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Abortion: Myth and Reality

Life?It would be foolish to suggest an all-out ban on abortion right now, as many conservatives believe. Instead, it would be prudent for the government to spend more money on counseling and advising programs that teach women (and men) to make better and safer sexual choices.

Life?With the selection of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running-mate by Republican presidential candidate John McCain, the issue of abortion has one again entered the national political discourse. Conservatives have rallied behind Palin for her staunch “pro-life” stance, while the Left has been unwavering in its attack on her controversial and outspoken views on such a polarizing topic.

In the historic Roe v. Wade case, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of giving women access to abortion. Since then, it has been restricted and expanded to various degrees in various states. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there were over 800,000 legal induced abortions in the United States in 2003. That is an average of over 2000 fetuses terminated every day, or about 80 per hour.

Proponents of abortion justify it in the name of privacy and individual choice. They also cite the high rate of rape and incest cases in the country and the need for abortion in those situations. Furthermore, they argue that many women are not able to financially, emotionally, and psychologically handle the responsibility of raising a child. Lastly, organizations such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood believe that women will continue to want abortions, so if their access to abortions is restricted, they will end up taking things into their own hands and resort to unsafe and potentially lethal methods.

In regards to the question of privacy and individual choice, that is a very subjective matter. A 2000 Los Angeles Times survey found that over half of Americans believe abortion, especially partial-birth and late-term abortion, is equivalent to murder. Secondly, if we are talking about the woman’s right to “choice” and control over her body, what about the fact that the fetus is forced to forfeit its right to choose between life and death? Furthermore, we Muslims judge these type of subjective issues not by personal or popular opinion, but by the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) as interpreted by a qualified jurist. Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani represents the verdicts of the majority of our jurists when he states that abortion after the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus is prohibited except in medical emergencies. This is in accordance with medical reasoning, since before implantation, there is still the possibility that the fertilized egg may not turn into a fetus, whereas after implantation, it will most definitely continue towards fetal development. This makes much more sense than the “viability” factor inserted by the Supreme Court, which has always been subject to endless debates and controversies.

The second issue brought up by abortion supporters is the high rate of rape and incest in the country. While there is undoubtedly a high rate of rape in this country, it is interesting to note the abortion statistics in this regard. In a study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute conducted in 2000, less than 1 percent of abortions that take place in the United States are because of rape or incest. Even in the case of rape, a woman can easily take the “morning after” pill and not have to resort to abortion. Furthermore, let us not forget that it is not the child’s fault that his/her father raped his/her mother.

The rape justification is therefore nothing more than a myth. In fact, of the three reasons that women in the Guttmacher Institute study gave for having an abortion, three-fourths said that having an baby would interfere with their work, school, or other responsibilities, two-thirds said they couldn’t afford a baby, and half said they did not wish to be single parents. In other words, the overwhelming reason for abortion is either a woman’s inability or unwillingness to raise a child, not because she “wants” to have an abortion. A woman will most likely consider abortion as a last resort, and if the woman has an alternative, statistics indicate that she will most likely not go ahead with the abortion. For these women, the answer is easy: give your child up for adoption.

It would be foolish to suggest an all-out ban on abortion right now, as many conservatives believe. Instead, it would be prudent for the government to spend more money on counseling and advising programs that teach women (and men) to make better and safer sexual choices. Secondly, before abortion is outlawed, it is necessary for government, faith-based, and non-profit agencies to expand and improve the adoption services available to unwilling mothers. Once these services and programs are fully established and streamlined, we will naturally see a decrease in abortion rates. At that point, legislation to outlaw abortion can be considered – not a complete ban, but one that allows for abortions in medical emergencies and other severe situations.

We must remember, however, the separation of church and state in this country and that we cannot push for legislation based on our religious beliefs. Such legislation will only be viable if accepted and supported by the majority of the American people. Therefore, besides petitioning the government and social agencies for more counseling programs and better adoption services, it is vital for us – Muslims and non-Muslims alike – to have open debates, discussions, and dialogues with supporters of abortion and increase mass awareness of the truly murderous nature of this practice. If anything, Sarah Palin’s nomination gives us a perfect chance to do so.

About Arsalan Rizvi

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  • otowi

    If the primary reason for abortion is a woman’s inability or unwillingness to raise a child, then where is the father? If we are speaking from an Islamic perspective, then the father has the right and the responsibility to be involved in decisions about his offspring and has a duty to maintain them. It is the widespread failure of men to be responsible for children they sire that is really at the crux of the abortion issue as well as many other issues in society.

    Legislation for a ban or restriction on abortion may be a mute point; the central legal issue is the constitutionality of such decisions. Roe v. Wade was decided after much deliberation, and overturning it or significantly altering its decision could only occur if new evidence is presented that was not available at the time, or if the Supreme Court has an altered perspective due to the political influences in its makeup. Both of these are possible.

  • Victoria

    There are a few statements the author of this article makes that I must disagree with:
    [i]Even in the case of rape, a woman can easily take the “morning after” pill and not have to resort to abortion. [/i]
    How often do women of rape walk into the dr’s office immediately ? It’s not often. In most places in the US, “PLAN B” is not available OTC so it requires a dr’s appointment and it’s also expensive. Acquiring the prescription and the funds for the pill isn’t so easy. Also, you have to consider there is still some stigma around the pill in certain areas.

    [i]A woman will most likely consider abortion as a last resort, and if the woman has an alternative, statistics indicate that she will most likely not go ahead with the abortion. For these women, the answer is easy: give your child up for adoption.[/i]

    There are three choices a woman has when she finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy. Neither of these three choices are “easy”. In fact, they take considerable amount of time, effort, energy, and emotional work to deliberate on. The sad part is for many women they don’t get to consider parenting because of their lack of resources. Let’s face it this society isn’t exactly family-friendly and support of single moms.

    I find it laughable that people (mostly conservatives) can be so “pro-life” and still maintain policies that do not enable women to really parent. What about health care for pregnant women? Childcare subsidy? Bursaries and grants for students? Affordable housing? food? transportation? Maternity leave?

    • Hadid-e-Haq

      I’m not sure I follow…

      Firstly, morning after pill is available over the couter in most pharmacies (if you are over 17).

      Secondly, the pill is not nearly as expensive as an abortion procedure.

      Thirdly, even though there is stigma with the pill it pales in comparision to the stigma surrounding abortion-granted that this is anything but an ideal situation, there is going to be discomfort at evey level including emotionally.

      –Great artile!

  • Zahara

    A well-written article, brother. It’s a very controversial subject and I think you handled it very well. The author and both commentators touched upon the core of this issue: abortion, and the whole question of it, could be avoided if society were forced to change. This issue is so polarizing and it doesn’t have to be. The societal ills that lead to abortion are the real problem: little cultural/societal support for families (despite what you see on TV), virtually non-existent support for single mothers, and a real lack of punishment for irresponsible/absentee fathers, rapists, incest, etc.

    On a personal note, inshaAllah I’m going to be having my first child in a few months (very exciting!), but I’m already feeling societal pressure. It’s not fair that as a woman I feel I have to “choose” between career and motherhood. It’s not fair that if I want to do both, society will believe I’m lacking in one area or the other – not to mention that it’s extremely difficult to balance these due to our society. Men aren’t faced with this “choice,” or that societal stigma.