The case against abortionMay 29, 2012, 7:25 pm
By Dr. Rupa Wickramaratne
Central to the debate on abortion is the fact that abortion is the denial of the fundamental right to life. Induced abortion is the deliberate destruction of an innocent, defenceless human being.
Preservation of foetal life
Embryonic and foetal lives have been regarded as special and of value since the time of Hippocrates, who undertook the first anatomical studies of man in ancient Greece. Pregnant women have always been treated with respect in all cultures, in recognition of the developing human life within them. The ancient Romans required that Caesarean section be performed on all women who die while carrying a viable foetus. This indicates that the foetus is not disposable and that its precious life must be preserved whenever possible.
More recently, the unborn child has been regarded as a patient. In the nineteen-sixties Dr. A.W. Liley, one of the world’s leading obstetricians, performed an infra-uterine transfusion to treat an unborn infant afflicted with RH disease. Since then many advances have been made, the most dramatic being surgical operation on the unborn. Dr. Stanley Asensio of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine took the foetus out of the mother’s womb, performed an operation and then replaced it, to be delivered later as a healthy normal child. It was recently reported that the reaction of the foetus during such surgery has been filmed; the human responses seen moved the observers, including the parents, to tears.
Abortion hurts the mother too
The process of abortion is horrendous. A mother’s body protects and nourishes her baby during pregnancy. Abortion interrupts these bodily functions and, apart from the mental trauma and physical pain of the abortion, may have harmful and long-term mental and physical effects for the mother. It is a violent death for the child.
Rape and Incest
Rape and incest are often used as justification for abortion. Countries like the UK and the USA, which today have extremely high abortion rates and where rape and allied crimes persist, all began their Abortion Law Reforms by moving toward a liberalized abortion law for ‘special circumstances. In 1938, Mr. Aleck Bourne, a London gynaecologist, openly performed an abortion on a 14-year-old girl who had been raped by two soldiers. At his trial, the judge, Judge MacNaughten, liberally interpreted the words of the exception clause of the 1929 Infant Life Preservation Act and Mr. Bourne was acquitted. The Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) was formed in 1939; it devoted itself to the passage of a liberal abortion law, and was behind the seven abortion bills introduced into Parliament without success before David Steel brought in his bill in 1967. The proponents of the bill went to great lengths to assure everyone that it was not abortion on demand that was being legalized. They spoke instead of the ‘hard’ cases, the women with six children, the raped schoolgirl, the deaths from backstreet abortions and the astronomical number of illegal abortions. It is of interest that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) warned of the implications and possible outcome of what was proposed. It is reported that "their advice was in certain important aspects disregarded but subsequent events have shown how fully justified were their forebodings." It is also of interest that Mr. Aleck Bourne subsequently joined the ranks of the anti-abortionists.
On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision entitled Roe vs. Wade, consequent to which abortion was legalized on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy in all 50 states. Norma McCorvey, known as ‘Jane Roe’, later admitted that she had lied to her lawyer about being raped; in 1995, she gave up her job as Marketing Director for an abortion clinic in Dallas, Texas, and publicly renounced her role in the pro-abortion movement. In an ABC Television interview, she spoke of how she had been haunted for years by the abortion landslide that followed the Supreme Court decision. Twenty-five years on, she had switched sides and was a vocal anti-abortionist. She started a strategy to fight abortion through a network of mobile counselling clinics for pregnant women via a ministry called "Roe-No-More".
Rape and incest are often the result of ignorance. Rape is difficult to define and incest difficult to prove. Statistics show that the victims of such violence, if they do become pregnant, do not always want an abortion but the decision is foisted on them by others. However, pregnancy resulting from criminal rape is reported to be extremely rare. A ten year study in Minnesota showed zero pregnancies in 3500 forcible rape cases. A Czechoslovakian study showed out of 86 000 consecutive abortions, only 22 were done for rape. The victims of rape and incest suffer intensely, even when they do not become pregnant.
Rape and incest are crimes which must be addressed by society but the solution is not abortion. Clearly abortion can never be a solution to the climes of rape and incest they are all unnatural violent acts. Victims of rape and incest are overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and low self-worth and hate themselves. They need kindness, protection and reassurance. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure, although abortion can hardly be termed a cure. Statistics show that the ready availability of abortion has only resulted in the escalation of the rates of all these crimes. It is essential that the right type of sex education, preferably within a loving family environment, is provided for both girls and boys – for girls to take necessary precautions to safeguard themselves and for boys, so that they take responsibility for their sexuality. This way, the incidence of these crimes may be lowered.
Survivors of attempted abortion
There have been instances of aborted children being born alive. A British newspaper reported that a one pound ten ounce girl was found to be breathing after being aborted at a state hospital. The doctors fought to keep her alive in a respirator but she died, having lived for 38 hours. The mother, in her 23rd week of pregnancy had sought an abortion, fearing that her recent contact with a carrier of German measles might leave the child blind or brain damaged. The mother went home from hospital, shortly before the baby girl died, asking not to be identified.
