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What does the subject of abortion have to do with a chapter on death? For many people in the United States, there is little or no connection. A great many Americans believe an unborn fetus is not a human life and hence that having an abortion is not taking or ending a life. As a political movement, these people call themselves “pro-choice,” placing their stress on the woman’s right to choose to give birth. In such a view, the rights of the prospective child, if any exist in the first place, are either secondary or nonexistent. Many shades of opinion exist within the pro-choice group. Some in the group think of abortion as a simple medical procedure without moral consequences, while others who support the legal right to have an abortion consider it a regrettable action that should not be encouraged as a means of birth control.

According to the opposite view, loosely termed “pro-life,” abortion is the murder of an unborn child and should be illegal, as it once was. Many, but not all, pro-life people couple their opposition to abortion with strong religious affiliations.

In 1973, the United States Supreme Court in the case of Roe vs. Wade struck down many federal and state restrictions on abortion. The court stressed a women’s right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The court attempted to balance this right against the state’s interest in protecting prenatal life, laying down a standard based on the three trimesters of pregnancy. Americans have been arguing over this controversial issue ever since. These arguments are occasionally quite emotional and loud, as in the case of marches and demonstrations on both sides. Sometimes they become violent, as in the case of a number of bombings of abortion clinics and assassinations of doctors who perform abortions.