What are the arguments for and against abortion? Is abortion murder, or is it a constitutional right that should be protected?
Explore all opinions, perspectives, stances, and arguments for and against abortion rights with AllStances™ by AllSides.
The debate around the legality of abortion stretches back to 1818 with the State of Connecticut v. Ammi Rogers case, which led to Connecticut becoming the first state to pass a law criminalizing abortion. Since then, abortion policy has been a key point of contention in U.S. politics.
Americans who believe women should have access to safe and legal abortions call themselves “pro-choice,” while “pro-life” Americans believe that abortion should be banned in all or most circumstances.
Some polls have shown a partisan gap in views on abortion policy, with Democrats more likely to say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Polls have also shown a good deal of common ground on abortion policies.
The issue has been at the forefront of national politics with the controversial Texas Heartbeat Act, which bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected (typically around six weeks into a pregnancy). The legislation also authorizes private citizens to bring civil lawsuits against abortion providers or other individuals breaking the law. Other Republican states have now followed in Texas' footsteps and passed similar laws that restrict abortion access.
Looking ahead, the upcoming decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will further define modern abortion policy in America.
Does a woman’s autonomy over her own body outweigh the rights of a fetus, or should all human life be protected at all pregnancy stages? Does access to safe and legal abortions lead to better outcomes for women, particularly in developing countries? Or does the negative psychological aftermath of abortion on women mean we should discourage this practice?
Explore all the arguments, stances and perspectives around abortions. (Keep in mind that stances aren't mutually exclusive — some viewpoints might align with multiple stances.)
Are we missing a stance or perspective? Email us!
Stance 1: Abortion Should Be Legal Under All Circumstances
CORE ARGUMENT: Abortions are a constitutional right, and women’s right to choose what happens to their bodies should not be limited in any way.
More arguments for this stance:
- Women must have autonomy over their own bodies, no exceptions.
- Abortions are an essential component of women’s health care. Advertising resources related to abortions, safe sex and birth control pills will help women to make more informed decisions.
- Abortion access is key to economic freedom. Women should be free to choose if and when to have a child. Being able to delay motherhood by one year due to access to legal abortion increased women’s wages by 11 percent on average.
- A woman’s choice to get an abortion has been a constitutional right for nearly half a century thanks to Roe v. Wade.
- Abortion is a justified way to curb overpopulation.
- Especially because the risk of pregnancy can be mitigated, consenting to sex is not consenting to pregnancy.
- It might be selfish to bring a child into the world knowing that they wouldn’t be properly taken care of.
- All decisions related to the procedure should be made privately by the woman and her chosen health care providers without obstruction from outside forces such as the government.
- Banning abortions on a national level would significantly increase the number of pregnancy-related deaths.
- Women should have better access to abortion clinics and resources so that procedures can be conducted in the early stages of pregnancy in a swift and safe manner.
- A woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant will do anything to not be pregnant. Restricting access to abortion can lead women to desperate measures, like unsafe, back-alley procedures that threaten her life.
- Abortion is a matter of individual choice because no one can say for sure when human life begins — modern science offers no clarity.
- Attempts to further prohibit the right to get an abortion will disproportionately harm low-income Americans and women of color.
- Women who are denied abortions report feeling more regret and anger than women who had abortions.
- Most women who have abortions are already mothers. Restricting abortion access harms their existing children; mothers should be allowed to end their pregnancy so they can take better care of the children they already have.
Stance 2: Abortions Should Be Legal Up Until the Third Trimester
CORE ARGUMENT: Abortion is wrong when the fetus is more developed and could survive on its own, but abortions earlier in pregnancy should be up to the mother.
More arguments for this stance:
- Women should have the choice to abort early in pregnancy, but when a fetus is developed enough to survive on its own, abortion should be prohibited.
- Removing the many existing barriers to earlier abortion care would reduce the need for second-and third-trimester abortions.
