Abortion has been a contentious issue for a long time. However, the controversies facing this issue have been brought out in several phases over the last century. Previously, the problem was whether abortion was ethical and whether it was legal, with inputs from the church and other religious organizations, human rights activists, and the government. After abortion was legalized in some states, the move of people to states where abortion was legal forced most of the country to legalize the procedure (Butler and Walbert 41). Soon after, the issue of pre-abortion occurred again, and laws were enacted to ensure that specific requirements were fulfilled before an abortion procedure. The most recent concern over the past few years is whether the pre-abortion requirements in some states benefited the instigator or existed to dissuade the woman from carrying out the abortion.
Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy, where the embryo or fetus is separated from the host body (Butler and Walbert 42). It is the expulsion of the fetus from its host’s uterus before it can survive on its own. Abortion exists in many forms. Miscarriages or spontaneous abortions are those that occur without anyone’s intervention, while induced abortions occur after the intervention of the specialist. Abortions that occur late in the pregnancy, where the fetus has a chance at survival, are called a late termination of pregnancy or a late-term abortion (House of Commons: Science and Technology Committee 6).
Over the years, abortion has become an acceptable practice in the United States of America, as well as in other countries where pro-abortion laws have been passed. When carried out within the confines of the law, it is one of the safest procedures in the medical field. However, some cases still show that some individuals still manage, for one reason or the other, to procure abortions outside the confines of the law. Since the legalization of abortion, over 40% of the women in the world have managed to obtain safe termination services (Butler and Walbert 43). As a result, the rates of unsafe abortions have decreased significantly. The effectiveness of birth control mechanisms has played a key role in ensuring that abortions are carried out in the safest ways possible.
Those that are pro-abortion hold their position that legal abortion provides the woman with the alternative to terminate their pregnancy as safely as possible (Doan 315). The termination happens without exposing them to health risks such as physical damages to the reproductive system or other body organs, such as kidneys. Moreover, it ensures that the mental faculties of the person procuring an abortion are not affected by the pain and trauma exerted when obtaining backstreet or unsafe abortions (Doan 315). They revel in the fact that since the legalization of abortions, women have sought safe and healthy ways to terminate a pregnancy without causing harm while seeking psychological help to deal with any residual mental or emotional issues that may persist after abortions.
Moreover, legal abortions have made medical practices easier both for the patients and for the medical practitioners. Before the signing of the abortion bill into law, medical practitioners have difficulties in the case where the life of a pregnant woman is in danger because of health complications (Doan 316). Some of these illnesses are strained and affected by the fact that the woman is a host to another being while still sick, and the practitioners constantly face the problem of choosing between the fetus and mother. With the new laws in place, the patients, their guardians, and the medical experts can make the choice that will either save both the mother and its baby or just the mother, even if it means inducing an abortion.
However, abortion laws cannot be mentioned without considering pre-abortion requirements. These requirements are the regulations or laws entrenched in the constitution that require the medical practitioners to conduct specific tests, practices and receive consent before inducing abortions (Woodcock 74). The requirements are established for several reasons. First, they are meant to protect the sanctity of life and uphold the global human right to live. This protection ensures that the mother is aware of the steps she is making before carrying on with the procedure. Secondly, the measures are placed to ensure that the procurer of the abortion services is well aware of what they are conducting and is in a reasonable state of mind as they make the decision. Third, the laws require the mother to receive medical screening to ensure that she is of sound physical health, which ensured that the practice would not have adverse effects on the potential mother (Woodcock 74).
The pre-abortion requirements have many different forms in various states across the country. In some states, the procurers are forced to seek therapy before the session, then asked to wait for a while (Woodcock 77). In other states, the procurers are required to meet a certain age-threshold before undergoing the procedure. Some other states require that the potential mothers be subjected to psycho-analysis to ensure that they are mentally fit to undergo the process. Other states demand the procurer to sign a consent form.
