Abortion – women’s rights or human rights?

The term abortion normally refers to the induced abortion of a foetus by medical or other methods, though it can refer to spontaneous abortion in some specific contexts. You can read about abortion and other related articles on this link. Different countries have different laws relating to abortion. Some allow abortion if it is requested, others allow abortions under specific circumstances, others do not allow abortion except in some situations and a very small number of countries do not allow abortion at all. You can find out more about abortion laws in different countries on this map. There is a huge debate about abortion between foetal rights (known as pro-life in this context) activists and women’s rights (known as pro-choice) activists.

Arguments of foetal rights activists

The pro-life activists argue that aborting an embryo or a foetus should be made illegal (except maybe under unavoidable circumstances) as the unborn child is a form of life and is therefore entitled to the right to life which is an important part of human rights. They also state issues such as ethics, foetal pain and paternal rights.

Arguments of pro-choice activists

The pro-choice activists argue that abortion should be available on request. They claim that abortion is a part of women’s rights as it is the right of a woman to have complete control of her reproductive system. They would normally want abortions to be allowed in most circumstances except maybe in cases like sex-selective abortions.

This debate may never end but it should not be seen as an issue between human rights and women’s rights as it sometimes is. Women are human beings too and they should be given their rights which have been denied to them for centuries. As a male, I think I have no right to deny a woman her reproductive rights and no man or woman or physician or religion should deny a woman her rights. I believe that as long as a foetus has not been delivered, it is a part of a woman’s body and therefore she should have complete rights over it. It should be her choice and her choice alone that should count and not that of anyone else, be it man or woman or physician or religion.

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15 Responses to Abortion – women’s rights or human rights?

  1. Raj says:

    Jonolan,

    Thanks for pointing out the real argument. I too, believe that the issue is NOT between women’s rights and human rights. I too believe that women would generally not want to ‘murder’ their children. But how and when does one know that a foetus is considered a person? This would vary according to the person and his beliefs. So, I guess the woman is the right person to decide the status and fate of her ‘foetus’ or her ‘child’. It should be left to her.

  2. jonolan says:

    Raj,

    It’s actually an inarguable position in that it’s useless to argue with an adherent of any belief regarding abortion.

    If someone believes that life and personhood begins at conception, they are never going to agree to let it be the woman’s decision to abort that life. That be be condoning murder.

    There is no difference in that viewpoint between legalizing the genocide of Muslims or Blacks or Left-Handed People in US and legalizing the murder of unborn children – well, except that unborn children are obviously more innocent that any of the others listed.

    How can we argue successfully with that? Pro-Lifers are going to fight to stop abortion. Pro-Choicers are going to argue to continue the practice. It’s not going to stop – ever.

  3. Raj says:

    Jonolan,

    That is true. I don’t think that this debate will ever stop. The only thing that it will decide is in which direction the law in different countries will move – either in favour of the pro-life people or in those in favour of choice. The direction depends on the strength of the two sides in each country.

  4. Raj says:

    Nita,

    Thanks for expressing a woman’s point of view. I believe that women themselves will be deeply divided on this issue. Yes, this is not an issue that must be seen as one between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ because there are several things that must be taken into consideration. But I believe that if someone should decide the fate of the ‘foetus’ or ‘unborn child’,then it has got to be the woman who is carrying the child in her womb. Afterall, it is HER womb and only she should decide, no one else. We must give women their due.

  5. Raj says:

    Kathy,

    Thanks for your comment. It is good to see women commenting on this issue🙂 because normally they tend to keep their thoughts to themselves. Ofcourse, that is only to be expected since this is a very sensitive topic.

    The scenario in my country (India) and many others is quite different from that in the U.S. In some states of India, people are even opposing moves to introduce sex education as a part of the school curriculum. This is ridiculous because talking about sex is still considered taboo here. Adolescent boys and more importantly, girls do not really know much about this and the little that they do know is often inaccurate and misleading. So they are not completely aware of their physiology till they become pregnant. And if they do, they go through unbelievable mental stress because the society views it as the fault of the woman and not the man who got her pregnant! So, until things change for the better, I believe that we need to give more rights to women.

    Also, I cannot really argue with you about when a new life is created because I think you are right (but I am not sure). But I also believe that if nature/God has given women extra duties, then the law/society must also give them extra rights. That would be fair.

    (P.S.: Please note that I was not blaming Christianity becuase here the situation is quite different. Christianity is one of the many religions here. So maybe I should have used the word ‘society’ rather than ‘religion’ in my post. I try not to blame religions because I believe everyone has a right to believe in what they want to.)

  6. jonolan says:

    Like so many people you miss the real argument. Is abortion murder? Yes or No? When does a fetus develop enough to be considered a person? Those are the key points of argument.

    Few women are going to believe that they have the “right” to murder their children. No, they don’t believe that the fetus is a person yet. The Pro-Life contingent vehemently disagrees.

    If abortion is murder, then no woman has the right to do it. It would then be a conflict between Human Rights and…nothing. If abortion isn’t murder then a woman has the right to do it. It would be a conflict between Women’s Rights and…you guessed it – nothing.

