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Taken from the Appendix of the author's
article, "Abortion and Public Policy:
What are the Issue 3?" in the New York
Lav Porun, vol. XVII, no. 2, 1971.


NEW YORK, NY 10019


Some of the issues are basie, having to do with whether abortion should be permissible and legal under any circumstances; others are more pecific. dealing with particular aspects of proposed legislation such as permissible indications, limitations to hospital facilities, etc.; others concern the anticipated difficullies in implementing a law involving moderate or dras

lic changes. The redder can easily distinguish these Three categories in the condensed argumentation below. The author wishes to draw the reader's atten. tion to the form of the following presentation. The discussion on the leti paraphrases the issue as preso ented by the party raising it: the discussion on the right paraphrases the opposing view.

Opponents of liberalization

Proponents of liberalization 1. Life begins at the moment of conception; the 1. Life began eons ago; the question is when does a

fetus has a right to lise; abortion is murder human person begin--some say at conception, ("lynching in the womb").

some at nidation, some al quickening, some at viability, some at birth, some at a later dale; the assignment of personhood is arbitrary and differs among faiths. li abortion were considered hy society to be murder, there would he same 30 million women behind bars. Il Terliliced ora were considered persons, we would require regis. tration and burial of all spontaneously abonej fetuses (including many expelled with lale men. strual llow). A hydatidiform mole starts as a fertilized egg, ends as a mass of cells, and could in no way be described as a person. A blueprint is not a house, an acorn is not an oak, DNA is

not a person. 2. It is just one step from abortion to euthanasia; 2. Abortion and euthanasia are separate issues legal abortion reflects and encourages declining

(though determining the end of the human permorality and loss of reverence for the sanctity

son is as difficult a question as determining the of life.

start); we set speed limits at 60 MPH and do not necessarily then move them to 70 MPH (one step does not necessarily lead to another); rever. ence for life includes concern for the quality of children born and consideration for the righes

and well-being of women unwillingly pregnant. 3. Promiscuity will be encouraged by legal abortion; 3. Fear of pregnancy is notoriously inefficient

sexual misbehavior should be punished (“she had as a deterrent to sexual behavior. Why should her fun, now let her pay")

the woman be punished and not the man? Why should an innocent child also be punished? Does the punishment fit the crime?

• B.A., 1959 Cornell University, M.A., 1966 Hunter College; M.S. 1968 Columbia Un. iversity, Stall Associate, Demographic Division, The Population Council, City of New York.

Proponenis os liberalization 4. In a pluralistic society one religious faith 4.

should not be permitted to impose its views on
others by law, though it may make every effort
10 do so by persuasion.

Opponents of liberalization This may be true for less serious issues on which the various religions differ, but on the question of abortion, those who believe it to be equivalent 10 murder are duty-bound to make every effort, including legislative restriction, to prevent its occurrence.


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Proponents of liberalization This is a narrow view of medical responsibility; physicians are also concerned with the quality of life and the preservation of health mental and physical-of the woman and her family. Late pregnancy abortions are due to a) procedural delays in hospitals, b) the impossibility of early determination of some forms of deformity and c) changed circumstances or denial of pregnancy---none of which will be legislated away. Improved administration, easier availability of anonymous pregnancy detection and pregnancy counseling, and widespread educational efforts will prevent most women from obtaining abortions ---legal or dangerously illegallate in pregnancy. (Proponents are not in agreement on the issue of determining a permissible gestation limitation by law, many would prefer it to be left to the medical profession's responsibility; others approve a limit of 28 weeks, 26 wecks, 24 weeks, 20 weeks, 18 weeks, 16 weeks, 12 weeks.)

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These restrictions are mainly attempts to limit the number of abortions. Proponents are not in agreement on the medical advisability of restriction to hospitals or to hospitals and approved clinics, but they uniformly oppose obstructive committees and quotas. This, too, is merely an attempt to limit the number of abortions. While proponents are not in agreement on the medical advisability of abortions performed by paramedical personnel (nurse midwives) acting under a doctor's supervision, most would agree that an abortion performed by a trained paramed is likely to be safer than one by a psychiatrist or dermatologist; the disagreement lies not in the ability of para meds to perform routine abortions by suction, but in the occasional emergency requiring more highly trained personnel.

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Proponents is. Contraceptive services should be offered instead 5 of course contraceptives should be more widely

of legalizing abortion. (However, not all oppon- available and promoted; however, in the present ents of liberalization would support this sugges- state of contraceplive technology, and given the tion.)

continuing possibility of human error in the use of even the best methods, abortion is needed as a backstop: ils use is not preferable to contraception, but once a pregnancy occurs, it is the

only means of birth prevention. 6. There won't be enough physicians and hospital 6. While states which have liberalized abortion

beds to accommodate the mass of women laws may have experienced initial pressure on who will seek abortions.

personnel and facilities, this does not appear to have remained a continuing problem. As delive eries decrease in number and as bungled illegal abortions require less hospital time and space, the legal abortion demand will probably turn out

to be less on balance 7. Nurses and other hospital personnel will be un- 7. Some may initially find participation repugnant; willing to participate in such an operation.

some may continue to do so, their right to refuse should be granted, but in most situations to date, there have been sufficient personnel to fill in.


