A moral argument for abortion

Published: February 17, 2011

Abortion is not merely the prerogative of the rich, modern, “loose moral types”.

Abortion. An eight lettered word that can ruin any well-heeled kitty party or friends’ night out.

I should know, since I have successfully brought conversations to a screeching halt (or the opposite) on both occasions. I often wonder what it is about that word which awakens the morality brigade.

Those arguing against abortion often claim “It’s a living thing!” blithely ignoring my scathing looks of disbelief.

Science and logic seem to take a back seat in this argument. How about some facts to back up emotion?

The power is hers

I’m pro-choice, in case there was any doubt. If there is anything in life I am sure about, it’s that a woman’s right to choose is just that, a woman’s right to choose no matter what the circumstances or conditions are.

The day you put caveats on how and why we can choose, you really are taking away the right.

Abortion is not murder

At times I want to shriek in sheer frustration when people throw technical scientific jargon at me, stuff I bet they don’t even understand. Here’s a piece of information to the multitude of people out there: at the moment of conception, a fetus is just a mass of tissue, unable to survive unless it is inside a woman’s body. A baby’s life does not begin at fertilisation and if it can’t survive on it’s own in an external environment.

Before people start jumping down my throat for supporting abortion. I’d like to clarify that abortion has been legalised in some parts of the world and can be kept within certain parameters of morality and medical ethics.

Abortion is usually (if not always) performed in the first trimester of the pregnancy, with partial birth abortions of the second trimester usually discouraged because by then the fetus has organ development and can be considered a living thing.

Second trimester abortions are banned in most countries, unless the circumstances are exceptional, like in cases where the mother’s health is in danger or with victims of rape or incest.

A baby is a big decision

Contrary to popular opinion, abortion is not merely the prerogative or “playing field” of the rich, modern, “loose moral types.”

While some accidental pregnancies may result in an abortion, there are those couples for whom the procedure could be the difference between life and death or an extra mouth to feed.

What about victims of rape or incest? One out of three women is a victim of sexual abuse. Should these women be forced to carry their pregnancies to term, reliving what happened to them over and over again?

Lastly, religious ideology should not serve as any foundation for this law. This justification borders on sheer lunacy and cave-person mentality which is slowly taking over in so many ways.

bisma loan

Bisma Loan

An Abu Dhabi based social worker who has previously worked with the Red Cross in Sydney, overseas chamber of commerce in Karachi, and the New York city welfare program. She has an undergraduate degree from the College of Wooster, and a masters degree from Baylor University.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Amna

    Abortion is a topic for which I can see strong debates on both sides. However, a condescending tone isn’t going to help you win anyone over if they didn’t already agree with you. Instead of being informative, it’s like you’re trying to jump down the reader’s throat from the first paragraph.

    I do agree with you on many of the points you brought up later on, but you hardly seem qualified to lecture anyone else on the matter when your debate is ruled mostly be emotion. After each point you make, you slip in your view that anyone who disagrees must be a loon. No wonder those kitty parties have been getting awkward.

    A lot of people believe for religious and spiritual reasons that a person’s life begins at conception. At the same time, a lot of those people do understand a woman’s right to choose in case of rape or genetic defects. It’s a murky issue so you can’t make your case by disregarding other people’s beliefs entirely and telling them right off the bat that you think they’re blatantly wrong and that’s that.

    You don’t want people’s religious beliefs to have any impact on their opinion on this matter, yet it seems that your debate is mostly ruled by your emotions. It comes across as immature, hypocritical, and harsh. I don’t like the idea of abortion but I agree that a woman has the right to choose. Yet you couldn’t win me over with this debate. How would you sway someone who was against abortion? Think about that. Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/odysseypk Hussam

    Whoa – temper, temper.

    Emotional rants like yours just leave your ‘opinions’ up to ridicule. There are (as Amna) said above, many things to consider. I’m no religious fanatic/extremist, but that does not mean you do not consider what your religion says. God has laid down certain rules for certain reasons. Just because you, (or anyone) does not understand them does not mean that they are wrong. That’s where your faith comes in.

