotional rhetoric as persuasive tools. Famous examples of this emotional rhetoric used: Rush Limbaugh, Tammy Lauren, and Bill O’riley.
Each uses strong romantic-emotional language when persuading viewers. An example from Rush Limbaugh:
“RUSH: Yes, I do. I think we are facing a World War II-like circumstance in the sense that, as then, it is today: Western Civilization is at stake. I made the statement a couple days ago talking about the race that we are in, the race being led by the attorney general, William Barr, and his prosecutor, John Durham from Connecticut. We’re in a race with the people that ran this silent coup to get rid of Donald Trump. We’re in a race to get to the finish line first. Who will expose this or who will get away with this?”
Each description of the situation is in active voice and each adjective used is over exaggerated. There is no “invasion” at the southern border nor is there an actual “race” or “coup” in our politics. But these words catch the attention of listeners and are routinely used as key phrases and repeated when provided with conflicting information.
While the news may cover the various states that have the most stringent laws the proliferation of emotional rhetoric instead of statistics is becoming more popularized. I hope with these statistics and evidence the reader will be able to discover and reanalyze the data that has been given to you. Below are the list of websites and articles that I have pulled from:
(Definition of abortion)
(Roe v Wade)
(History of Abortion)
(Current stringent bans)
(Knowledge of pregnancy)
(1800s and the colonies)