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Women Have the Right to Decide Whether to Have an Abortion


Despite the numerous social changes that have occurred in the world with the development of science and technology in recent centuries, some aspects of human relationships have retained their archaic nature. In particular, the patriarchal foundations of society based on the domination of males over females have not lost their relevance today, despite the efforts of individual feminist movements to equalize rights and freedoms. One of the controversial and ambiguous topics is the right to abortion as a phenomenon that has always caused significant public resonance. Supporters of religious doctrines and classical social concepts insist on prohibiting this procedure, while progressive representatives of society, conversely, advocate for its preservation. However, today, society is progressive to realize the importance of giving women the right to terminate pregnancies, both for medical prescriptions and individual reasons. Therefore, any legislative or other attempts to limit this possibility are the consequences of outdated views on social relationships and unacceptable in a democratic society.

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Historical Context of the Issue

The institute of marriage as an individual social niche is the link that connects aspects of disagreements regarding the right of women to decide whether to have an abortion. Shah (2011) mentions American civics in the first half of the 20th century and notes that the marriage of two young people was a sacred tradition. Pregnancy, in turn, was a natural aspect of living together, and, as the author states, did not cause moral controversy even if a young woman became pregnant too early (Shah, 2011). However, over time, and freer interpersonal relationships establishment, and attitudes towards marriage and pregnancy changed. Marriages began to take place later, and a parenting status was often inferior to a career. Nevertheless, Labennett (2018) argues that even today, the responsibility for pregnancy and childbearing lies entirely with women not only in a physiological but also in a social context. The classical idea of ​​the mother as a woman who puts children above all is ingrained, and any attempts to change this status are often perceived ambiguously and even aggressively. As a result, the historical background defining women’s responsibilities in caring for their offspring is solid.

In the early 20th century, real attempts to change abortion laws were made. Berer (2017) notes that by the end of the 19th century, abortions had been prohibited globally. Nonetheless, the researcher describes the Soviet Union as the first country in which the corresponding initiatives were offered in 1920, in particular, through a special state decree (Berer, 2017). The socio-economic status of most families was low, and to improve public health indicators and reduce high mortality rates, the authorities took this measure. However, despite the official permission, many citizens spoke out against such a procedure, which, according to them, was tantamount to murder. Thus, even at the legislative level, the settlement of the issue did not lead to the desired outcomes and mutual understanding.

Despite social stigma, many women decide to terminate their pregnancies if their country’s legislation allows it. Today, in most developed states, such a possibility exists, and statistics prove the relevance of this procedure. According to Berer (2017), “globally, 25% of pregnancies ended in induced abortion in 2010-2014, including in countries with high rates of contraceptive prevalence” (p. 15). This indicator confirms that while social norms and moral values often run counter to the position of women who choose to have an abortion, this phenomenon is widespread and deserves attention. Therefore, in addition to a historical perspective, political and legal contexts are the significant determinants of attitudes towards the voluntary termination of pregnancy.

Political and Legal Trends Regarding Abortions

From a legislative perspective, attitudes towards abortion have always been ambiguous. Despite the prohibitions at the beginning of the 20th century, later, the corresponding changes in the regulations were made to legalize this phenomenon. Berer (2017) cites the example of the UK and notes that “in the 1967 Abortion Act, legal grounds for abortion are set out as exceptions to the criminal law” (p. 16). As a result of numerous social movements in support of women’s rights, significant liberal shifts have occurred in other countries. As a result, according to Berer (2017), by the end of the 20th century, about 98% of the world’s states had allowed abortions at the legislative level (p. 17). However, in most cases, these laws contained a note stating that women had the right to terminate their pregnancies only to save lives. In other words, voluntary abortions not for medical prescriptions were still illegal.

A little later, the situation began to change under public pressure. By 2002, 68% of developed countries had legalized abortions not only for medical prescriptions but also for other individual reasons, for instance, sexual abuse, a poor economic status, and other causes (Berer, 2017, p. 17). However, in many states, such a procedure remained prohibited, and specific policies limited the right to terminate pregnancy voluntarily. Although there are ethical codes and other norms that determine the rules for interaction between healthcare workers and women who have decided to have an abortion, from a legislative perspective, today, there are few initiatives. As Rubin (1993) remarks, at the end of the 20th century, policymakers did not make significant efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancies and, at the same time, did not offer useful educational opportunities. Moreover, today, even despite the official permission in many countries, opponents of abortion take initiatives to ban it as an unacceptable phenomenon, which, in turn, increases the pressure on the authorities.

