Go back a week and I can safely say that I hadn’t given the subject much thought beyond a perfunctory “her body, her choice”. As someone who won’t be having children, planned or otherwise, it was, for me, a issue of little importance. A week on and I still consider it unimportant but I have, as a result of circumstance, had to think about it.
What set the ball rolling was finding myself drawn into a conversation about what the libertarian position on the matter should be last Tuesday evening after the conclusion of February’s TFA’s Free Spirits talk.
In hindsight I shouldn’t have gotten involved as I didn’t realise how passionately the two individuals believed in their position and consequently I had my head handed to me. Not much of a shock frankly given my aforementioned disinterest in the subject and my general lack of debating skills.
Their contention was that life begins at the moment of conception and thus abortion violates the ‘do no harm’ principle. How much the fact that one of them is, as I found out afterwards, a Catholic contributes to his position or vice-versa I don’t know but life beginning at conception is, as I understand matters, a general tenet of that faith? No doubt if I am wrong on this someone (Demi?) will correct me.
I’m not going to attempt to argue against that view in this post simply because even I realise that it is a ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ discussion and so far no one has come up with an answer that a majority are happy with.
All I will do is note that the abortions in the UK are not legal after 24 weeks and point out that those children born before that point are usually not viable whilst those few who do survive spend a lot of time in hospital and are likely to have heath problems for the rest of their (possibly short) lives.
I didn’t however think too much more of the matter until Wednesday morning when the Telegraph led with the story that some doctors would agree to terminate a foetus on the basis of gender – a reason which is not allowable under UK law.
Once what passes for my brain cell had taken the time to digest this news, my general thought process was something along the lines of “we allow abortions on the basis of inconvenience, disability, health or because it wasn’t planned so what makes gender selection different?”
Yes, to us in the developed world it seems distasteful to relieve oneself of a pregnancy simply because of the gender of the unborn child but it seems more humane than the apparent murder of millions of young female children simply of the basis of gender – a practise which still happens in parts of countries such as India and China.
Gender selection aside however, abortion is not a new practice, with recorded instances dating back over 2,500 years. Even during the period in the US and UK when the practise was illegal, getting a termination was still possible assuming you knew where to look.
According to WHO figures almost half of all abortions taking place in the world, some 20 million, are in countries where it is illegal or unsafe to do so, resulting in no shortage of deaths and infertility. That is not to say that such outcomes are not possible in places where it is legal and/or safe but the numbers are tiny by comparison.
Thus I come down on the side of rationality. Regardless of the reasons involved, termination of unwanted pregnancies will happen whether it is legal or not. Therefore it makes sense for the practice to be as safe as possible for those who choose to undergo it – for whatever reason – and this is not something which can be achieved by making it illegal.