U.S., Canada, & the rest of the world:
Laws restricting/allowing abortion access, etc.
The morality of abortion is tightly linked to the concept of when personhood begins. Most people believe that a human ovum and a spermatozoon are living entities with human DNA. Thus one might consider them to be forms of human life. Hair, skin scrapings, and a cancerous growth are also forms of human life, and have little or a negative value. However, a newborn is both a form of human life and a human person. Everyone, with perhaps the exception of one sociologist at an eastern university, considers newborns to have immense worth -- the most valuable form of known life in the universe.
Unfortunately, there is no consensus about when the transition from human life to human personhood occurs:
- Some believe that the transition happens at conception, even though the pre-embryo is only a single celled animal at the time. They support their belief by the fact that a unique DNA is formed at that time.
- Some believe that it happens when the embryo's heart beat can be detected -- typically at 9 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
- Some believe that it happens when the fetus becomes sentient; i.e. it become conscious. This typically happens at about 24 weeks gestation.
- Some believe that it happens when the fetus is born, the umbilical cord is severed, and the newborn is breathing on its own.
- Others have a different criteria for the "start of personhood."
Battles over abortion are typically caused when a woman -- after consultation with friends, family, her physician, perhaps her spiritual advisor, etc. decides that to have an abortion is the least worse option for her, but the government has vetoed her decision by making an abortion unavailable to her.
There is one positive aspect to the abortion conflict. Both pro-life advocates and pro-choice advocates agree that they would like to see the number of abortions and the abortion rate reduced. There are two main ways to do this:
- By making abortions unavailable. Pro-life groups have concentrated essentially all of their effort in this area. Pro-choice groups have concentrated essentially all of their effort to keeping abortions available, and safe.
- By noting that the vast majority of abortions are not caused by medical necessity; they are caused by an unwanted, unplanned for and unexpected pregnancy. In excess of 40% of such pregnancies end in intentional abortions. A study in Toledo has shown that if women are supplied with free contraceptives, their abortion rate is drastically reduced. The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate which would allow almost all employed women to obtain free contraceptives through her health insurance would go a long way to reducing the abortion rate to a small percentage of its current rate. Unfortunately, many employers are resisting this mandate. An even greater reduction in abortion rate could be achieved by making contraception available to all unemployed women of childbearing age.
The logical groups to press for such a change are the pro-life and pro-choice organizations. Unfortunately, that would require cooperation and dialogue, and very little of either is happening.
||Abortion access in North America:
||Laws affecting abortion access elsewhere in the world:
Copyright © 1996 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally published: 1996-DEC-20
Last updated 2012-OCT-20
Author: B.A. Robinson