Arguments For and Against Abortion



      When the topic of abortion is discussed, people tend to assume one of two standpoints: “pro-life” (they believe that women should not have the ability to abort a human life because it would constitute murder) or “pro-choice” (they believe that the woman carrying the fetus should be given the right to decide whether to carry the baby to term or abort it). Although Americans are divided on the subject of abortion by these beliefs, most do not fall strictly on one side or the other and ultimately the majority favors restricted availability.



There are variations within each group depending on how liberal or conservative one’s opinions are; some individuals who are pro-life believe that in cases of rape or incest abortion should be allowed, and some pro-choice groups favor waiting periods and other restrictions on abortion. Furthermore, pro-choice proponents do not necessarily support or advocate abortion?they simply want women to have control over their own bodies and futures. Therefore, contrary to popular media portrayals of the debate between pro-life and pro-choice groups, there is not actually a clear-cut line between the two sides of the argument for many American citizens.




No matter which side you have personally taken (if you so choose to “pick” a side), it is important to understand what the opposing position believes. The more you know about the arguments in favor of or against abortion, the better prepared you will be if you must make this type of decision regarding your own pregnancy.




Pro-Life Rhetoric

  • The fetus is a human being from the moment of conception; this means abortion is murder, which is immoral and should be illegal.

  • If the pregnancy is the result of carelessness on the mother’s part (i.e., she did not take the proper precautionary measures to effectively prevent an unintended pregnancy), she should have to deal with the consequences. It is ultimately her responsibility (as the partner who can become pregnant) to prevent pregnancy if both she and her male partner do not wish to conceive.

  • If abortions are unconditionally accepted by society and easily obtainable, people will use them as a regular form of birth control.

  • All babies have great potential; a woman could possibly abort a fetus that could have grown up to be of great importance to society or the world at large.

  • Many religions do not endorse abortion or certain forms of birth control. This is because such religions may believe that sexual intercourse is for procreation purposes only or because any children conceived within a marriage are children of God. Terminating a child of God is a moral sin.




Pro-Choice Rhetoric

  • Every child born should come into the world wanted, loved, and cared for. Planned children often have better life prospects because caregivers are better prepared to support the child physically, emotionally, and financially.

  • The fetus is not yet a human being because it cannot survive outside the uterus on its own. Abortion should not be considered murder if the fetus is not self-sustaining and requires the mother’s body and physical resources to survive. The body of first priority is therefore the mother’s, and it should be her choice as to what she endures both mentally and physically.

  • A woman’s body belongs to herself, and she should be free to do what she deems necessary for her body and overall health in any situation.

  • In cases of rape or incest, the resulting baby could be a constant reminder to the woman of the trauma she experienced. Research also suggests that the babies of such cases face a higher risk of neglect or abuse from their mothers for various reasons.

  • Many foster homes and orphanages are beyond capacity; putting a child into the foster care system would weigh even heavier on already-scarce resources.

  • Abortion is overall a very safe procedure. Less than 1% of abortions performed before 21 weeks of pregnancy result in major complications such as heavy bleeding or infection. If abortion is made illegal, surely many women will continue to seek them in secrecy and likely sacrafice sanitary conditions and professional care; illegitimate abortions have caused thousands of women to die throughout history all over the world.



Non-Polarized Views in the United States: Some Statistics

Depending on the questions you ask, you may get different responses from those surveyed on the subject of abortion. However, a consistent finding is that only small percentages of Americans hold extreme opinions on whether abortion should “never” be legal or “always” be legal. Most Americans fall somewhere in between these extremities of opinions.  



When asked “Under what circumstances should abortion be legal?” the following responses yielded data representative of the gray area between the two “opposing sides” of pro-life and pro-choice supporters [emphases added].

- “Under no circumstances” should abortion be a legal practice: 20% of respondents agreed

- “Under any circumstances” abortion should be a legal practice: 24% of respondents agreed

- “Under a few circumstances” abortion should be a legal practice: 40% of respondents agreed

- “Under most circumstances” abortion should be a legal practice: 15% of respondents agreed

Furthermore, the data show those who believe abortion should never be legal are the minority among those who support abortion in all cases or those who support it under certain circumstances.


The Debate is Centralized around Specific Issues: The Gray Area

People often consider the following when deciding whether they hold an extreme position for or against the legality of abortion. Depending on which issues they deem more important as an individual, their position may lean closer to one side or the other, but many Americans usually maintain a neutral position and evaluate abortion on a case-by-case basis.

  • Should abortion be restricted by imposing conditions on it such as mandatory 24-hour waiting periods or mandatory counseling about alternatives to abortion?

    • Currently, 21 American states require parental consent for abortion if the woman is under 18 years of age, and 38 states require “parental involvement” in the decision if the woman is a minor.2 This means that a parent or guardian (or both parents/guardians) may need to give consent, receive notification, or provide notarized documentation of consent for an abortion to be performed.



  • Should abortions be banned after a certain duration of pregnancy?

    • There is no current American legislation banning abortion after a fixed point in pregnancy. However, the later in pregnancy an abortion is performed the more risky it becomes. Many practicing clinicians reserve the right to refuse an abortion completely or to decide they will not perform an abortion after a specific amount of time out of concern regarding the safety of the procedure for the patient.

  • Should certain late-term abortion procedures, such as intact Dilation and Extraction (“D and E”) abortions, be banned?

    • Because dilation and extraction abortions closely resemble the birthing process or miscarriage, people are often weary of this type of abortion. The fetus is removed from the uterus intact and is further along in development. Americans are more accepting of abortions that occur early in pregnancy when the fetus is not as developed and is not “viable” (able to survive on its own outside of the woman’s body).

    • In terms of which trimester Americans are the most accepting of abortions taking place, about 41% agree first-trimester abortions should be permitted. Additionally, about 15% of Americans agree that both first- and second-trimester abortions should be permitted, about 29% say abortion should never be permitted, and 5% are unsure.

  • Should financially-challenged women’s abortions be publicly funded?

    • Currently, all American states are required to fund abortions in certain circumstances (namely for women who have been raped, who are victims of inscest, or whose lives are in danger as a result of the pregnancy). Some states and organizations voluntarily fund abortions under other varying circumstances.


The bottom line is that abortion is a safe and legal way to end a pregnancy in the United States. A woman is entitled to choose whether to carry her pregnancy to term or to terminate her pregnancy as she sees fit. If you and/or your partner are deciding whether to terminate your own pregnancy or carry it to term, there is no such thing as not making a decision. Once a pregnancy has been established, you must decide to either carry it to term or terminate the fetal development. Knowing where you and your partner stand on the possibility of abortion will better equip you to make a decision that is mutually beneficial, and being knowledgeable about abortion (and the arguments on both sides) contributes to making an informed decision. Please explore the other related topics on our site that can give you additional insight into your feelings on abortion and the alternative options available regarding pregnancy.



Last Updated 10 June 2014.







1. LeVay, Simon, Janice Baldwin, and John Baldwin. Discovering Human Sexualiy. Sinauer Associates, Inc., 2009