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Abortion is a very contentious issue and as such frequently comes up in debates. When taking part in a debate on abortion there are a number of topics that can be discussed. The aim of this short essay is to look at four of the most important. The author will not take either side, simply explain what the issues and arguments are.
A powerful argument against abortion is that everyone has a right to life. Under this view a fetus, an embryo or in some religious doctrines even a newly fertilized egg is a human being with a right to live.
A counter to this is to argue that before a certain stage in development, usually set by law at around 20 weeks, the fetus lacks the attributes that define a human being such as self-awareness or the capacity to feel pain. They argue that while it is a potential human being it is not yet an actual one. It is also sometimes pointed out that around 25% of pregnancies spontaneously abort anyway.
It is often argued that women have a right to control their own reproductive capacity and that abortion is a vital tool for doing this. Proponents of this view state that nobody has the right to force a woman to undergo a nine month pregnancy, with all the accompanying discomfort and serious health risks, if she does not want to. Some say that the right to abortion is absolute and it is acceptable to use it as a method of birth control; other pro-choice advocates disagree but believe it should be available in cases where pregnancy will endanger the woman's health, the fetus has a severe congenital defect or the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
The anti-choice argument against that is that the woman's right to control her body does not take precedence over the fetus's right to life. Some extremists argue that even pregnancies resulting from rape are part of a divine plan.
Some anti-abortion activists argue that abortion may lead to depression and possibly suicide as a result of guilt feelings. A minority claim that abortion increases a woman's risk of suffering from breast cancer, and should be banned on precautionary grounds.
Pro-choice advocates reply that childbirth is also a frequent cause of depression, known as post-partum depression, and a small but significant risk of suicide. The link between abortion and breast cancer is discredited; repeated studies have shown that it does not exist.
Various religions argue against abortion, usually based on an interpretation of statements in their holy book.
Pro-choice activists invoke the reproductive rights argument and state that one person's religious beliefs should not be imposed on, nor override the rights of, someone who does not share them.
These are all commonly used and influential arguments in the abortion debate, and if you are debating the subject you should be sure to mention them and prepare responses appropriate to the position you're arguing; it's almost certain that your opponent will, and not doing so will put you at a disadvantage.