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Why Is the Abortion Debate So Extreme in America?

Doctors perform about 800,000 abortions in the US each year. The number of bombings and arson attempts on abortion facilities, and the numbers of death threats to providers also reach staggering figures. As seen from the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller yesterday, sometimes disagreements about abortion turn deadly.

This aggressive, emotional, and sometimes violent nature of the abortion debate is somewhat exceptional in the US. An article in BBC today explored the reasons why some Americans take such a radical position. Here are some explanations:

  • The US pro-life stance is often presented as defending the defenseless, making it easier to justify violence.
  • In the UK, abortion opponents fight for more restrictions, while most of their US counterparts want an all-out ban. Any compromise would be seen as selling out.
  • Half of the US population goes to church regularly and the abortion debate is dominated by religious groups. Hundreds of religious radio stations across the country help elevate the profile of the abortion debate.
  • The availability of firearms, not the US pro-life movement, is to blame, according to the national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. He says: "Guns are more readily available so by the law of averages people providing abortions are going to be caught up."

Obviously a small number of pro-life individuals turn to violence or threats to further their cause, but America is still far from having a clear-headed national dialogue about abortion.


Join The Conversation
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
sorry about all the bold..
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
And to say that people want abortion outright banned is like saying you must be a democrat or a republican or that you have to believe every party stance to be affiliated with a party. It is simply absurd. I, personally, would never, never have an abortion. But I am open to the whole rape/incest health of the mother baby argument. But when I post the actual percentage of people that get abortions for that reason, I am labeled as a pro life nut job. It is the pro-choice/pro - abortion groups that make it seem like all we want is an outright ban, when it simply isn't true. Like in california, we have tried (unsuccessfully) several times to limit abortions. In cases of children that may be taken to abortion clinics by their abusers, making a waiting period mandatory (because really what is a week right?), or making counseling mandatory and forcing someone to actually counsel these womens on their options. (for goodness sake, to get bariatric surgery you have to go through a psych eval, but we can't make sure these women are of sound mind before they make a decision that will affect them their entire life?) And why do I have to pay for someone else to be able to commit murder? Limiting partial birth abortion is a prime example and I simply cannot fathom how anyone can justify such a senseless murdering of a baby that is viable! And what about botched abortions and the baby is alive? Why can't we save that baby. It is no longer the womens body and the womens right to choose. That is a living breathing baby struggling for life. So as you can see it is not as clear cut as some would like you to believe. Why don't you ask the people before you make these assumptions about what we actually want!!!!! We really do just want fewer abortions in the long run and right to lifers do offer good services to the community via counseling and adoption help. So think about that when you go to the ballot box and see a measure that will limit abortions. Think about that not as crazy pro life nutjobs trying to prevent you from ever having an abortion , but as a way to get what we all really want, fewer abortions and fewer people abusing that right. And for the record I am a member of my local chapter of the Right to Life.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
This post is filled with so many fallacies. where are your stats about the staggering number of bombings etc....
bransugar79 bransugar79 8 years
This is such an unbelievably complicated topic.The reason the debate is so extreme is because it's not a simple black and white issue. I happen to be pro choice but not because I think abortion is OK. I think everyone has the right to a choice. I think that in the case of abortion there are so many choices that can be made ahead of time that would all but eliminate the need for one, but that's just me. I am a Christian and I do not stand outside abortion clinics waiting to harass women who choose to have the procedure. I do feel that it's wrong to take the life of a child born or unborn under any circumstances and because of my own conviction I would never choose to have an abortion even if my life was at risk. That said if you want to do it that's something I feel you personally have to deal with and have to answer to God for at some point. If that is the choice you make in your own life then what can I say about it? I do think it's a little ridiculous to say that there is no sex education available to people prior to pregnancy. There are classes in schools and countless agencies devoted to making birth control available to everyone. Also even abstinence first programs teach about contraception. I know because I was in the classes both in middle school and in high school. And the Internet is widely available to most people in the country as a resource for almost anything if you are curious enough or serious enough to seek out the information.