At the same time, legal precedents prove that abortion can be a political subject. Sanger (2016) notes that in 2014, at the initiative of the European Union residents, women’s rights to abortion were discussed at the international level and were the object of discussions among politicians from different countries. Nonetheless, even if a legal aspect is regulated, those women who wish to terminate their pregnancy voluntarily may face challenges caused by social bias. Governments, in turn, do not carry out socially-oriented activities aimed to eliminate citizens’ archaic views on such a procedure. As a result, abortion has become a burning social issue that is not addressed as effectively as possible at the political level.

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Social Context of the Abortion Issue

In the context of relatively free legislation on abortion, many women are forced to face intense social censure. Moreover, individual groups directed against feminist movements to support the female population demand that the termination of pregnancy should be banned at the international level and equated with murder with all the ensuing consequences. However, in the era of the heyday of democratic values ​​and liberalism, an increasing number of citizens agree that the right to decide whether to have an abortion is inalienable freedom. Ho and Tsang (2012) consider social trends in contemporary Hong Kong and note that while local women value maternity status highly, they are in favor of abortion. The authors cite interviews with individual respondents who speak out in support of the right to terminate pregnancy for personal reasons and react to any criticism harshly (Ho & Tsang, 2012). This trend is widespread in different countries, which proves the relevance of the issue and the importance of its settlement at the social level.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that in the era of media technologies and free access to information, publicity is the norm. Any statement from each of the opposing sides causes a resonance that intensifies as citizens become more active. Sanger (2016) argues that today, women’s right to equality largely depends on the issue of access to abortion as an aspect that either restricts dignity or, conversely, provides it. In other words, contrary to the ideas that this procedure contradicts with moral values ​​and is the violation of ethical norms, advocates of abortion are convinced that this opportunity gives them freedom of choice. This social criterion, in turn, is an essential parameter that determines progress in the interpersonal interaction of people and corresponds to the liberal principles of the modern world.

Social bias, as a deterrent to women’s right to abortion, is the most persistent constraint. At the same time, according to Berer (2017), there are social reasons that push for the termination of pregnancy, for instance, domestic violence or a low social status. This means that to demand a complete ban on abortion, stakeholders need to do their utmost to eliminate the aforementioned stimuli and help women who have no other choice. In addition, when speaking of censure, one should take into account the medical aspect. Despite the prevailing stereotypes, the termination of pregnancy is a safe procedure from a practical standpoint and, as Berer (2017) states, entails side effects rarely in case of a professionally performed surgery. Thus, the social aspect is the most controversial, and reassessing moral values ​​can be one of the ways to convey to the opponents of abortion women’s right to the freedom of choice.

Future Perspectives on the Issue

Assessment of different perspectives on the issue of abortion and women’s right to make independent decisions helps assume that the confrontation will not end in the near future. Moreover, additional forces may be involved, for instance, religious communities. Most researchers argue that the right of women to decide whether to have an abortion is natural and should not be prohibited either at the national or international levels (Berer, 2017; Ho & Tsang, 2012; Sanger, 2016). However, in the face of pressure from various stakeholders, policymakers are unlikely to come to a consensus on this issue. Therefore, the number of feminist movements for women’s rights is likely to increase to achieve justice and equality.


Bias against women who are willing to choose whether to have an abortion is an outdated form of peoples’ attitude towards freedom and equality. Historical, legislative, and social contexts prove that the considered issue remains relevant, although, in recent decades, many efforts have been made by human rights defenders. In conditions of archaic norms and masculine domination, women’s rights are infringed upon, which is unacceptable. Based on the results of the research, the social context of the problem is the most significant, and in the future, disagreements are likely to remain due to insufficient measures to reconcile the opposing sides.


Berer, M. (2017). Abortion law and policy around the world: In search of decriminalization. Health and Human Rights, 19(1), 13-27.

Ho, P. S. Y., & Tsang, A. K. T. (2012). Sex and desire in Hong Kong. Hong Kong University Press.

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Labennett, O. (2018). “Beyoncé and her husband”: Representing infidelity and kinship in a black marriage. Differences, 29(2), 154-188. Web.

Rubin, G. S. (1993). Thinking sex: Notes for a radical theory of the politics of sexuality. In H. Abelove, M. A. Barale, & D. M. Halperin (Eds.), The lesbian and gay studies reader (pp. 3-44). Routledge.

Sanger, C. (2016). Talking about abortion. Social & Legal Studies, 25(6), 651-666. Web.

Shah, N. (2011). Stranger intimacy: Contesting race, sexuality, and the law in the North American West. University of California Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 6). Women Have the Right to Decide Whether to Have an Abortion.

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StudyCorgi. "Women Have the Right to Decide Whether to Have an Abortion." January 6, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Women Have the Right to Decide Whether to Have an Abortion." January 6, 2022.


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