Freedom to Choose: The Other Side of Choice in the World of Abortion


Is being against coercion and aggression "forcing" your view on others? Being accused of misogyny while simply alluding to inconsistencies involved in the abortion world is quite disturbing, though happens more often than one may like to believe. Recently, an acquaintance of mine claimed that abortions do not go against the religious freedoms of others, but, rather, religious zealots force their views on pro-choice/pro-abortion individuals. In fact, through taxation, abortions do go against freedom of religion. I will further explain this phenomenon going by the definition of "freedom" as expressed in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "the quality or state of being free: as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice and action [and as] liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another."    

Let's simply focus on the U.S. Federal Government. From 1973 to 1976, Medicaid covered abortion without any restrictions, funding approximately one-third of abortions annually. The Hyde Amendment of 1976 was passed to prevent federal funding for abortions. Despite changes to the amendment over the years and flip-flopping on its implications, the Hyde Amendment currently includes exceptions for abortions as a result of rape, incest, or life of the mother.  Important to note about the amendment is that it only pertains to funds appropriated federally, not at the state-level. States have the option of using tax money to fund abortions that go beyond the circumstances allowed for by the Hyde Amendment and several use this to their advantage.  Therefore, through the Hyde Amendment, American citizens are forced to fund abortions of extreme circumstances. While many may agree that these are legitimate reasons to receive an abortion, there are also quite a few people who disagree with abortion of any kind. For this select group, being forced to pay for the abortions of others, even in the circumstances of rape, incest or life of the mother, goes against their religious freedom.      

More recently, in 2010, the Affordable Care Act was passed. Ignoring the economic aspects of this act, some of the socially positive aspects of the act that have already been instated include disallowing health plans from denying coverage of individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, allowing parents to cover their children up to 26 years of age, and providing free preventive care for specific health services. Many more reforms will continue to be implemented until 2015. Some of these reforms include increased access to Medicaid, additional funding towards the Children's Health Insurance Program, and paying physicians based on the quality of the care that they provide. The Affordable Care Act claims that in health care plans, individuals can choose to cover certain types of abortion or no abortions at all. It further claims that no federal funds go towards paying for the abortions of others. However, the Affordable Care Act calls for the creation of a Community Health Center Fund to support the nation's community health centers.  These community health centers will receive federal funding through the Department of Human Health and Services, to utilize in a range of medical services, including abortion. Abortion legislation according to the Hyde Amendment is to be applied here, meaning that the federal funds used would be for abortions done because of rape, incest, danger to life of the mother. While some may feel that it is just to use the taxpayers' money for only the reasons allowed by the Hyde Amendment, this does not apply to all people. By appropriating everyone's tax money towards abortion, those who believe that the cessation of a fetus' life is immoral under any circumstance are having their religious rights infringed upon.

Planned Parenthood is worth mentioning when talking about abortion in the U.S., in terms of their background in reproductive health, which includes offering abortion to their clients. This well-known health clinic claims that only 3% of their total annual medical services include abortions, although many pro-life activists will argue this statistic. Regardless, this percentage is not as tiny as it seems. For example, in 2008, 3% of Planned Parenthoods' services were abortions, but this included 324,008 abortions. This means that in 2008, Planned Parenthood constituted 40% of the reported total 825,564 abortions which occurred that year. Simply because abortions may be a much smaller percentage of their services does not mean that Planned Parenthood does not conduct countless abortions annually.  

What does this organization have to do with religious freedom? Planned Parenthood receives federal funding through Title X. The funds of Title X are not to be used in programs where abortion is considered a method of family planning, although Planned Parenthood is an organization that offers abortion. Planned Parenthood does not have the most honorable historical background, either. Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood in 1916 and worked vigorously to supply contraception to women in New York's Lower East Side. While Sanger succeeded in explaining the significance of birth control and dispersing it, thereby, sexually empowering women, she also believed in eugenics. Sanger openly discussed ending the reproduction of the "unfit" through "compulsory sterilization." "Unfit" was described in terms of being either mentally or physically so, though some make the extension of racially unfit, based off of suggestive speeches, publications and personal letters written by Sanger. Worse is the fact that Sanger, specifically hired African-American employees; she explicitly said in a personal letter that she would do this to hide her eugenics agenda.  

