Safe & Legal Abortion: A matter of life and death

Heads up:

This blog entry IS graphic.

When I taught “Ethical Issues” at nameless State University, I inevitably lead a two week discussion about abortion. The first week was spent reading philosophical texts as to why abortion was a moral wrong; the second week we read philosophical texts defending abortion. (Should you be interested in these reading materials, drop me a line in the comment section.)

Throughout the whole course, no matter the topic, I kept my own opinion out of the discussion.

But I did open this topic, which I am definitely passionate about, with some basic statistics.

  • By the age of 45, approximately 35% of American women will have had at least one abortion. Think about that when you’re running errands, when you’re at work, etc, and you see a woman. Wonder, “Did she have one?”
  • More than one-third of American women will have undergone at least one abortion.
  • More than HALF of the women who found themselves pregnant were using at least one form of birth control.[i]

Of course, philosophy frowns upon logical fallacies, and citing carefully chosen scripture to make the case against abortion wasn’t allowed. I find it very interesting that all 140 students, most around 20-22, understood this and followed it for the entire semester, making the national conversation looks terribly immature.

Perhaps more importantly, any student of philosophy is well aware that name-calling is a logical fallacy, and it’s a weak one. After citing the basic statistics concerning the prevalence and note the silence—of abortion in my course, I would have students who were adamantly anti-abortion raise their hand and apologize for calling a woman who sought an abortion a “murderer” or some other term.

Those students realized that chances were 99.9% at least one person in our classroom of 140 had an abortion, had a friend who had an abortion, etc.

I really appreciated it, and it helped clear the air so we could debate academically, philosophically.

I premise all this because I feel it’s important that these statistics be more well known before we ever discuss abortion.

Shall we?

Philadelphia “doctor[ii]” Kermit Gosnell was recently found guilty of the murder of three babies and one woman at what has come to be known as his “house of horrors.” House of horrors is a good term, if not a tad too emotive (for the philosopher in me), to describe the crimes committed. The three babies were born alive, and there seems to be no question that he willingly and knowingly killed them after delivering them.

You can read the indictment here (in PDF). It’s a hard read, but it’s worth the read to fully understand the case, and sums up the charges against him.

You may wonder why these women sought late term abortions[iii]. I don’t know their personal lives, but I do know that 26 new laws alone restricting (and even banning) abortion have been passed this year alone. 33 states require a “delay” before a woman can have an abortion—these are also known as “waiting periods.” They are costly for women who must travel to seek medical help. In addition to that, 33 states have mandated doctors lie to their patients, usually (but not always) by floating the idea that their patient’s risk of breast cancer will increase.

We know many of Gosnell’s patients were poor and/or a minority. And given his conviction, it seems that Gosnell was preying upon poorer women who were desperate.

I’d like to note that stories such as Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” are rare. Most providers of abortion and reproductive issues care about their patients and believe in what they’re doing. They realize how stressful this situation is for many women. And of course, abortion providers are risking their life and face constant harassment.

Pennsylvania requires: biased counseling, a waiting requirement, restricts insurance coverage of abortion for poorer women. If married, the woman must sign a statement declaring she has notified her spouse of the abortion (and yes, this is illegal under Planned Parenthood of SE Pennsylvania v. Casey, yet is still on the books. *sigh* )

Laws restricting access to abortion have not been proven to deter women from seeking them. Instead, such laws place financial obstacles, and delay the abortion.

Restricting laws against abortion procedures also put the woman’s health at risk. She may very well turn to a charlatan such as Gosnell, who clearly lost/never had any interest in helping women.

“He was acting wholly outside the law, and the fact that that is the case really suggests the reason why we need to make sure that we have good providers, that abortion has to be safe and legal and accessible,”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

As draconian laws limiting a woman’s bodily autonomy spread across the country, we are more and more at risk of losing women. This isn’t hyperbole. Due to unsafe and illegal abortions, women DIE.

Just ask the family of Geraldine “Gerri” Santoro (née Twerdy). You’ve seen her death photo.

I leave with with the words of a family who lost their daughter, their sister, and yes, their mother in the 1960’s.

Two lives were needlessly and sadly lost here. This horrible sad picture of death makes clear that illegal abortion not only harms and kills women, it has never ever saved one baby.

Gerri Santori. No one should die like this. EVER.

Gerri Santori, as she died. No one should die like this or face what she did. EVER.


[ii] I use the term “doctor” most reluctantly, as what this man was charged and convicted of is un-professional and certainly not behavior expected from a medical doctor.

[iii] A late term abortion is generally any abortion that occurs after 12 weeks gestation.


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