I must say, at the outset, that my views on abortion are ambivalent. I both oppose and support it, for reasons that will become evident as you read on.
Pregnancies are not always either ‘intended’ or ‘unintended’. They may also be ‘enforced’ – by rape or coercion.
I agree that abortion is not a pill to be used to wash out an unwanted life that two persons happened to create because someone was careless or too aroused to think or impulsive or any of the sundry reasons which are normally given by those who are informed, who did not intend to get pregnant, but did.
But, what about those unfortunate growing lives that show signs of debilitating disability? All infants need tender, loving care and none more so than special children, for whom sustained nurturing may be required well into their adolescence. This is not a role for institutions, which have to take care of many. It is a job for a loving heart, a person with dedication, capable of immense sacrifice. Intensive counselling, not a statute in a law book, should guide these parents to make an informed choice.
What of pregnancies caused by undesirable circumstances, such as rape? If abortion is not allowed as an option, the yet to be born child would be fatherless or orphaned at birth. And, what about the mental trauma the victimised girl has to undergo?
In societies that treat women as chattel, should women undergo repeated pregnancies at increasing risk to their lives and those of the lives they carry? What about the deteriorating living standards that each extra mouth brings into the deprivation that already exists? What price the lives of the young, growing children were the mother to die?
The problem cannot be resolved simplistically. It is a moral question with political dimensions and infringes on individual rights. But, surely, the human aspect deserves greater consideration from law makers than appears to have been the case thus far. Can we, as a society, make a start towards enabling more humane abortion laws by trying to reduce the number of abortions in the first place, which means reduce the number of ‘unintended’ pregnancies?
Around the world, some 50 million abortions are done every year, nearly half of them under unsafe conditions due to reasons of law, social stigma, cost of having an abortion under clinical care, and so on. In the US alone, about 750,000 to 850,000 teenagers report pregnancy every year. About 74 to 95 per cent of these are reported “unintended”. Nearly 150,000 of these pregnancies are terminated voluntarily, under medical supervision.