Jazatte Dalisay is a ninth-grade student at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. This essay was composed in a class tutored by James Traub, a long-time PEN Member and coordinator of PEN’s Writers in the Schools program.

Women’s rights have greatly evolved throughout the centuries. As of 2014, women in the U.S. are entitled to their right to decide when to have a child. But there is a constant debate on whether or not abortion should remain legal in the United States. The legalization of abortion has not only kept women from danger, but has provided women with a concrete solution to unplanned pregnancies and protects their civil rights. Taking abortion off the shelf of opportunity for women will only make them seek illicit and dangerous methods to abort an unwanted child and takes away the ability of women to decide what to do with their own bodies.

It is understandable why some might think abortion is an inhumane act that is unnecessary and unlawful, especially since there are alternatives. Adoption has been seen as the perfect solution to unplanned pregnancies; women can simply give their unwanted child away to someone who wants it. With adoption, infertile couples get another chance at making a family, and the child still has a chance at life. This would seem to be the most logical, and humane thing to do. So why does abortion exist?

What people who are pro-life fail to see is the psychological and emotional damage that is inflicted on the woman during the pregnancy. If abortion were to be banned, women who have gotten pregnant through rape and/or incest would have to withstand the shame and pain of knowing that an unwanted child is growing inside them. Victims would be forced to have a constant reminder of their rape. A recent study shows that rape victims are 13 times more likely to attempt suicide, and 26 times more likely to abuse substances such as alcohol and drugs (mscu.edu). Banning abortion would mean destroying the chances of women who are victims of rape to get closure. The psychological and emotional stress can fuel their desperation to rid themselves of the fetus and make them go to great lengths to do that. According to Daniel R. Mishell, Jr., MD, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, “before abortion was legalized women would frequently try to induce abortions by using coat hangers, knitting needles, or radiator flush, or by going to unsafe “back-alley” abortionists.” In the end, banning abortion will not stop women from trying to rid themselves of the fetus, but just put their own well-being in jeopardy.

Abortion is also a concrete solution to unplanned pregnancies. Though the use of contraceptions, such as the morning-after pill, have been proven to work, it is not always as effective. “Fifty-one percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method in the month they got pregnant, most commonly condoms (27 percent) or a hormonal method (17 percent)” (guttmacher.org). Often, women and teenage girls are too afraid to speak up or don’t even know that they are pregnant, and once they realize they are, it’s already too late—contraceptions are not effective after a certain amount of time. Abortion is their last chance of terminating the pregnancy in a safe and legal way.

Lastly, keeping abortion legal protects women’s rights. Women have full control over their bodies, meaning what they do with them is their decision. If abortion were illegal, women would be stripped of this right. According to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives” (procon.org). Abortion is also viewed as a fundamental right under law. The Constitution gives “a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy,” and that “This right of privacy…is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” (procon.org). Making abortion illegal means robbing women of their rights.

Keeping abortion legal ensures a woman’s safety when faced with unplanned pregnancies, provides hope for rape victims and helps them in moving on with their lives, and protects women’s rights. Making abortion illegal does not stop women from trying to terminate a pregnancy, nor does it save lives. Rather, it does the oppositeillegalizing abortion puts women in danger and prevents them from having control over their own bodies.