The Abortion Debate

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The abortion debate leaves no one dispassionate. The passions are fueled by incidents which surface regularly…

The abortion debate leaves no one dispassionate. The passions are fueled by incidents which surface regularly, forcing people to come out of their silence to express their convictions.

Just over two years ago, three women, victims of back alley abortions, made the headlines, bringing to the forefront the debate about decriminalizing abortion. Many voices were raised to condemn the injustice meted out to them at a time when they were dealing with their physical and psychological wounds. Instead of being given help to handle the traumatic experience they have been through, in the unhygienic and even life-threatening conditions, they were dragged back to the ¨crime scene¨ for a reconstitution des faits, or to put it differently, to rub their nose in it.

Last week, another woman, even more unlucky, in the prime of her youth, lost her life while trying to be aborted in similar conditions. The lament of her colleagues, the agony her family must have gone through, has compelled many voices to come out, expressing outrage at the situation.

The emotional smoke screen erected through terminology and semantics in this debate is rather misleading. The term ¨pro-life¨ to refer to those who are opposed to abortion may suggest that those who are pleading for its legalization are anti-life. Nothing is further from the truth. Those who are for choice argue that while human life is sacred, one has to contend that there are at times circumstances which do not allow a woman to carry on with a pregnancy and that when there is no other option, a woman should be allowed to be aborted legally in hygienic conditions. This is the only way to REALISTICALLY save lives and reduce trauma and distress.

The debate is more often than not aborted by religious arguments. While we owe our religious leaders all the respect they deserve and while we do not deny them the right to hold opinions which may be rooted in their religious convictions, it would be unfair not to grant others the right to hold whatever religion, religions or set of principles they may choose, if they choose, and therefore whatever teachings emanate from them. Also, in a secular state, legislation goes beyond religious convictions and interests.

A woman has the right to lead a normal life, unshackled by the burden of repeated unwanted pregnancies, shame, stigma or prejudice. A girl has the right to put an end to the constant reminder of rape, incest or simply a costly mistake and join children her age in the classroom and school playground. The criminal justice system should go beyond religion and allow women the rights which have become unquestionable in many other countries. Those who are pro-life, should help the unaccounted numbers of women who die because of our archaic laws to live!

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