Abortion is defined as any act aimed at ending pregnancy term before it is due. Abortion can be either induced or spontaneous. Spontaneous abortions occur when the implantation is altered by abnormalities in the uterus due to infection, incomplete fertilization process or improper hormone balance.
Induced abortion occurs during the second trimester. It involves use medical procedures such as surgical technology or drugs with the intent of aborting the child. This form of abortion raises lots of legal questions regarding the physician carrying out the procedure, the mother and the viable infant.1
The recent past decades have seen a worldwide tendency towards tolerance of abortion. However, most nations still impose legal barriers to Abortion often in the form of punishment to those undergoing abortion and the providers. Even in the nations where abortion is liberalized, they lack clarity regarding the law.
Additionally, they lack public funding for abortion or even burdensome procedures to access abortion services. In some cases, abortion provider’s refuses to offer the services denying the women access to abortion services that are safe. Also, the government fails to approve for the new technologies for abortion service delivery emerge.2
Evidently, unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions are serious public health problems in the third world country where many governments and international organizations are yet to liberalize the abortion laws. This paper addresses the abortion prevalence’s, the different perspective regarding abortions such as theological, social, medical and philosophical. Additionally, it will look in to the liberalization of abortion laws and their effects to the society.
Every year, there are 70 million cases of unwanted pregnancies. 46 million choose not to have abortions. Approximately 68, 000 deaths of women in low come countries are reported due to complications of unsafe abortion. Over 40% of the deaths are from Africa. Additionally, unsafe abortion is responsible for 13% for maternal deaths in the world annually.
Research estimates that 20 million of unsafe abortions are practiced annually in the world with 95% of this occurring in the third world countries. Additionally, WHO estimates that over half million of women in the world will die due to unsafe abortion by 2015 if no new actions are taken.3
According to WHO statistics, estimates of annual deaths due to unsafe abortion are more than three-quarters of million women since 1994 when the issue was placed first on the world’s agenda during the International Conference on Population and development (ICPD).
Approximately 61% percent of the world’s populations live in nations where laws permit abortion with no restriction to broad socioeconomic grounds. Additional 3% lives in nations whose laws permit abortion on physical and medical grounds; and 36% of the population in the nations where laws permit abortion only when the mother’s life is in danger or to protect her physical health.4
The restrictive abortion laws in the developing countries results to inequitable access to safe abortion resulting to increased maternal deaths, violations of women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The laws and policies harm most women especially the low income earners and low social connections. Additionally, poor women, vulnerable adolescents and victims of racial discrimination are the most victims to sexual violence.
These victims have no option but to raise kids from the unwanted pregnancies who remind them of the unfortunate incidences which is an egregious violation of their rights. Most of the countries in the third world laws permit abortion only to save woman’s life. The restrictive laws result to the increased prevalence and persistent of unsafe abortion.
Additionally, the morbidity from unsafe abortion serves even greater problems including sepsis, hemorrhage, uterine perforations, cervical trauma and other chronic or permanent conditions. About 10 to 50% of women practicing unsafe abortion require more medical attention. However, most of them fail to find such care when need arises. Between 20 to 30% of them contract reproductive tract infections with 20 to 40% developing pelvic inflammatory diseases or worse infertility due to bilateral tubal occlusion.5
Therefore, the aforementioned problems requires an increased attention and new actions by the government and their policy makers in order to progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reduced maternal mortality, gender equality promotion and empowerment of women as well as poverty eradication.
Giving the woman the ability to regulate her own fertility is a crucial achievement towards meeting the agreed goals, particularly that of reducing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015. Conversely, the increased and persistent unsafe abortion in the third world countries impedes the goals to meet the MDGs.6
Also, the increased medical advancements have steadily improved abortion technologies. These includes technologies such as vacuum aspirations which replaced the sharp curettage as the most recommended surgical method due to its considerable safety and degree of comfort.
