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to limit my remarks to the question before the Committee which is, I understand: shall the Federal Constitution be amended to deny women the right to choose whether to continue pregnancy, a right upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in January of 1973. I hope to focus on the moral issue surrounding the right of privacy and freedom of conscience for the individual woman.
Our Committee supports the decision of the Court and continues to believe that it represents a compromise in that it leaves open and available the option of abortion, yet imposes it on no woman. The Court recognized that a woman is more than “a reproductive unit”-to use a label applied by one of our opponents; that she is a person of dignity, competent to make decisions about the most intimate aspect of her life. The Court opinion frees her to act according to HER best judgment (and she will always choose the greater good as she sees it). Her child-bearing is not to be dictated by the state; before the Court ruled, legislatures held that a woman must bear a child, once pregnant. For compulsion by legislatures, the Supreme Court decision substitutes the judgment of the individual woman; SHE is given the privilege to choose according to her own reason and moral sense. Surely this the way we have traditionally dealt with moral choices in our free society-with high regard for our diverse views. There is nothing in the Supreme Court decisio that prohibits a woman from acting in the accord with the moral teaching of her church, nor from seeking counsel with any other source of help that she respects. The moral and ethical teachings she received will be factors in her decision, inescapably. The kind of teaching that will reduce the need for abortion might be a more constructive program for those against abortion rights than attacking the Court. I am speaking of early instruction in sexuality and values of family planning in the schools, involving parents ideally. The goal of such courses should be to “develop positive standards of responsible sexuality and responsible parenthood”—to quote from the Rev. Warren Schaller whom you heard for the opposition on August 21st.
Our position that the abortion decision is rightfully the woman's is far from advocating abortion. And it is a long way from giving the states the power to compel a woman to go through with an undesired pregnancy; or the power to compel a woman to terminate it. This fear of government control is very real to our opponents. Yet experience in other countries does not justify that fear. For example, Sweden and Denmark legalized abortion in the 1930's, Japan in 1948. Nothing like imposed euthanasia, or compulsory sterilization, or government limitation of family size has occurred. The enormity of Hitler's genocidal programs is often cited. Yet the fact is that under Hitler, Germany passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in history, making even the act of assisting in an abortion a penal offense !
Another objection that is made to the Supreme Court decision is that it has reduced the powers of the state to legislate. I do not understand this argument. In the first place, a state may reasonably regulate the abortion procedure for the protection of maternal Realth after the first trimester (during which the decision must be left to the woman and her doctor). Secondly, the state's power to prohibit abortion after viability is upheld, provided that continuation of the pregnancy does not threaten the life or health of the woman. What more restrictive provision can there be that does not abridge the right of the individual woman? In holding as it did, the Court was not usurping the authority of the legislatures. It simply pointed out the limits of the constitutional rights of the pregnant woman, and thus of the states' authority to legislate.
The states have shown legitimate interest in the health of women through enactment of medical practise statutes, through penalties for the illicit practise of medicine, through guidelines developed by the appropriate professional agencies. It is not clear that additional legislation at any level is needed. We prefer that the law be silent on the subject. A statement from the late Father John Courtney Murray, one of the principal architects of the Second Vatican Council on Religious Freedom, seems pertinent here:
“Laws should seek to maintain only that minimum of actualized morality that is necessary for the healthy functioning of the social order. Is it prudent to undertake the enforcement of this or that ban .. in view of the possible harmful effects in other areas of social life? Is the instrumentality of coercive law a good means for the eradication of this or that social vice?"
This statement of principle relates directly, I believe, to the devisive issue which confronts us. Dissatisfaction with the Court's decision has precipitated
a controversy marked by a rancor and fanaticism that are regrettable at a time in the nation's history when we need to draw closer together. These destructive feelings will surely intensify and a disastrous cleavage result if the proposed amendments pass the Congress and go to the states for ratification. It is saddening to think of such a cruel eventuality. Of all aspects of a woman's life that should be supportively surrounded with compassion and sensitivity it is her childbearing. In this man's world--for so it still is-we turn to you for that kind of understanding. We ask you to turn down the constitutional measures before you.
Since reproductive discretion is our objective (and this is well served in the Supreme Court decision) we do not believe that we need state a position on . other issues with which our adversaries would like to associate us. However, : there are two points that I feel obliged to make in rebuttal to arguments that
you have heard here. The first is that we advocate abortion as a method of contraception. As I have said, we are not advocating abortion, but a woman's
right to choose abortion. Furthermore, abortion is by definition not a contra* ceptive method; it is used after conception has occurred. We do not regard it
as a substitute for the practise of contraception, but as a remedy for failed contraception or a lack of prudence or innocence of human biology. In the per
fect world, there will be no need for abortion, for we will have a fail-proof E contraceptive univer employed and every pregnancy will be planned. The
other criticism directd at us which I would like to answer is that we are dei priving adoptive parents of children to adopt. At least that is the way I read
our adversaries' bumper stickers. In the first place, it seems to me that adoption was devised originally to provide homes for children who had none. Have we now switched things around so that unwilling women must deliver children for adults who cannot have their own? What a diabolical use of a woman. Perhaps this is the function the speaker had in mind in referring to woman as "a reproductive unit”! Furthermore, to require by law that a woman go through with an unwanted pregnancy and then compound her misery by offering as a solution the relinquishing of the child seems to me utterly heartless. As to the supply of children available for adoption, I should like to quote from a release from the Children's Bureau of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare dated April 19, 1974; headed Statistics Pertaining to Children in Need of Adoption:
“Although there are no firm statistics as to the number available, it is known that the vast majority of children for whom adoption might be suitable are over 6 years of age, are physically, mentally, or emotionally handicapped, or are in large family groups where the children should not be separated.
