We believe that every girl and every woman’s body is her own and that she has the right to control and make decisions about her sexuality and reproductive health. This includes the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion in the instance of pregnancy.
While we strongly believe that it is a woman’s right to make these important choices and access safe and supportive resources to enable her to do so, there are other perspectives that take a different position on abortion and oppose its practice for different reasons. Here, we’ll explore some of these perspectives, the main arguments in favour and against abortion and the reasons behind them.
The ‘Pro-Choice Vs Pro-Life’ Debate
When we talk about different ideas surrounding abortion, we usually end up discussing two main opposing view points. These two positions are generally between those who believe that it is a fundamental human right for women to be able choose whether or not to have an abortion (‘Pro-Choice’) and those who believe that abortion is morally wrong because it violates the rights of the unborn child (foetus) to life (‘Pro-Life’).
Conflicts between the two positions can sometimes centre upon the disagreement between each group on when life begins.
For those who take a ‘Pro-Life’ stance, life is seen to begin at conception (fertilization), arguing that terminating a pregnancy is destroying a human life.
‘Pro-Choice’ groups oppose this view, emphasising that personhood at conception is not a biologically proven fact but a religious claim, and that the foetus is not yet a human being because it cannot survive outside of the uterus on its own. The ‘Pro-Choice’ position totally disagrees with the ‘Pro-Life’ claim that abortion is murder because the foetus requires the mother’s body to survive and is not self-sustaining, which further emphasises the need to prioritise the mother’s safety and free choice.
Within each group there are differing opinions on certain elements of the debate – some more liberal (as in ‘open-minded’ ) and some more conservative – but there are a range of perspectives even within each main argument.
For example, some ‘Pro-Life’ believers may allow for the use of abortion in cases where a woman has been raped recognising that continuing with the pregnancy might be incredibly traumatic; while some people who identify as ‘Pro-Choice’ might agree with certain restrictions and time limitations on abortion.
We’ll take a look at the main arguments of each group here, but it’s important to remember that differences exist in the ‘two sides’ of the debate.
Understanding the main positions relating to abortion is really important as it can help you gain a better grasp on the reasons and beliefs behind each argument and what this might mean to you in relation to your own personal views.
The more information you gain on abortion and the arguments for or against can help prepare you in making decisions regarding your own pregnancy.
The push for legal abortion developed in Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 1960s, with more women beginning to demand access to reproductive rights (like abortion or the contraceptive pill) and sexual freedom. From the 1970s, feminist groups like the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign in New South Wales lobbied for abortion to be made legal and advocated to make safe abortion available with no legal restrictions or discrimination.
The main arguments made by those who are ‘Pro-Choice’ are:
- It is a woman’s human right to decide what to do with her body
- The right to abortion is integral for gender equality and women’s human rights
- Banning or restricting abortions puts women at risk of harm by forcing them to have unsafe and illegal abortions
- Forcing women to go through with her pregnancy can have serious physical and mental health consequences on both the mother and child
- The right to choose whether to end a pregnancy or not is vital for women to be able to achieve their full potential
- The right to choose abortion enables women to make economic decisions about her life and can prevent or reduce poverty
The ‘Pro-Life’ movement emerged in response to the women’s movement and push toward legal abortion. Although the ‘Pro-Life’ movement has been influenced by various religious interests and conservative political groups, there are many religious groups in Australia who take a ‘Pro-Choice’ position to abortion.
Some of the arguments made by those who are ‘Pro-Life’ are:
- Life begins at conception, therefore having an abortion is the act of taking a human life; abortion is a violation of the sanctity of human life
- Abortion is not necessary; adoption is a viable alternative
- Abortion can cause severe psychological pain and distress
- Women who have abortions may face medical complications later in life
- Those who have abortions may be too young to fully understand what they are doing
- Legal abortion may be used as another form of contraception
Where does Australia stand?
Surveys have estimated that around 80% of Australians believe a woman should have a right to choose whether she has an abortion. On average, between only 5%-9% of the Australian community oppose the practice of abortion in every circumstance.
Global human rights positions
The United Nations and human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch advocate women’s rights to access safe and legal abortion as a fundamental human right. This includes the rights of women to have control over and freely decide on matters relating to their sexuality and reproductive health free from any form of discrimination, violence or coercion.
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