A lot of my friends on twitter have been discussing abortion from a feminist pro-choice point of view. Many of my friends on Facebook have mentioned abortion from a Catholic pro-life point of view and requested that I go and sign petitions or join groups against it. I’ve decided to try and work out what I think, and probably upset all the Christians AND the feminists in one go. This is an emotive subject and it can’t be written about or debate without upsetting someone. I have been assured by several people that they will still be my friend whatever I write here, so I just want to remind them that I have that in writing! If you’re going to be upset by reading opinions, or call me names because of it, don’t read this.
As a thirty-something man I often feel that feminists think I am not allowed to comment on some issues. I comment here as a husband who knows what it is like for his wife to have a pregnancy scare at a bad time, and also as a former Christian, a skeptic and an advocate of science. I am not telling anyone what to believe, and I do not force anyone to change their behaviour because of my opinion on this subject. This is what I think, not what I am telling you to think. So don’t attack me on it.
Unlike the idea parodied in the famous Monty Python song, I don’t believe that every sperm is sacred, nor every egg, and not even every fertilised egg. How can it be, when of thousands of sperm and thousands of eggs, only a very few will meet and fertilise, and of those, most will not implant, and even then, a blastocyst may well not stay attached to the lining of the womb? The logic that says otherwise does not stand up to scrutiny. Accordingly, I have no problem with the morning after pill. (There goes the Christian vote.)
At some point between fertilisation and birth, a fetus becomes a living human being, conscious, and capable of feeling pain. We don’t know at what point that happens. Once you have a baby that can move, kick and feel pain, I think a woman’s choice is no longer relevant. There are two people involved, not just the mother. The baby is a living being, a human, and has human rights. End of story. (There goes the feminist vote.) I am fairly sure that self awareness and learning to respond to outside stimulus continues long after birth, and so what is the difference in consciousness between a 23.5 week old fetus and a week old baby? That is a genuine question, I’m not trying to evoke emotion to back an argument either way.
Currently the law allows abortion up to 24 weeks through a pregnancy. Some MPs have campaigned for that limit to be reduced to 20 weeks. The earliest known surviving birth is at 21 weeks. I believe that the 24 week limit is political, not based on facts. I’ve heard a fetus described as “just a clump of cells” but I have also seen abortion decscribed as “deliberate procedure of hacking an unborn child to pieces in the womb.” In reality the development of a baby is a continuum and we do not know enough to be able to pinpoint a change between clump of cells and living baby.
In 2007 the commons science committee investigated the issue. A Guardian report said this:
“A report on the scientific issues surrounding abortion published yesterday by the Commons science and technology select committee finds that survival rates of babies born before 24 weeks are not high enough to warrant cutting the limit.”
I strongly object to that phrase “not high enough to warrant” as I am of the opinion that any possibility of survival from that early means that an abortion could be ending the life of a living being. Ultimately though, I have no more knowledge of when the limit should be than anyone else does.
I accept that abortion is a necessary evil in some cases. UK law currently allows an abortion to take place later than 24 weeks in certain circumstances:
- if it is necessary to save the woman’s life
- to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman
- if there is substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
I think those are a good guideline for when an abortion should happen at all, not just when a late abortion is allowed. I don’t like the idea of aborting a baby because of detected illneses, but I can live with that. I certainly don’t like the idea of ending pregnancy for other reasons such as finance, career, or just not wanting to be a parent. I honestly don’t know what I think in the case of rape.
However, and this is important, where I have said that I don’t like it, that is my opinion and I do not have any right to force that on anyone else and so I won’t.
Soph Warnes has put up a very insightful response with lots of links to more information on her blog.