ABORTION LAWS: PRO-CHOICE VS PRO-LIFE DEBATE

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INTRODUCTION

The term abortion is derived from the Latin term ‘Abortionem’ which means “to abort”. Abortion is a procedure to terminate a pregnancy. The methodology is done by performing surgery or by medicine to remove the embryo or fetus and placenta from the uterus.

This procedure is performed in two ways- Induced and Spontaneous Abortion. Induced Abortion is a kind of abortion where a woman voluntarily terminates the pregnancy from a Service Provider, whereas, the Spontaneous is one where the loss of a woman’s pregnancy before the 20th week of pregnancy, which is also known as Miscarriage.

Abortion is a simple term but so formidable to utter in public. It is esteemed as one of the most agonizing procedures. The primitive perception of abortion is contemplated as unethical. It is acknowledged as a taboo. It’s not something to be stigmatized; the women take every precaution not to take such an action. Choosing not to be a mother does not necessarily mean being a bad woman or a bad wife, or the woman is anti-life and a murderer.

Reproductive Rights are the branch of human rights. The person who is pregnant knows best for them, i.e., it is their personal decision. Reproductive Rights include the right to legal or safe abortion, the right to birth control, the right to access quality reproductive healthcare, the right to education, and access to make reproductive choices free from coercion, discrimination, and violence.

Therefore, also include the right to receive education about contraception and sexually transmitted disease.

The most progressive countries are ushering in regressive abortion laws. Instead of providing a helping hand to the women, they are closing the doors for them. Abortion is the hardest decision a woman has to make and there could be any reason for it, such as:

  • Unwanted Pregnancy
  • Rape
  • Unforeseen economic crisis
  • Social Condition
  • Job loss
  • Death of loved ones or spouse
  • Threat to the health of the mother
  • Unready for Pregnancy
  • Mental health issue

Lawmakers have passed a law that either prohibits abortion completely or allows it in certain circumstances. The center for Reproductive Rights states that 41% of the countries in the world forbid the laws however permit under certain medical conditions. 26% of the countries grant permission on broader social-economic grounds. Lastly, 36% have liberal laws.

According to the reports published in Guttmacher Institute Center for Reproductive Rights:

  • 26 Countries, entirely ban abortion even in the cases of Rape, they are forced to bear a child. 90 Million Women of Productive age are affected by such stern laws.
  • 39 countries, allow abortion only when the life of the woman is at risk. 360 Million Women are affected, i.e. the 22% women of Reproductive Age.
  • 56 Countries permit only on health grounds.

WHO’S STANCE ON ABORTION

The World Health Organization defines the ‘Health’ not merely an absence of any disease or infirmity, it is therefore interpreted as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Abortion is a common health intervention.

A major public health and human rights issue is the lack of safe, timely, efficient, and respectful abortion care. Until 2017, abortion was classified into two categories- safe and unsafe. Unsafe Abortion, as defined by WHO simply means the procedure for termination of pregnancy done by an individual who does not have the necessary training or in an environment not conforming to minimal medical standards.

With technological advancement, the classifications got divided into three categories- safe, less safe, and least safe. The Safe Abortion Procedure is provided by health care workers and with methods recommended by the WHO. The Less Safe Abortion method is done by the trained providers using non-recommended methods or using a safe method. Thus, the least safe is done by a trained provider using dangerous, invasive methods.

Access to Safe Abortion was established as a human right by various international frameworks such as the UN Rights Committee, Regional Human Rights Courts including European Court of Human Rights, the International American Court of Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.

An approach of action that encompasses a commitment to prevent unsafe abortion was sanctioned in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. 179 governments were signatories to this Conference.

In 1967, WHO recognized unsafe abortion as a public health problem. Later in 2003, it developed technical and policy guidelines that constitute a recommendation that states shall pass abortion laws to protect women’s health.

Induced Pregnancy Termination is modest and performs conventional healthcare procedures. Every year, nearly half of the pregnancies, 6 out of 10 are unintended pregnancies. Global estimates from 2010-2014 determined that 45% of all induced abortions are unsafe. A third of all unsafe abortions were carried out under unsafe conditions, that is, by untrained persons using dangerous and invasive methods.

The inaccessibility of quality threatens a series of human rights of women and girls such as the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, right to decide freely and responsibly on the number, spacing, and timing of children.

Unsafe abortions account for 4.7% to 13.2% of maternal deaths per year. In developed nations, it is estimated that 30 women die in every 100,000 due to unsafe abortions. Whereas, in the developing nations, 220 deaths per 100,000 women. 

Physical health hazards associated with unsafe abortion include incomplete abortion, bleeding, infection, damage to internal organs (failure to remove all pregnancy tissues from the uterus).

RELIGION AND ABORTION

Abortion is defined in different ways by different people. The medical dictionary states that it is the loss of pregnancy. Religion is an essential determinant that controls morality in society. There is a question of argument between the religious circles of the society that whether the fetus is a living being or not. Also, when and at what stage do the state and religion consider a fetus to be a living being?

In Buddhism, there is no official position for abortion. Many speculate that life begins at conception and killing is against their moral duty. There are a large number of Buddhists in Japan. There are a large number of Buddhists in Japan.

In Islam, Abortion is contemplated as a wrong and haram. Life is believed to be sacred. The soul is breathed into the fetus 120 days after conception, according to Islamic belief. The fear of poverty is never regarded as an excuse for abortion. Such rule is prohibited with some exceptions such as:

  • At what stage of pregnancy the mother is in
  • If there is a legitimate reason to abort, after 120 days, saving the mother’s life is the only case in which abortion is permitted. Otherwise, it is reflected as unlawful feticide which means the killing of a soul.