- The government should stay out of the abortion decision until the fetus can survive on its own without being entirely dependent on the mother, which is around the 15-week mark.
- The way Republican lawmakers are approaching abortion laws mirrors the Reagan administration’s infamously ineffective ‘war on drugs.’ By prioritizing punishments and restrictions rather than reducing harm, unhealthy drug habits among Americans increased and the opioid epidemic was spawned. Likewise, abortion rates are higher in countries that place heavy restrictions on the procedure.
- The right to an abortion is not mentioned anywhere in the US Constitution; however, safe abortions are a human right. Women should not have to resort to unsafe and dangerous methods to terminate their pregnancies.
Stance 3: Abortions Should Be Allowed Only in Rare Cases
CORE ARGUMENT: Abortions should only be legal under certain circumstances such as rape, incest, and the health of the mother.
More arguments for this stance:
- Abortions should be reserved for specific instances such as rape, incest, severe fetal pain, or the life of the mother is at risk.
- Abortions shouldn’t be the most practical option for women who are nervous about their pregnancy; it’s a serious procedure that should be reserved only for the rarest and most extreme cases.
- Forcing a woman to carry their attacker's child amounts to physical and psychological torture.
- Being pro-choice doesn’t always mean being pro-abortion; the procedure should be rare and combatted with more comprehensive sex education in schools.
- There are a number of life-affirming pregnancy centers across the country that help soon-to-be mothers navigate the challenges of pregnancy, and pro-choice advocates are threatening these facilities’ existence through hostile legislation.
Stance 4: Abortion Should Be Banned
CORE ARGUMENT: Abortions are morally wrong — they end an innocent life and have a negative effect on relationships between men and women.
More arguments for this stance:
- A fetus, even before viability, is a human being whose life should be protected; life begins at conception and has inherent value. Abortion denies the inherent dignity and sanctity of human life and the fact that it’s not ours to take.
- Women who undergo abortions experience major negative psychological effects after the fact, such as regrets, sleep disturbances, and nervous disorders.
- Abortion is not healthcare, because healthcare saves a life, it does not end it.
- The notion that abortions empower women is a cultural myth; in reality, having this option disempowers women by allowing men to be noncommital toward them and causing sexual responsibility and its consequences to be largely placed on women.
- For most women, getting an abortion is not really a “choice” — they feel it is their only option because they lack financial and emotional support.
- Adoption is a better alternative than abortion. Our focus should be on increasing support and resources for mothers and adoptive parents rather than terminating pregnancies.
- Having sex is consenting to pregnancy, and the discussion regarding the legality of abortion is nested inside a larger discussion about the proper place of sexuality in human behavior. That’s the level at which the problem needs to be addressed — sexual morality and the relationship between men and women.
- Roe v Wade is fraught with conspicuous errors of law and should be reversed.
- While federal abortion restrictions won’t prevent all abortions from happening, they would protect a significant number of unborn lives.
- Taking abortion off the table as an option would be good for men and women because it would force them to take on sexual responsibility and form commital, long-term relationships that are good for healthy families and civilizations.
- The notion of providing exceptions for abortions in the case of rape or incest is disingenuous because it disproportionately focuses on rare incidents and contradicts the essence of being pro-life. Many people grossly overestimate the percentage of abortions done to save women’s lives or physical health, in cases of rape and incest, or to avoid birth defects (eugenics); this argument is simply used to legalize abortion on demand.
- Life does not have less value because of how it was conceived (such as in the case of rape).
- Many women regret their abortions and carry the pain of a child lost.
Authors and contributors:
Antonio Ferme, AllSides Weekend Editor, Center bias
Julie Mastrine, AllSides Director of Marketing, Lean Right bias
Henry Brechter, AllSides Managing Editor, Center bias
Joseph Ratliff, AllSides Daily News Editor, Lean Left bias
Andrew Weinzierl, AllSides Research Assistant, Lean Left bias