The abortion debate has been very emotional and sometimes even violent. Many on both sides of the issue have strongly held opinions. Pro-life supporters believe that hu­man life, and therefore personhood, begins at conception, and so an embryo, at any stage of development, is a person. Pro-life supporters believe that aborting a fetus is murder and that the government should make all abortions illegal. One pro-life supporter states:

[A woman] has the right to control her body by using birth control, but once a baby is created it’s out of her hands; she has no right to kill what God has created: it’s in her body, but it is separate, put there by an act of will. (Parsons et al., 1990, p. 110)

pro-choice supporter

Individual who believes that the abortion deci­sion should be left up to the woman and not regulated by the government.

On the other side of the issue, pro-choice supporters believe that the embryo has the capacity to become a full-fledged human life. Pro-choice supporters differ on when they believe personhood begins. For some, it may be in the second trimester of pregnancy, and for others, the third trimester. However, because not everyone agrees that personhood begins at conception, they believe that it is a woman’s choice whether or not to have an abortion, and they strongly believe that the government should not interfere with her decision. One pro-choice supporter explains:

Everybody should be able to control their own lives, to choose what happens to them, and every woman has the right to decide what’s best for her; she must be able to choose abortion because having a child changes your life completely, and she has to decide if she wants her life to change. (Parsons et al., 1990, p. 110)

sex byte

Current abortion statistics indicate that one out of every three women in the United States will undergo an abortion by the age of 45 (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2003).

The abortion debate often polarizes people into pro-life and pro-choice camps, with each side claiming moral superiority over the other. Overall, although many people have strong opinions about abortion, few invest a significant amount of time and effort to sup­port their cause (Kaysen & Stake, 2001). College students have generally been viewed as fairly liberal in their attitudes about abortion, but studies have found a normal distri­bution of abortion attitudes (Carlton et al., 2000; Reisberg, 1999). Some students are pro-choice, some are pro-life, and many are somewhere in between. No gender differ­ences in attitudes about abortion have been found; however, there are some ethnic vari­ations. African Americans tend to be more pro-choice than their white counterparts (Gay & Lynxwiler, 1999).

back-alley abortion

llegal abortion, which was all that was avail­able prior to the legalization of abortion in the 1970s.

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