By Elizabeth Whitten
In his recent letter “Wakeham has it wrong on abortion,” George McIsaac argues that abortion is the sole cause of population decline, conveniently forgetting that there are a multitude of reasons for women having fewer children.
He conveniently forgets that women are making informed choices regarding what happens with their bodies. I also have the feeling that he includes birth control in the banner of abortion. How many female readers are on the pill at the moment? McIsaac would very much like you to stop using it and get back to staying at home. He argues that the nation is floundering and about to slide into decay, so our rights to bodily autonomy are a moot point.
I’d also like to remind anyone who needs it that a fetus is not a child. I don’t automatically get a baby registry at Toys “R” Us with a positive pregnancy test. Motherhood should be by choice, not a life sentence. A child is the end result of a pregnancy, not something that pops up at the moment of conception. A fetus is not a child and its rights will never supersede my own.
Restricting access to abortion has never stopped women terminating unwanted pregnancies. What it does is make it unsafe. While McIsaac might turn to the church for answers, I look to the history books and the stories of women who lived before Morgenataler vs. the Queen, when women routinely risked their safety to get their lives back.
Historically, the church held with the belief that a woman was pregnant when she first felt fetal movement, called quickening, which was believed to be a sign that a fetus had undergone ensoulment. St. Augustine believed that abortion was not murder until ensoulment had occurred. Before it, the fetus was only seen as a potential human being and did not receive the same protection and status as, you know, an actual human being. This practice gave women some power over when to determine that they were pregnant.
It was almost the 17th century when Pope Gregory XIV decided ensoulment occurred around the 16th week. In fact, the church only becomes hard-liners against abortion in the 19th century.
McIsaac favours the current use of the word “abortion,” which does not meet up with historical precedent. To him, abortion occurs at any time when a pregnancy is terminated. However, in the past the church only called it abortion when ensoulment had occurred, which was then seen as a crime. McIsaac is superimposing his own beliefs onto a past that has never existed, but is more in keeping with his personal views and those of the current Catholic Church.
There is a glaring lack of support for women who want abortions in this province. Women from Newfoundland and Labrador have to journey from all over the province to reach our only clinic. At the same time, any hospital is capable of performing the dilation and evacuation procedure, but only does so in cases of miscarriages when sepsis threatens to set in. If we are to improve the lives of women, we need to have greater access to birth control and abortions.
Allow me to quote Eastern Orthodox author Frederica Mathewes-Green: “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”
Elizabeth Whitten writes from St. John’s.