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Plano, Texas, Instructional Aides, 1984. 78 p. (A Guide on Current Topics)This document provides readers with a review of the history of the controversy regarding abortion, a summary of the major positions on both sides of this debate, and an assessment of public opinion regarding abortion. It draws heavily on research materials from the Centers for Disease Control, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, and the Population Council. Chapter 1 sets the abortion issue in historical perspective. Chapter 2 focuses on US Supreme Court decisions, while Chapter 3 discusses Congressional activities. Chapter 4 presents statistical data on the abortion rate in the US, demographic characteristics of abortion seekers, abortion techniques, and abortion-related mortality. Chapter 5 surveys the status of abortion around the world. Chapter 6 presents survey results on public attitudes toward abortion. Chapters 7 and 8 include statements from national leaders who believe abortion should not and should, respectively, be outlawed, while Chapters 9 and 10 present statements on both side of the debate as to whether the moment human life begins can be determined. Appendix I presents excerpts from Vatican position papers on abortion. Appendix II summarizes US laws, state by state, that limit access to abortion. Appendix III cites federal laws restricting abortion funding. Appendix IV presents proposed abortion legislation. And finally, Appendix V lists addresses of organizations that support abortion, organizations that oppose abortion, and institutions that maintain statistics on abortions in the US. Instructional Aides provides similar documents on a number of social issues, including aging, health, immigration, minorities, and women.
BMJ. British Medical Journal. 1989 May 6; 298(6682):1231-4.The effects of the 1967 Abortion Act, legislation which extends to women living in England, Wales, and Scotland, are reviewed. The Act was not backed by any specific allocation of money for facilities or staff within the National Health Service and the service provided has varied from district to district. Yet, the number of abortions increased rapidly in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This process had slowed down by 1974, when the number of abortions dropped for the 1st time. The introduction of free contraception seems to have had an important effect; the number of abortions declined by nearly 9000 from 1973-76, and the abortion rate fell from 11.4 to 10.5/1000 women aged 15-44. The number increased in 1977 and 1978, possibly because of adverse publicity about the side effects of oral contraception (OC). The rate of abortion in Scotland, although lower than the rate in England and Wales, has risen steadily since 1969. An important effect of the 1967 Act has been to reduce the number of deaths due to illegal abortions. In the 1st decade of legal abortion, the proportion of all maternal deaths that were due to abortion dropped from 25% to 7%. The number of recorded deaths due to abortion declined from 160 during 1961-63 to 9 during 1982-84. There were 7 deaths after legal abortions during 1982-84 and 4 during 1985-87. 21 years after the passage of the Act half of all women having legal abortions pay for them. The regional differences in the provision of abortion services have persisted since 1968. The proportion of abortions performed in the 1st trimester increased from 66% in 1969 to 86% in 1987, yet the proportions of early abortions in Britain still compare poorly with other countries. In the US, women have been able to request abortion in the 1st trimester since 1974; by 1977 this led to 91% of abortions being performed in this period. Regional differences in the surgical methods persist, and there may be considerable delays between a woman asking for an abortion and the procedure being performed. A Marplan poll conducted in 1988 reported that 80% of those surveyed thought that women should have the right to choose an abortion in the 1st few months of pregnancy; 15% disagreed, and 5% did not know or did not respond. The number of women coming to Britain for abortions peaked in 1973, when 56,000 came. The rate of abortion per 1000 women in England and Wales is 14.8, a moderate figure when compared to other nations -- rates range from 5.6 in the Netherlands to 181 in the USSR.
SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW. 1987 Feb; 35(1):123-49.The activities of 2 main pressure groups in the decade of the 1970s--the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) and the LIFE organization--and the evidence they submitted to the Lane Committee, established in 1971 to examine the working of the Abortion Act, and the Select Committee, formed to discuss James White's Amendment Bill in 174, are reviewed. Official campaign literature, public statements on the part of leading anti-abortion activists, national press reports, and parliamentary debates on the issues have helped to provide some insight into the ideological stance of the anti-abortion movement in England and Wales during the 1970s. Fieldwork was undertaken which included nonparticipant observation at local branch meetings of SPUC and LIFE, the completion of a self-administered questionnaire by 64 group members, and semi-structured interviews with 25 local campaign leaders and group activists. The subsequent analysis presents anti-abortion protest as an example of moral crusade by focusing on Gusfield's notion of cultural fundamentalism and his analytical distinction between assimilative and coercive reform. Some participants in the anti-abortion campaign accept that a small number of abortions may need to be performed for genuine medical reasons and do not adopt the extreme position that abortion should be prohibited. This group does demand a change in the law to prevent mass abortion on demand. Both LIFE and SPUC have a clearly recognizable moral reform dimension. The analysis of the campaign literature and the study of a small sample of campaign activists revealed that pressure group members share a common concern about the erosion of moral standards. To adopt the terminology of Gusfield, the anti-abortion movement can be construed, in part, as a movement of cultural fundamentalism, which favors the reestablishment of traditional values and seeking an end to the moral uncertainty endemic in modern society. As the anti-abortion movement is primarily concerned about amending existing legislation, a coercive strategy of reform prevails. The analysis makes it evident that the anti-abortionists in their emphasis on fundamental values seek to promote a traditional sexual morality but also are trying to establish what they believe to be the moral superiority of the traditional nuclear family. Due to the fact that no abortion amendment bills have been proposed on which to focus their campaign, in recent years the anti-abortionists have increasingly focused on the enforcement of existing legislation in an effort to reduce the number of abortions and publicize their moral stance.
