Thursday, October 30, 2008

Talk about Ugly part 1: Terms of Life

As I had expected, my previous post struck some nerves, apparently. And also as I had expected, it has raised more questions and debate than it laid to rest. At this point, I intend to elaborate on my previous “Big Ugly” abortion post in three additional posts focusing on specific angles: a primer of terms (this post), misconceptions, and the law of it. Of course, I encourage and welcome discussion. (Just forgive me if I am slow to respond since the next couple days (and weeks) will be pretty busy for me.)

Terms of Life

In order to help minimize arguments based on semantics, I would like to clarify some of the terms generally tossed around relating to the abortion debate.

Abortion – Wikipedia defines abortion as “the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death.” Though an abortion can occur naturally due to complications, I will use it solely to refer to induced abortions. Should the subject of a natural or spontaneous abortion arise, I will refer to it as a “miscarriage.”

Pro-Life – Generally used interchangeably with anti-abortion, pro-life traditionally refers specifically to human life. Wikipedia states: “The term describes the political and ethical view which maintains that fetuses and embryos are human beings, and therefore have a right to live.” I have heard arguments that individuals are personally concurrently pro-life and pro-choice; for the sake of clarity, let’s limit “pro-life” to the belief that all human life, from conception to natural death, should be protected by law.

Pro-Choice – According to Wikipedia, pro-choice as the “view that a woman should have complete control over her fertility and the choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy.” As I state above, some people claim to be pro-life and pro-choice concurrently; for the sake of clarity, I will limit “pro-choice” to refer to those who believe a woman’s productive “rights” should be protected over the rights of an unborn child.

Pro-Abortion – In favor of abortion. Generally, this term is used interchangeably with pro-choice. I have found, however, that most pro-choice people are not actually in favor of abortion itself, just the “right” for “someone else” to have one. In the event that it comes up in this or subsequent blogs, it will refer specifically to proponents of abortion. Like maybe this guy.

Types of Abortion
Please note this is by no means comprehensive!

Medical Abortion – Abortion by means of drugs or a combination of drugs.

Surgical Abortion – This is the ending of a pregnancy by surgical means, such as MVA, D&C, Saline Abortion or Partial Birth Abortion.

Late-Term Abortion – As the term suggests, a Late-Term Abortion is an abortion performed late in the pregnancy. Sources differ in what “late” refers to, with some stating “after 12 weeks,” others saying “after 16 weeks,” and the majority stating it refers to “after 20 weeks.” Should the issue come up, I will consider it to mean “after 20 weeks gestation.”

Partial Birth Abortion – Formally known as intact dilation and extraction or IDX, partial birth abortion has been used for late-term abortions.

Saline Abortion – Saline Abortion is a term occasionally used to refer to the broader term “Instillation abortion.” Instillation abortion is a method used during the second and third trimesters, by injecting a chemical (such as saline) solution into the amniotic fluid to cause uterine contractions. The chemical solution burns the baby before causing the mother to expel the child.

Manual Vacuum aspiration (MVA) – Abortion by means of a vacuum used to literally suck the baby from the mother’s womb. This is the most common type of abortion and is generally used in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Dilation and curettage (D&C) – According to Wikipedia, D&C is “the second most common method of abortion, is a standard gynecological procedure performed for a variety of reasons, including examination of the uterine lining for possible malignancy, investigation of abnormal bleeding, and abortion.” This is generally limited to the first trimester or approximately 13 weeks of pregnancy.

Selected Related Law and Legislation

Roe V. Wade
– The landmark Supreme Court decision of January 22, 1973, which has shaped debate about abortion in America ever since. Google it for the details if you’re not familiar with it, or click the term for the Wikipedia entry.

Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) – Wikipedia sums up the FOCA as “a bill in the United States Congress which, if enacted, would abolish all restrictions and limitations on the right of women in the United States to have an abortion, whether at the State or Federal level.” By eliminating all restrictions and limitations, the FOCA would also “nullify the types of abortion laws that the Supreme Court has said are permitted under Roe v. Wade.” (Johnson)

Born Alive Infants Protection Act – An act of Congress to protect infants who were born alive as a result of an induced abortion.

Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act (PBA Ban) - A United States law prohibiting abortion by means of IDX.

Stay tuned for “Talk about Ugly pt. 2: misConceptions.”


