The abortion debate carried in the newspapers recently has focused on the moral issues. However, the approach of the Mustard Seed poll, although obviously concerned with moral issues, has for many of us distorted the debate by asking questions in such a way that the issue is twisted.
By this means it tries to smear as immoral those who, unlike its sponsors, support a repeal of the legislation on abortion by implying that they support 1) child murder, 2) the use of abortion as a means of birth control, and 3) the denial of rights to conscientious objectors. This is very regrettable and does not help the country to be informed in reaching a decision on abortion.
Morality grapples with the problems of 'living life' based on principles of good in an imperfect world. Certainly a core moral principle is a concern for the suffering of others, so the public health aspect of this matter is important. Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that between 2003-2007 on average 1,173 women per year were treated for often painful complications (which can include infertility) following unsafe abortions.
One in 12 women die
Statistics from an article in the British medical journal Lancet indicate that about one in 12 women dies from unsafe abortions. In countries where abortion has been legalised, mortality has declined significantly and remains low. Over time, the abortion rate declines as women are counselled regarding appropriate contraceptive choices.
There are those who oppose changing the law, contending that from the moment of conception, the foetus should be treated as a child with the rights of a human being, so they view abortion as murder, although if that foetus was removed from the womb of the mother it could not survive and would not even look like a child. By the definition of full development and viability, therefore, the foetus is not yet a human being, capable of life, but still part of the body of the mother, although with the potential to grow over time into a viable human life.
The question that then arise is: What is life? Life is not just a matter of a material physical existence but a matter of emotional, psychological and spiritual existence. Nature itself may abort a foetus with a physical defect in order to ensure optimal physical existence. But it is we who have the power over optimal emotional, psychological and spiritual existence.
Not all sex acts are between adults able to give informed consent; with numerous documented and undocumented cases of rape, incest and intimate partner abuse. One third of sexually active couples not wanting children do not use a contraceptive.
Lessons of love and forgiveness
One of the difficulties of morality (as indeed Jesus showed on several occasions) is that it is not a matter of black and white. The Christian Church from time to time demonstrates that it has failed to learn some of the teachings of the God it follows, particularly the core, but difficult lessons of love and forgiveness.
This was demonstrated again in the recent abortion case in Italy. Doctors who terminated the twin pregnancy of a nine-year-old girl, repeatedly raped by her stepfather, because they did not think her small body of 80 lbs could safely carry two pregnancies to term, were punished - excommunicated by the Catholic Church along with her mother! There was no reference to the stepfather! A Vatican bishop (there are always exceptions who live according to the spirit of the law) criticised the decision for its insensitivity and lack of mercy. He told the young girl that others merited excommunication, not those who helped her regain hope and trust.
Let us not make the same kind of mistake. Let us save lives and eventually reduce pregnancy terminations by supporting the recommendations of the Jamaica Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group to the Ministry of Health, with its careful stipulations. Let's facilitate an environment in which conception is a responsible act and every newborn child is wanted and loved.
I am, etc.,