February 22, 2011 4 Comments
In the UK, a bid to relax abortion laws was recently thrown out. Should women be allowed to take the second pill at home? Yes, absolutely. In the comfort of their own space, perhaps in the company of their loved ones… This is preferable to a cold, sterile clinic.
In America, pro-lifers are campaigning for abortion to be totally outlawed, and pro-choicers are campaigning for abortion rights. The latest in this is conflict is that the House have voted to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, America’s “leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate.” And there is very little chance of a compromise between the two.
Statistically, suicide rates are higher in women who have had abortions. There is very little statistical evidence for mothers who give their children up for adoption. But there are statistics for children who have been adopted – again, a higher suicide rate in adoptees.
In the first instance, it is difficult to directly relate this to the act of the abortion itself – who knows why people choose to end their lives? Perhaps due to social stigma created by pro-lifers. Perhaps due to natural hormones, that occur when a woman is carrying a baby. Perhaps guilt. It’s difficult to quantify an action and say that one thing caused it – I would argue that just as many carry out suicide out of the social stigma, as much as feeling guilt for the loss of life. Therefore, it would be narrow-minded to see the correlation between abortions and suicide, and cite the act of abortion as the only cause, when there are a plethora of variables involved.
In the second instance, doesn’t this prove that adoption (as an alternative to aborting unwanted pregnancies) is a bad thing? Mentally damaging for the child, who has to go through life feeling unwanted – questioning themselves.
It’s a tricky situation – there are different circumstances that arise. And in order to cater for this, laws need to be flexible. I would guess that nobody wants to have an abortion. It is a traumatic, stressful and harrowing experience for the mother.
From a feminist point of view, I obviously am pro-choice. Not only because I don’t think any law should force people to do things with their bodies against their will – but I know people who have been in that situation, and I understand that there are many varied reasons for wanting to abort children … All of which must, in my mind, be catered for.
1) Rape – this is the most pressing reason I think abortion should be allowed… It could happen to anyone at any time, and despite what some people may have you think, rape is never about sex or attractiveness – it is not about whether you are wearing a mini-skirt, if you are drunk, or if you are wearing a suit… Anyone can be raped, at any time, and the only ‘justification’ and explanation for it is ‘wrong place, wrong time’. Not only is rape a horrific psychological experience that many women lose a lot of time recovering from – but imagine how awful it would be to give birth to your rapist’s baby. Awful. And then having to explain to your child that they were not born out of a relationship, but because the law would not allow you to abort. I can think of few things more distressing.
2) Medical reasons. If a woman will likely die during childbirth, or if there are complications in the pregnancy, then is it right for the pregnancy to continue? Is the baby’s life worth more than the mother’s? Pro-lifers claim abortions are like murder and against the human rights of the fetus. The counter-argument is that one isn’t a human until one is born.. Though in America there are certain rights applied to a fetus. At which point does a fetus change from being a bundle of cells to an actual life-form, living, feeling pain and existing inside the womb? Scientific evidence has been found to quantify arguments both for and against fetus’ feeling pain. Most abortions are carried out before 8 weeks, and it is widely accepted that a fetus can feel pain between 20-28 weeks (although that article backs up the 28-week argument).
3) Incapacity to provide a good life for the child. If the mother is young, financially insecure, or mentally ill – is it right that she be forced to have a child that she cannot look after? Of course, adoption is an alternative after birth, but there are issues with this too, not least, the suicide rate in adoptees – as shown above – is higher than average. What about the mental state of the mother after she gives birth and has to part with her baby?
There’s a lot of contention about when a fetus becomes an actual baby, or can feel pain – and the pain/harm aspect is, as I have seen, a key argument for pro-lifers. In order to feel pain, one must have a nervous system, and a brain that can process the signals from the nervous system, to pain. It is thought that a fetal nervous system begins forming at the 3rd week and by the 24th week, the nervous system is complete, and the brain starts to control bodily functions. So it could be argued, it is then that the fetus becomes a life form in its own right – though babies have been known to survive after being born at less than 22 weeks.
In the UK, abortion is allowed up until 24 weeks, and in the US abortion laws are slightly more complicated – though this PDF file lists the states and the law regarding abortions. My view is, abortion should be legal until the point that the baby feels pain, as is scientifically proven. And the women that go through it should be supported – both emotionally and financially if necessary – not shunned.