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Viability Determines Abortion

Viability Determines Abortion: A Review of Literature

Zahid Ramirez

The University of Texas at El Paso

Viability Determines Abortion


Although it has been estimated that abortion rates are declining yearly in the US,

abortion continues to be a controversial topic in which morals are questioned (Randall

et al., 2014). While some studies claim that abortion has long-lasting mental and

physical impacts on a womans health, other studies claim that the only impact

abortions may have on health is infertility, and even then the risk is small (Sam

Rowlands, 2011). Currently, there are several contraceptives that prevent women from

becoming pregnant, but these methods are not entirely efficient. Although

contraceptives have shown decreasing failure rates throughout several decades, women

who use contraceptives are still at risk of becoming pregnant (Sundaram et al., 2017).

This is significant because laws banning abortion would be inaccurate if contraceptives

themselves were faulty and this were not known.

The alternatives to abortion were also analyzed, where it was found that the number of

adults adopting every year is declining (Randle et al., 2014). Despite these findings, the

author of the paper conducted a survey to determine if adoption was a possible

alternative to abortion. The survey targeted men and women in their mid 20s to mid 30s

in distinct areas of El Paso, Texas. The survey focused on one central question: Would

you every consider adopting a child? The findings showed that nearly of the

participants would consider adopting a child, giving adoption hope for children who are

put in the foster care system.

Viability Determines Abortion

Viability Determines Abortion: A Review of Literature

Since abortion became legal in the US, this delicate issue has been eagerly debated

from both sides. People who are pro-life and pro-choice understand that abortion is not

as simple as letting a baby be born or not. The current laws in the US protecting a

womans choice to abort all depend on the viability of the fetus. Arguments from

opposing perspectives of the issue go beyond the viability of the fetus. These arguments

question the health of a woman undergoing abortion, how abortions might affect

society, the possibility of a fetus feeling pain, among other things. Because these

arguments are all correct in that abortion does have a greater affect than society

understands, an in-depth analysis surrounding the issue of abortion will be conducted

using the following questions:

1. Would outlawing abortion harm or benefit society?

2. How effective is contraception when used?
3. What are the alternatives to abortion?

Abortion is a sensitive issue that would be better understood if we knew how it affects

society, how effective pregnancy preventative methods are, and how plausible are

alternatives to abortion.

Would outlawing abortion harm or benefit society?

It is already known that when abortions are undergone, the fetus being aborted is

always in danger. Although the fetus is at most risk in this situation, one of the greatest

controversies in the topic of abortion is how it affects society, both physically and

morally. There have been many articles and news stories which claim that women suffer

a mental and physical decline in health after having abortions. Using medical knowledge
Viability Determines Abortion

and records, as well as review articles, the European Journal of Contraception and

Reproductive Health Care published a review article that focused on five aspects of

abortion: risk to [the mothers] life, risk of breast cancer, risk to mental health, risk to

future fertility, and fetal pain. The article found that most deaths related to pregnancy

are not caused by childbirth or abortion complications, but instead may be caused by

other factors that were already present in the womans life (Sam Rowlands, 2011). In the

case of women who choose to have abortions, these factors include mental health

problems, poverty, sexual or physical abuse, substance misuse and intimate partner

violence (Sam Rowlands, 2011). The article went on to report that 1 in 553,711 women

in the UK who have abortions die from abortion related complications. Although the

authors do mention that the results in the US are a rough comparison because of the

eclectic nature of the sources, the data gathered showed surgical abortions to be 70

times less likely to cause death than childbirth (Sam Rowlands, 2011). Regarding the

higher tendency of developing breast cancer, the review sites several studies which

report that there exists no significant association between abortion and breast cancer

(Sam Rowlands, 2011). There have been published studies that yield inaccurate results

since they only use information that influences the results in their favor. In 2004, a

systematic review was conducted using 53 studies from around the world. The review

concluded that there was no association between abortion and breast cancer (Sam

Rowlands, 2011). While a womans physical health is important, the article recognizes

that her mental health is just as important. The optimal study design to study the

correlation between abortions and mental health problems would involve controlling

the birth of women with unwanted pregnancies. There would be two groups of women:

the women with unwanted pregnancies that could receive abortions and those with
Viability Determines Abortion

unwanted pregnancies whose abortion requests would be denied. Due to the unethical

nature of the theoretical study, the article makes it clear that no study has been created

that directly studies the association between mental health and abortion. According to

the article, a womens physical health after abortion does not suffer, however, the article

did find some incidence of sterility after abortion. Of four studies that were reviewed,

three studies showed no effect of fertility brought upon by abortion (Sam Rowlands,

