opinion

The 8 most common arguments against abortion, and exactly what's wrong with each of them.

There is perhaps no political debate as emotionally or morally charged as the one that surrounds abortion.

It’s bitter and it’s personal. The battleground is inside a woman’s uterus, an organ that is understood to be hers, until the very moment an embryo is planted there.

When it does, it would seem, her womb then belongs to a lot of white men in well-ironed suits.

There’s no other situation quite like it.

We’ve compiled the most common anti-abortion arguments and one by one, dissected why they’re nonsense.

Abortion is murder, and a foetus has a right to life. 

The word ‘murder’ is used very intentionally, because most of us would agree that murder is very bad.

But if terminating a pregnancy is, indeed, murder, then we’ve got ourselves into a bit of a philosophical conundrum.

If a man masturbates into a tissue, is that murder? What if he wears a condom?

How about if a woman takes the contraceptive pill? Or wears a Mirena? Or even has a period?

All of those cases have ended potential life. If a cluster of cells is what defines a ‘person’ then a man’s wet dream is murder.

I threw out a mouldy banana I found in my bag yesterday. Is that murder? I’d argue no, because that banana didn’t have any consciousness, and it didn’t feel pain. But we’ll get to that later.

Perhaps the best retort to the statement ‘a foetus has a right to life’ is a question posed by author and columnist Patrick S. Tomlinson

He paints a picture of a fertility clinic, where the fire alarm goes off.

You have the option to save either a five-year-old child who is begging for help or 1000 viable human embryos.

What do you choose?

“A human child is worth more than a thousand embryos. Or ten thousand. Or a million. Because they are not the same, not morally, not ethically, not biologically,” Tomlinson said.

Abortion causes psychological damage.

This is perhaps one of the most prevailing myths that exists around abortion.

There is no evidence, whatsoever, that abortion leads to depression, anxiety or suicide. In fact, when asked, the most overwhelming emotion women report feeling after abortion is “relief“.

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While anti-abortion advocates have tried to argue mental health issues are widespread after termination, the DSM-V (the mental health handbook) features no such illness. There is no reputable medical organisation who has ever found any link.

Conversely, being denied an abortion is associated with anxiety and an increase in low self-esteem.

Why American women and girls will be forced to give birth. Post continues below. 

If women become pregnant, they should accept the responsibility that comes with producing a child.

Good point.

If a man finds himself with lung cancer, he should also accept the responsibility that came with smoking, and reject all medical treatment.

The same goes for anyone who found themselves in a car accident, or broke their leg, or has any kind of infection.

Something happened in your life, and now you must live with consequences until the day you die. Understood?

The other argument, of course, is that in some cases, choosing to have an abortion is taking responsibility.

In countries and states where abortion is not legalised, we should ask: Are the medical costs of giving birth covered? Is there financial assistance? Is parental leave subsidised? How about child care? Is school free? The list goes on.

If not, then we need to ask ourselves if giving birth to a child one does not feel equipped to raise is actually a responsible decision at all.

The other question we should ask is if contraception was readily acceptable. Not to mention that there is no contraception that’s 100 per cent effective. In such a case, a pro-lifer must accept that the very act of having sex is a choice to have a baby. For men and women.

Furthermore, according to our calculations, men are responsible for 100 per cent of unwanted pregnancies. Where is the shared responsibility? Perhaps, as Gabrielle Blair put it, we should enforce worldwide vasectomies. That should surely do the trick.

Abortion promotes a culture in which human life is disposable. Human life has inherent value.

This is an interesting argument, because it completely overlooks the ‘inherent value’ of the mother’s life.

Approximately 830 women die from pregnancy or childbirth every day, and although it’s relatively uncommon in the Western world, giving birth comes with a number of risks.

In the United States for example, pregnancy complications are the sixth most common cause of death among women between the ages of 20 and 34.

But far more dangerous than childbirth, is undergoing an illegal abortion – an inevitability if a medical abortion isn’t available.

As one pro-choice advocate put it, “pro-life people say ‘Abortion is wrong;’ we only say ‘Abortion is’.

Every statistic available tells us that abortions happen regardless of whether they’re legal or not. Therefore the question becomes: Do you want women to have safe abortions? Or dangerous abortions?

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If the answer is the latter, then that is not coherent with the belief that human life is inherently valuable.

Of the 42 million abortions performed around the world, 21.6 million are unsafe, directly resulting in 47,000 maternal deaths a year. Forcing women to have unsafe abortions is, indeed, treating human life as disposable.

A foetus can feel pain.

According to Dr David Robert Grimes, who is backed up by several studies, this statement is “extremely unlikely to be true”.

In the early stages of development, a foetus lacks the nervous system and brain development to be able to ‘feel’ anything.

“The neutoanatomical apparatus required for pain and sensation is not complete until about 26 weeks into pregnancy,” Grimes writes. Most terminations take place in the first nine weeks, with very rare cases going anywhere near 24 weeks (which are due to foetal abnormalities or serious health risks for the mother).

Because the foetus is distinct from the mother.

A foetus is not distinct from the mother because it needs the resources of a mother’s body to survive. Without the mother, there is no baby.

It is no more part of the body than if I stepped on a nail and it buried its way into my foot. Do I have permission to remove it?

There is no other case where a person is forced to do something with their own body, for the purposes of someone else’s body.

For example, you cannot force another person to give you a kidney.

Body autonomy is an existing legal, social and philosophical concept. You cannot even take something from the body of a dead person without their consent. Therefore, dead people have more rights than a woman.

If you legalise abortion, everyone will get one!

There is no evidence for a suggestion like this. Whatsoever.

Women are not running the streets, desperate to find themselves an unwanted pregnancy.

Contraception is cheaper, less painful, far more convenient, and less time consuming than abortion.

In fact, the one thing that is absolutely proven to lower abortion rates – if that’s what we want – is affordable and easy access to methods of contraception.

Because the bible says so.

Uh oh.

In that case, I have some bad news. The bible also says that if your brother dies you must have sex with his wife, which feels insensitive. And if you ever look at someone of the opposite sex, that’s adultery. Which is a sin. Which means you have to chop off your own hand. And also you can’t wear any clothing that has been made of two separate materials. Or sit anywhere where a menstruating woman has sat.

The bible is like any other text – a product of the world in which it was created, and that world was patriarchal.

As Florynce Kennedy put it: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament”.

Tags: abortion , features , opinion , politics , pro-choice
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