Darcy Keenan, Columnist

Last week I was lucky enough to have Jacque Daugherty guest lecture in my human sexuality class (FSW 365).  She is a sociologist and works with the Western Program (AKA Individualized Studies) here on campus. She came to class to talk about abortion, and it was so much more than I envisioned it being.

Dr. Daugherty’s first point was that most of us don’t even really know what abortion is – abortion is the term for the termination of any pregnancy at any time, for any reason.  This means that a miscarriage is a type of abortion; miscarriages are called spontaneous abortions.  The abortions that we often debate the legality of are induced abortions, which can be legally done in two ways.

First, there is the medical abortion, which is done with pills. The patient will orally take a pill at the office and then go home and insert a second pill into the vagina. This causes contractions which causes the fetus to pass through the cervix and vagina.  One cannot have a medical abortion more than 70 days after their missed period, which means that the fetus will be no larger than an inch and a half. The patient will need to go back to the doctor at least once in the following weeks for an ultrasound that will check if the fetus has been completely removed.

The second type is the surgical abortion. This can be performed at up to 24 weeks of gestation, but in many states (like Ohio) abortion is illegal after 20 weeks.  There are three different types of surgical abortions: vacuum aspiration, dilation and curettage (D&C) and dilation and evacuation (D&E).

Vacuum aspirations are when the fetus is suctioned out of the womb, can be performed between five and 12 weeks, and takes 10 to 15 minutes; D&C abortions are when the cervix is dilated and a special instrument is used to scrape along the uterine lining and remove everything inside. They can be performed between four and 12 weeks, and it takes 10 to 15 minutes, although recovery time in the hospital may last up to five hours; D&E abortions require forceps to be inserted into the uterus to grasp the fetus and pull it out. They can be performed between weeks 12 and 24, and take about 30 minutes to complete.

D&E abortions are by far the least common types of abortions. They are typically performed when the life of the mother is in danger or the fetus has some kind of abnormality that will greatly diminish its quality of life.

Daugherty then moved on to talk about what pro-life and pro-choice actually mean, but she first made a point to tell us that she did not like those terms. Abortion is not a binary issue; it is more than yes or no. To be fully and truly pro-life means to think that life begins at the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg – before the zygote even implants in the uterine lining. Because of this, those who are pro-life are against all forms of contraception that involve hormones. Barrier types of contraception are a gray area for these people. Oral birth control, birth control patches, implants, IUDs, and Plan B are all things that the pro-life side should oppose.

The facts she shared about the pro-choice side were more or less what I expected. To be fully and truly pro-choice means that you want women to have the ability to get an abortion if they want up to the third trimester, the age of viability. The pro-choice side does not have opinions on birth control or any other contraceptives – they focus solely on abortion.

Both sides, however, have a common goal: to decrease abortions.  Daugherty shared some really interesting statistics about how that could be done. The first point she brought up was that in areas where abortion is illegal, the rates of abortions increase.  This is because typically, the legality of abortion goes hand in hand with the education of abortion, which goes hand in hand with the sex education.

Countries that have criminalized abortion usually do not have good sex education, which means that people are less aware of how they can prevent pregnancy, how to take care of pregnancies and how to end them. With better comprehensive sex education comes more responsible citizens who understand the importance of contraception and practicing safe sex, which leads to less unplanned pregnancies, which leads to less abortion.

Abortions are going to happen if they are legal or not. Keeping them legal keeps them safe.  Regardless of your political beliefs, I urge you to research abortion and question the facts that you believe and that shaped your views.