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Kate Mason

Dale Grey

PHI 305

Monday, March 2, 1998


The Controversy of Abortion

  1. Roe v. Wade - the controversial beginning of abortion
  1. Statistics about the number of abortions performed
  1. Statistics about why women have abortions
  1. Abortion Myths

  3. Abortion Methods
  1. Menstrual Extraction
  2. Dilation and Curettage (D & C)
  3. Suction Curettage (Vacuum Aspiration)
  4. Dilation and Evacuation (D & E)
  5. Salt Poisoning (Saline Injection)
  6. Hysterotomy, or Cesarean Section
  7. Prostaglandin Chemical Abortion
VI. Physical and Psychological Complications of Abortion

VII. Pro Choice - what it actually means

  1. A woman’s personal stand on abortion
VIII. Abortion Survivor Story

IX. When does life begin and end?


Woman is concerned about how having a baby could change her life 16%
Woman can’t afford baby now 21%
Woman has problems with relationship or wants to avoid single parenthood 12%
Woman is unready for responsibility 21%
Woman doesn’t want others to know she has had sex or is pregnant 1%
Woman is not mature enough or is too young to have a child 11%
Woman has all the children she wanted or has all grown-up children 8%
Husband or partner wants woman to have an abortion 1%
Fetus has possible health problem 3%
Woman has health problem 3%
Woman’s parents want her to have abortion <1%
Woman was victim of rape or incest 1%
Other 3%
 (Totals do not add to 100% because of rounding)
 These statistics are from Lexington Right to Life.  Therefore they may well be disputed.  CDP

Abortion Myths



MYTH: Abortion is only legal through the first trimester.


FACT: Due to the radical scope of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy.


FACT: Over 77,000 abortions take place every year in the United States after the sixteenth week of pregnancy.


MYTH: Women really need abortion for health reasons.


FACT: An Alan Guttmacher Institute survey found that nearly one-half of women obtaining abortions said they used no birth control method during the month they got pregnant.


FACT: Add to this the fact that, at most, only seven percent of all abortions are done for the mother’s physical or psychological health. Rape and incest are cited as reasons for less than 1% of all abortions.


FACT: Nationally, 82% of women obtaining abortions are unmarried. The statistics strongly suggest abortion is used as birth control.


MYTH: No one knows when human life begins.


FACT: The California Medical Association referred to "the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death." [See Quote]
[Note that this "scientific fact" does not prove that an embryo or fetus has the same moral rights as a child or adult.  The question remains to be answered whether an embryo, for instance, shares with us the morally relevanat features.  Is possession of human DNA enough?  Is a beating heart enough?  Is a nervous system enough?  Is consciousness enough?  These questions cannot be answered by science.  CDP]


MYTH: Abortion is an unfortunate necessity and doesn’t happen often.


FACT: 1.6 million abortions take place each year in the United States. Nearly one in three pregnancies ends in abortion.


MYTH: We need abortion to reduce child abuse. Wanted children will not become abused



FACT: Abortion has done nothing to reduce child abuse. Child abuse increased 500% from 1973, the year abortion was legalized throughout the United States, to 1986.


MYTH: The typical abortive women is a poor, black teen.


FACT: Two-thirds of women getting abortions are between the ages of 20 and 24. Sixty-eight percent are white. And two-thirds have an annual income of over $11,000.






  1. Sudden death of the mother
  2. Hemorrhage
  3. Pulmonary embolism (blood clot to lungs)
  4. Cardiac embolism (blood clot to heart)
  5. Cerebral embolism (blood clot to brain)
  6. Shock
  7. Sterility
  8. Blood transfusion
  9. Perforation or rupture of the uterus
  10. Hysterectomy ( in case of perforation)
  11. Emergency surgery to repair bowel (in some cases of perforation)
  12. Anesthetic accidents (in cases of emergency surgery)
  13. Allergic reactions to drugs or transfusion
  14. Serum Hepatitis
  15. Acute infections (3 to 4 days after abortion)
  16. Septicemia (blood-poisoning)
  17. Pelvic Cellulitis (Generalized tissue inflammation)
  18. peritonitis (inflammation of lining abdominal cavity)
  19. Endometritis (inflammation of lining of uterus)
  20. Myometritis (inflammation of muscle layer of uterus)
  21. Salpingitis (inflammation of Fallopian tubes)
  22. Transplacental hemorrhage (RH problem)
  23. urinary tract infections
  24. Pelvic thrombophlebitis (inflammation of veins plus blood clot)
  25. Anemia
  26. Menstrual Disorders
  27. Continuous bleeding (retained tissue)
  28. Pain syndrome (headache, abdominal pain and tenderness)
  29. Scarring of cervix (leads to cervical weakness and later miscarriage)
  30. Cervical weakness or incompetence (predisposes to later miscarriage)
  31. Premature labor
  32. Ectopic pregnancy - tubal (increased risk 4 to 1 after abortion)
  33. Infertility (due to scarring adhesions - Asherman Syndrome)
  34. Mental disorders
  35. Prolonged labor
  36. Premature births