There is also a more recent non surgical medical method of pregnancy termination that has given women another choice. Mifepristone is a registered oral administrative drug approved in 36 countries. Research studies on use of Mifepristone physicians in Britain, France and Sweden revealed that the regimen is absolutely safe, effective and generally accepted by women.7
Evaluation of different Abortion perspectives
Many doctors uphold the provisional perspective that human being is crucially significant by far than any fetus. This implies that Fetus right to life is somehow a sense of minimal conception but progresses as birth approaches. Therefore the morality of a particular abortion should be determined by weighing the various rights of the mother against that of the Fetus.8
Abortion debate in philosophical perspective is an extreme dogmatic and defensive arguments form one perspective to another. There are typically three types of philosophies namely liberal, conservatives and moderate. According to liberals, they assume that abortion is justifiable in a wider range arguing that a woman has a right to make decisions on the unplanned pregnancies especially those arising from rape and sexual violence and in case a woman’s life is endangered.
Conservatives hold an opposing opinion to the liberals. They argue that form fetus conception, the being has a moral status and a right for life. They argue that even liberalizing the exceptions such as sexual violation and rape often ‘eat up the rule’. Therefore, conservatism holds on only on self-defense as the only permissible abortion i.e. only when the fetus is a potential danger to the mother’s life.
Moderate position supports abortion in the early months of pregnancy when the fetus hardly resembles a baby and with the interests of the pregnant mother and her relatives. At a point when pregnancy has matured to such an extent that the fetus takes a human shape it is not advisable for abortion to be carried out but the only reason that can justify abortion at this point a likely injury to the mother.9
Theological and relevant church teaching
In religion, children are viewed as heritage form God. Therefore, abortion was unthinkable to an Israelite woman where lacking a child (bareness) was viewed as a curse. This is actually emphasized by Key verses in Psalms 139 where David is parsing God’s sovereignty and acknowledges that God was there while he was formed in the Mother’s Womb. Also Genesis 1: 26-27; 5: 1; and 9: 6 which summarize that we (child) are made to God’s image thereby acknowledging the sanctity of the conception and Child birth.10
Christian’s views on abortion are replicated amongst much other religious domination such as Islam and Hinduism. For instance, Hinduism teachings on abortion are that it is an act of violence and results to bad Karma. It is viewed as womb murder or murder of unborn soul.
In Buddhism, the first five precepts teachings are those against killing any living being. They condone even abortion to save the life of a mother as it violates their ideals of self –sacrifice. According to their faith, it’s a price that a woman should pay in the cycle of birth and re-birth.11
The history and social perspectives contradicts each other. For example, sickly, weak and deformed children were left in the hill side to die out of exposure. In other communities, those whose mothers died during birth were thrown into the bush.In some communities, the desire to raise men for battle made abortion illegal. Therefore, abortion was prohibited and women who induced her own abortion were penalized severe. Today’s society also condones abortion partly due to their moral values and religion perspectives.12
Liberalization of Abortion laws
Abortion has been addressed in a variety of intergovernmental agreements especially those regarding health, population and women equality and rights. For example, the 1994 ICPD Program of action emphasized that abortion is a major public health concern. The organization emphasized that abortion should be safe when legal but left individual nations to define terms and conditions guiding the laws.
In 1995, the Fourth world Conference on women changed ICPD 8.25 paragraph calling upon the governments to re-consider their reviews on abortion laws. In 1999 ICPD paragraph 63 iii asked the health systems particularly those that indicated that abortion was against the law and those of ensuring that abortion is safe and accessible, and later in 2004 ICPD was re-affirmed virtually by all governments. To date, there is tremendous growth in support of safe abortion liberalization by the UN and other International organizations.
Particularly, of significant is the adoption of African Union IN July 2003 of the optional Protocol on women’s Rights to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Numerous NGO conferences have addressed the issues of unsafe abortion and the declarations of policy statements that endorse changes in abortion laws and policies and the importance of women’s access to safe and legal abortion.13
Therefore, the international community has a huge role in liberalization of abortion. Citizens of each nation must develop their own governing systems, laws and policies of relevant principles which will enhance human rights and gender equality. Leaders should promote an informed dialogue on abortion issues particularly those pertaining to ethics, human rights and public issues and their implications where restrictive abortion laws prevail.
This way, they will be in a position to advocate for serious and evidence based reviews on the pre-existing abortion laws in their countries. More so, they should advocate for new language which will reinforce the ICPD and Beijing agreements to encourage legal and policy transformation in areas at the national level regarding aspects and sexual and reproductive health, contraception abortion and Female genital mutilation.
