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Birth rights of sperms & eggs
The debate on abortion has moved away from the empowerment of women to cutting religious propaganda
Of course, all this is not happening for the first time. Since time immemorial, a woman’s body has been the theoretical and unembellished territory for societal and political war. From the theoretical, scientific and religious end, there are numerous logical stages that define the starting point where ‘human life’ begins. Many schools of thoughts believe that sperms and eggs have life; and put them at par with humans, thus considering them as preconceived life. Many don’t! But almost all blocks ranging from political to religious are in some or the other form discussing the issue of abortion – or as the critics call it, immoral killing of a life.
So what is the debate all about? That’s simple, as that rests on the analysis of the options a woman with unwanted pregnancy has, and those are: one, she can put up the child for adoption; two, she can accept the child; and three, she can abort the unborn child. And that is where the whole debate on abortion starts, with opposing philosophies promoted by two schools of thought: Pro-choice campaigners (who demand a mother be allowed to choose whichever of the three options she might wish to undertake), as opposed by pro-life campaigners (who generally argue in terms of foetal rights rather than reproductive rights). The pro-choice group believes that “a woman should have complete control over her fertility and the choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy,” and demand that a woman is given ‘the guarantee’ of reproductive rights – access to sexual education, fertility treatments, contraception, to safe and legal abortion, and even legal protection from forced abortion. The pro-life group’s philosophy revolves around the argument that “…human foetuses and embryos are persons, and therefore they have a right to live.” Thus, the movement is characterised by extreme wingers opposing sale and use of contraception, practise of death penalty, euthanasia, cloning, embryonic stem cell research et cetera. Philosophers and writers have been key in this debate, saddling further complicated arguments. Mary Anne Warren, noted American writer and philosophy professor (cited in major publications like Peter Singer’s ‘The Moral of the Story:
An Anthology of Ethics Through Literature’ and Bernard Gert’s ‘Bioethics: A Systematic Approach’) concludes that the foetus “satisfies only one criterion: consciousness (and this, only after it becomes susceptible to pain); the foetus is not a person and abortion is therefore morally permissible.” Using a scientific angle, a former President of the British Academy and current President of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, the well known Anthony J P Kenny believes that since division of the zygote into twins through the process of monozygotic twinning can occur until the 14th day of pregnancy, abortion should not be permissible after two weeks! Again, noted American moral philosopher and metaphysician Judith J Thomson states that even if the foetus has a right to life, abortion is still morally permissible because a woman has a right to control her own body.
The concepts of pro-life versus pro-choice are in general visible across the world, leading to starkly distanced abortion laws across the world – for example, if in Canada abortion is available ‘on demand’, then in a country like Nicaragua, abortions are illegal. In history, under Roman law, abortion did occur and was allowed, though only sometimes. Under the common law in England and in the US, abortion was illegal after the movements of the foetus could first be felt by the mother to be. In the 19th century, many western countries began to use statutes to codify abortion. Under Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union legalised all abortions in 1920, but this was fully reversed in 1936 by Stalin in order to increase population growth. Between 1930 to 1960, several countries like Poland, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Mexico legalised abortion in some special cases. This was followed by legalisation of abortion in Japan, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, Canada, United States, France, Austria, New Zealand, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.
By:- Sray Agarwal
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