  7. Nita says:

    Well, I don’t want to get into the right or wrong of it, even if it is the real issue. Because if I look deep within my heart I will see it as murder.
    However, there are situations when the woman’s life is more important. That is why I can never write about this issue.

  8. womantowomancbe says:

    Raj,

    Here’s another woman weighing in with her perspective.🙂

    You don’t go far enough back when you start post-conception to figure out what should happen to the baby. The plain truth is, the overwhelming majority of abortions (at least here in the US), are not done due to rape. That means that all of these babies were conceived in an act of consensual sex. The woman had a choice to have sex or not, and she chose to have sex. If women don’t understand that sex causes pregnancy (especially with all of the sex education shoved down the throats of children in school nowadays), then they must be totally and completely and extremely STUPID! So whenever I read or hear of abortion advocates claiming that women deserve the “right to choose” what happens to their bodies, I profoundly agree….but that right to choose ends once conception occurs. (Genetically, when conception occurs a new life is created, different and distinct from both of the parental cells.) Women have the right to choose baby-making behavior. Overwhelmingly, aborted babies are not the result of rapes. Women chose to get pregnant. Yes, they may have been on birth control, they may have used condoms…. All too often, however, they use nothing and some of them even try to get pregnant, thinking it will attach the guy to them. When the guy bails, they kill their baby. Then blame the guy. But had they waited until the guy had committed (you know, marriage?), then the whole scenario would have been avoided.

    This “feminist” ideal of women being able to have sex without pregnancy is just playing into the lowest impulses of men, who are more than willing to have sex with easy females. It makes me sick that these feminists blame Christians and Christianity for keeping women down, when the reality is, that when women act on feminism in this form, it just makes them end up as single moms or having abortions, and leaving them with broken hearts and empty souls.

    Kathy
    katsyfga.wordpress.com

  9. womantowomancbe says:

    Raj,

    No offense taken! Actually, I was just rambling at that point.🙂 I’ve read quite a few pro-abortion blogs lately, and most of them are very strong feminists, and they very strongly hate Christianity, and blame all of their woes on Christianity, when nothing could be further from the truth. When Christianity was strong in this country, boys *and* girls were raised to be moral; and since girls could get pregnant, they were taught extra responsibility to be “good girls.” With the rise of feminism in the 60s and 70s, coupled with birth control pills, women and girls bought the feminist lie that we should be able to have sex without commitment, just like guys have done for centuries (if girls would let them). But that just cheapens girls and women, and feminists refuse to see that. They think it makes men and women “equal,” but the reality is, women actually had it better when they made guys wait. In general, men won’t wait if women don’t make them.

    Kathy

  10. Raj says:

    Kathy,

    Thanks. Yes, I don’t have any kind of hatred or even dislike towards Christianity or any other religion for that matter. Infact, I believe that spirituality can make one a better person.

    Though I do not agree with all the views of extreme feminists, I think they do have a valid point when they say that men and women should be treated atleast as equals. Ofcourse I believe that women must be given extra rights because of the extra duties that they are asked to perform. But giving women equal rights would be a good first step before they are given the extra rights that they deserve for being women.

  11. Shiloh says:

    abortion is not two ways, it is the complete elimination of a living organism (fetus)whether fully developed or not. I am just saying they are some consequences to the choice both physically and emotionally and I am sure there is a better way to deal with it than to abort. Some people do abortion because of rape, economic reasons, children having children and medical reasons (life and death situation between the mother and the fetus).). Still I am bent on my opinion there are other options. You could give the baby up for adoption, why not? Do you think you would become emotionally attached to it? Well, I will tell you that is better than to abort and become emotionally at fault with oneself. People need to be more responsible for their decisions; if a woman allowed herself to get pregnant then she should assume responsibility and if a woman was raped I could be more understanding as to why she would want to abort, but isn’t birth control available and contraceptives? Why wait when the baby is developing.abortion is not just the expulsion of a fetus before it is viable because at about five weeks it has a heart. a few years back a woman whom was a demonstrator said,“last year her friend had got pregnant and decided that the abortion was right for her. It would’ve been tragic if the government had basically forced her to have a baby she couldn’t care for.” Now this being said, I feel disgusted seriously I am sure the government is not forcing her to have this baby, certainly nobody did but herself. No one told her to get her self involved in any sexual activity that would have caused her pregnancy in the first place, I’ll tell you though what would have been tragic_ the death of her unborn child. Why isn’t that considered a tragedy? So in “Respecting a woman’s right to choose” I think she should have thought of that before, she had the right but the question is did she loose it? Yes. I do think though that people should be re – educated on the consequences of unprotected sex. You know what I say? I say no to abortion.

  12. Shiloh says:

    everyone,

    -not to sound offensive or anything.
    disclaimer: the {you}used in my blog makes reference to women in particular who are considering abortion and not previous bloggers.

  13. Raj says:

    Shiloh,

    Thanks for your detailed response and the disclaimer. Yes, I understand that you are a pro-lifer. I think I have not made my stand clear though. I am NOT pro-abortion by any stretch of the imagination. I am pro-choice.

