Saturday, 16 August 2008

Abortion - Is The Timing Right?

In the twenty first century we scream about equality. Equality between races, equality between religions, equality between genders; our quest for equality is never ending. However, in some cases, while trying to empower one stakeholder we overlook another stakeholder who becomes a sacrificial lamb in the whole exercise. This in particular seems to be true in case of abortion.

I am not anti abortion. I am completely for it. Women should have the right to decide the life they want to lead, the economic pressures they want to put up with and the physical challenges they wish to endure. To that extent, abortion is fair. I also believe that every child that is born should be loved and cared for. This is not possible if the child is considered a burden even before she is born. And from that point of view an abortion is justified for a foetus as well.

The debate that I am having with myself and with my readers is not about the legality of abortion but more about the timing of abortion. Let us consider the human gestation cycle briefly. There are two clear stages in prenatal development. The first stage lasts for eight weeks, the embryonic stage. From week four to week eight there are basic organs that begin to develop. The next stage is the foetal development stage, the first four weeks of which are the ones where the foetus is most vulnerable. From week thirteen; the skin, bones and muscles start to take shape such that by week nineteen a heart beat is in place and can be heard with a stethoscope. This also when scientific research proves that the foetus becomes aware of pain, distress and suffering.

Currently in the UK abortion is legal up to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. In the first nine weeks in fact all procedures carried out are oral and do not call for any surgery. However, from there on the “treatment” is not oral. From week nine to thirteen “suction” is used to literally suck the pregnancy out of the womb. From week thirteen to twenty-four there are varied forms of surgeries used to terminate the pregnancy. Most often this involves an oral medicine in step one and then a physical procedure in step two. This second step causes the cervix to dilate and the uterus to contract resulting in an orchestrated miscarriage. From week nineteen onwards this implies that as the uterus is contracting, there is a possibility of the foetus feeling the anguish and distress. Have we considered if we are in a position of authority to subject the foetus to this pain?

Overlooking the moral aspect of this, there are instances of late abortions in which the abortion actually results in an underdeveloped child being born who subsequently perishes outside of the womb. The child is then dismembered and disposed. This entire exercise can be a trauma for the woman undergoing the procedure not withstanding what the helpless gasping soul would go through. Are we really justified in bringing a life into this world for a few minutes only to kill it?

This was the crux of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill that was dismissed by the UK parliament. The bill attempted to reduce the abortion time limit from twenty four to twenty two weeks. However, majority of the MPs backed the twenty four week limit. The MPs deliberated and pondered and finally expressed their views. Should we women also not consider making up our minds sooner if unfortunately caught in such a situation or are we justified in taking our time to make up our minds, only to subject an innocent, vulnerable and helpless foetus to capital punishment of sorts.


Anonymous said...

how is it fair to the unborn child that u kill him/her cauz ure not "ready" enuf?????its murder!!!

Tanushree Bagrodia said...

Like I said, if the child is unwanted and not going to be cared for or loved when born then it is best that the pregnancy is terminated in time. The key is in time i.e. before 19-weeks so that one prevents any pain, distress or suffering for the foetus.

Anonymous said...

there are plenty of couples in the world who will be more than happy to take the ru justified enuf to kill????

Tanushree Bagrodia said...

There might be plenty of couples happy to adopt, but are all children (orphans or those put up for adoption) lucky enough to have access to such parents? Look at countries in Africa and Asia where adoption could solve a number of issues yet a number of parentless children die each year due to myriad reasons. In India alone unwanted children are subjected to the mercy of gangs forcing minors into begging or prostitution. There is no black and white in abortion, it is a grey area that deserves careful consideration.