In all the pro-abortion states, the one critical pre-abortion requirement that is mandatory, and is formulated first is the consent regulation (Papademetriou 101). All the institutions that were given the mandate to offer safe abortion services are required to ask for consent forms from the client. Consent forms are supposed to act as a buffer for the medical institutions. It prevents people below the legal age from acting irresponsibly and procuring such services without the knowledge of their parents or guardians (Woodcock 78). Moreover, it ensures that, in some unique cases, both partners are aware of the steps that were being taken in the procedure. The awareness prevents some women in a marriage set up, for instance, from taking such significant measures without the knowledge or consent of their spouses. Additionally, it ensures that the institutions bear no liabilities for any unfortunate eventualities that would follow since abortion was and still is a delicate medical procedure with risk rates that vary from one person to another.
Another requirement is the medical check-up requirement. This law requires medical practitioners to perform routine medical check-ups to ascertain the health status of both the procurer and the unborn child. If the fetus is still pre-term or can survive outside the uterus in the case of late-term abortions, it is required of the medical facility to ensure that the procedure would not harm the woman who seeks to undergo the process (Butler and Walbert 43). Medical statistics show that women with particular infections and illnesses are susceptible to fatalities or could fail to survive abortion if they experience the procedure without proper assessment and control of the underlying diseases. As a standard surgical procedure, it is vital that the physician or specialist is aware of the health status and learns whether any underlying issues would alter the course of abortion or irreparable damage to the procurer mentally or physically (Butler and Walbert 43).
Moreover, it is mandated that the procurer of abortion is required to undergo a mental examination to establish whether they are of sound mind (Woodcock 75). The procurer is needed to be fit enough to follow through with the procedure. According to the law, those who are of unsound mind or emotionally unstable are to be reinstated to full health before being allowed to carry on with the procedure, to ensure that that the process would not cause adverse effects to them or their unborn child in the short term or the long run (Woodcock 77). These conditions are established to ensure that the facility would not be liable or to blame in case the procedure is defective due to such eventualities.
The procurer of such services is supposed to see a psychologist or therapist. The hospital-appointed therapist offers pre-abortion counseling services to the procurer to ensure that the patient knew what they are signing up for (Brien and Fairbairn 34). The counseling session opens up the client to the possibilities that exist outside of their course of action to dissuade the client from the path they were on (Woodcock 77). A therapist is supposed to educate the client on the process of abortion and the various types of procedures that are available to the client, subject to the medical analysis report. Moreover, counselling offers psycho-social help to the pre-abortion and post-abortion clients to ensure that the process does not scar the patient mentally or emotionally (Brien and Fairbairn 34). The counselors are responsible for stabilizing the patient’s emotional and physical health and finding out the client’s feelings about the circumstances that lead to pregnancy. Addtionally, the counselors have to moderate their personal opinions towards the subject and to find out what the client knows about the procedure and whether they are prepared to handle the risks. It is supposed to be non-judgemental and private to ensure that the woman is open to post-abortion counseling and medical follow-up and to introduce contraception to avoid reoccurrence (Wootten 36).
Twenty-seven of the American states stipulate in their abortion laws that the woman ought to wait for a period of time after counseling before going on with the procedure. Out of these twenty-seven states, fourteen require the woman to take two separate trips, each spaced by twenty-four hours or more between the testing and counseling sessions and the procedure (Brien and Fairbairn 35). This delay meant to give the woman time to reflect on their course of action and dissuade them from taking the steps they had committed to. Studies show that counseling has a specific time effect, where the conversations and discussion have more influence while the client is in their own private or personal space (Brien and Fairbairn 35). Such practice is believed to increase the chances of changing the woman’s mind regarding abortion (Guttmacher Institute).
A controversy had arisen all over the USA and other countries when these laws were put into place. Such pre-abortion statutes and requirements have been put in place to ensure that they curtail abortions as much as possible (Wootten 38). The procedures that one is supposed to undergo before going through with the abortion are supposed to ensure that the procurer is safe and healthy and does not suffer afterward. However, it is noteworthy that some of the procedures put in place have been tailor-made to ensure that the procurer is dissuaded from their course of action, which raises the moral question (Guttmacher Institute). In some states, abortion laws have been increased and twisted to make it harder for the procurer to go through with the procedure.