    Now I’m no expert on the topic, so no need to throw a hissy fit if you end of disagreeing with me (which you probably will), but from what I’ve read, abortion is only allowed if it threatens the life of the mother.

    Another view says that it is okay for abortion to occur before 120 days have passed after conception, since that is the stage where the ‘Ru’h’ enters the foetus.

    There’s a wealth of information available on this topic from a religious point of view online, with the support of Hadith.

    In either case, I think it’s imperative to concentrate and educate people on preventive measures so such situations do not arise.Recommend

  • http://tabletup.com Logic, India

    Parenting is not limited to giving birth to a child but also nurturing her/him. What future will a child have if he was unwelcome in the first place? A good scientific education, love and dignity is what should be in store for a new baby, and if it’s not the case, abortion is the way to go. Recommend

  • Lelomaye

    Pro-life and pro-choice debates can go on forever and the two parties hardly ever agree on one solution so I will refrain from disagreeing with you here.

    However, I would like to correct one thing that you have erroneously mentioned over here. Organ development does not start in the 2nd trimester. It’s starts on the 4th week of life. Have you ever seen an early pregnancy? The heart is the first organ to beat in a fetus. It’s really amazing when you look at it. While aborting the pregnancy is definitely a woman’s choice, lets not deny the fact that we’re indeed talking about “life” here.

    Well-argued otherwise :)Recommend

  • Jeddy

    The arguments about abortion for and against abortion have been made. The judges around the world have seen the facts and to their best legal knowledge they have presented their verdict. There is no need to play this over. Because both sides will forced to present the same arguments because there are no better and it is likely that the judges will come to the same conclusion.
    Is it a medical issue or an ethical one? No one wants to discuss this openly, just like no one likes to talk about AIDS openly. AIDS exists and it kills lots of people – since AIDS destroy all immunity – a person can any number of diseases. Young people die, but no will mention AIDS ever – it is too shameful. No one talks about abortion. Anything which has to do with sex – is prohibited. Never mention condoms in a polite gathering. Ex-Pakistani women are proud to be single mothers, here it is a unforgivable. Recommend

  • Angelos

    In case of rape/incest/health-issue, yeah woman (or husband) should have a choice of abortion. But apart from that, no no! You better study what Islam has to say regarding this matter and to my knowledge Islam do support choice of abortion in above mentioned cases.Recommend

  • http://stay-blessed.blogspot.com/ Asma

    Abortion has something to violate the intuitions of everyone. There are a lot of arguments against abortion, that proves it is not only a moral sin, but can also create great problems to the woman and the family.Recommend

  • http://na deep

    First of all Bisma – congrats. Wow. You need courage to speak about this issue even in India where it is legal and you can walk into any first-class hospital and have it done, no questions asked.

    Asma – you have obviously never had the occasion to make such an choice – your thoughts reflect that especially – ” not only a moral sin, but can also create great problems to the woman and the family.”

    The woman/mother is the person who will spend the sleepless nights, change diapers etc – also the commitment is for life if you know anything about parenthood. So if you are unsure or if you are pregnant accidentally for the third time (yes it happens all the time), dont hesitate and dont condemn yourself to a lifetime of slavish work because of a notion of life that is still to develop fully. Believe me, it is alright to be selfish at this time. Recommend

  • JJ

    and the fact that ET has decided to place a picture of a fully developed fetus does not do much to support the authors stance Recommend

  • parvez

    Interesting article. I would tend to agree with many of the points you have made. My reservation is on your style of ‘ it my way or the high way ‘.Recommend

  • CB Guy

    why not, not do it and avoid unwanted pregnancy, very simple. Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    “Lastly, religious ideology should not serve as any foundation for this law.”

    applauds I really wish abortion was legalized here, it is much better than the alternative. Just tonight I was watching a story of an abandoned baby in the news. The worst part is, girls that tend to sleep around end up doing this as well and I personally know of two such girls that were made to give up their babies by the parents who didn’t want the scandal and shame. I mean, if your kid is doing something against your beliefs, its your fault, you were lacking in your upbringing of your daughter, now you have to live with it. I don’t mean that I’m passing judgment on anyone that goes all the way with their boyfriend or whatever, but in our society we don’t talk about sex, we don’t talk about protection, everything is taboo, obviously stupid mistakes will be made and even if you’re a ‘good decent family’ or whatever, then I’ll always blame the parents. You didn’t do a good job with your kid, she made her own choices, let her keep her baby, you owe her this much at least.Recommend