Different schools of Muslim law have varying views on whether and when alternative grounds for abortion are permissible.

In Christianity, Abortion is regarded as a bad omen, evil practice, and non-acceptance by god. Countries that outlaw abortion happen to be in the Latin American region where the Catholic Church has immense influence. The Church believes that Abortion is murder. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable, Direct Abortion, that is to say, Abortion willed either have an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law”.

Moreover, the Hindu classical texts firmly resist the idea. The exception is the case when there is a risk to the mother’s life.

ABORTION LAWS IN INDIA

Before 1971, Abortion was criminalized under section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, describing it as “Intentionally Causing Miscarriage”. The exception to this section is where the cases where the abortion was carried out to save the life of the woman, otherwise, it was a punishable offense and criminalized, whoever voluntarily caused a woman with the miscarriage.

In the 1960s, 15 countries legalized Abortion. The discussion of a legal framework for induced abortion was instituted as there was a spike in the number of abortions.

In 1964, the Central government-appointed Shah Commission led by Shantilal Shah, emerged with the proposition to draft the abortion laws for the country. This commission was set up for the absolute assessment of the socio-cultural, legal, and medical aspects of abortion.

In its report, the group proposed legalizing abortion to prevent the waste of women’s health and lives on humane and medical grounds. The Medical Termination Pregnancy Act was implemented in 1971. This act made abortion a safer and more convenient procedure.

The Bill proposes requiring the opinion of one certified medical practitioner (rather than two or more) for abortions up to 20 weeks of gestation (fetal development period from the time of conception until birth).

It has also expanded the gestation period for special categories’ of women, which include rape survivors, incest victims, and other vulnerable women such as differently-abled women and adolescents.

ABORTION LAWS AROUND THE WORLD

Abortion is an enormous contentious concern. Its legal status differs from country to country. The bone of contention is between the speculations and thought processes of pro-choice and pro-choice groups. The Pro-choice group esteems that abortion is a personal decision however, it is the right of women to terminate the pregnancy. This group of thought is usually judged to be pro-abortion. On the other hand, the other group believes that it is the right of the embryo or fetus to gestate to term and be born.

Conservative nations such as Turkey posts a complete ban on Abortion.

  • Poland

Until 1993, abortion was admissible beneath certain conditions such as mal-formed or deformity in the fetus. While in 2021, the government nearly imposes a complete abortion ban. They have restricted the right to access safe and legal abortions. Rape, incest, and risk to a mother’s life are exceptions to this. Activists and human rights groups worldwide, including Amnesty International, have widely condemned the Polish court’s decision to call it a violation of women’s human rights.

  • Mexico

Down to 2021, abortion was considered a crime. The Supreme Court decriminalized it in 2021.

  • United States of America

In the case of Roe Vs Wade, the Supreme Court decriminalized abortion nationwide and a constitutional right to abortion was established. The US became the first country to liberalize its abortion laws along with several western nations.

In September 2021, the American state of Texas ruled that abortion shall be terminated it six weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court refused to block a Texas-based law banning abortion in the state after six weeks.

  • Japan

Abortion in Japan is legal for up to 21 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. The prominent difference between Japan and the rest of the world is that Japan requires the father of the child to give consent before the termination of pregnancy. Japan is one of 11 countries worldwide to require third-party consent.

  • Russia

Russia has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. The government, in cooperation with the country’s conservative church leaders, is attempting to channel these funds to maternal support for women who choose to continue their pregnancy to term.

PRO-CHOICE VS PRO-LIFE DEBATE

The debate is regarding the moral, legal and religious status of induced abortion. This debate often presents us with two choices, i.e., pro-choice and pro-life. Pro-choice states that Abortion is a personal choice; hence, women should have the right over their bodies. Thereby, abortion is not the same as pro-abortion. It is a fundamental right of women to do whatever they want with their bodies.

The Pro-Life is a conservative opponent who obstinate it. They believe that life begins at conception and that aborting a fetus is amount to murder. The religion does not believe in it. Personal morals don’t allow a woman to abort.

There is a difference between killing a person and killing a life. The whole anti-abortion argument is smokes and mirrors. Many pro-life activists envisage that a fetus feels pain during the abortion but the truth of the matter that is a fetus can only start feeling pain or any kind of sensation around 26 weeks of pregnancy. The upper limit of pregnancy is 24 weeks.

The Anti-abortion activists believe that abortion causes depression however the fact of the matter is the women who are denied abortion is more likely to be depressed.

The Turnaway research gathered information from over a thousand women at 30 abortion clinics across the United States. Researchers interviewed both women who sought an abortion and those who were denied it, and they discovered that women who were denied abortion were more likely to face major consequences from the end of their pregnancy, including death.

CONCLUSION

Unplanned pregnancy is a subject that needs addressing differently. Abortion is fundamentally breakdown in community. In the moment of greatest need for real compassion empowering human relationship there is a void of connection. Pro-Choice activist are believe to be ant-choice, anti-women and anti-equality. Outlawing abortion laws does not stop it, it only kills women. The question here is to whom exactly we are helping with such outdated anti-choice laws. The woman is the only victim of such obstinate laws.

“Reproductive freedom is critical to a whole range of issues. If we can’t take charge of this most personal aspect of our lives, we can’t take care of anything. It should not be seen as a privilege or as a benefit, but a fundamental human right.”

-Faye Wattleton

Author: APOORVA BHARDWAJ, IMS UNISON UNIVERSITY, DEHRADUN

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India

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