Pro and Con: Abortion

To access extended pro and con arguments, sources, and discussion questions about whether abortion should be legal, go to ProCon.org.

The debate over whether abortion should be a legal option continues to divide Americans long after the US Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision on Roe v. Wade declared the procedure a “fundamental right” on Jan. 22, 1973.

A 2018 Marist Poll and Knights of Columbus survey found that 51% of Americans consider themselves to be pro-choice, and 44% consider themselves to be pro-life. 

Surgical abortion (aka suction curettage or vacuum curettage) is the most common type of abortion procedure. It involves using a suction device to remove the contents of a pregnant woman’s uterus. Surgical abortion performed later in pregnancy (after 12-16 weeks) is called D&E (dilation and evacuation). The second most common abortion procedure, a medical abortion (aka an “abortion pill”), involves taking medications, usually mifepristone and misoprostol (aka RU-486), within the first seven to nine weeks of pregnancy to induce an abortion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 67% of abortions performed in 2014 were performed at or less than eight weeks’ gestation, and 91.5% were performed at or less than 13 weeks’ gestation. 77.3% were performed by surgical procedure, while 22.6% were medical abortions. An abortion can cost from $500 to over $1,000 depending on where it is performed and how long into the pregnancy it is.

PRO

  • The US Supreme Court has declared abortion to be a fundamental right guaranteed by the US Constitution.
  • Reproductive choice empowers women by giving them control over their own bodies.
  • Personhood begins after a fetus becomes “viable” (able to survive outside the womb) or after birth, not at conception.
  • Fetuses are incapable of feeling pain when most abortions are performed.
  • Access to legal, professionally-performed abortions reduces maternal injury and death caused by unsafe, illegal abortions.
  • Modern abortion procedures are safe and do not cause lasting health issues such as cancer and infertility.
  • Women who receive abortions are less likely to suffer mental health problems than women denied abortions.
  • Abortion gives pregnant women the option to choose not to bring fetuses with profound abnormalities to full term.
  • Women who are denied abortions are more likely to become unemployed, to be on public welfare, to be below the poverty line, and to become victims of domestic violence.
  • Reproductive choice protects women from financial disadvantage.
  • A baby should not come into the world unwanted.
  • Abortion reduces welfare costs to taxpayers.
  • Abortion reduces crime.
  • Abortion is justified as a means of population control.
  • Many religious organizations and people of faith support women’s reproductive choice.

CON

  • Abortion is murder.
  • Life begins at conception, so unborn babies are human beings with a right to life.
  • Fetuses feel pain during the abortion procedure.
  • Abortion is the killing of a human being, which defies the word of God.
  • The decision in Roe v. Wade was wrong and should be overturned.
  • Abortions cause psychological damage.
  • Abortions reduce the number of adoptable babies.
  • Selective abortion based on genetic abnormalities (eugenic termination) is overt discrimination.
  • Women should not be able to use abortion as a form of contraception.
  • If women become pregnant, they should accept the responsibility that comes with producing a child.
  • The original text of the Hippocratic Oath, traditionally taken by doctors when swearing to practice medicine ethically, forbids abortion.
  • Abortion promotes a culture in which human life is disposable.
  • Allowing abortion conflicts with the unalienable right to life recognized by the Founding Fathers of the United States.
  • Abortion disproportionately affects African American babies.
  • Abortion eliminates the potential societal contributions of a future human being.
  • Abortion may lead to future medical problems for the mother.

This article was published on May 9, 2019, at Britannica’s ProCon.org, a nonpartisan issue-information source.