jessy777 jessy777 8 years
Because the U.S. refuses to have an open dialogue about sex and sexual education. Because the U.S. is still rooted in the patriarchal society that founded it. Because women are not supposed to choose when to have children. Because women are supposed to be wives and mothers. Because people who have sex without the purpose of conceiving children are evil. Because rape and incest are rarely prosecuted crimes. Because a woman's body isn't her own. Because laws that control sexual activity, marriage and conception are fine but those that require seat belts or gun control are unconstitutional. Because the U.S. is a socially backwards nation masking as a forward thinking one. Because women like Margaret Sanger are one line in a textbook while Benjamin Franklin is an entire Unit. Because the government wants into my bedroom but refuses to lift the veil on torture and war crimes. Because it is a sensational topic that grabs headlines and we are all easily distracted by the shiny object while are rights are slowly stripped away. Because as a woman I am incapable of making important medical decisions without a man to guide me. Because dehumanizing a very human issue makes it ok to bomb an abortion clinic or murder a doctor outside a church because they can be painted as monsters. Because a country that sees protesting at Matthew Shepard's funeral and opposition to an Equal Rights Amendment isn't ready for an honest and frank debate on abortion or sexual education. We are a long way from it and things are only getting worse. But I will keep fighting for reproductive rights and sexual education so that one day all women will have access to and knowledge to use contraception. So that one day all women will be able to plan when to have a family. So that the debate will be moot because unplanned pregnancies will virtually not existence. It is called a choice because not everyone has to make it. If you do not believe in abortion then do not have one. I do not agree with a lot of things that I simply abstain from. Gun ownership. Animal consumption. Drug use. Smoking. This has been a long post but it is an issue I am passionate about. I am glad to see that there is a debate on this site. We are all a part of the debate and must no opt out, no matter what side you are on.
mguy414 mguy414 8 years
Thank you to those who are saying that being pro-choice does NOT mean we're pro-murder. The main reason I even became pro-choice was because my mother explained to me what women who really wanted an abortion, but couldn't legally get one, would do because they were that desperate. I think that the abortion debate is so extreme because the media constantly pits the pro-lifers against the pro-choicers. We read these stories about radical pro-lifers killing abortion doctors, in a church no less, and yes it is going to make people angry and heated. Every day I interact with people who are pro-life, while I am pro-choice. My own sister, and some of my best friends are very pro-life, but what side we take in the abortion stance is such a small part of who we are, that it doesn't even matter. To each their own!
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 8 years
It's extreme because some feel a need to control what someone else is doing. To top it off, they want justification for what you do with your body. I have an answer for you: F*ck you!
KimBurnett KimBurnett 8 years
The abortion debate is so intense b/c men have womb envy.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
It's really sad that there's no common ground on this situation. The abortion issue comes down to having a common answer to some COMPLICATED questions. Questions such as: What is being human? What is personhood? Who meets the qualifications of the definition of personhood? Does personhood qualify someone as protected by our laws? Because the real issue is whether an unborn fetus/child, if you prefer, is a) a person; b) if so, meets the same qualifications of deserving protection as born persons. That's a yes or no question. Though by NO means is it an EASY question. Nobody's ever been able to come to an agreement on those questions - that is why the abortion issue is so polarized. And laws really don't PREVENT people from doing anything - they only DETER. People still murder, people still steal, people still abuse and assault. All of our laws are simply sanctions- "If you perform X activity, then you will be held and suffer Y consequences. " I would like to know what evidence and punishment would be sufficient or necessary to convict someone, should abortions become illegal. Nobody has been able to offer a fair or reasonable answer to that question.
xxstardust xxstardust 8 years
