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The best abortion debate topics for an academic paper

Abortion is a subject that inspires constant debate in nearly every society. It is discussed at all levels, from casual arguments and political debates up to scientific studies. When dealing with the subject at an academic level, though, the subjects for discussion are likely to be slightly different from, and more technical than, the ones that come up on a TV chat show. Religious beliefs probably won't be discussed except as a complicating factor, for example, and concepts such as rights may get less emphasis. Here are some likely topics for an academic paper.

  • The capacity of the fetus to feel pain. Whether arguing against abortion entirely or looking for a suitable time limit to place on it, the issue of whether or not the fetus can feel pain is likely to be important. If it can feel pain then abortion is deliberately inflicting suffering, which even by a liberal definition may not actually be necessary, on a living being. This is generally frowned upon in civilized societies and is a very powerful argument for at least limiting the point at which an abortion can be carried out. The evidence on the issue is not yet clear. It's obvious that before a nervous system develops the fetus can't feel pain, but not so certain at what point its brain is sufficiently developed to do so.
  • The relation between late abortion and premature birth. In the past, abortion was often limited to around the 28th week of pregnancy and any baby born before that was likely to have died anyway. Now, however, the limit is usually down to around 20 weeks and improved medical science has brought the lowest age of viable birth quite close to that; the most premature baby born alive was 21 weeks and 6 days into pregnancy. However it has been established that only 20% of children born between 22 and 25 weeks into pregnancy are not disabled, with 58% suffering from severe or catastrophic disability.
  • Mental health issues. It is often argued that abortion risks causing depression and other mental health issues for the woman. Studies have shown, though, that there is no correlation; for women with unplanned pregnancies, the risk of mental health issues is the same whether they carry the baby to term or abort it. On the other hand there are cases where not having an abortion may run the risk of severe mental health problems. Victims of rape and incest, for example, frequently develop coping strategies to disassociate themselves from the attack; these include frequent washing and avoiding situations that remind them of the crime or provoke anxiety. Having to carry an unavoidable physical reminder for nine months may be extremely traumatic and delay any possibility of recovery. When the pregnancy becomes visible the victim may also see it as stigmatizing her.

Abortion is undeniably an unpleasant procedure. There are legitimate arguments on both sides, though, and the issue is best resolved by reasoned debate than hysterical mudslinging about baby killers and woman haters. Well researched and written papers on these issues could make a very valuable contribution.


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