Opponents 1. The physician often believes that it is in the best 1. In a matter such as this, it is not moral or good

interests of the mother to perform an abortion; medical practice -- 10 sacrifice one life unless the good medical practice is deterred by restrictive other is in danger. I would not be correct to laws.

license the killing of other persons, just because some practitioners decided it was good medical

practice to do so. 2. Consider the tremendous costs in hospital staff 2. These may be tragic cases, but alternatives 10 and facilities and impersonal danger and suffer

legal abortion should be developed instead: adeing of the public health aspects of illegal abor

quate sex information and contraception, facilitions poorly performed; women will abort, one

ties for adoption or homes for unwed mothers, way or another, whatever the law says.

adequate social insurance and housing so that these do not constituie reasons for illegally

aborting. 3. Substitute measures will not alleviate the men- 3. Yes they will.

ial and physical health problems associated with unwanted pregnancy, excessive childbear

ing or pregnancies occurring in rapid succession. 4. The original reason for passing restrictive abor- 4 That may be true, but there are now new, com

tion laws was not for the protection of the fetus pelling reasons for retention of the restrictive (there were no or few Catholics in the legisla- laws, whatever the reason for their original pas. ture at the time), nor for the protection of public sage. morality, but for protection of the women from a then-dangerous surgical procedure. more dangerous than childbirth. Since the reverse is now true (childbirth is more risky than hospital abortion), the law cases to be constitutional. 38

See Mcans. The Phoenu of Abortional Freedom Is a Penumbral or Ninth-Amendment Right About to Arise From the Nineteenth-Century Legislative Ashes of a fourteenth-Century Common-Law Liberty, 17 N Y.L.F. 335 (1971).

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Proponents This was the warning in Colorado (first state to modify) and each successive state; such has not proved the case. A look at abortion ratios in Hungary, Japan, and even Scandinavia, and a comparative look at ratios in the United States will suffice to set at rest the description of New York, or Baltimore, or Denver as "abortion capital of the world." Mere modification doesn't, in fact, eliminate il. legal abortion; it only makes a dent. But farreaching liberalization (as in Japan and Hun. gary) does drastically curtail it (as reflected in decreased deaths and hospital admissions for "incompletes"), but the residual can be attributed to remaining restrictions and lack of privacy within the legal registration system.

2. Legal abortion abroad has not eliminated illegal 2.


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If abortion had then been legal, Beethoven wouldn't have been born, and possibly some of you senators here wouldn't have been born, and my lovely third child wouldn't now exist.

And possibly Hitler wouldn't have been born either. We do not miss the many persons not born because they were spontaneously aborted. If Beethoven's father had coughed at the critical moment, a being other than Ludwig would have been born instead.



Legal abortions should be limited to state resi- 4. dents only.

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Abortion is genocide; it is an attempt by people 5. in power to eliminate poor and Third World people.

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If the abortion “mecca" argument fails to prevent liberalization, then last-ditch efforts to curb the numbers of abortions performed takes the form of suggestions for residency requirements. Not only are they probably unconstitutional but the medical delivery system has been found adequate to handle the influx of non-resi. dents wherever laws have so far been liberalized. Under restrictive laws, poor women suffer most, as reflected in their disproportionate mortality and underrepresentation in the few hospital abortions performed under restrictive laws. Legal abortion will be made available on a voluntary basis to those women who want to use it—there is no suggestion for coercive measures in a call for liberalization.

Opponents 1. Society would do better to make substitute

provision for unwanted children with adequate institutions and benefits to enable each child to have a warm and loving home. Many women who do not want a child when they discover their pregnancy do change their minds and love the child when it is born--and vice versa. It cannot

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Opponents statistically be proven that children born to women denied legal abortion fare any worse than those presumably willingly conceived: ir. responsible parenthood stems from many causes and should be dealt with accordingly, unwanted children can turn out to be creative

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5. Under restrictive laws, rich women with know

how oblain sase legal or quasi-legal abortions, while poor women bear unwanted children or are

butchered by back-street abortionists. 6. A bad law, unenforced and unenforceable, fos

lers disrespect for the law in general.
The population explosion compels us to take
every means necessary to curb our growth rate.
Since contraception alone seems insufficient to
reduce ferulity to the point of no-growih, and
since population experts tell us that eliminating
unwanted fertilty would go a long way toward
achieving replacement ferility, we should permit
all voluntary means of birth control (including
abortion) so as to avert the necessity for coer.

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genuises, contributing much to society. 2 Although we are alarmed by the surging in

crease in illegitimacy, society must find alternate W.Nel presenting it Seducation, adequale contraction or of dealing with it once it occurs Adoption services, child care allow.

unce. jobs for urned women. 3.

Deformed children have as much right to live as others; many deformed persons lead normal and constructive lives 11 you sanction the disposal of deformed fetuses, you may soon also decide to do away with the elderly and the useless, or the

non-productive aduli. 4

Tragic as these cases may be, that is not adequate justification for the destruction of human life. (Opponents do, however, sometimes find rape so abhorrent that they would make

an exception.) 5. That is a matter of discriminatory application

of the law, not of its substance. Neither group should seek or obtain an abortion, sale or unsafe,

legal or illegal. 6 Many laws are difficult to enforce; that is not

sufficient justification for their eradication. 7.

The United States is not experiencing a populalion explosion. Problems of pollution and environmental degradation are due more to other causes (increased affluence) than to population growth. Growth is good for business. If growth seems detrimental to our quality of life, then we should step up family planning programs utilizing contraception only, avoiding the necessity for including abortion. If you can use abortion 10 control the size of the population, then you will

also justify eunthanasia and genocide. 8

There you are - genocide, the elimination of “undesirables." Society must make adequate provision for its needy

not merely ensure their non-birth.


Proponents He's not a "father" (any more than she's a "mother") until a child is born. He may contribute 50% of the genes, but he does not have to bear and care for the outcome. A husband's consent clause violates the woman's right to

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