In another instance, also in Britain, Marie Hope, 29, was told by the doctors that her baby had no chance of survival, after a routine X-ray apparently revealed the absence of a brain. She was told that the child’s skull had not developed and the only option was termination. Birth was induced at 27 weeks; Mrs. Hope spent four days in labour after which Lauren was born, weighing only three pounds. The gynaecologist admitted a mistake and told Mrs. Hope she had delivered a perfectly normal little girl, but very premature. Fifteen months later Lauren was found to have cerebral palsy, affecting all four limbs, caused by a lack of oxygen during birth. She was never monitored throughout the birth as she had been condemned to death. When the child was eight years old she was awarded compensation of over a million pounds sterling as the hospital admitted liability, stating that the indications were very strong that if Lauren had gone through a full pregnancy she would have been normal. This shows that pre-birth screening can give false results and condemn healthy children to death
I recall reading a magazine article in which children who escaped abortion had been interviewed after they had grown up; they said how glad they were to be alive. In a letter to the London Daily Telegraph, three disabled people wrote: "The first of us has two useless arms and hands; the second two useless legs; and the third use of neither arms nor legs. We were fortunate.... in having been allowed to live and we want to say with strong conviction how thankful we are that no one took it upon himself to destroy us as useless cripples."It is also relevant that there are no records of organizations of parents of mentally retarded children ever endorsing abortion.
The slippery slope
The path to liberalized/legalized abortion has indeed been a slippery slope. The legalization of abortion, originally for so-called "humane reasons" has opened the door to a more callous disregard for human life. What was initially passed off as "innocent and humane steps" considering the "hard cases" have led to the killing of those considered socially "undesirable". Both Aleck Bourne and Jane Roe (alias Norma McCorvey) have repented of their part in opening the flood-gates leading to liberalized abortion/ abortion on demand, and tried to make amends by engaging in anti-abortion activity. But consideration of abortion statistics shows that it isn’t easy to stem the tide.
The reported total abortions worldwide over the period 1922 to 2010 is 863,000,000 and the estimated figure is 950,000,000. The estimated current global monthly average is 1,237 000.
More detailed statistics are available for the US. From 1967 to September 2008, approximately 50 200 000 abortions occurred in the US. Around 1.4 million abortions occur annually, i.e. over 3000 abortions every day and about two a minute. As of 2008, it is estimated that about 28% of US women ages 15-64 has had an abortion. This figure has risen from 2.8% in 1973 to 11% in 1980, 19% in 1987, 24% in 1994 and 27% in 2001. In 2008, of women aged 40 -55, about 40% had had abortions in their lifetimes. Of the women who opt for abortion, 61 % already have one or more children.
Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies in the US end with induced abortion. The most widely cited reasons are the desire to postpone childbearing and inability to take care of the baby. Other common reasons include facing problems in relationships, being too young to carry a baby or the fact that having a baby would disrupt professional life.
The figures for teenage pregnancies and teenage abortions are as follows: girls belonging to the age group 17-19 years constitute 11 % of the overall cases of abortion, 15-18 years 6% and 14 years and below 0.4 %. Amongst 25-year-old women, while 32% obtained abortions in 1980-87, this figure dropped to 26% in 2001 and 21 % in 2008. This may be due to a shift in attitudes toward abortion.
"Gendercide" and "After-birth abortion"
The London Telegraph reported recently that babies were being culled in the UK because of their gender. In countries like China and India, female babies are unwelcome in certain societies. Aborting girls is seen as the modem alternative to the primitive practice of killing unwanted, live female babies. Amartya Sen, the economist has estimated that in 1990, 100 million girls had "disappeared". The story is told of a woman in the UK, 12 weeks pregnant, explaining to the doctor at the clinic that she and her partner wished to terminate the pregnancy as they "don’t want a girl". The doctor remarked that that was like female infanticide but proceeded to fill out the form for the abortion, casually giving the reason for the abortion as "too young for pregnancy".
The Telegraph Group also reported recently that a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued that the moral state of an infant is comparable to that of a foetus, and that the killing of newborns is no different to abortion as already practiced. They prefer to use the phrase "after-birth abortion" rather than infanticide and argue that such killings should be allowed in all cases where abortion is permitted including cases where the newborn is not disabled. Dr. Trevor Stammers, director of medical ethics at St. Mary’s University College states that the term "after-birth abortion" is verbal manipulation, not philosophy, and he could then refer to abortion as "antenatal infanticide".
The greatest destroyer of world peace
At her Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, Mother Theresa condemned abortion as the greatest destroyer of man in the world today and made a plea for an end to legalized abortion. She insisted that the greatest destroyer of world peace was abortion as there was no difference between a mother killing her own child and people killing each other. She stated that her sisters were willing to take in every unwanted child in their fight against abortion.
In conclusion, I would say that as far as Sri Lanka is concerned, there is no need for newly proposed moral boundaries. A rare instance when an evil act might be morally defensible or excused is no argument for a change in the law or for a redrafting of our attitudes to life. In such cases the law is best maintained, but with leniency and understanding. It is essential that we learn from the mistakes made by those countries which trod the path before us; some of them are now trying to reverse the laws or make them stricter but when the fences are removed the herd scatters and gathering them together again is no easy task.
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Last Updated May 24 2013 | 07:02 pm