Abortion: A Woman’s Rights vs. Responsibilities

Throughout the past 100 years, women have gained an amazing amount of freedom. Women can now vote, be elected to public office, and get almost any job they can qualify for! These freedoms open up amazing opportunity for women all over the country.

But with the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, a new kind of freedom was given: the choice to abort a child.

And this choice is fairly common in the US today. According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, about 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by the age of 45 (1).

While women’s rights are hugely important, we must consider not just rights, but also responsibilities.

Think of the Children

Many people feel that abortion, particularly in the early stages of pregnancy, should be more widely accessible to teen moms or women in the lower income. The American Academy of Pediatrics even went as far as to declare teen access to confidential abortion “care” a civil right in a press release just last year. 

Think of the children, they say. What kind of life would it be to grow up with a teenaged mother or to be raised in poverty?

While protecting children is a noble goal to be certain, using abortion as the solution doesn’t actually address the problem.

Yes, kids would have a hard time growing up in the home of a teen mother, a single mother, or an impoverished family. Thankfully, many couples who can’t have children of their own would love to adopt that child. According to the CDC, about 1.5 million married women are trying to have kids but can’t (2). These children could still have a wonderful life with an adopted family.

So if we are to truly think of the children, we must consider what we’re giving them: a bright future, or no future at all.

Think of the Mothers

People can also see abortion as the best solution for the mothers. Some women just can’t handle children, whether it’s because of their age, their socioeconomic status, or their family situation.

Think of the moms, they say. What about these poor teenagers who are suddenly thrown into adulthood? What about these women in poverty who just aren’t financially able to care for a baby? (And according to survey data, 73% of women say they chose abortion because they feel like they can’t afford a baby (3).) What about women who are physically endangered by pregnancy?

Yes, teenagers should keep their childhood. Yes, having a baby would take that childhood from them.

But you know what else takes childhood from our teenaged daughters? Being sexually active from a young age. So perhaps the solution is not to save their childhood through abortion, but to help our daughters better learn about sexuality and relationships. We need to teach them to wait to engage in sexual behavior until they’re ready for everything that comes with it.

Yes, caring for a child is a big financial commitment. Once again, in considering the future of the mother and child, adoption is a great option that protects the interests of both.

Yes, we should worry about women’s health. That is definitely a legitimate concern when it comes to pregnancy. However, very few abortions are actually performed due to a mother’s endangered health (4).

So we can still think of the mothers without robbing a child of the right to live.

The Right to Choose

Perhaps the most common defense of abortion is freedom, empowering women by giving them a choice.

What about a woman’s right to choose? they ask.   

Except in some tragic cases of rape or sexual assault, a woman does have the right to choose, even without abortion. (Thankfully, according to surveys done by the Guttmacher Institute, rape or incest accounts for less than 1.5% of all abortions (5).)

She chooses to be sexually involved. In making that choice, she is also choosing to risk getting pregnant. (After all, the only 100% foolproof form of birth control is abstinence.)

So we should teach our daughters that they do have choices. But their choices also have consequences.

Our Responsibility

In the vast majority of cases, both the woman and child are best cared for without an abortion. A child can still have a wonderful future with adoptive parents if the mother is unable to care for him herself. A mother can have a wonderful future, too.

As we embrace not just a woman’s rights but also her responsibilities, we can better protect the health of all.

For more information on abortion, check out the following ACPeds resources:

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1. Jones, R. K., & Jerman, J. (2017, October 19). Population group abortion rates and lifetime incidence of abortion: United States, 2008-2014. American Journal of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2017/10/population-group-abortion-rates-and-lifetime-incidence-abortion-united-states-2008

2. National Center for Health Statistics. (2013, August). Infertility and impaired fecundity in the

United States, 1982-2010: Data from the National Survey of Family Growth (Research Report No. 67) (A. Chandra, C. E. Copen, & E. H. Stephen, Authors). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr067.pdf

3-5. Finer, L. B., Frohwirth, L. F., Dauphinee, L. A., Singh, S., & Moore, A.M. (2005). Reasons U.S. women have abortions: Quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 37(3),110-118. Retrieved from https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/journals/3711005.pdf

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