07 May, 2008

Abortion

A fairly simplistic article on the subject here made me think about my views on the subject again.

It's difficult, I think abortion is horrid, wicked and wrong. It should be quite right to try and reduce the number of abortions and abortion should not be applauded.

Yet I'm pretty sure that if I was to find myself pregnant tomorrow, I'd have one. Even if my life is stable enough today that I'd continue with the pregnancy, I know that if I'd have found myself pregnant a couple of years ago, I certainly would have had one.

Of course, I'm in the slightly nicer moral zone of having taken the type of precautions in advance that I hope mean I will never have to make the choice.

If a woman has become pregnant whilst using contraception, or after she though she could no longer bear a child or - obviously - in the especially nasty situations of rape etc, then I have no condemnation for that women. The pregnancy is not her fault, either because it was not foreseeable that it should happen because she was taking steps to prevent it or because not being able to take the relevant steps was forced on her by another.

However, regardless of the circumstances in which a woman became pregnant, I feel that a line must be drawn somewhere. The question therefore becomes, where should that line be drawn? In the UK at the moment, it's 24 weeks. In other European countries, it is much lower - I believe the limit in the Netherlands is 16 weeks.

Whatever the teachings of the relevant authorities say on the subject, I simple cannot believe that a fertilised egg is 'alive'. If the potential for life is the criteria, then with modern technology, we could make a human from the DNA in my hair. We can grow back fingers that have been chopped off (it looks like magic!). The potential for life is everywhere.

Equally, I cannot accept that a 39 week old foetus is not alive. If it were born, even without intervention, it could survive. It feels pain, it moves, it responds to external stimulus, it just feels human as a gut instinct.

Many people point out the irony of there being two wards in a hospital. In ward A, the doctors are aborting a 22 week old foetus. In the other, they are saving a pre-maturely born 22 week old child.

The idea of basing abortion time limits on the viability of a child (with medical assistance) is superficially attractive and feels fair. However, whilst it seems to be an appropriate moral ground upon which to base the decision at the moment, in the long run I think it is dangerous. 16-24 weeks shows a balance of interests between the mother and the foetus. But, medical technology is always improving and maybe, in the future, there will be viability at 6 weeks, or earlier.

Then there is no balance.

I think we need to find a different moral basis on which to base the decision.

More posts when I think of what it might be.

7 comments:

Alex said...

Haven't looked at your blog for ages due to switching jobs but now I'm back and pleased to see you have made it slightly prettier (though there's still room for improvement- justifying/alligning the text in a neat narrow block, maybe?). I never thought that we would agree on the issue of abortion, but I agree 100% with this post. Good to see you reject both the ultra-flawed "but it's a potential life" argument along with the "we should measure it according to how good medicine is at saving premature babies" argument. But I also agree that some kind of a line needs to be drawn, but I really don't know where.

Al M

Miss Middle of Manchester said...

Look better now? I've justified the front page posts, but am too lazy to change the others!

Unfortunately, I'm too rubbish at computers to make things much prettier, I want to have the banner at the top stretch across the whole page, for example.

I think abortion should maybe be based on 'reasonably expect to know'.

A woman skips a period a couple of times and ignores it because she's on some form of contraception. The third month she worries, the fourth month she has a test and then wants to abort. That takes us to 16-20 weeks. As said before, that timescale 'feels right'.

Android said...

I kind of share the same views as you. I hope I will never be in a situation where I'd have to choose, because, as I was told by someone, the psychological trauma is permanent. :o

Here's a link to some explicit photies on the subject: >>>LINK<<<

A famous Russian photographer did a series called 'Births & Abortions'. Quite disturbing. The abortion limit in Russia and ex-USSR is 12 weeks.

Miss Middle of Manchester said...

I find the date in the old USSR interesting because from what I have read - and correct me if I'm wrong - abortion was effectively used as contraception in the old Soviet Union. To go from unlimited abortion on demand to 12 weeks must have taken quite a culture shift.

Android said...

To be honest with you, I've never even heard of that... ;D Propaganda! :)

Trinitarian Don said...

I appreciate your thoughts on abortion and your honesty. You are right that technology will drive back viability - perhaps on day to fertilization itself - though I suspect an artificial womb will always be less conducive to human flourishing and there will always be a risk of loss at transfer.

I am puzzled why you cannot accept the idea a fertilized egg is "alive."

We do not experience dead matter springing to life in other circumstances. Life only exists as a continuum with life. A live egg joins with a live sperm and forms a living human being. Quite simple but true and scientific.

With respect to the DNA in your hair, it is a blue print for a twin of you - but it needs to be put in a living egg and coaxed a bit to become a living human.

Do you think the real issue is admitting the embryo is a very small human might impact how you feel about your self interested choices?

Miss Middle of Manchester said...

Dear TD,

My belief that a foetus isn't a human from conception doesn't stem from any great moral ideology, I just don't believe it. In the same way, I don't believe most gender difference come from birth or that equality is more important than freedom.

If a person showed me overwhelming evidence that I was wrong, I would change my mind. I just don't think that evidence is available at the moment and I can't speculate on the future.

If foetus were to be proven to be a human, then of course my feelings would change. In the same way I cannot condone late term abortions because, in my view, the baby is alive then and the same way the law doesn't recognise necessity as a defence to murder. If the baby were alive, I do not agree with killing it. However, as my view stands at the moment, I just don't believe it is alive until a certain point. As said, I'm not sure where that point is exactly, but I know where I know its not. (Goodness, that sentence was convoluted!).

I would far prefer it if there were not any unwanted pregnancies at all. That contraception worked 100% (even with human stupidity thrown in) and that all those who did not want a child had reliable contraception. But, recognising that people are flawed and believing that a woman has autonomy over her own body, abortion is the unfortunate product.

I hope that all makes sense!