Abortion: A Woman’s Choice, A Woman’s Right
There have been several studies that simply asked respondent whether they thought that abortions were morally right or wrong. However, the subject of abortion is not that simple to pass judgment on. Modern day Americans are well aware of the different scenarios that can lead up to the decision to have an abortion. There are unplanned pregnancies arising from assenting relationship. A large number of unwanted pregnancies are among teenagers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the age group of 15 to 19 years, women had a live birth rate if 34.3 per 1000 in the year 2010, which was actually a 9% fall from the 2009 rates . There are also cases of pregnancies arising out of crimes such as rape and sexual molestation.
The decision to undergo an abortion is a heavily influenced one, and personal choice often has very little to do with it. Religious and societal views as well as medical conditions, all have a great impact on whether a woman opts to have her pregnancy terminated. Religious beliefs of her family, especially her parents, too have a deep effect on the person’s choice . Unplanned pregnancies have the highest instance of being aborted. According to a recent survey, over 33.33% of all pregnancies are not planned . There is the question of at what point in time an abortion can be acceptable. . Most of the time, the hesitancy lies in a single question: when does the life of a fetus actually begin? In other words, when can a fetus be considered to be ‘alive’? The main objection that a person might have when considering an abortion is whether it will result in the taking of a life.
Most world religions seem to be aimed at protecting the foetus’ right to life. The specific moment when life is said to have begun for a foetus is not mentioned in all religions. Religions such as Sikhism, Buddhism and Cathoticism mark the beginning life as soon as an egg is fertilized by a sperm. The Catholic church prohibits abortion and grants the unborn child most of the rights of a born baby. According to Islamic teachings, the soul enters a foetus after 120 days of conception. Having an abortion after this point in time is considered to be a greater sin than having it done in the first trimester of the pregnancy. Earlier Roman Catholic teachings placed the ‘ensoulment’ of a foetus at the time when a woman begins to feel its movements in her womb, which generally happens around the 16th week. This tenet, however, was changed in the year 1869 and the church now says that the foetus has a soul from the very point of fertilization.
Science, on the other hand, points out that a large percentage of eggs that have been fertilized never get attached to a woman’s womb. About 25% of those that do get implanted result in natural miscarriages, with the woman often not even realizing that she was pregnant. Most religions do not have a formal ritual or ceremony to mark the passing away of an unborn child in this manner. The circumstances in which an abortion is sought is also debated in the moral and religious context. Several religions permit abortions where the life and health of the mother is under serious threat due to the continuation of the pregnancy. However, views differ greatly and have been subject to long standing debates. The Roman Catholic Church, while strictly prohibiting intentionally having an abortion, it permits treatments aimed at saving the life of a mother, even if it endangers the life of the foetus. Religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Orthodox Judaism as well as Orthodox Greek and Russian churches permit abortions in order to save the mother’s life.
While most religions agree that a foetus has life and that life needs to be protected like any other living being, but do not clearly equate abortion to murder. For instance, Judaism teaches that abortions are immoral, yet, the rights of a baby are granted only when the major part of its body has moved out of the mother’s body. As such, aborting a foetus is not considered murder. While murder is condemned in most religions, killing for certain purposes such as wars, capital punishment or when trying to save oneself, is considered permissible. Most monotheistic religions such as Islam that follow a single scripture have not changed any of their tenets pertaining to abortions. However, other that have several scriptures like Buddhism are debatable and views can vary based on individual perception. Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church keeps changing their teachings on the subject as time progresses.
Women often succumb to family, social and religious pressures and decide against having an abortion. However, the decision of not aborting an unwanted child has as serious implications as deciding in favor of terminating the pregnancy. To begin with, unwanted children do not get the same degree of love, care and affection than a child that was planned. This is especially true in the case of rape pregnancies where the child becomes a reminder of the crime to the mother. Children born of unplanned pregnancies hence have a higher chance of being mistreated by their parents as well as other family members such as grandparents.
Giving birth to an unwanted child and then putting them up for adoption is one of the options that women consider, however, this too has dire consequences for the child as well as the mother. While the child may most like be placed in overcrowded foster homes, the mother might live with the guilt of having given away her child. If the woman decides to raise the child on her own, it is a major responsibility in moral, emotional as well as emotional terms. Raising a child can be very expensive, especially in cases where the parents are teenagers and do not have a source of income. This can have a dire impact on the quality of life of the child as well as the parents. At the end of the day, the mother has to live with the consequences of bearing an unwanted child. Hence, she should also be allowed to make the choice without the fear of lifelong retribution or being witch-hunted.
Alan Guttmacher Institute. (2012, January). Facts on Induced Abortion. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from Alan Guttmacher Institute: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html
CDC. (2012, August 7). Teen Pregnancy - The importance of prevention. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from Centers for disease control and prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/
Scheepers, P., Te Grotenhuis, M., & Van Der Silk, F. (2002). Education, Religiosity and Moral Attitudes: Explaining Cross- National Effect Differences. Sociology of Religion , 63 (2), 157-176.