This deceptive history associated with Planned Parenthood may make one question the organization's true mission and appropriation of funds, though it definitely does not necessarily mean that the same eugenicist mind of the founder still exists in the organization today. However, the Title X aspect should be analyzed further to reconsider how its funds are dispersed in Planned Parenthood or if it is even lawful to have funds going towards the organization in the first place, as it conducts abortions.                

Returning to the discussion with my acquaintance — from a one-line response I wrote online about abortion affecting all American citizens through taxation, I received a response from a friend of my acquaintance. This individual gave me a history lesson on abortion yet said that as a man he had no right to dictate his opinion; he questioned by humanity and asked how I, as a woman, could possibly have no sympathy for female victims of sexual abuse. I was amused that he responded in such a sensational fashion and proceeded in the conversation by thoroughly explaining the intellectual fallacies that this individual had utilized in the discussion.  Finally, my acquaintance decided to join the conversation. He claimed that unless the nation is 100% one religion, I cannot use the excuse that it goes against freedom of religion because I probably pay taxes for things that I do not believe in. Actually, I am quite aware that I fund, through taxes, several things that I disagree with. However, that does not make it "right" that I am forced into doing so. Also, how is it that, suddenly, every single person in this nation must be in agreement with a political issue or personal belief for people to be given the opportunity to not financially support it? 

A few things I took away from this incident are ... 

1. If you question the legitimacy of an institution, you will be wrongly accused of wanting it to be considered illegal.  

3. If you question the legitimacy of an institution in society, you must be completely ignorant of its existence and purpose.  

4. If your perspective, even if factually-based, is different from a supposed majority, it means nothing. That is, unless, you can somehow convince every single person in the U.S. to have the exact same perspective as you. Then you're no longer using an excuse, but you are "correct."  

5. If you're a woman who questions the legitimacy of the abortion industry in the U.S., then you must not have had any traumatic sexual experiences, because if you question abortion, you must not consider that women can be the victims of sexual abuse. 

6. And if you're a man, you have no right to talk about abortion unless you're wholeheartedly  accepting of any woman receiving an abortion at any time and for any reason.

Despite the inevitable negative responses, I will continue to question our society and its dominant institutions. Abortion must continue to be questioned as it is occurring rampantly in the U.S.  According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly 50 million legal abortions were conducted in this nation between 1973 and 2008. Going by the amounts of total annual abortions in the U.S. in the 2000's, it may be estimated that the total amount of legal abortions to occur in this country is roughly 54 million. The most common reasons that women provide for having an abortion are: concern for or responsibility to others, cannot afford a child, an infant would interfere with other aspects of the woman's life, and/or they do not want to be a single parent or are having issues with their partner. Only 1% of abortions are done because of forced sexual relations.  

Clearly this is somewhat of a pervasive phenomenon that should be analyzed further, along with other institutions' impacts, such as the intersection of religion, the economy and the pharmaceutical corporations, on women's decisions to have an abortion. Perhaps, according to reasons for obtaining an abortion, the problem lies not in the actual pregnancy, but in the affordability of caring for a child. Perhaps, the problem lies in women's fear of being socially ostracized. Perhaps, the problem lies not in the actual existence of an infant, but in the seeming lack of positive conditions that are allowed for that infant.  

Instead of constantly focusing on women's reproductive rights, why not determine the source(s) of the issue? Would more and better sex education help decrease the rates of unwanted pregnancies? Would reforms that suggest higher personal responsibility decrease the rates of unwanted pregnancies? Would cheaper and more easily accessible contraception assist women? Would more additions to birth control methods for use by men decrease the rates of unwanted pregnancies? Would easier adoptions make women more apt to give up their infants for adoption, instead? Would a better economy that also treats women equally in the work force help women to be better off financially? Would the adjustment to a different perspective on life make women less likely to have an abortion?