Whether a fetus is a person, a valuable life, or a human being to be protected is the question that we all have been pondering upon these days. The two terms ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ refer to the ideologies concerning abortion rights. The idea of abortion is such a controversial debate that people label themselves into two different ideologies to discuss the morality of aborting a fetus. Those who identify themselves as ‘pro-life’ believe that the life of fertilized egg, embryo, and fetus should be protected. Whereas, people who identify themselves as ‘pro-choice’ believe that everyone should have the right to choose whether and when to have children. Even if they do not choose abortion for themselves, people who claim themselves as ‘pro-choice’ believe that it is okay for people to choose abortion as an option for unplanned pregnancy.
The pro-life vs pro-choice debate is very intimidating. Merely associating one particular topic with each term is inaccurate and very narrow. The complicating matter on both of these terms is that there is no consensus on where exactly life begins. The complex motives and objectives of both of these stances of pro-life and pro-choice cannot be oversimplified. There is merely a black and white picture in this debate. The shades of gray are the reason why the reproductive rights discussion is not very simple.
Point of conflict
The point of conflict of pro-life and pro-choice begins when the question of whether abortion complies with our basic morality stands. Making abortions illegal would not just protect the life of a baby but also wouldn’t let people commit the sin of murdering a baby before even stepping into the world. Life begins at fertilization. Banning abortions would also control unsafe and unplanned sexual activities. These are some of the beliefs that pro-lifers stick to.
On the other hand, pro-choice gives more importance to the reproductive rights and reproductive health of a woman, then the life of a fetus. If a mother isn’t sure about having a baby, then she has the right to choose. Life only begins with the first breath a baby takes, after coming into this world. A fetus is a potential life, but a woman is an existing life.
The best way to reduce abortion rates is by making abortion “safe and legal”. Banning abortions wouldn’t reduce the rates of abortions but would increase the rates of unsafe abortions. No one knows the circumstances of someone who is considering an abortion. A woman’s body is completely hers, and that’s not for anyone else to decide.
It seems as though, no matter where anyone stands, something is lost, be it the life of a fetus or the bodily autonomy and safe reproductive health of women. The major point lies in the decision of what we are ready to lose.
Roe vs Wade: Case of the US
Roe vs Wade is a landmark Supreme Court case of 1973 in which the US Supreme Court had effectively legalized the procedures of abortion across the United States. The court held that a woman’s right to abortion fell under right to privacy protected by the 14th amendment of the US Constitution.
Jane Roe, who was in her early 20s, unemployed, unmarried and pregnant, tried to have abortion in the city of Texas where abortion was only allowed if the mother’s health was at risk. While other women with financial means could travel to other countries for obtaining safe and legal abortions, some women like Roe, who weren’t financially capable enough, had to opt for unsafe, illegal and dangerous abortions.
The point of conflict of pro-life and pro-choice begins when the question of whether abortion complies with our basic morality stands.
The US Supreme Court on Friday, June 24, 2022 overruled Roe V Wade eliminating the constitutional rights to abortion of American women after almost 50 years. This decision may have serious implications on the people who are pro-choice and the socio-legal movements that are centered on reproductive rights across the globe.
Former US President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama said the following: ““Few, if any, women make the decision to terminate a pregnancy casually-and people of goodwill, across the political spectrum, can hold different views on the subject. But what ‘Roe’ recognized is that the ‘freedom’ enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution requires all of us to enjoy a sphere of our lives that isn’t subject to meddling from the state… The consequences of this decision would be a blow not just to women, but to all of us who believe that in a ‘free’ society, there are limits to how much the (American) government can encroach on our personal lives…”
A survey by CNN showed that only 30 percent of the Americans wanted Roe v Wade to be overturned whereas 69 percent opposed such a move.
‘Pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ labels don’t reflect the complexity of the issue. Instead of keeping ourselves to a certain level, the real-life decisions of people should be respected.
Ruchi Dhital is a BALLB student at Kathmandu School of Law.