I absolutely HATE the 'only in certain circumstances' argument that people make, where abortion is wrong but allowable in the case of rape. If your argument is that life is precious, and no one should be able to take an unborn child's life, and that the sanctity of life is important, how can you say the life of a child conceived during a rape isn't as important? Why is it okay to abort that child, but not a child conceived in the back of your boyfriend's car? I don't understand the logic of that argument. Either you can have an abortion for whatever reason you like, or you can't. Don't get into the sketchy grey area of it being okay sometimes. Personally, I believe abortion is wrong; therefore I personally don't think that I could ever go through with an abortion. But my personal and religious beliefs should NEVER infringe on someone else's right to make a decision for themselves. I may not like their choice, but they have to be allowed to make it. And if you want less people to make that choice, educate them about birth control so that there are less unwanted pregnancies and less women forced to make that difficult decision. (Don't tell the Pope I said that, he'll excommunicate me lo!l)
zuke zuke 8 years
Agree with Bella, and with what people in the UK are going for. More restrictions + better sex education = fewer abortions
Meike Meike 8 years
I'm so tired of this debate being black and white... I really don't get radical pro-lifers. They have a choice not to have the abortion and abide by their religious beliefs. They can please their God by maintaining their values. Yet, they must bully their way of life to those who do not share their beliefs and values. Pro-choice, by no means, is Pro-murder. It simply is a stance that allows those who don't want a abortion to not have one and those who do want one to have it. In other words, there are two choices, not one. Get a clue. I'm pro-choice but I never, never want an abortion. Therefore, I am very precise about taking my birth control. However, if I were to become pregnant, I still want a choice. A strong part of me will not be willing to have the abortion because I would value what is inside me. But, if I did choose to have an abortion, that would be between me, my husband, and whatever supreme being may or may not be out there (God, Allah, FSM, Zeus, the Goddess, etc). Not me and you pro-lifers.
fcseamstress fcseamstress 8 years
Making abortion illegal only makes it more dangerous for women who actually NEED abortions to get them. I had a friend who medically needed an abortion. She was married and all (not that that should be the deciding factor in a decision like abortion), but she was also epileptic. Meaning she couldn't take about 80% of her meds for 9 months, which would have resulted in a grand maul (sp?) seizure, either killing or seriously injuring her and/or the baby. In the past when she tried skipping meds she only went a month max before having a powerful seizure. You can not like abortion all you want, but I believe it needs to be legal. If you really don't like abortion that much, don't have one, avoid docs who perform them, etc. That is your choice as well. And I believe that most of the time the woman's body takes precedent, since she is already a living, self-sustained being. I don't like the practice of third trimester abortion, and even late second trimester ones, but I figure it's a woman's decision if she has an abortion early on. BTW - I'm against the gov paying for abortion. I'll fight for a woman's right to have one, but she can find a way to pay for it (or make the other half of who helped make it pay, find a charity, etc.).
ummyeaitsmarcie ummyeaitsmarcie 8 years
I think a lot of the conflict over abortion is more about people refusing to promote methods of birth control. Its so silly for us to ignore sex in education but have it filling the media. If all methods of birth control were taught then a lot of the senseless abortions would be cut back. But for some reason people seem to think that education makes you want to run out and have sex that day. If it wasn't so taboo and ignored people could have safer more informed views on sex and be less likely to accidentally become pregnant. I'm definitely pro-life, but while I don't agree with or like it at any time I can see the point for abortions being a legal option in certain situations like rape and medical complications.
ElizabethRae ElizabethRae 8 years
Way to be Bella. Anti-choice? As if. Anti-murder maybe, but no one is against 'choice.' Even making abortion illegal wouldn't take away choice, just as making pot, murder, and speeding illegal don't negate a person's right to choose to do them. That being said, I still call those who consider themselves 'pro-choice' by that label rather than trying to be rude and label them 'pro-murder.' The way I see it, if I saw a woman beating her child in public, I would say/do something. Granted, it's her choice to beat her kid or not beat her kid, but I think that as a member of the human race, it's my duty to stand up for those who can't defend themselves. Same thing. If a woman is going to have her baby killed, I think that as members of the human race we should do all we can to lovingly protect the life of the child. Why do we fight for child advocacy laws and child abuse laws and healthcare for children if we don't really care if they live or die?
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Well put, spacekat.
almost-famous almost-famous 8 years
tragic in deed. I just don't understand why folks are caught up in other people's choices? Really...
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
This is saddening. The murderer is hardly pro-life, in my opinion. To think, the murderer killed Dr. Tiller IN CHURCH. Awful.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Regardless, obviously one killing is one too many. I just don't know that I would call those numbers staggering, considering the numbers of threats, etc. made by supporters of any other cause.
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