  1. Sudden death to mother
  2. hemorrhage (severe drop in blood clotting ability of mother)
  3. Shock
  4. Blood transfusions
  5. Allergic reactions to drugs or transfusions
  6. Serum hepatitis
  7. Anemia
  8. Kidney pathology
  9. Central nervous system disorders
  10. convulsions
  11. coma
  12. Permanent brain damage
  13. Pyrexia (high fever)
  14. Mental disorders
  15. Complications in later wanted pregnancies





  1. Sudden death to mother
  2. Implantation endometriosis (displacement of uterine tissue causing continual monthly distress)
  3. Hemorrhage
  4. Shock
  5. Blood transfusions
  6. Allergic reactions to blood and drugs
  7. Serum hepatitis
  8. Septicemia (blood-poisoning)
  9. Thrombophlebitis A(inflammation of vein with clot)
  10. Transplacental hemorrhage (in RH negative mother leads to RH problems)
  11. Cesarean Section (necessitated in later pregnancies to prevent rupture of hysterectomy scar)
  12. Anesthetic accidents
  13. Endometritis (inflammation of lining of uterus)
  14. Myometritis (inflammation of muscle layer of uterus)
  15. Salpingitis (inflammation of Fallopian tubes)
  16. Peritonitis (inflammation of lining of abdominal cavity)
  17. Pulmonary embolism (possible sudden death due to blood clot in lungs)
  18. Cardiac embolism (possible sudden death due to blood clot in heart)
  19. Cerebral embolism (possible sudden death due to blood clot in brain)
  20. Paralytic ileus (type of bowel obstruction)








  1. Possible death to mother
  2. Massive hemorrhage (when cervical instillation method is used)
  3. Severe uterine contractions
  4. Uncontrollable vomiting
  5. Uncontrollable diarrhea
  6. Fever
  7. Tachycardia (excessive rapid heart beat)
  8. Tachypnea (abnormal rapid breathing)
  9. Allergic reactions (bronchospasm)
  10. Severe headaches
  11. Dizziness
  12. Inflammatory reactions at site of injection
  13. Serum hepatitis (transfusion related)






  1. Spontaneous miscarriage (due to scarring and weakening of cervix previous abortion)
  2. Sterility
  3. Infertility
  4. Increased risk of stillbirths
  5. Placenta previa (premature separation of placenta)
  6. Adherent placenta (placenta difficult to expel at time of delivery)
  7. Premature labor
  8. Prolonged labor
  9. Premature births
  10. Menstrual distress and irregularity
  11. Frigidity
  12. Marital problems
[For us to fully assess the relevance of this list, it would help to find a comparable list of possible complications of pregnancy and possible complications of unwanted children.  CDP]

Quote from Some Scientists

"The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of sperm and egg, or at least the blastocyst stage, and the birth of the infant at which point we could say that this was not a human life." (Blastocyst stage occurs approximately one week after fertilization, and would account for twinning.) "…the changes occurring between implantation, the six-weeks embryo, six-months fetus, a one-week-old child, or a mature adult are merely stages of development and maturation."


The Controversy of Abortion

Our presentation began with the history surrounding the issue of abortion. We discussed the case of Roe vs. Wade, and how the decision in the case legalized abortion across the United States. A system was created that gave all women the right to have an abortion during the first three months of their pregnancy. It gave the government minimal power in regulating abortions in the second trimester, and it provided states the right to restrict or ban abortions in the last trimester. If the woman's life or health were in danger, though, the abortion would be performed.

We read some amazing statistics about the number of abortions performed each year in the United States, and also statistics about why women have abortions. The numbers were really very surprising. If you look at all abortion methods including surgical, mechanical, and chemical, somewhere between 9.6 and 13.4 million abortions are performed each year. These numbers, however, do not take into consideration the abortions that are not done by professionals, and are therefore not reported. The statistics for why a woman has an abortion were very surprising to me, as I am sure they were to many others. Less than 3% of all abortions performed are because the baby is deformed. The same percentage could be said for the abortions done because the health or life of the mother was in danger. The majority of all abortions, 93%, are performed because the mother has social problems. After hearing these numbers, we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to accept abortion in order to solve the social problems of an individual.

We covered several myths that people held about abortion, and provided the facts of those myths. One of the most startling facts was that poor, black teens are not the typical abortive woman. In fact, two-thirds of all abortions are performed for women between the ages of 20 and 24, and 68% are white. The annual income for two-thirds of women having an abortion is over $11,000.

