As it stands, 9 states – encouraged by Trump – have passed abortion bans that will soon come into effect, challenging the constitutional right of a termination up to 24 weeks of pregnancy established in the landmark Roe v Wade case of 1973. In the supposed land of the free – for which generations have fought and people the world over have envied – this archaic political move is nothing but a tortuous act inflicted upon an entire gender.
Know that I broach the topic of abortion with immense respect and humility. Also a tenderness for whatever your experiences with it may be. I’m a biologist, so I come at this from a scientific perspective, but I’m also spiritual, sensitive, an empath and an ovulating young woman, so I like to think I can understand most points of view on a topic such as this.
We walk such vastly different paths and will die with stories as varied as the colours of the rainbow. The rule of thumb that spans the religions and spiritual beliefs around the globe still applies: as long as you’re not hurting anyone, you should be free to walk which ever path you so choose in this life.
Those who are anti-abortion hold the belief that terminating a pregnancy is a murderous act no different than life outside of the womb. It’s a terribly complex and philosophical debate, but let’s start with the science.
Three weeks after conception, the level of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) hormone increases significantly. This is produced by the placenta after implantation into the uterus wall and tells the body that pregnancy is occurring. As a result, the ovaries know to stop releasing eggs. The embryo will now begin to grow over the coming weeks, developing all of the various components it needs to become a real human being.
The definition of “a real human being” varies depending on the metric: does that mean self-awareness? Ability to plan for the future? Recognizing its reflection in the mirror? Using tools? Using language with syntax? Social intelligence and ability to connect with other members of its community? Exhibit empathy? If using the most common metrics in evolutionary biology, a fetus would not pass the humanity test—whereas countless animal species that are factory farmed and slaughtered, or hunted and fished to extinction, can be said to possess human intelligence.
The upper limit at which point an abortion is permitted varies, but it’s typically about 24 weeks. This is when a fetus is considered as having a chance of being “viable” (or potentially able to survive) outside of the uterus—in otherwise, it is a “functional human being.” Bear in mind that the chances of survival and optimal health are very slim at 24 weeks because vital organs aren’t always fully developed. However, this is the ethical rule of thumb. Abortions may be permitted beyond this in the third trimester of pregnancy under some circumstances, however, such as when the mother’s health is at risk.
Regardless of when the embryo passes on to become a human being (ethically and legally), the situation in the U.S. and Northern Ireland is a sexist injustice that will result in further violence against women. If a woman wants an abortion, she’ll damn well get one. The unfortunate repercussions of this wave of bans, however, is that women in these places will now have a more difficult time going about it. It’s all very well if you have the wherewithal to travel to a nice clinic abroad or in another state and be seen by a registered doctor. But for those living on the breadline, so-called “back-alley” practices that compromise women’s health will be on the rise. Whether it’s facilities operating under the radar that don’t guarantee sterility and put the woman at risk of life-threatening infections or pills ordered online that may or may not be what they say they are, this is a crisis in the making.
To pretend as though a ban on abortion will sway the behaviors of all women who have other plans for themselves than motherhood is preposterous. Exploring our sexuality is a part of the human experience and a fundamental component of the intimacy. And it shouldn’t come with the burden of a potential unwanted child attached to it.
Where pregnancy is a possibility among the fertile and frisky, contraception is paramount. But it’s a responsibility that should absolutely be shared between both partners. Women have had to bear the brunt of hormonal birth control for too long now; suffer the toxic consequences of what is effectively a chemically-induced menopause that interferes with a myriad of bodily functions. For many of us, the fear of pregnancy is all too real. And with a profound lack of education provided in the mainstream about how our menstrual cycles actually work, let alone using the Fertility Awareness Method as a form of contraception, many of us are terrorised into using things like the oral contraceptive pill, IUD, implant or injection, despite suffering side effects that can be lifelong and traumatic.
Many will feel now, in light of these abortion bans, that the choice is a no-brainer: hormonal birth control, despite numerous side effects. But the time is now for better education, for men to step up and share the responsibility of birth control—and for us to support better politicians who believe in autonomy.
To those who voted in favour of this cruel ban, I ask you this: what right do you have to decide on my life path for me? And what kind of world is it that you’re hoping to carve out as a result of this decision? From where I’m standing, it’s one peppered with violence, self-harm and neglect as a result of being abandoned by the welfare services that should primarily serve to care for and protect its citizens. By telling a woman she is unable to terminate a pregnancy should she wish to do so, you are treating her as little more than a vessel. Vessels we might be, but we are humans first and foremost, destined to create from anatomy other than our uterus alone.
What are your thoughts on the recent wave of abortion bans?