Today, 1 June, is the Global Day of Parents, and a good opportunity to set the record straight on something: abortion is not something people resort to in an attempt to avoid parenthood at all costs. In fact, over half of all women who procure an abortion already have at least one child. (Source https://www.guttmacher.org/report/characteristics-us-abortion-patients-2008)
Ultimately the right to decide to continue a pregnancy or not should lie with the woman. It’s easy to imagine any number of scenarios where a mother may need to abort her current pregnancy, for example:
- The pregnancy did not come about through consensual sex.
- The foetus would not survive birth (fatal foetal abnormality).
- The foetus has a medical condition that would result in a short, difficult, and painful life.
- The pregnancy would damage the health of the woman or endanger her life.
- The woman does not have the means, be they economic, emotional or medical, to reliably parent another child.
- An existing child may require more care than anticipated – for example, may have a medical condition or learning difficulty – which would be compromised were another child to be brought into the household.
Ultimately, it comes down to what the woman wants and judges best. The argument that women “use abortion as contraception” is common, but unlikely, considering the relative cost, effort and stigma of a termination relative to a prescription for the contraceptive pill or a pack of durex. If we are not going to criminalise beer because a small number of people drink themselves to death, we can’t justify criminalising abortion just in case a small number of women “use abortion as contraception.” Most women who have abortions already have at least one child, meaning they understand the reality and responsibility of birthing and raising a child, and can be trusted to make a responsible decision about what is best for them and their family.The decision to bring another child into a family is not one to be taken lightly. Abortion may be a responsible parenting decision for a given family at a given time, and most women who have abortions were using contraception such as condoms or the pill when they became pregnant (Source https://mariestopes.org/media/research-reveals-more-half-young-women-who-have-abortions-were-using-contraception-when-they)
Over 90% of all abortions take place before 12 weeks, at which stage it is medically incorrect to refer to the two inch, half an ounce embryo as a baby. To tell a woman she must compromise her own welfare and the best interests of her current children for the sake of this cluster of cells is dangerously irresponsible and belittling not only of the woman’s intelligence, but of the real needs of her current family. What about the other 10%? The vast majority of abortions after the first trimester are carried out for medical reasons. In those cases, either the life or health of the mother is in danger or the foetus has a fatal abnormality. If the life or health of the mother are in danger, carrying the pregnancy to term might leave her unable to care for her older children, go to work, and contribute to society, or even dead. To claim that any of these situations are preferable to aborting a foetus negates the anti-choice argument that they act in the best interests of children. It was at 16 weeks that Savita was denied an abortion during an inevitable miscarriage. Her husband lost not only his wife that day, but any children the couple might have gone on to have.
It has been argued that abortion damages the health of the mother. Backstreet abortions most certainly do, which is one of many reasons why we need legislation that makes them unnecessary. A medically sound abortion, be it by pill or by surgery, is a quick and safe procedure with a low risk of complications – and, in the unlikely event that complications do occur, they can be taken care of immediately and correctly in a healthcare setting. In short – a medically sound abortion can save a woman’s life, but a backstreet abortion can kill her, leaving her current children to grow up without her care and love.
Finally and ultimately the fight for choice boils down to one thing – women are people, not incubators, and parenting children is such an important job that it should happen by choice, not by chance.