This will facilitate the international donor agencies to implement existing agreements and guidelines of safe abortion, provision financial and technical assistance to the countries that need it. Also, it will facilitate the engagement of policy dialogue between nations around the importance of addressing abortion in order to achieve MDGs.14
Importance of liberalizing abortion laws
Proponents of restrictive abortion laws assume that safe pregnancy and birth of a healthy baby is the alternative to unsafe abortion. However, there are cases of extreme high maternal mortality and morbidity in the third world countries. In some cases, women carrying their pregnancy to term only to suffer serious complications that results to chronic diseases or death. Sometimes they may also incur risks due to pregnancy denial or due to the fact that they are unable to access prenatal and delivery care.
This is especially so in women form the developing world. Actually, statistics shows that one woman in every 2, 800 die from pregnancy derived complications in the developed nations and one in every 61 in third world countries. The risks is said to be even higher at regional level. For example, one in every 16 sub Saharan African women dies from maternal complications.15
Liberalization of Abortion laws campaigns are based on various principles. To start with is the empowering of women rights and gender equality. Arguably, the ability to dictate whether or not to bear child is a woman right and has a great and direct implication towards the achievement of MDG 3 on gender equality.
The former president of the International Federation of Gynecology and obstetrics explains that motherhood should not only be dignified but also informed and a responsible choice. When the government fails to liberalize abortion laws, then it fails to grant women their human rights and power to control their fertility.
Clearly, forcing a woman to bear unwanted child is a clear denial of her human dignity and autonomy or in simpler terms; it is an abuse of her reproductive capacities and her full citizenship. This is because only those women who have rights to their reproductive health and have been granted the ability to control her own fertility can participate fully and equally in the nation’s socio-economic and political life.16
Moreover, abortion laws liberalization plays a crucial role in poverty eradication. The determinants of women social and economic are partially dictated by her ability to control her reproductive ability. The MDG 1 achievement is the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. Liberalizing abortion laws implies that women can take advantage of other prevailing opportunities such as advancing their education, employment or participate in to her political empowerment.
It gives them a chance to maintain and achieve a healthy well being of their productivity and contributions to the society. Research evidence indicate that low income women who cannot access safe abortion turn to unsafe providers leading to the various complications discussed earlier. For instance in Bolivia study in 2003 showed that 201 women suffering from incomplete abortions presented themselves to 7 public hospitals. 65% of the patients were in the lowest income quintile.
Therefore, providing abortion services in the public health system saves the high costs of treating the complications associated with unsafe abortion, freeing up the resources to cater other critical health concerns of the third world country. Research done in Tanzania estimated that costs of post abortion care is more than seven times than the annual money funded by the ministry of Health to cover total country’s health expenses.
Health resources could be saved and be shifted to cater for other essential preventive measures and obstetric care of the women through legalizing abortion and hence; improve their reproductive status and well being. Additionally, legalizing abortion could be a significant alternative to decline fertility and slower population growth which in turn will facilitate economic growth, reduce poverty and sustain development.17
Economists have long established that changes in social policy alter the incentives of a person causing behavioral responses. One of the policies is the restrictive abortion laws. Research has showed that liberalization of abortion laws causes decrease forced marriage rates amongst many young women and subsequently decrease the ‘shotgun weddings’.18
Also, accessing safe abortion is crucial social necessity. In the recent times, there is increased use of contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancy. However, there are no accesses to contraceptives making persistence of unwanted pregnancy. Actually, more than half of all women in the developing nations are at risks of unwanted pregnancies because they use birth control methods with high failure rates.
Also, the lack of prioritization of contraceptive supplies by the government and Nongovernmental organizations has resulted to shortages. The access to emergency contraception that prevents unwanted pregnancy is also widely restricted. Research shows that over 600 million users of the failure rates contraceptives experience unwanted pregnancies translating to accidental pregnancies every year. Hence, women will continually need to access a safe voluntary abortion.19
In summation, the topic of abortion has raised lots of legal questions regarding the physician carrying out the procedure, the mother and the viable infant. Unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions are serious public health problems in the world. Additionally, much is at stake concerning the failure of the international community to adopt safe abortion liberalization policy reform. Lives and health of millions of women, their relatives and the community in the wide perspective are at stake.
As discussed above, there are tragic consequences of unsafe abortion and any evidenced information required to enlighten the policy makers is readily available from the public health facilities. Usually, the question of abortion is not openly discussed due to fear of repercussions from opponents.