“Recent estimates of the number of children who could profit by adoption indicate that there might be about 100,000, most of whom are currently in foster
This information seems to me to speak against the argument that women should be encouraged to go through with unwanted pregnancies to supply children for adoption.
Reproductive freedom is our objective. It is abridged without access to abortion, a right upheld by the Supreme Court decision. Women do have problem pregnancies. Let me tell you about two cases that have recently come to my attention.
A 40-year-old mother of four planned children finds herself pregnant, despite the practise of contraception. Her husband has been handicapped in such a way that he can no longer work. She has taken a job to supplement his meager compensation and help meet the mounting expense of education for her children. This is possible for her now that the youngest child is in school most of the day. The prospect of going through a potentially dangerous, late pregnancy to deliver an unwanted infant is devastating to her. Added to which is the insoluble problem of family financies if she quits work to bring up a child. Should she not have the right to choose to have a medically-safe abortion? Or does society feel it can make a judgment for her and condemn her and the child to a dismal future? By what authority can we make that judgment?
Or another case. A 17-year-old college freshman on a scholarship, overwhelmed by her new liberties, has too much beer at her first all-night party, and finds three weeks later that she is pregnant. She comes from a family where sex was not discussed, from a school with taboos against any kind of instruction in family planning, from a community just getting underway with birth control clinics that will treat minors. What now are her alternatives? Society afforded poor ones before the Supreme Court decision legalized abortion. Let's
look at them. There is marriage-if she could be sure which boy was responsible and coerce him. Percentage of success for those marriages is very low. She might go to another city, have the child and put it out for adoption. This would mean giving up her scholarship, giving up college, maybe forever. Giving up an infant. She might keep the child and raise it alone. Would her mother be overjoyed to take care of that out-of-wedlock child while the teen-ager went out to work to support it? There there are the desperate alternatives—like attempting brutal self-abortion, or even suicide. How can a humane society take away from this young woman the option of safe, legal abortion available now under the Supreme Court decision? How would a return to the days of the back-alley operator serve this woman-or the common good? We need to ask ourselves whether it is not rather our vindictive craving to punish that would be served.
In Missouri safe, legal abortion is available-subject to recently imposed restrictions which we deplore and, which are now being challenged in court cases. Women who choose this solution to a problem pregnancy can be treated at clinics in the St. Louis area, at Columbia, and in the Kansas City area. Some 7300 women chose this solution in 1973, according to figures released by the Missouri Center for Health Statistics (although some of them had to go out of the state for treatment). There is no reliable way of comparing this figure with the number of illegal abortions done prior to January 22, 1973. Because they were outside the law they were not recorded, for the protection of the woman, her family, her physician. Deaths related to criminal abortion were ascribed to septicemia or hemorrhage, for the same reason. The view that the option of safe, legal abortion must remain available as made possible by the Court's decision is gaining adherents in Missouri. Our membership grows daily, as do financial donations. Support among the professional groups is evidenced in our letterhead: we have advisory groups of medical specialists (including the chief of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis) and of clergymen (including the Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri). A dozen or more influential organizations, several with state-wide memberships, have joined us in support of liberalized abortion laws and of the Supreme Court decision.
Let me say that even if there were not such general support for the Court, even if we are to be in the minority, our rights still would deserve the protection of the constitution. We resist the possibility that a crusade mounted primarily by a religious group seeking implementation in the civil law of their sectarian belief could deprive us of our constitutional rights. We therefore ask that, as you deliberate, you put first the rights of women and reassure us that you value our capacity to make wise judgments in this most personal decision, where individual conscience must govern.
I like the way Bishop George Cadigan expressed his views some three years ago:
“Proposed legalization of abortion in the state of Missouri has precipitated violent debate which has focused disproportionately on the acceptability or unacceptability of this means of solving an undesired pregnancy. Regard for the sanctity of life has been repeatedly invoked, as if only some of us valued, or appreciated, the true worth of human life ...
“The ‘rightness' or 'wrongness' of abortion ... is not the critical issue here. The issue is the larger ethical one: can any one of us stand in the role of judge for the personal decisions of others? What robes shall we wear? Greater than the debatable immorality of terminating an undesired pregnancy is the immorality of refusing a woman access to medical help when she has determined that she needs it. A law that compels a woman to continue an undesired pregnancy is evil-as evil as a law that would compel her to have an abortion."