2011). The fourth study measured the relative risk of infertility caused by one abortion

using the interval 1.1-4.0. Although the results (2.1) were so close to 1 that the

significance could be nullified, some correlation was found between infertility and

abortion (Sam Rowlands, 2011). Lastly, the article scientifically rejected the idea of the

fetus feeling pain brought on by abortion procedures until 24 weeks. Considering the

neurobiology of a fetus, the connections between fetal thalamus and cortex do not fully

develop until 24 weeks of pregnancy (Sam Rowlands, 2011). This is significant because

without this connection, the fetus does not perceive nociceptive stimulistimuli

associated with the sensory nervous system.

Disregarding the data previously presented, if abortions were harmful to women

having them, it could be said that making abortions illegal would prevent women from

injuring themselves. The journal Lancet published a study in which scientists from the

World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute collaborated and compared

abortion rates around the globe in countries where it is legal and illegal. The scientists

conducting the study found that abortion rates are similar in both countries where

abortion is legal and illegal (Sedgh et al., 2016). Moreover, the researchers found that

abortion was safer in countries where abortion was legal and dangerous in countries
Viability Determines Abortion

where abortion was illegal (Sedgh et al., 2016). Although this does not conclude

anything concrete, it could be implied from the study that women would be in greater

danger than they are now if laws ruled abortion to be illegal in the US.

How effective is contraception when used?

Although the effectiveness of contraception varies depending on how regularly people

use it, the overall effectiveness of almost all types of contraception has risen since the

beginning of the 21st century (Sundaram, 2017). In the 2006-2010 National Survey of

Family Growth (NSFG), women reported that the most common methods of

contraception they, or their partner, had ever used were the male condom (93%), the pill

(82%), withdrawal (60%), and the injectable (23%) (Sundaram, 2017).

Figure 1. Failure Rates of Different Contraceptives

Figure 1 shows the probability of failure for several contraceptives starting from

1995. For all types of prevention used, the probability of failure dropped from 14.9% in

1995 to 10.3% in 2006-2010 (Figure 1). The table above also shows the failure rates for
Viability Determines Abortion

specific contraceptive methods such as male condom and withdrawal. Following

withdrawal, the use of condoms in males proved to have the second highest failure rates,

failing 17.8% of times in 1995 and 12.6% in 2006-2010 (Figure 1). While all

contraceptive methods have a chance of failing, some women may need certain methods

because they are suited better to their circumstances (Guttmacher Institute, 2016).

What are the alternatives to abortion?

There exist two alternatives to abortion that would both keep the fetus safe. The

first alternative is having the baby and becoming a parent. If a woman is in good terms

with the father of her baby, co-parenting is also possible. Within the same alternative, it

would also be possible for a single mother to rely on help from her family members to

raise her child. The central idea of the first alternative is to be able to provide the baby

with a strong support system. This strong support system is available for non-expecting

parents in the form of local, state, and national programs. For example, the state of

Texas has a program called The Alternatives to Abortion which provides low-income

pregnant women with resources (Texas Health and Human Services, n.d.). In addition

to referring women to community and social service programs such as child-care

programs, the program also offers classes on life skills, budgeting, and parenting,

among others (Texas Health and Human Services, n.d.). Programs like these are

available to single mothers and parents throughout the country. The second alternative

would require for the parent(s) of the baby to put the child up for adoption. This second

option is gaining popularity around the world as more and more children are in need of

a foster home (Randle et al., 2014). Despite the increasing number of children in need of

foster homes, the number of adults around the world interested in fostering a child is
Viability Determines Abortion

decreasing (Randle et al., 2014). In 2015, more than 62,000 children in foster homes

awaited to be adopted (Childrens Rights, n.d.). That same year 20,000 young children

aged out of foster care without permanent families (Childrens Rights, n.d.). Research

suggests that those who leave foster care without finding a family are more likely to

experience homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration as adults (Childrens

Rights, n.d.).

