Threshold of Viability

The sensitive issue of abortion has come up again.  MP’s are seeking to get the upper limit of 24 weeks lowered to 20 weeks.  

Most people have very strong and definite views on abortion.  And there are those who aren’t against abortion but feel that the upper limit of 24 weeks should be lowered to 20 weeks.  Presumably, their belief is based on the fact that advances in medical procedures have made it possible for extremely premature babies to survive as early as 20 weeks.  Well I think it’s important to establish that according to the professionals, it all depends on how viability is defined and they still feel that the 24 week limit is still appropriate because survival between twenty and twenty four weeks is very rare, often resulting in complications and long-term health effects, so I’m not sure how realistic it is to base the upper limits on how soon a foetus can merely survive.  

That’s not to say I am happy with the twenty-four week upper limit, or of abortion itself,  but it’s a highly sensitive and emotional issue which is not helped by the propagating of myths and misconceptions . . . and the use of emotional images and constant guilt-tripping by tabloids such as the Mail.  Using sensationalistic words such as “abortion capital of the world” is not conducive to an honest and realistic debate.  And Daily Mail columnists and their readers have got to recognise the irony of their confusing messages when they say that pregnant teenage girls should be forced to go through with their pregnancy at all costs whilst despising and demonising them when they become single teenage mums.  And no doubt the same judgemental right-wing press will refuse to see that they will eventually come to condemn all those unwanted babies who fail to successfully integrate into society because they were shoved into social care and neglected by the system.

It’s all very well reporting success stories of extremely prem babies who have grown into healthy children.  Those babies were wanted, probably planned.  We’re talking about unwanted, unplanned, unexpected pregnancies and women who for whatever reason, cannot go through with the pregnancy. There’s a world of difference. 

Furthermore, these late abortions are very rare.  And let it be known that, contrary to what the alarmists want you to believe, the argument claiming that women and girls use abortion as a regular form of contraception really has been blown out of proportion by the anti-abortionists.  The medical professionals wouldn’t allow this and in any case, I refuse to believe that, apart from a small number of exceptions, women who choose terminate their pregnancy, make the decision lightly.  Most women and young girls who have abortions, at whatever stage in their pregnancy, have usually gone through a great deal of torment and heartache beforehand (and a great deal more after) and if a woman has got to twenty weeks, there is usually a genuine, sometimes heartbreaking, reason for it. 

I’m sure I won’t be popular among the sisterhood for saying this but I’m not sure just how much the issue of women’s rights belongs in the debate.  Feminist claims that women should be free to control their own bodies . . . that men have no right to decide on such policies etc. are valid to a degree but until we can establish at what point a foetus becomes a person, there will always be those who say that unborn babies have rights too and how do we decide whose rights prevail – the womans or the baby’s?  Feminists should perhaps stop seeing this exclusively as some kind of mysogynistic attack on women’s rights and accept that, although there are exceptions, most anti-abortionists just believe they are defending the indefensible unborn baby.

Anyway, to sum up, I don’t agree that the upper limit should be lowered to twenty weeks.  I don’t like it but the fact is, abortions at this stage are rare, the reasons are genuine and the alternative is probably worse.




One response to this post.

  1. In my opinion abortion is always subjective. I am not for abortion for whatever reasons, there must be a solid foundation for an expectant mother to decide to stop pregnancy, because the natural mother’s instinct will in most cases influence this drastic decision.

    I also think of that defenceless creature whose conception has not been its decision, probably the mother’s neither, to concile both is not an easy task and I wouldn’t like to be an arbitrary party ever in my life.

    Time is indeed a most important aspect to be considered. Scientists have not yet reached a decision in unison as to when sentient life starts. I cannot say for sure how long it is now but in Spain the limit was established in 11 weeks. I think 11 weeks is long enough for a decision of this type to be taken.

    One other aspect of the question is the state of the foetus and when this can be scientifically determined to be consistent with an abortion decision.


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