Abortion: Throughout History and in the 21st Century

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Throughout history and especially this year with the presidential election, the discussion of the legality of abortion has been a conspicuous topic. Pope Francis himself indulged in this discussion by issuing a statement recently. There are many diverse opinions relating this subject due to the myriad of factors and components that are involved. Advocates on both ends have valid reasoning behind their decision for being either “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”

“Someone who is “pro-life” believes that the government has an obligation to preserve all human life, regardless of intent, viability or quality-of-life concerns,” said Tom Head, a writer from About News. The Roman Catholic denomination of Christianity instills the idea that suicide, abortion, and the death penalty should be prohibited. It is considered a conservative approach when the idea of autonomy vs ethical values conflict in the cases of abortion and attempted suicide. However, it is considered a liberal approach when it is regarding government policy and their stance on war and the death penalty.

Tom Head continues to say, “Individuals who are “pro-choice” believe that individuals have unlimited autonomy with respect to their own reproductive systems, as long as they don’t breach the autonomy of others.” Advocates for pro-choice would assert that the use of contraception, celibacy/abstinence and abortion should stay legal. In the late 1960s to the early 1970s the law against abortion was slowly repealed.




On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court declared, through Roe V. Wade proceedings, that it would be highly unconstitutional to make abortion illegal. The Roe V. Wade decision “held that a woman, with her doctor, could choose abortion in earlier months of pregnancy without legal restriction, and with restrictions in later months, based on the right to privacy” (Lewis, 2016).  This decision was based off of the 14th Amendment in the Constitution, which protects certain rights of the people and defines what it means to be a US citizen. However, In 2003, Congress passed and signed a law under the Federal Abortion Ban. This law made abortions illegal under many circumstances for women who are in their second trimester of pregnancy, regardless of the situation and health risks for the mother. Respective states have their own restrictions on abortions, with some states banning abortion after 20 weeks.

The contentious difference between advocates of pro-life and advocates of pro-choice is derived behind the notion of abortion. The idea and belief behind pro-life is that “even a non-viable, undeveloped human life is sacred and must be protected by the government”(Head, 2016). Therefore, it is not condoned that a mother terminate the living entity that resides within her. However, the idea and belief of pro-choice is that “in pregnancies prior to the point of viability – a point at which the fetus cannot live outside the womb –the government does not have the right to impede a woman’s decision to terminate the pregnancy”(Head, 2016). Different theological perspectives have different views on the development of a fetus. Some say that the soul is implanted right at birth, while others say that the fetus gains a soul when it begins to move. Other theological ideals say that a fetus does not attain a soul well after it has been born.

On Monday, November 21st, 2016  Pope Francis issued a statement that allows women who have gotten abortions or that will get an abortion for whatever given circumstance to be forgiven. He still believes that an abortion it is a major sin as he states, “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life… In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father” (Hume, Moisescu, & Burke, 2016). He is not condoning the act of abortion, as he is pro-life, but he is reassuring the people that God will forgive them.

Abortion has been significant throughout history, both in politics and religion. As we head deeper into the 21st century, it will be interesting to see what happens revolving around the ethical views of abortion; Will we become more liberal on the issue or will conservatism ultimately increase the amount of Pro-Life supporters?

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About the author

Sanjna Patel is 16 year old boarding student at St. Mark’s School, and a part of the graduating class of 2019. She is originally from Danvers, Massachusetts where she lives with her family. She aspires to attain a dual degree in both Business and Law, and possibly minor in Political Science. She truly enjoys travelling the world and being able to have different cultural experiences. Sanjna currently writes for the St.Marker, is a global ambassador, part of the Model U.N. and a peer tutor. She enjoys playing lacrosse, skiing and being able to spend time with family and friends. She is excited for a great year with numerous experiences and opportunities!

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