(10a) Abortion - pro and contra
Today (07/07/2012), I read an article in the Guardian entitled "Belfast protests put focus on Irish abortion crisis" about the absence of the right for abortion in Ireland, even when the foetus is disabled or has such a severe illness that the child will not survive after birth. Three women spoke about the cruelty of the system in their country that does not mind children are born disabled and dying. There will be protests on the streets, from pro-choice as well as from anti-abortion (so called pro-life) demonstrators. Ireland is even so backwards that it added in 1983 an amendment to its constitution claiming that each embryo after conception (thus even during the first weeks after conception) is officially an Irish citizen while even nature may decide to abort the child. Ireland is a Roman-Catholic country where its leaders listen to religious people and thus do not respect the wishes of other members of their own society.
Firstly, I am against abortion as birth control because I find there are many ways of preventing a pregnancy: contraception such as the contraceptive pill or a condom. But here we have another big problem: in many religious countries politicians also oppose contraception because religious leaders tell them it is wrong. Many christian churches even go further: people should not have sex if they don't want children, otherwise they have to raise whoever is born. They even claim in many countries, especially in less developed countries where people are less (not at all) educated that contraception is sinful in the eyes of God, thus discouraging people to use contraception. Some religious people even go so far telling lies that condoms do not protect against AIDS and as a consequence AIDS can continue to spread (therefore, poor people should be educated so they understand some people are lying). But this is not only in countries in Europe or developing countries, remember the anger (and still) in the USA when President Obama decided every woman should be able to buy contraception (thus need no longer abortion for birth control) while he allowed religious organisations the right not to provide the contraception (during a short research before publishing this article I saw an American Catholic priest threatening with war between what he considers good (anti-abortion) and evil (pro-choice), even mildly threatening the president). Thus, while many religious people (even hypocrites who had an abortion in secret while condemning those who speak openly about it) preach against killing unborn children they also preach against a cure for abortion: preventing one becomes pregnant with an unwanted or disabled child. (There are of course also none-religious people against abortion).
But, although I am against abortion as a way of birth control because other ways exist to prevent unwanted pregnancies, I find abortion should be allowed in a few circumstances. I describe a few:
1) The unborn baby will not survive after birth (e.g. severe defects during development such as no brains or severe heart problems) or the person will have a miserable life due to a progressive degenerative illnesses that will end with death at a young age (e.g. some muscle diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy although a number of these diseases have now some kind of treatments to improve and extend life). The latter is because of hereditary illnesses that causes much suffering to the child and to the parents who see their child suffering. One way of helping potential parents who carry problematic genes is to screen the fertilised eggs for damaged genes and only implant healthy eggs; this will also eliminate the disease in the longer term as only healthy babies without damaged genes will be born. Of course, this doesn't mean that people born with an illness should not be helped to make their life as enjoyable as possible but those who will not be born will never know how life could have been. And here a false argument is used by "pro-life" activists who claim that all life should be born even when it has no quality because they say all humans who are born are happy. But an article in the "New Scientist" of 29/10/2011 (Children who sue for being born) describes Israeli children with birth defects suing the medical authorities for ever allowing them to be born (so called wrongful life) as some experience life is hell. Thus, abortion is not allowed, then people who are born with severe illnesses should have the choice to have euthanasia if they hate their life (again something forbidden by "pro-life" groups).
2) Another reason is when the woman is raped and doesn't want a child that will remind her each time she sees the child about the rape. Of course, not all of these children are unwanted and it should be the mother that makes the decision whether or not to allow the child to be born. A few years ago, I read an article about a girl of about eleven who was raped by her stepfather and as a consequence became pregnant. To save her life (doctors said she was too young to survive the pregnancy), doctors aborted the foetus. The Catholic Church condemned the doctors and the girl's mother (the girl was too young to be condemned they claimed) and they were no longer considered members of the church (a serious punishment in that country). What about the stepfather, why did the church not condemn the man responsible for the girl's pregnancy more firmly (unless they did and this was not reported)?
3) The woman is too poor to be able to look after the child so that the child will live an unhappy and hungry life and thus she should be able to abort the child. Of course, she should have prevented becoming pregnant but that is not always possible (accident (although then one should take the morning-after pill), an abusive husband). Many (although many not) children born in a poor household need to steal food or other things in order to have a nice life (read books by Victor Hugo or Charles Dickens who write about this). Often, anti-abortion campaigners do not mind a harsh punishment for the stealing child and even for the parents because they claim the parents didn't look well after her child (while they could have educated them to use contraception in order to prevent pregnancy). In the worse case, the child becomes a criminal and many "pro-life" campaigners will not mind the death penalty while "those against life" (pro-choice people) will often protest against the death penalty because they see the destruction of a life.
Thus, I am pro-choice, that people can make informed choices in life with respect to themselves and others. People should be able to make a choice but after consultations and delays so the choice can be well-thought off and not in a panic moment.
A final note. One should also consider the father because if the woman refused to use contraception but then wants to terminate the pregnancy against the will of the father, maybe the woman should not be allowed abortion but should continue the pregnancy and give the child afterwards to the father. Thus, she does not have to look after an unwanted child while the father is not hurt by loosing a child he wanted. Not all fathers flee their responsibilities.