There is confusion among people generally on the matter of abortion. This confusion is especially unhelpful at the present time, when (thanks to the efforts of certain pro-life politicians) abortion is making headlines in the newspapers and appears likely to be debated in the Federal Parliament.
In an effort to clear up some of the confusions surrounding abortion, I offered several arguments in defence of the unborn* in the April issue of Life News. In this, the second instalment of a three-part article, I offer several more.
Right to Choose
Proponents of abortion claim to be “pro-choice”. Through this euphemism they imply that opponents of abortion are somehow opposed to women’s rights. This simply is not true.
Those who support an unborn child’s right to life also support a woman’s right to choose in matters of sex, procreation and parenting. Every woman has a right to choose to marry or not to marry. She has a right to choose the times and circumstances for sexual intimacy with her husband. She has a right to choose to use or not to use non-abortive contraception. She has a right to choose to keep her child or (if she cannot cope) to offer him up for adoption. She has a right to receive full emotional and financial support from her child’s father. But she does not have a “right” to choose to kill her child. No such “right” exists.
A woman’s right to choose is limited by her child’s right to life. The right to life underlies every other right, because without it a person cannot exercise any other right. No one enjoys the right to choose who does not first enjoy the right to life. Consequently, the right to life must take precedence over the right to choose. The right to choose is limited, but the right to life is absolute.
Right to Life of the Mother
Every human being has a right to life. This includes, of course, pregnant women. Consequently, on the exceptionally rare occasion when a woman is in mortal danger from the continuation of a pregnancy, her life cannot be forfeited against her will for the sake of the baby’s. Where there is a genuine conflict between the right to life of the child and the right to life of the mother, it is legitimate to choose in favour of the mother.
However, “abortion” is hardly an appropriate term in such a tragic circumstance, for the intention is quite different. A doctor who induces labour and delivers the child of a woman who is about to die from toxaemia, for example, intends not to kill the child but to save the mother. And there is always the hope that the premature child, too, can be saved. If this hope proves vain, a death occurs, but not a murder.
Pro-abortionists often claim that abortion is a “women’s issue” about which men have no right to speak. While it is true that abortion is of particular concern to women, it is not of exclusive concern to them. Men are also concerned about it for six reasons.
Firstly, all men were once unborn children. They therefore share a common heritage and humanity with the unborn. Having escaped abortion themselves, men have a legitimate concern to help others escape.
Secondly, half the children aborted are males. Even if they are denied the right to defend unborn girls, men cannot be denied the right to speak against the killing of unborn boys.
Thirdly, women do not get pregnant by themselves. Every child has a father, and fathers have a right to love and protect their sons and daughters.
Fourthly, the right to life is not a gender-specific issue. Men have just as much interest in the sanctity of human life as women.
Fifthly, men, no less than women, are moral beings capable of making moral judgments, even on matters outside their direct experience. Just as a person who is unaffected by ethnic cleansing in Rwanda or Bosnia can make a moral judgment about ethnic cleansing, so a person who is unaffected by abortion can make a moral judgment about abortion.
Sixthly, men, no less than women, are emotional beings capable of empathising with others. They can—and many do—feel distress at the plight of babies who face a gruesome death by abortion. Furthermore, they can—and many do—feel distress at the plight of women who suffer grief and guilt after having abortions. They have a right, therefore, to strive to save babies from death and mothers from guilt.
On a negative note, men have a right to speak against abortion because many of their own gender are implicated in the crime. Husbands and boyfriends often urge women to have abortions. Some even bully and blackmail women to do so. Good men have not just a right but an obligation to counter the actions of bad men.
Besides, pro-abortionists are hypocritical when they demand that men keep out of the abortion issue. What they really mean is that pro-life men must keep out. They don’t at all mind male journalists writing pro-abortion articles or male politicians giving pro-abortion speeches or male judges giving pro-abortion rulings or male doctors performing abortions. They want to silence men (and women, for that matter) who don’t agree with them.
Many people claim that abortion is a “health issue”. This is quite untrue. Few of the 100,000 abortions performed annually in Australia are performed for health reasons. They are performed because men and women find it emotionally or socially or economically inconvenient to have a child.
I don’t want a baby. I’m not ready to become a mother. My life will be disrupted. My career will be set back. My lifestyle will be ruined. Our relationship will suffer. These are the sorts of excuses women give for having abortions, and they clearly have no bearing on physical health.
In all bar the most exceptional cases, abortion has nothing to do with preserving good health—at least, so far as the mother is concerned. As far as the baby is concerned, it destroys good health. Abortion, it has been said, is the only operation known to mankind where two people go into the operating theatre and only one comes out.
In the context of health, it is worth noting that abortion is not always a routine, safe operation, as advocates of abortion would have women believe.Many complications can arise from the procedure.
Haemorrhaging, laceration to the cervix, perforation of the uterus, infection in the fallopian tubes and/or the ovaries: these are some of the well-documented short-term complications that can arise from abortion. Long term complications can include heavy menstrual bleeding, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, infertility, and a heightened risk of breast cancer.
The possible medical complications are minor compared to the probable emotional complications arising from abortion. Guilt, depression and anger are experiences common to women who abort their babies.
The emotional and mental trauma suffered by many women after abortion is poignantly expressed by one young woman, Samantha, in a university student newspaper. Samantha, a first year arts student, reveals how as a teenager she became pregnant to a twenty-one year old man. He refused to marry her, and her mother urged her to have an abortion.
“My Mother had virtually convinced my Father that for me to have this baby would be the ruination of my life,” Samantha writes. “In retrospect, me not having the baby was the ruination of my life … I was 17, confused and severely emotionally traumatised. I passively accepted their solution.”
Samantha continues: “We now reach the point of no return. The night my pregnancy was terminated. I know that for [my boyfriend] the horror of that night has left him and only remains as a distant memory. To an extent that is true of my Mother as well. However, for me, that night lives in my memory and dreams, causing distress almost regularly and it’s now six years since the event.”
In the same newspaper, another student wrote: “There is something really quite strange about actively seeking to have a new life scraped and vacuumed from your uterus … I couldn’t work for the first six months [after the abortion]. I couldn’t know, from one hour to the next, whether I would be crying hysterically … immobile in depression, or tentatively daring to function as a human being. I would sometimes be depressed for three weeks at a time, dressing and preparing meals was as much [as] I could do.”
Depression can be a precursor to suicide, and various studies have found that women who have had abortions are six-to-nine times more likely than other women to commit suicide.
Part 3 of “Arguments against abortion” will appear in the August issue of Life News.
* These arguments are taken from my pamphlet, “In Defence of the Unborn”, which is available from Life Ministries, 4/334 Wanneroo Road, Nollamara, WA 6061. Phone: (08) 9344 7396.