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Abortion can simply be defined as the act of terminating a pregnancy. It is an issue which has raised a heated debate in the public sphere leading to formation of two major factions; the pro-choice and the pro-life. The pro-choice group supports abortion in any form whereas the pro-life group has a blanket condemnation of the act and deems any acceptance of the act, even on medical grounds, as slippery slope that can lead to uncontrolled abortion. The Catholic Church can fit best in this latter category. However, with all these hullabaloos, the United States Government has taken stand on the issue mainly through legislations. Various surveys conducted regarding abortion seem to unanimously come to the same conclusion that abortion is a widely practiced act in the US. This paper gives an overview of abortion with emphasis on its legal aspects, Catholic Church opinion, and current statistics. It is presumed that the issue of abortion has not been given the attention it deserves.

Termination of pregnancy has been carried out for many decades by all cultures. However, the indications and social contexts for this act vary with culture and time. For instance, abortion to preserve the life of mothers has been widely accepted. Interpretation of Talmud by the early Jewish scholars demanded that the fetus be destroyed if it was a threat to the mother during pregnancy and delivery (Trupin). The ancient Greeks also allowed abortion under some circumstances (Trupin). The ancient Romans did not regard a fetus as a person until after birth and abortion was widely practiced (Trupin). Early Christians in their part had varying views regarding abortion (Trupin). Nevertheless, the Catholic Church can be seen as the first church to take a stern stand on the issue by declaring abortion a sin punishable by excommunication in 1869 (Trupin).         

Before the 19th century, most states in the US had no specific abortion laws and abortion was unregulated. However, since the landmark decision by the US Supreme Court in 1973 legalizing abortion, hundreds of federal and state laws have been proposed or passed making abortion the most actively litigated and extremely publicized area in the field of medicine. Most of these laws are enjoined by court orders and are therefore not enforceable. They are characterized by several controversial rulings such as provisions to establish viability before aborting, parental or spousal notification, compulsory waiting periods, compulsory wording for counseling sessions, gag orders, targeted regulations specifically on abortion providers, and provisions against some abortion techniques (Trupin).                     

The Catholic Church, since 1869 when it took a stand on the issue, has been very instrumental in this issue leaning on the pro-life side (Catholic Website). It has always condemned abortion as a grave evil. Condemnation can also be seen from Christian writers affiliated to the church starting from the ancient author of the Didache to the late Pope John Paul II. According to the teachings of the Didache, the second commandment prohibited murder, adultery, seducing boys, fornicating, and procuring abortion or destroying a newborn child (Catholic Website). Similarly, the late Pope John Paul II in his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (the Gospel of Life), maintained that the Bible (Holy Book) forbids abortion the same way it forbids murder (Catholic Website).       

Regardless of this heavy criticism from the pro-life group, abortion still remains common in the US as revealed by statistics. Statistics show that since the enactment of the 1973 US Supreme Court decisions, approximately 1.3- 1.4 million abortions are performed annually in the United States (Trupin). It has also been revealed that abortion is among the most common medical procedures carried out in US each year (Trupin). Another report indicates that more than 40% of all women will have an abortion at some time during their reproductive lives (Trupin). With bases on estimated lifetime risk, every American woman is expected to carry 3.2 pregnancies, of which 2 will result in a live birth, 0.7 in an induced abortion, and 0.5 in miscarriage (Trupin). Relying on the 1996 data, these figures translates into 3.89 million live births, 1.37 million abortions, and 0.98 million miscarriages.  

The statistics presented above sheds some green lights on the magnitude of cases of abortion carried out in US alone. The figures might even be higher if other countries are considered. Since abortion continues to be practiced regardless of the criticism from some individuals it is my opinion that individuals should be given the free will to decide on it without legal constraints. This can go along in reducing incidences of deaths from unsafe abortion as well as acting as the best solution for unwanted pregnancies. Considering therapeutic abortion, it is actually the best alternative when pregnancies pose danger to mothers and a good means of promoting women reproductive health. For those who support illegalization of abortion on moral or religious grounds, it is unfair since religion and morals vary with individuals and can not be relied on as bases for decisions affecting a wider community.

The issue of abortion is very controversial with individuals holding different opinions regarding it. There are those who support the act on one side of the debate and those who adamantly oppose it on the other. The government has intervened and formulated legislations on it but courts have hindered them with several controversial rulings. Abortion is not bad as some people like to frame it since among other benefits it can do away with the issue of unwanted pregnancies and improve of women reproductive health. Therefore, abortion should be supported by all arms of the government and the community at large.

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