The most graphic information we provided had to do with the various methods of abortion. We talked about eight different methods of abortion, when they were done during the pregnancy and what they involved. Menstrual Extraction is done very early on in the pregnancy, and it involves suction of the fetus. Dilation and Curettage or D & C involves cutting the fetus and the uterine wall. Bleeding is usually profuse in this method. Suction Curettage involves suction of the fetus as in menstrual extraction. Dilation and Evacuation or D & E is performed at 12 to 20 weeks, and involves removing the fetus piece by piece. In D & C and D & E, the nurse must make sure the entire fetus is removed from the mother so that infection will not occur. Saline Injection is used after 16 weeks or four months, and involves injecting a salt solution through the mother's abdomen and into the baby's sac. The baby will then be born dead. Hysterotomy, or Cesarean Section is performed in the last three months, and involves cutting the umbilical cord, thus cutting off the air flow to the baby. Prostaglandin Chemical Abortion uses chemicals, and involves violent contractions that frequently kill the baby. Finally, Dilation and Extraction or D & X, involves guidance by ultrasound so that the doctor can pull out the baby up to its head, suction out the brain tissue, and pass the head through.

Next were the physical and psychological complications of abortion. In the presentation, we displayed a lengthy list of complications that were divided amongst the many different abortion techniques. Due to the fact that many of the complications were the same for different procedures, we will discuss them in a general fashion. Some of the complications were short-term, but we believe that the long-term problems are most important. Several of the abortion procedures could cause the mother to become sterile. For some Pro-Life advocates, it may seem appropriate that a woman who aborts a child not be able to get pregnant again. However, this is an interesting question. Should a woman who chooses to abort a child be able to get pregnant again? Even if a woman does get pregnant again, there is an increased chance of prolonged labor, premature births, and a higher risk of stillbirths.

One possible complication that we believed was of the utmost importance was marital problems. Many women are not able to get over the fact that they killed a baby. From our research of case studies, we found that the earlier the better, in regard to the psychological aftereffects of an abortion. It seems that the longer a child is in the mothers' womb, the more it becomes a part of her. The later that child is aborted, the higher the chances of psychological and marital problems.

Our next topic on the outline was what the term Pro-Choice actually means. It is often thought that if someone is Pro-Choice, they are primarily for abortions. Conversely, if someone is Pro-Life, they are against the woman's right to have a choice or an opinion about what is done to their body. Many women who are Pro-Choice are not necessarily for abortions, they are for women having the right to choose what is and is not done to their bodies.

Many women are both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. They are profoundly against having an abortion themselves, but realize that other women should be able to have the right to make a choice. In summary, the line between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice is definitely not a clear one. However, the debate between the two is always controversial and sometimes brutal.

Next, we read an abortion survivor story about a 19-year-old woman who lives in Tennessee. Obviously, this was a Pro-Life statement, but it was a touching story. The woman was to be aborted at seven and a half months by saline injection. Instead, she lived and says that she thanks God every day for the chance to live. Although she has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, she continuously battles to live a normal life. Reading this story gives you another perspective on abortion. This woman lives every day knowing that she is supposed to be dead. It is difficult to imagine what that would feel like.

We believe that the whole abortion debate centers around the beginning of life. Many people believe that if life had not "begun," that abortion is somehow right. Some believe that life begins when the sperm and egg unite. Others say life does not begin until the birth of the child. Despite these theories, there are some facts that can help clarify this debate. The heartbeat of an unborn child begins between the sixteenth and twenty-fifth day. Electrical brain waves have been recorded as early as six weeks. This information could also cloud this debate because some believe life begins when the heart starts beating or brain waves can be detected. In the end no one has the right to officially say when life begins.

It is our belief that women should have the right to choose when it comes to abortion. There are so many different possible situations, it does not seem fair that a woman not be allowed to have an abortion. There really is no right or wrong answer. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and that is the way we believe it should be. Once again, we have another seemingly endless ethical issue.

Reference List

DeCamp, James A. (1997). Fetal pain. [On-line]. Available: www.ppl.orglcg3.html.

Hole, John W. (1994). Human Anatomy (2nd ed.). Dubuque: Wm. C. Brown Publishers.

Johansen, J. (1997). When does human life begin? [On-line]. Available:

Ladewig, London, & Olds. (1992). Maternal Newborn Nursing.

Ranalli, Paul. (1997). British gynecologists recommend fetal pain relief in late abortions. National Right to Life News. Nov. 1997.

Stoppard, Miriam. (1993). Conception, Pregnancy and Birth. New York: D.K Publishing,Inc.

Traurig, Harold. (1997). Functional Human Anatomy Lecture. University of Kentucky. Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.

When does life actually begin? (1997.) [On-Line]. Available:

The majority of the responses we received from our classmates were complimentary. Of course, there were a few suggestions. One person wished that we would have discussed the possible complications of abortion more. We put up three overheads and due to our limited clinical backgrounds, we could not get too in depth. Just as you stated, another classmate pointed out that our presentation was too biased, too Pro-Life. In our defense, I point out that we did a presentation as opposed to a debate, which is how this topic was originally designed. We found it difficult to locate concrete Pro-Choice information. Most Pro-Choice material is very opinionated and sometimes obvious. We could not just stand up there and talk about the right to choose for thirty minutes. Several classmates did point out that we did a good job of presenting both sides of the topic. All we can say is that we did what we could with what we found.