    This is a very delicate issue so I will try to explain my stand as clearly as I possibly can. Let me put it this way. I think women have been treated as third class citizens and baby making machines (please forgive me for using that term) in almost all societies around the world since time immemorial. They have been exploited, abused, raped, killed and made to believe that they are meant to be used by men to produce offspring. If they have been given equal rights as men in a few societies, it was after a prolonged struggle. I do not understand why it should be like this. If anything, they should be treated with more respect and given equal, if not more rights than men.

    Another thing that I simply cannot understand is why some women themselves want to preserve the status quo, not just with respect to abortion, but with respect to other things that affect women adversely, like war, torture, genocide, state-sponsored terrorism, the death penalty, the biased law, feudalism and its modern day version – unrestrained capitalism and a few other things. This makes me very, very sad indeed. If anything, I thought women would be strongly opposed to these barbaric and uncivilised practices.

    Ofcourse, a lot of women oppose these things vehemently but others are quite happy to let things be as they are. This has led me to believe that men are not exactly responsible for all the ills in this world. Women are equally responsible. I also get the strange feeling sometimes that one half of the female population is the greatest enemy of the other half while males are merely tools to be used by one half or the other.

    I am terribly saddened by the fact that any effort to rid the world of inhuman practices is often opposed by women themselves, or at best, they turn a blind eye to it. I am not surprised about this at all though. But yes, I am optimistic that one day all women will think in the same manner and join hands with men to get rid of all the evil, barbaric, uncivilised and inhuman practices in this world. But I don’t see this happening any time soon and that is what makes me a pessimist.

    Disclaimer: I am not referring to anyone in particular or any group of women (or men, for that matter) or any religion or any country or anything like that. This is just my own thought about the reasons for the sorry state of affairs on our planet. Just like you Shiloh, I don’t want to sound offensive or anything like that.

  14. Eileen says:

    I would have been interested to see what you have to say about the abortion laws in India. It would be interesting to hear what they are, and what the various factions in India say about them.

    As a woman, I have changed my opinion on this topic over the years. When I was young, my opinions were no different than yours. I never dreamed I would change my opinions. However, after becoming a mother, I have.

    I was an older mother, and prior to becoming pregnant, just thought that if anything was wrong, I would just have an abortion. They always tell older mothers to have an amneocentisis. They also take pictures of the fetus using ultrasound scan. The pictures (at about 4 1/2 months of pregnancy) didn’t look like much to me. But looking back at them a couple of years after my daughter was born, I could recognize her face perfectly in those prenatal pictures.

    Also, I have since heard some horrific stories about abortions or middle-pregnancy abortions where the fetuses were born alive. One doctor working in the clinic was told to kill the fetuses. She couldn’t do it. Her boss just poured in liquid and drowned them in the pan, right in front of her. It was so upsetting to her she had to leave medicine entirely. I met her at a cocktail party, where she was still highly traumatized two years later, and telling me the story.

    My new perspective on this issue is that abortion IS murder. I think society should regulate mid and late term abortions. I think they must permit early-term abortions. But I know I could never have one now, except in about the first six or eight weeks, maximum.

    I do, think however, that the rights of the LIVING have to take precedence over the rights of the unborn. I think abortions should only be permitted in the first trimester legally, and other than that, that each woman should be free to make her own choice–it’s she that will have to live with it throughout eternity.

    Eileen
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)
    elementaryteacher.wordpress.com

  15. Raj says:

    Eileen,

    Thanks for your comment. I don’t know much about the abortion laws here but here is a link that I think contains most of the information you need:

    1 to 9 months

    As far as I know, there are no strongly pro-life and pro-choice factions here. Most people think that the abortion laws are adequate, though there is serious concern about people using the loopholes in the law to perform sex-selective abortions. These sex-selective abortions have led to a serious imbalance in the sex ratio of children in the 0-6 age group. Infact, the sex ratio of that age group has declined to alarming proportions in some parts of the country.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that a woman knows what is best for her unborn child, as it is a part of her body till it is born. So if a woman changes her view after becoming a mother, it has to be accepted as the reality.

    It feels terrible to read about those abortions where the foetuses were born alive. I don’t know why her boss had to kill them like that. I guess they would have died even if they were just left alone.

    I feel so sad for your doctor friend. Medicine is a field that requires a lot of courage of a different kind. I guess I could never have been a doctor! Infact, when I was asked to dissect and examine (dead) cockroaches and frogs in my high school biology practical class, I went through the motions like a zombie, totally removed from myself. My soul ebbed back into me only when those classes got over.

    Mothers do feel that abortion is murder. I have no problems with accepting it and I wholeheartedly welcome such a point of view.

    Just as you (and another mother who has commented on this post) said, I too think that the rights of the living have to take precedence over those of the unborn. I do not want to hear that a would-be-mother died because someone forced her to have a baby. That would be terrible. Afterall, a woman can have another baby if she wants and if she tries but a baby without a mother or a baby with a mentally traumatised mother is not good for anyone.

    However, I agree that absolutely no one (not even the would-be-father) should interfere with the rights of the would-be-mother. Afterall, mothers know best!🙂

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