abortion – what do you want?

Violet; you and others with your outlook on this subject are what is sick in America.
God help you. (John R. Hugo on Quiner’s Diner)

Surprisingly, I agree with right-wing Christians that high numbers of people having abortions is something to be concerned about. It’s a procedure that can cause physical harm to women, as well as emotional harm in the form of regret – the pain of what-might-have-been.

However, from a similar starting point, we move off in very different directions.

My opinion on abortion is informed by facts from science, history and sociology, combined with freely available statistics. Until someone can tell me otherwise, the opinions of anti-abortion Christians appear to be informed by dogma, emotion and a thoroughly demeaning attitude towards fully developed adult women, with complex lives of their own to lead. As we all know, there is nothing in the Bible to suggest the Christian god would be against abortion.

So let’s have a look at facts about pregnancy and abortion.

1. Science tells us that a fetus has no sense of awareness, and does not have the basic brain structure to even potentially feel pain, until around 26 weeks. And there is no evidence that at this point they have the consciousness to process any sensations their nerves respond to.

Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, begins to be in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Roughly two months later synchrony of the electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythm across both cortical hemispheres signals the onset of global neuronal integration. Thus, many of the circuit elements necessary for consciousness are in place by the third trimester. (scientificamerican.com)

2.Statistics about abortion tell us that 98-99% of abortions are performed before week 20, well before the brain begins to make any potentially conscious connections. Later term abortions are only undertaken because of risk to the mother and/or child in most countries. In the USA, possibly because of the complications in finding and/or paying for providers, there are other reasons that this tiny proportion of terminations are undertaken later:

Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous. (guttermacher.org)

I don’t know about anyone else, but the prospect of removing access to legal and safe abortion facilities for vulnerable and likely desperate groups like those listed above, seems foolish in the extreme. Especially considering the next point.

3. Social science tells us that in every country in the world where abortion is banned, pregnancies are still terminated, and women desperate enough to the take the risk are seriously injured and dying in their thousands.

Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%). Of the women who survive unsafe abortion, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications (Reviews in Obstectrics & Gynecology)

4. We know that in countries where women have choice, where abortion laws are liberal, women are less likely to seek abortion.

The substantial decline in the abortion rate observed earlier has stalled, and the proportion of all abortions that are unsafe has increased. Restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. Measures to reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion, including investments in family planning services and safe abortion care, are crucial steps (The Lancet)

5. History tells us that humans have never been able to stop unwanted pregnancies occurring by telling people not to have sex outside marriage. In societies where this has been attempted, women were still getting pregnant, and resulting attempts to sweep the ‘shame’ under the carpet are nothing to long for.

Ireland was shocked earlier this year by revelations of the practices at Catholic-run “mother-and-baby homes” from the 1920s to the 1960s following the discovery of an unmarked grave where the bodies of up to 800 babies could be buried. Dublin has ordered an investigation into the treatment of children at the institutions, used to house children born out of wedlock, including accusations of forced adoptions and unusually high mortality rates among children housed there. (Reuters)

So, my question for all those Christians out there who are horrified by the numbers of abortions around the world: taking all the facts above into consideration, what is your proposed alternative?