These findings are true of the US in 2015, but a recent survey would be needed to

determine if potential foster carers have changed their minds. Although the chart below

opposes what other articles have reported, the survey conducted and data gathered can

be considered preliminary research due to the little depth with which the research was

conducted. The survey, created by the author, was conducted in order to determine if

adults capable of adopting are interested in doing so; simultaneously answering whether

or not adoption is a good alternative to abortion (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Chart representing the number of people that would and would not consider

Viability Determines Abortion

Reason why people would not Number of people

consider adoption
I have no interest in having children 4

My partner would not support the idea 2

I do not know anything about foster caring 0

I am afraid the adopted child will have 0

behavioral problems
I would like to have my own children 10

Other 2
Figure 3. Table depicting the reasons people would not adopt

Figure 2 represents the opinions of 100 participants, all ranging in age between

25-35. Men and women were surveyed at random in several coffee shops, malls, as well

as the UTEP library to ensure as much of a diverse pool as possible. The short survey

consisted of 3 questions: Do you have kids?, Would you ever consider adopting a

child?, and the last question gave the participant choices as to why he/she would never

adopt if he/she answered no. Of 100 that took part in the survey, 72 individuals said

they would consider adoption and 28 claimed they would not consider adoption. When

asked why they would not consider adoption, the most common answer given was I

would like to have my own children (Figure 3). While most participants completed the

written survey in its entirety, 10 chose to not answer the last question asking why they

would not consider adopting. It was initially suspected that most individuals who would

not want to adopt would say no because they already had kids. After comparing the

number of parents who answered yes or no to the central question, the difference in

numbers was so small that the results were insignificant to the survey. As previously
Viability Determines Abortion

mentioned, these findings do not concur with what other articles have said regarding

problems in the foster care system, but it is important to remember that this survey is a

non-representative sample.


With any major medical procedure there exists risk of harm to the person having

the procedure. Abortion, being a major medical procedure, is responsible for 0.2% of

deaths that occur after a woman aborts a fetus (Sam Rowlands, 2011). Although the risk

of death from an abortion is relatively low compared to childbirth, the chances of

infertility are greater (Sam Rowlands, 2011). The tendency for a womans health to

suffer from an abortion is low, but it is possible. The effectiveness of contraception

continues to rise over the decades, but contraceptives have yet to ensure a 100%

probability that people will not get pregnant (Sundaram et al., 2017). Until more

preventative methods are created, those who practice safe sex and become pregnant

have various alternatives to aborting a baby. Parents have a choice between keeping

their baby or putting the child in a foster home, where the goal in both is to give the

baby a strong support system. While there is data which reports that adoption is a highly

possible choice, other articles claim that the foster care system is not prepared for

abortion to become illegal. Although a definitive answer was not obtained in the

research conducted, this paper serves to inform about a complex issue so that better

laws are passed that will promise families a good quality of life and life itself.
Viability Determines Abortion


American Adoptions. (n.d.). Five Alternatives to Abortion When Faced with an

Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved from



Children's Rights. (n.d.). FOSTER CARE. Retrieved from


Guttmacher Institute. (2016, May). Induced Abortion Worldwide. Retrieved from


Randle, M., Miller, L., Dolnicar, S., & Ciarrochi, J. (2014). The science of attracting

foster carers. Child & Family Social Work, 19(1), 65-75. doi:10.1111/j.1365-


Rowlands, S. (2011). Misinformation on abortion. European Journal Of Contraception &

Reproductive Health Care, 16(4), 233-240. doi:10.3109/13625187.2011.570883

Sedgh, G., Bearak, J., Singh, S., Bankole, A., Popinchalk, A., Ganatra, B., & ... Johnson,

B. J. (2016). Abortion incidence between 1990 and 2014: global, regional, and

subregional levels and trends. Lancet, 388(10041), 258-267. doi:10.1016/S0140-


Sundaram, A., Vaughan, B., Kost, K., Bankole, A., Finer, L., Singh, S., & Trussell, J.

(2017). Contraceptive Failure in the United States: Estimates from the 2006-

2010 National Survey of Family Growth. Perspectives On Sexual & Reproductive

Health, 49(1), 7-16. doi:10.1363/psrh.12017

Viability Determines Abortion

Texas Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Alternatives to Abortion. Retrieved from