The recent and very sad death of Savita Halappanavar and her unborn child (see previous post) has re opened the debate on abortion. While the recent proposed motion ‘Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman’, in relation to the x case, was defeated there will almost certainly be new legislation on abortion in the new year. So what are we to think?
Generally speaking, it seems that Abortion on Demand is not supported, however abortion can be an option in the following circumstances: Rape, Suicide and Mothers life.
Rape At the very outset Rape is a horrible and henious evil act. It robs the victim of their security and innocence, and violates their human rights. While there can be healing, the physical, emotional and physcholgical scars will always be there. It is never justified. It is wrong. When a pregnancy occurs from rape the victim may seek an abortion on the grounds that the child is not only unwanted but as the child grows will be a continual reminder of the rape and the perpetrator. Therefore in this case an abortion should be allowed. However, when a pregnancy occurs from rape we are dealing with three people not one. Two are innocent, the mother and the baby, there is only one who is guilty, the perpetrator. So why should we give an innocent victim, the baby, a sentence more severe than the perpetrator of the crime? Why make the baby a victim? Why violate their human right to live? All life is precious and should be treated with dignity, respect and care. So while we seek the right to life of the unborn we should also seek the very best care for the mother, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Every resource, financial, medical and social should be available to the mother to support her through the pregnancy and care of her new born baby and into the future.
Suicide The x case of twenty years ago led to the call for an abortion when the mother was suicidal. As with all reasons for abortion it is very sensitive. While a mother may not want an abortion, her suicidal thoughts may mean her life is in danger. Therefore it is argued that an Abortion should be offered or advised – a tragic choice that just has to be made. However abortion in this case views the mothers life as more valuable and precious than the unborn child. All life is precious and all life should be protected. We are concerned and saddened by any suicide and we are equally concerned for the termination of a life who is completly dependant on the just and right choices of others. Rather than see an abortion as a tragic choice to be made we should have recources and care in place so that a mother has the choice of bringing the child to full term with all the support that is required. Would this mean more money? would this demand greater professional support? would this mean an increase of resources? Yes, yes and yes! and every mother who is pregnant and struggling with suicidal thoughts should be supported with the utmost care. In fact, a mother who has chosen abortion can, in later years become suicidal because of her choice. So abortion in this case does not provide a solution but creates the very problem abortion was meant to solve. This is not a choice of either or, but, both and. All life needs protected.
Life of mother This is perhaps the one most in our minds after the sad death of Savita Halappanvar. We still do not know all the medical facts, all we know is that the mother requested a termination of her pregnancy and her request was denied. So the reasoning is, when a mothers life is in danger for medical reasons an abortion may be given to save her life. This is very difficult and thankfully it is not at all common. Ireland has one of the highest rates of child birth and we can expect that to continue. However there are cases when a mothers life is at risk. So what should we do? First there should be no deliberate intention to end the childs life in a desire to save the mothers life. However there may be situations, which are very rare, where a mother receives treatment to save her life and as a result the pregnancy is terminated. But we should never see the child or mothers life as more worthy than the other. Second because of the advances in medicine we are now able to tell the health of the unborn. Sadly there are times when a child is born and is incapable of independant survival outside the womb. Such cases are extreme and are termed ‘anencephalic birth’ (born without a brain). When a mothers life is at risk and the unborn is unable to survive independantly then there maybe a case to terminate the pregnancy. However such circumstances are excepional and are never the basis on which to make judgements about abortion.
The debate about abortion will continue and we must make it our business to be clearly informed, medically and theologically, so that we are ready to give our answer and reason. ‘We must contend for the full dignity and humanity of every single human life at every point of development and life from conception until natural death, and we cannot rest from this cause so long as the threat to the dignity and sanctity of any life remains.’
A following post will look at what the bible says about Life.