Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (99), January, 1984

(out of chronological order on webpage — this is the original article I responded to on February 9, 1984, the first in this series).

Abortion Debate Escalates: Some Say “Yes”

By Nicki Nichols Gamble

Eleven years ago this month, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion. By recognizing that abortion was a part of the constitutional right to privacy, the court gave individuals the opportunity to gave individuals the opportunity to make decisions about pregnancy and child-bearing free from governmental interference.

Despite strong criticism from “right-to-life” groups, the court reaffirmed its 1973 decision last June. Writing for the majority, Justice Lewis Powell made it absolutely clear that a state had no basis for imposing significant restrictions on first and second trimester abortions.

As pro-choice advocates celebrate these victories, we recognize that the controversy surrounding reproductive freedom continues. It is fueled by the outspoken and pluralistic nature of our society. In the midst of the controversy and the heated debate, the ambivalence that characterizes attitudes about abortion is to frequently overlooked.

Pro-choice advocates support the right to choose abortion for a variety of reasons. The voices are varied — even contradictory — and their perspectives change over time. The question of abortion is easier for some and harder for others. The circumstances in which we embrace the alternative are colored by our personal perspectives. For example, some would say:

— It is morally imperative to gives couples who are a risk for giving birth to a Downs Syndrome or a Tay Sachs child an opportunity to conceive a healthy child.

— Requiring a young 14-year old who is the victim of rape or incest to give birth is a crime against the child/mother and the child when neither is likely yo have the opportunities to survive in this complex world [click here for a different reality, see especially the third story].

— The question of when human life begins is a matter of religious and political interpretation. Requiring that biological life receive the same protection as human life after birth is a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.

— There will always be abortion. Making abortion illegal will not end it but rather turn it underground where women will risk their health and lives. Abortions will be readily available to the rich and well-connected while the poor and young will receive inadequate if not dangerous care.

— Given the risks associated with available contraceptive methods, the lack of comprehensive sexuality education, and the less than adequate health care services, abortion becomes a rational choice for people who have run out of choices.

— In order to preserve and protect the psychological and physical health of women, children and families, the abortion option must be protected.

— Abortion must be available as a means of curtailing worldwide population growth to that our planet survives into the 21st century.

— In the United States we do not require any individual to use his body to preserve the life of another. We do not require blood donations or vital organ donations even when the requirement would save the life of another human being. Therefore, we should not require a woman, against her will, to use her body to give birth to a baby.

Pro-choice advocates believe the decision to have a child requires a profound and lifelong commitment to the child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual needs. We believe that abortion is a matter of private, personal choice. We believe that individuals should make their own decisions about childbearing free from the intervention of others.

We believe that individuals should have the opportunity to discuss their decisions with trusted professionals, family and friends, and that individuals should be able to exercise their choices free from obnoxious harassment. We would not presume to make that choice for anyone else and we do not want anyone else to make it for us.

Nicki Nichols Gamble is executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Inc.