NEW REPUBLIC. 1986 Jan 27; 13-5.RU-486, a new drug which enables women to perform abortions privately at home, could transform, if not end, the abortion debate. This steroid compound, developed by the French drug company Roussel-Uclaf, blocks the cells in the lining of the uterus from receiving progesterone. Deprived of progesterone, the wall of the uterus breaks down. The ovum breaks off from the uterine wall and is discharged in a period. Unlike the "morning after" pill, RU-486 does not contain massive dosages of estrogen, which causes unhealthy side effects and thus limits its use to rape cases and other emergencies. At least 5 years away from the commercial market, RU-486 is being tested in Paris, Stockholm and the University of Southern California as a chemical alternative to surgical abortions and as a post-coital contraceptive to replace current methods like the IUD and oral contraceptives (OCs). Used instead of OC and the IUD, a woman could take the drug on the last 3 days of each cycle. If fertilization had occurred, RU-486 would prevent the ovum from implanting; if not, the drug would merely bring on her monthly period within 48 hours. Dr. Daniel Mishell of the University of California reports that his trials have revealed that 100 milligram doses of RU-486 have induced complete abortions in the first 6 weeks of pregnancy for 80% of the women who have taken it. Swedish tests have been 90% successful when RU-486 is supplemented with prostaglandins, which induce mild contractions of the uterus. Several women bled seriously in early tests, but Mishell states that fewer women have hemorrhaged in more recent trials with lower doses. He predicts the drug will prove to be safer and more effective when an optimal dose is found and tested in earlier pregnancies. If RU-486 became the abortion method of choice in the US, the abortion debate would be over for many who now consider it an open question. Polls show that the pro-life movement has failed to increase the number of Americans who support a legal ban on abortions. They have succeeded in making Americans uncomfortable about abortion generally. This soft support is vulnerable to RU-486 because polls also show that Americans oppose early abortions less fervently and in fewer numbers than late abortions. It is also likely that if RU-486 becomes the preferred method of abortion, abortion clinics in the US would close, replaced by 24-hour clinics to treat potential complications. And, if RU-486 is used monthly, pro-lifers would have a difficult time convincing the public that the drug isn't just another contraceptive. Although RU-486 erases much ambiguity in the abortion debate, it will create some. Women could take RU-486 without ever knowing whether they are pregnant.
[Health personnel in the matter of legal abortion: physicians and other personnel should have the right to refuse to perform abortions] Lakare och ovrig personal skall ha ratt vagra utfora aborter.
LAKARTIDNINGEN. 1983 Sep; 80(39):3541-5.712 responses to 765 questionnaires distributed to health care personnel revealed that, since 1975 when the abortion law came into effect in Sweden, attitudes toward abortion have become less critical than a 1972 survey had indicated. Most of the respondents (91%) were women, 50% worked in women's clinics, while the 114 control subjects were employed in psychiatric or surgical wards. Most had participated in abortion procedures (305 vacuum extractions and 296 late abortions), and only 125 had no direct experience with abortion. Most respondents (87%) had not had an abortion. Results showed that about 20% had a critical and uninformed view of legal abortion, 1/3 had difficulty with the thought of seeking an abortion, another 1/3 preferred adoption to abortion, and 50% thought society should curtail abortions. The attitudes of psychiatric staff were more liberal: 80% approved of seeking an abortion for themselves as opposed to only 50% of ob-gyn personnel. More respondents expressed a negative view of abortion in 1981 than in 1972 (only 20% approved of it in cases where there was no medical risk to the mother, whereas 37% had approved of it in 1972). Most respondents thought that the decision to seek abortion should also involve men, and to a lesser degree, gynecologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. The majority (92.8%) approved of extensive counseling prior to abortion. 64% approved of special abortion clinics and also gave a positive response to the question of whether performing abortions was one of the duties of physicians. Another 46% of the respondents agreed that medical personnel had the right to deny abortion. A large percentage (66%) considered the abortion procedure a negative experience, especially doctors and operating room nurses. The majority of respondents (344 = 80%) thought that better information about contraception, fetal development, and sexuality would help reduce prevailing abortion figures. About 1/2 of those surveyed also favored a more restrictive abortion law. Finally, many respondents stressed that socio-economic factors, employment, and male attitudes about child rearing contributed to individual decisions.
