Abortion: Myth and Reality

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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.

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