  • Cinnamon

    Rant less, convince more! Recommend

  • Asad Badruddin

    Ross Douthat in the nytimes proposes a third option as a possible compromise- adoption:

  • http://bleedinghumanity.wordpress.com Amon

    Fantastic Bisma. Good one! The choice is hers and only hers. Religion, Society etc etc doesnt matter. She has to bear the baby for 9 months. She has to raise the baby because, honestly, in our society, we men do diddly squat. Nobody knows the circumstances, only she does.

    @All the Men
    Common!! we dont have any say in this. Lets consider our society. We expect the women to marry us, take care of us, bear our children, take care of our children so naturally its only her choice isnt it? So men should not be creating all the hooo haaa about this.

    @Bastions of Religion
    Well you dont even want us to use contraception. Our “so called” sharia court wants the poor rape victim to have 4 male witnesses otherwise she gets charged for adultery. Now it can be assumed that the rapist would not want to have an audience, so if he gets her pregnant and she has no witnesses and if she complains about it she gets stoned and scarred for life or die, of course she needs to get an abortion. Full points to her for making that decision.
    So we men and clerics should sit back and drink our tea, eat our biscuits and mind our own business. Its her right, its her choice…………..

    Well done Bisma… and as they say in New Zealand … Good on ya!!!Recommend

  • ali

    lol one out of three women getting abused is not equal to one out of three women getting pregnant. what a jokeRecommend

  • Said Chaudhry

    Bisma, while your pro-choice stand is clear. You are not convincing anyone with your rant, you really should tone it down a bit. As clinician, I have read many research papers and debated with many other doctors, pharmacists and recently a psychologist who have different point of views on abortion. While some gynaecologists in Pakistan will simply say no to you if you ask for an abortion, a few would rather make some money, and a select few will simply point you in the direction of those who don’t mind performing abortions. In the end, I’ve concluded that being in favour or not in favour of abortion is a personal decision. There will always be people who are in favour of it and will help those who are looking for an abortion, and there will be those who are not. But to go on a rampage about why it should be legalized etc is pointless.
    Also, I don’t think you’re an authority to tell people when life begins. This is something that’s debated all the time (but among those who have studied life sciences a little more). Whether its at the time of fertilization, or in the first, second, third trimester or at the time of delivery. But if you think only organ development merits life coming into being, then I suggest you think again. A logical way to see it is, even after a child is born it does not have enough motor & sensory capacity to live without support. It is highly dependant on the mother! You may not know this, but if a child is not touched for some time after being born, the child is likely to die. That clearly puts to rest your notion that a fetus is only dependant on the mother while maturing in a womb. Like one gynaecologist from Washington once told me, “the only thing more annoying than listening to anti abortion activists, is listening to pro abortion”. Because neither of you really know what you’re talking about. It’s an endless debate but both sides would serve well from being more empathetic towards each other. Writing an emotional article in favour of one or the other is absolutely pointless, especially when its based on one persons opinion structured on distorted facts. Recommend

  • http://6la8.blogspot.com Confused

    “What about victims of rape or incest? One out of three women is a victim of sexual abuse. Should these women be forced to carry their pregnancies to term, reliving what happened to them over and over again?”

    One out of three women is sexually abused? One out of every three women is raped and carry pregnancies!? Thats shocking! :oRecommend

  • Said Chaudhry

    @deep @bisma: If you think walking into a hospital in India and easily getting an abortion is such a beautiful freedom to have. Lets look at it in a little more detail:
    According to The Lancet, a British Medical Journal, India has lost as many as 10 million! female fetus in the last 20 years because of legal abortions. These are only the ones documented, the actual number must be much higher. Why the female fetuses being aborted in India? because families want to ensure male heirs. Experts believe over the next 5 years, one million female fetus’ will be aborted every year. Pro-choice all the way? Recommend

