Abortion: Murder or women's liberation?
Election after election, the debate over abortion in the US brings both sides out in the street and at to the polls.
Thirty-eight years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States, the issue is hardly out of the public arena. 17,000 anti-abortion activists filled this arena in Washington to pray for an end to abortion.
Armed with fervor and conviction they took to the streets in a march to the Supreme Court, where they were met by the equal conviction of pro-choice activists.
“The Christian right in this country have such a stronghold and they have decided to take on abortion as an issue, with complete disregard for women's lives. They latch onto the issue of life, and really polarize it,” Meghan Shalvoy, a campus organizer with the Feminist Majority Foundation.
While both sides are polarized on the issue, they do seem to agree on one thing—keeping abortion on the political agenda. Whereas in many European countries, abortion rights have been voted on, ruled on and decided on, in America, it remains a hot button issue, year after year.
“We try to push our politicians to have a stand on abortion, pro-choice people are the majority of Americans, so we want to have those politicians out there speaking for us,” said Sarah Shanks, a pro-choice activist.
Many pro-life activists at the March for Life said abortion should be the first thing the new Republican Congress should tackle—before jobs, the war in Afghanistan and the economy. To many, it’s a socio-economic issue as well.
“Quite frankly, the economy is suffering because there are millions of people who are missing from the working class,” said Michael Hichborn, a researcher with the American Life League. “It’s taking children out of the workforce, it's taking people out of the population altogether.”
And in America, views on abortion are ingrained early. Many protesters brought their children, who held signs and sketched pictures of unborn babies in the sand. For both sides, abortion is a spiritual and political issue, and a deeply polarizing one. As one generation passes its fight to the next, abortion seems unlikely to come off the American political agenda any time soon.
Pro-choice writer and activist Sarah Erdreich from Feminists for Choice explained being pro-choice is about acknowledging and respecting the right of a person to make their own life and parenting decisions. It’s about a freedom to make decisions.
On the other hand, pro-life activist Anna Franzonello from Americans United for Life said those who are pro-life are standing up for the rights of the unborn.
“All human beings have inherent dignity, and abortion, not only does it hurt the unborn by costing their lives, but also it hurts women,” said Franzonello. “Women have been put in a situation now where we are told we have to kill our children or we’re not going to succeed. Rowe v. Wade did not liberate women.”
Abortion is a highly political and personal issue in the United States. The debate has raged for years, and will likely continue to do so. However, some argue it receives too much attention given other bigger political concerns.
“I don’t’ think it should be a primary issue,” said Erdreich.
She argued it remains at a focal point because it hits on personal, religious and political beliefs, creating a unique mix of elements.
“You don’t ignore a big issue like abortion,” argued Franzonello. “We don’t have to ignore the economy either, and they are intertwined. It would be akin to asking, would you have ignored the slavery issue because the economy was bad in the south a long time.”
Franzonello argued the issue of abortion is so big in America because the American people never had a say on the matter. The legalization of abortion in the US was a legal processing, not a legislative one.
“This was a decision made by the court to take it away from the people,” she added.
Erdreich, however, disagreed: “Before Rowe v. Wade was made into law in 1973, a number of states had already moved towards liberalizing their own abortion laws. So I think to say the Supreme Court took that decision away from the people may be a bit of an overstatement.”