Ginger said...

this is good information to start with and i'm sincerely looking forward to reading your series on this controversial topic.

i have some questions. when a woman is artificially inseminated there are generally 5 to 7 (i think - i don't know the exact number) eggs that are fertilized to make sure that "a good one" takes. when it's determined that they are actually fertilized there are 3 (this i know) that are actually placed in the womb, giving room for 2 of those 3 to spontaneously abort, thereby leaving at least one child to fully come to term within the mother's womb. how do you stand on the destruction of the "extra" fertilized eggs in this process? aren't hose also life? wouldn't that also be considered an abortion?

also, i don't believe that abortion, as you have it defined here, should be let loose and unregulated as stated in the freedom of choice act you've mentioned here. while i believe that there should be a choice in certain cases for women, i also believe it needs to be strictly regulated and there needs to be serious education for people of reproductive age to prevent unwanted pregnancy to begin with.

and if you are so inclined, i am curious to know how you feel about the murder of animals for human convenience as well since that's currently completely legal and widely practiced....maybe most people don't directly kill them, but they utilize the end product in numerous ways so i think indirectly counts as well....please let me know if you are not so inclined and i will be happy to just address that on my own blog.


Jenn said...

Before I comment on the blog I just want to clear up one thing for you Ginger. My best friend became pregnant through IVF. They had I think 7 eggs (it might have been 6, will have to double check that one). The doctors deemed 2 eggs "moderately viable" and even though they wanted only 1 baby they felt it would be important to have the best chance so they allowed both to be inserted. They both turned out 100% viable because they now have twins. I do not know what happened to the other eggs (the 5-ish) that they attempted to fertilize. That is also something I will have to double check.

Julie I do believe that your list of terms is very comprehensive here, it covers many of the basics as well as some of the more technical information that I was not previously aware of (such as IDX).

I am always a little leary of Wikipedia as the end all resource of 100% factual information so I looked up abortion in the dictionary and there are 9 definitions but the top one states:
Also called voluntary abortion. the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy.

This is where the real meat of the debate on this issue arises I believe. It comes down to when a person truly believes life begins. If life begins at conception then yes, an abortion in any stage would mean resulting in or caused by its death. However if life does not begin until the birth then abortion would do nothing more than to end a pregnancy.

This is very touchy of course and I have personally changed my mind on this part of the issue many times since first learning of abortion. There were times when I felt that life did not truly begin until a first breath was drawn outside the womb. Suppose a baby is carried all the way to term and born stillborn but the mother was unaware while carrying the baby (not as frequent now with modern technology but this had certainly been an issue in the past). This is not a case of spontaneous abortion/miscarriage but clearly there was no life. At other times I felt that once the organs and systems were formed that are necessary for survival that is when life begins; in utero but not at conception.

How do you feel about spontaneous abortion? I am curious because suppose a woman gets pregnant but is unaware so she continues to drink, smoke, eat bad foods, etc. Due to irregular periods she is never aware of the fact she was pregnant and the miscarriage occurs at say 2-1/2 months. After it happens she realizes the pregnancy. Should she feel like a murder at this time because inadvertantly she helped to cause the miscarriage or is this just something that might have occured anyway so she should feel no remorse?

The whole subject is extremely cloudy for me, too many questions are raised in too many circumstances and that is why I decided to take the side of pro-choice because I can't speak for anyone else, only myself.

I can not know what will happen to me in the future but I will say my feelings are that the only time I would consider an abortion is if my life would be compromised by going full term.

Bree said...

Yo! I'm going to stay out of this one for a couple of reasons, not because I agree or disagree any combination of the two, but because I want to tell you about some court decisions that are more recent than Roe v. Wade that I think you would like to be aware of. Many people are not conginzant of the fact that the Carhart decisions have chipped away at the Roe language, making part of it void already. Don't let the fact that it's a link to the ACLU scare you off, it's a pretty accurate summation of the court decision. ACLU summary of the Carhart II decision can be found here. Reading Scalia's opinion really bothered me, and I followed Ginsburg's logic much more (they allow the partial birth abortion procedure that puts the mother's health at the most risk while banning the safer one). Regardless, since you are sharing information regarding the current state of the individual right of abortion in our courts, I thought you might like to be aware of these two cases as well.