If there is any single thought that I would like to leave with you it is : that pregnancy is a deeply significant event in a woman's life. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is equally significant. The WOMAN must be trusted to make that decision and have the freedom to act upon it without interference by the state.
COMMITTEE FOR LEGAL ABORTION IN MISSOURI
“I would have been married to someone I didn't love and who didn't love me. And there would have been a child that neither of us wanted. It's like I was given a second chance at life.”
Abortion is generally therapeutic in most cases if a woman truly desires the procedure. This is one finding of a recent St. Louis study interviewing a random sample of 1000 women who contacted a problem pregnancy counseling ervice; follow-up interviews one-two years after abortion were done on twohirds of the group.
WHO OBTAINS AN ABORTION ?
WHY DID THESE WOMEN FACE AN UNWANTED PERGNANCY ?
Majority said they did not believe pregnancy would occur even though they were sexually active.
Reasons for not using contraceptives; Needs to deny there had been a con. scious decision to have intercourse; Feelings of guilt about sexual activity.
Contraceptive failures: Mostly related to lack of knowledge regarding use of method, or misinformation regarding reliability of birth control measures.
AFTER-EFFECTS OF ABORTION Immediate.-With few exceptions, the women were functioning well. Although frequently mentioning desperate feelings while pregnant, the crisis ended for them with the abortion. Many reported feeling relief and satisfaction. Few experienced depression, remorse or guilt, and for them reactions were usually mild and self-limited.
Delayed.-1-2 years after abortion.
Regret over decision: These few women felt they had been influenced by others regarding abortion.
Many viewed the experience as a growth producing or maturing process.
Many reported that abortion allowed them to stay in school, continue enjoyable jobs, or devote more time to families.
None of the married women reported change in marital status or change in relationships with their husbands.
STATEMENT ON LIBERALIZING OF THE ABORTION STATUTE, BY THE RIGHT REVEREND
GEORGE LESLIE CADIGAN, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE OF MISSOURI Proposed legalization of abortion in the state of Missouri has precipitated violent debate which has focused disproportionately on the acceptability or unacceptability of this means of solving an undesired pregnancy. Regard for the sanctity of life has been repeatedly invoked, as if only some of us valued, or appreciated the true worth of human life. Opponents of liberalized abortion laws argue from the assumption that the unborn child has an absolute right to be born-into whatever circumstances-because of its humanness from the moment of conception. Therefore, they reason, that a woman who deliberately interrupts a pregnancy is guilty of great moral evil. It follows, for them, that the law must prohibit her from choosing this course. She must not be permitted to reach an independent decision for the direction of her life at this most serious juncture, and the option of abortion must be denied her.
No one knows better than the woman unwillingly pregnant that she faces a difficult moral decision. But our respect for her ability to make that decision
1 Characteristics of Women Who Obtain Abortions, Elizabeth Smith, MSW, Dept. of Psychiatry, Washington Univ. School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo.
in a responsible way requires that we, by our laws and by our attitudes, grant her that freedom.
When a human life may be said to begin is a profound ethical question, as is the question of when protection of a greater good justifies the interruption of a natural process. The answers cannot be final or universal. They must be sought every time the questions come, and, in every case, by the individual person most intimately concerned. It is at once the glory and the burden of each of us that we are called upon to make such difficult personal decisions according to our own consciences. When we deny that liberty to any one of our number, we give away a part of our own birthright. When, more specifically, we condemn a woman for making an independent judgment according to her own conscience, relating to her reproductive life, we denigrate her personhood.
The "rightness" or "wrongness” of abortion as the solution of a problem pregnancy is not the critical issue here. The issue is the larger ethical one: can any one of us stand in the role of judge for the personal decisions of others? What robes shall we wear? Greater than the debatable immorality of terminating an undesired pregnancy is the immorality of refusing a woman access to medical help when she has determined that she needs it. A law that compels a woman to continue an undesired pregnancy is evilmas evil as a law that would compel her to have an abortion. The present restrictive statute in Missouri condemns the woman who chooses abortion to be furtive, to seek dangerous ways out of her desperate situation. It can make of her a criminal or the victim of barbarous exploitation.
A society which cannot in common humanity extend a way to such a woman to act as her conscience dictates fails her at a time when she most needs supportive concern.
If we truly believe in the capacity of each individual to determine the course of the future-painful and agonizing as the process may be; if we honor the concept of individual accountability for every member of the human familythen, as a society, we can no longer assign to the state the power to make, for a member of that society, a conscientioụs and most personal decision.
A growing number of organizations and agencies in Missouri have expressed their support of the Supreme Court decision establishing a woman's right to abortion.
Other organizations which have taken a public stand in favor of liberal abortion laws are:
Health and Welfare Council of Metropolitan St. Louis.
White House Conference on Children and Youth, Missouri Committee Report, 1970.
Dr. SHOUP. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for the opportunity to testify as a representative of the National Abortion Rights Action League, an organization opposed to the constitutional amendments now under consideration by this subcommittee. I am acting head of the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue University Calumet Campus. Hammond, Ind., where I am associate professor. I received my Ph. D. in Zoology at the University of Chicago.
Senator Bays. Would you permit me one male chauvanistic remark?