David Worboys: Abortion and human life

David Worboys: Abortion and human life

Image: Alex Pasarelu/ Unsplash

The GOP in the USA has committed itself to banning abortion. Could this be one instance in which they have made the “right” moral decision at great risk to their political aspirations?

Human life is sacred and we all have the right to live. Then, why is abortion is such a complex issue? An embryo is alive immediately it is conceived but is not a human life. It becomes a foetus after about ten weeks of gestation when it begins its unity with the soul. This union is not complete until the sixteenth week. Until then it is not recognised as a living sentient being, in which case, it has fewer rights than a goat or a salmon. But it has always had the potential to become a human being. And if the embryo is destroyed its potential is destroyed. This is surely the issue.

At the same time, its mother in whose body the foetus exists is already a fully sentient being with the right to live. The foetus has the right to be born and to exist; but does this override the rights of the mother in any circumstances?

If the mother´s life would be endangered by the pregnancy or birth, it is the choice between an existing human life and a potential one, and it is generally considered that the mother has priority. If her life is not threatened, it is a question of having the right to make the decision about her own body and to live her life accordingly. Or so the argument goes.

If the foetus is considered a sentient being, then the circumstances of the conception should be irrelevant, because it had no control over it, whether it resulted from poor family planning, a simple lovers´ tiff or a brutal gang rape.

Cases of rape depend on the circumstances. If it is a gang rape, the victim may not even know who is the father. And she may associate the innocent baby´s very existence with the horrifying experience of the assault. If it is rape by an unknown attacker, her baby may be a constant reminder of the nightmare of the ordeal. If it is a family member, she has to decide whether to report it and await the reaction of her family. In any of these cases, is abortion of the birth of a potential human being justified?

Where the rape is perpetrated by a boyfriend, fiancé, husband or “partner” who insisted on going ahead despite her protests, there would seem to be no case whatsoever for aborting the baby´s birth, despite the inconveniences to its parents.

If the mother is somebody who sleeps around with scant regard for the consequences, there would seem to be a moral obligation to preserve an innocent life resulting from the reckless pursuit of pleasure. But it is not always as simple as that!

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.