Hastings Center Report. 1986 Feb; 16(1):33-42.The prochoice movement in its most political manifestation is particularly vulnerable to recent medical and scientific developments. It has never made sufficient room in its public stance for a serious consideration of the fetus. Simultaneously, by deliberately cultivating a supposedly neutral, therapeutic language toward the medical act of abortion, calling it a "procedure," a "termination of pregnancy," and so on, it mistakenly seems to think it can pacify and comfort the conscience, minimizing and denaturing some unmistakeable realities. Medical and scientific developments which threaten the prochoice movement include the lowering age of viability, the emergence of neonatal medicine, the use of the sonogram, embryological knowledge, and late abortions. In attempting to understand the possible impact of the medical developments on the abortion debate, their interaction with other crucial ingredients in the debate will be important. Of special significance are public opinion, the question of the personhood of the fetus, pertinent court decisions and trends, and feminist arguments and political tactics. There is still time for prochoice adherents to show themselves as willing in practice as in theory to concede the moral uncertainty of abortion decisions. If that is not done, the combination of the new medical developments and too many people for too long holding their doubts at bay may well begin shifting opinions. In that event, the prochoice movement will have done itself far more damage than those who try to stop it by bombing abortion clinics.
Policy Review. 1985 Spring; (32):18-9.Despite the marked polarization on the abortion issue, as expressed by prolife and prochoice advocates, the American public has mixed and uncertain views on abortion. A slight majority of the public favors legal abortion, but the majority does not favor abortion in all cases. According to a 1975 Gallup poll, 55% of the public believed abortion should be legal only in certain situations, 20%-25% believed it should be legal in all situations, and 15%-20% believed it should be illegal in all cases. In a 1972 survey at least 79% of those interviewed approved of abortion if the health of the mother was endangered, in cases of rape, and if the fetus was defective. In a 1985 Gallup poll, 58% of those interviewed thought that all abortions, except those for incest, rape, and to preserve the life of the mother, should be illegal. In general, the public supports abortion only in those situations where the pregnancy is beyond the control of the woman, and these abortions constitute only a small proportion of those performed in the US each year. Since 1972 the majority of the public has not supported abortion to prevent illegitimate births or because a woman does not want any more children. Since 1972 abortions for economic reasons have, at times, been supported by the majority and, at other times, have been disapproved of by the majority. In general, women want more restrictions on abortion than men. Protestants and Catholics have similar views on abortion in most situations. The 1985 Gallup poll indicated tha 58% of the public felt abortion laws should be made more restrictive. 38% of those polled alos said that they sometimes questioned their own opinions on abortion.
Trends and patterns in the attitudes of the public toward legal abortion in the United States, 1972-1978.
Research in Nursing and Health. 1985 Sep; 8(3):219-225.The attitudes of the public toward legal abortion in the US were studied for the period 1972-78. Purposes of the study were to: 1) analyze the trends and patterns in attitudes toward legal abortion in that period; 2) assess the possible effect of selected demographic, socioeconomic, religious, and fertility variables on attitudes towards legal abortion; and 3) determine the relationship between attitudes toward abortion and attitudes toward selected related issues such as premarital sex, sex education in public schools, birth control for teens and for anyone who desires it, and woman's role in the home, business, and politics. The independent variables found to have an effect on attitude toward abortion were: age, sex, marital status, geographic region, size of place, education, occupational prestige, women's employment status, religious preference, denomination, strength of religious preference, frequence of attendance at religious services, number of siblings, number of children, number of children expected in the future, and ideal family size. The data were drawn from the General Social Surveys (GSS) conducted by the National Opinion Research Center each year between 1972-78. A total of 10,652 respondents completed the interviews. Attitudes toward abortion were derived from combining the responses to 6 items which required the respondents to indicate whether or not it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion. Using the Guttman scalogram analysis, responses to the abortion items were tested for scalability and were found to scale well. The single largest group of respondents approved for legal abortion for all of the 6 reasons mentioned and the next largest group approved it only for the hard reasons (woman's health, rape, and possible child deformity). Trends in attitudes toward legal abortion were analyzed by percentage distribution. 2 major shifts in trend were noted in the attitudes of the public toward legal abortion in the abovementioned period. In 1973, the percentage of approval rose considerably for each of the 6 reasons. In 1978, the 2nd shift occurred when the percentage of approval declined sharply for all but the reasons of woman's health and rape. Both shifts followed important judicial and congressional decisions made in the US with respect to the abortion issue. Generally speaking, younger, white, never-married respondents, and those who lived in the Pacific, Mid-Atlantic, and New England regions, and in the large central cities were slightly more favorable toward abortion than were their counterparts. Education proved to be the most important socioeconomic variable in explaining the variability of attitude toward abortion. Jews showed the most favorable attitude and Catholics the least favorable attitudes toward abortion. Those who came from small families, or who had small families themselves, or who favored small family size ideal were more favorable toward abortion than those connected to larger families. Significant positive associations were found between attitudes toward premarital sex, sex education in public schools, availability of birth control information for teens, woman's role in the home, business, and politics, and attitudes toward abortion. Variability in attitudes toward abortion among white adults in the US between 1972-78 was best explained by the frequency of attendance at religious services combined with the variables of education, family size ideal, attitude toward available of birth control information to teens, attitude toward sex education in public schools, and attitude toward women's role in the home, business, and politics. (author's modified)