A powerful collective response of respected and influential leaders in the nation and international community acts as good approach to fight against anti-abortion minorities form trampling on the rights of women. Also, strong efforts to establish new political strengths will enhance women’s access to safe abortion care leading to the achievement of global commitment in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Bio Philosophy Humanism Socinian, “Philosophers and the issue of abortion,” Centre for Socinian Studies. Last modified n.d., http://www.socinian.org/abortion.html
Bowmaker, Simon and Emerson Patrick, “Still waiting for Mister Right? Asymmetric Information, Abortion Laws and the Timing of Marriage” IZA Discussion Paper No. 4176. Last modified 2009, http://ftp.iza.org/dp4176.pdf
Center for Reproductive Rights, “Abortion Worldwide: Twelve Years of Reform” Human Life International. Last modified 2009, http://www.hli.org/files/State%20of%20Abortion%20Laws.pdf
Coalition of Canada, “Abortions rights coalition of Canada Position Paper 54” ARCC-CDAD. Last modified 2006, http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/postionpapers/54-US-Canada-Abortion-Law-Policy.pdf
Crane, Barbara, and Smith Charlotte, “Strategy for achieving the Millennium Development Goals to improve Maternal Health, Promote Gender Equality and reduce poverty,” UN millennium Project organization. Last modified 2006, http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/documents/Crane_and_Hord-Smith-final.pdf
Essig, Andrew, “The world health organization’s Abortion Agenda,” International Organizations Research Group: White paper No. 11. Last modified 2010, http://www.c-fam.org/docLib/20100602_WHO_FINAL.pdf
Gaining Ground, “A tool for advancing Reproductive rights law reforms,” Chapter five: Abortion. Last modified 2004, http://fidakenya.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/GG_Part-IV_Abortion.pdf
Lopez Raquel, “Perspectives on abortion: Pre Choice, Pro –life and what lies in between,” European Journal of social Sciences ISSN 1450-2267 No 4. Last modified 2012, http://www.europeanjournalofsocialsciences.com/ISSUES/EJSS_27_4_07.pdf
Robert, Ebert, “Critical Issues in Reproductive Health: Prevention and Mortality form Induced and Unsafe Abortion in Nigeria” The population Council New York. Last modified n.d., http://www.popcouncil.org/pdfs/ebert/abortmorbmortnigeria.pdf
1 Bio Philosophy Humanism Socinian, “Philosophers and the issue of abortion,” Centre for Socinian Studies, last modified n.d., http://www.socinian.org/abortion.html
2 Gaining Ground, “A tool for advancing Reproductive rights law reforms,” Chapter five: Abortion, last modified 2004, http://fidakenya.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/GG_Part-IV_Abortion.pdf
4 Crane, Barbara, and Smith Charlotte, “Strategy for achieving the Millennium Development Goals to improve Maternal Health, Promote Gender Equality and reduce poverty,” UN millennium Project organization, last modified 2006, http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/documents/Crane_and_Hord-Smith-final.pdf
5 Bowmaker, Simon and Emerson Patrick, “Still waiting for Mister Right? Asymmetric Information, Abortion Laws and the Timing of Marriage” IZA Discussion Paper No. 4176, last modified 2009, http://ftp.iza.org/dp4176.pdf
6 Crane, Barbara, and Smith Charlotte
7 Thomas Gareth, “Death and Denial: Unsafe abortion and poverty,” International Planned Parenthood Federation, last modified 2006, http://www.ippfwhr.org/sites/default/files/files/Death_Denial_EN.pdf
8 Robert, Ebert, “Critical Issues in Reproductive Health: Prevention and Mortality form Induced and Unsafe Abortion in Nigeria” The population Council New York, last modified n.d., http://www.popcouncil.org/pdfs/ebert/abortmorbmortnigeria.pdf
9 Bio Philosophy Humanism Socinian
10 Lopez Raquel
13 Gaining Ground
14 Essig, Andrew, “The world health organization’s Abortion Agenda,” International Organizations Research Group: White paper No. 11, last modified 2010, http://www.c-fam.org/docLib/20100602_WHO_FINAL.pdf
15 Gaining Ground
16 Coalition of Canada
17 Essig, Andrew
18 Center for Reproductive Rights
19 Gaining Ground