For instance, the state-appointed requirement that demands a person to be subjected to mandatory counseling sessions prior to the procedure is meant to dissuade the woman from going through with their decision in the long run (Brien and Fairbairn 36). Since the counseling sessions are significant in the process as they act as sources of information on the procedure and ensure that the patient is ready for it, some states require their counselors to try their best to alter the decision of the woman (Guttmacher Institute). Counseling, over the years, has proven to be the most effective tool. Exposure to a professional with training on the mental faculties with a mission to convince the woman against a decision makes a woman question whether she can make decisions independently, altering her further actions.
In some states, counselors have to ensure that the woman is aware of risks such a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) strain known as post-abortion stress syndrome. These states require the counselors to falsely create the impression that the syndrome is more real than it is and that the likelihood of it striking home was high (Wootten 36). However, the American Psychological Association does not recognize any such illness in its database (Guttmacher Institute). This deceit that some rules are a creation of the state to deter people from their cause of action. Moreover, studies prove that abortions do not increase anxiety and depression disorders, as stated by the state-appointed counselors (Guttmacher Institute).
Some states require medical screening to conduct ultrasounds and show the images to the mother. While this action is meant to dissuade the women, a vast majority still carry on with the procedure even after receiving the images of what could have been their baby (Guttmacher Institute). However, some start feeling the connection or bond that a mother feels with their child and keep the fetus. Although, this decision is meant to be personal and not a forced one. Addtionally, states deny the procurers funds from the medical plans or their insurers to get such services, requiring them to pay cash. Other states require the procurers to pay additional premiums to the insurer for such procedures, making it rather expensive to get an abortion (Doan 319).
It is evident that the state exerts a lot of effort to alter the course of such procedures as decided by the women seeking such services. The requirements not only protect the life of the woman, but they also change their decisions, which raises moral questions. The effect is that there has been an increase in the number of backstreet procedures being carried out since they are cheaper and are governed by little to no laws, even they are not safe (Guttmacher Institute). For this reason, it is paramount that amendments to be made. These amendments will ensure that all who would want to procure such pre-abortion services do it in a manner that gives eligibility and protects the sanctity of their decisions, so that safe, healthy, and problem-free procedures can be carried.
In conclusion, the state should ensure minimum interference in the procedures that lead to abortion services procurement. They should provide safe services to reduce the risk of losing both the child and the mother to backstreet procedures, as opposed to losing a potential child in safely performed procedures. More emphasis should be placed on Planned Parenthood and contraceptive use to prevent a lethal outcome.
Brien, Joanna, and Ida Fairbairn. Pregnancy and Abortion Counselling. Routledge, 2003.
Butler, Douglas J., and David F. Walbert. Abortion, Medicine, and the Law. Fideli Publishing, 2011.
Doan, Alesha. Opposition and Intimidation: The Abortion Wars and Strategies of Political Harassment. University of Michigan Press, 2009.
Guttmacher Institute. “Mandatory Counseling for Abortion.” Guttmacher Institute, www.guttmacher.org/evidence-you-can-use/mandatory-counseling-abortion. Accessed 4 November 2020.
House of Commons: Science and Technology Committee. Scientific Developments Relating to the Abortion Act 1967: Twelfth Report of Session 2006-07, Vol. 2: Oral and Written Evidence. The Stationery Office, 2007.
Papademetriou, Theresa. A Comparative Survey of the Laws on Abortion of Selected Countries. DIANE Publishing, 1993.
Woodcock, Scott. “Abortion Counselling and the Informed Consent Dilemma.” Bioethics, vol. 25, no. 9, 2010, pp. 495-504.
Wootten, Vincent. “Pre-abortion Counselling.” Fam Plann Inf Serv, vol. 1, no. 6, 1981, pp. 35-38.