Abortion gives women a safe alternative

Letters to the Editor (The Telegram)
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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.

Organizations: Catholic Church.There, Porsche

Geographic location: St. Augustine, Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • Colin.Burke
    May 24, 2014 - 07:26

    I do not believe it is accurate to say "the fetus is not a child." We cannot speak of "the fetus" as we can of "the cat" or "the dog." There are as many kinds of fetuses as there are species of animals. Even the Criminal Code when referring to a child which has not legally "become a human being" uses the word "child" as meaning offspring of human parents. A fetus, according to at least one dictionary, is simply a fully developed embryo, and an embryo is simply the offspring of animals before birth. The Church's view of "ensoulment" was based on the science of previous ages; modern scientific evidence, or so I've read, shows, so far as science can, that the offspring of human parents is also human in its DNA from the moment of fertilization.

  • Krista
    May 22, 2014 - 09:51

    As a woman who was lucky enough to not be in a position at a young age to make the decision to have an abortion, I truly cannot understand it, unless I have been in that situation. I can only imagine how difficult the decision must be to make (or not make) depending on the circumstances surrounding it. I am a mother of two children, and it is in no way cheap, or easy to be a parent,. I would imagine that it would be even more difficult if the mother/parents were younger, or don't have a stable job (with benefits, etc) to provide for the children. I think it is easy for people to suggest that abortions should not be legal and blame the mothers for getting pregnant in the first place. No situation is black and white, and neither is the decision to abort/keep the child. Oh, and about the population decreasing? That's fantastic news! Our earth is already being destroyed by the people who are living here now, the last thing we need is for the world's population to GROW. The reality is, I am a woman but I am also a human being, and I have every right to have the final say as to what happens to and with my body. I suspect that if we had mandatory sterilization for men to avoid getting women pregnant in the first place, they would have something to say about it. Also note that it takes 2 people to conceive a child, so lets all stop blaming the woman for the pregnancy, shall we?

  • Brenda Lynch
    May 22, 2014 - 09:38

    Ms. Whitten, I am not a believer in any religion but I could no more stop a beating heart of a pre-born child than I could of child laying in a crib. In fact, I could hardly bring myself to abort a kitten or a puppy, let alone a human. There is a huge list of people wanting to adopt. Ridding oneself of a baby is not the same as removing tonsils or an appendix. It is a horrible thing for one human to do to another. If a woman is so determined to "gnaw of her own leg" as you so eloquently put it, why should us pro-lifers have to provide that for her? Again, I do not believe in any god, but I believe we, as an evolving species, should do everything in our power to make this world a kinder, better place.

  • Colin Burke
    May 22, 2014 - 07:55

    It seems to me that the trap in which pregnant women are caught like an animal is usually not their pregnancy itself but some other circumstance which ought to have been avoided or prevented or of which its occasioning ought to be punished, such as a man's getting a woman pregnant in unfortunate circumstances in the first place, since the logic which depends on the fact that men can't get pregnant can plausibly be extended to the fact that men can't have abortions. If pregnancy itself were the real trap, rather than a normal condition for women, maybe more women would do more to avoid it.

  • Morris
    May 22, 2014 - 05:12

    For some years the St. John's status of women or the Nl status of women operated their office adjacent to St Clare's Hospital and remained silent about the fact that included in the sale of the facility by the SISTERS OF MERCYto the Gov of NL is a clause that the facility will continue to operate under the " Canadian catholic code of ethics" and no abortion or male sterilization procedures can occur! WHY is this women's organization silent about this abortion issue? Why is there no outrage about this FACT!

  • A mom
    May 21, 2014 - 23:05

    Abortion is the right of that mother,I am a mom of one child with very good income,my child is rather expensive,do any of you protesters realize that many of these young mothers out there can't support themselves let alone a child,you can't provide for a family on $10.00,$20.00 an hour pay rent,food and all expenses that come along with a child.Why don't some of you that have opinions give up your high profile jobs and walk in the shoes of someone that are barely making it from payday to payday.Then have the same right to shout out against abortion.