  • AHR

    After going through the blog one thing which strikes the most is that anyone who doesn’t agree with Bisma’s ideology is a lunatic. Not quite different from the Taliban mindset, na? Everyone has the right to have an opinion and worldview, but to impose the same on others is sheer extremism. Recommend

  • http://na deep

    @Said Chaudhry:
    You have to walk in the shoes of a woman faced with the trauma of an unwanted pregnancy before you start ranting about female foeticide etc. For a woman (who is not pressured to give birth to a male child or who has not suffered rape, incest or pre-marital sex) – for a large number of married women, it is a practical decision. As simple as that (however cold-blooded it may sound). And believe me when I say that it is simple in India – thank God. Of course there are numerous dodgy places that will help you abort after knowing the sex of the child…that is a social/gender issue that needs to be tackled NOT by banning abortion but by educating parents that girls are as good as boys. So dont confuse issues here Said chaudhry. Recommend

  • Saima

    Please check out this link to know the religious point of view from a moderate school of thought http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=Islamonline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503543150Recommend

  • Taha Ceen Tayyab

    Courtesy of Medicinenet.com below is the excerpt of how the baby forms. Someones losing ground here I guess:

    At 4 weeks:

    Your baby’s brain and spinal cord have begun to form.

    The heart begins to form.

    Arm and leg buds appear.

    Your baby is now an embryo and 1/25 of an inch long.
    At 8 weeks:

    All major organs and external body structures have begun to form.

    Your baby’s heart beats with a regular rhythm.

    The arms and legs grow longer, and fingers and toes have begun to form.

    The sex organs begin to form.

    The eyes have moved forward on the face and eyelids have formed.

    The umbilical cord is clearly visible.

    At the end of 8 weeks, your baby is a fetus and looks more like a human. Your baby is nearly 1 inch long and weighs less than 1/8 of an ounce.Recommend

  • Tanzeela Afzal

    So you think religious has nothing do do with lunacy? This is where you all are mistaken. There is nothing moral about abortion unless of course the mother’s wife is in danger. The argument that the baby is not a baby for three months is stupid – the ultrasound detects heartbeat of the baby six weeks in pregnancy. Tell me which non living thing has the heartbeat?

    The question of one more mouth to feed should be answered at the time when the couple plans to conceive.

    And certainly, the ghairat and non-ghairat brigade deserves no mention in this article – it is ill-placed here. I see these terms are more often used as ‘fashion’ these days more than the requirement.Recommend

  • stephanie cordaro

    @Rida Salman:
    I totally get what you are saying but we each have our own thoughts on it.Recommend

  • Cyma Ashraf

    I am a pro choice… its a womans right. people bringing Islam should consult a real religious scholar before they start sharing their own half baked interpretations. In pakistan 89,000 abortions take place annually and contrary to common b…elief NOT by un married girls but the married couples… and to all who think that people should think about producing a baby really have no clue about the CPR ( Contraceptive prevalence rate) in Pakistan .. where people actually donot want to ave more babies but have no access to contraceptives. its done mostly by women who already have more than 4 children and whose men donot want them to use contraceptives and surely dont care if they die in giving birth to another child…Recommend

  • Hussam

    Are you one of those so called ‘liberals’ who think religion shouldn’t figure in such matters?Recommend

  • Rehan

    What a way to justify a Murder!Recommend

  • Muhammad Waqas Iqrar

    Well, I think Tribune People are seriously lacking the good content thats why they give place to this. I mean if you are writing on some issues, at least you should bring the professional opinion mentioned with proper reference & aspects to be taken care of.

    There should be a difference between this; opinion making in some national news resource. Even if you are against, the religious influence on a particular issues, its highly required at least to give place to its opinion at least.

    I am sorry, but Tribune really require to check on the quality of content they publish. Recommend

  • John

    Well, well, well. Same arguments for or against. Here are my views and dilemma.

    I am a male.

    I am a strong defender of women’s rights, including abortion.

    The abortion should be legal to prevent back alley quacks.

    Now the dilemma. What if my wife wants an abortion but I like to have a child? (assume we love each other and the decision one way or other is not going to break up our marriage and all that)

    What are my options here? What about my rights? Can any one help me?

    Bioethics are neither logical nor rational. It is always emotional. Recommend