Abortion: The Womb and More

A landmark decision by Ireland’s constitution this past week repealing the abortion ban has sparked many debates globally - the more important one being the moral conflict involved in the process of abortion. As formally we know abortion to be the ‘deliberate termination of a human pregnancy’, and as condescending as it may sound, this ‘deliberation’ factor changes a lot of our perspective on the issue itself - Which is what brings us to this discussion of why the issue of abortion is more than a legislative debate.

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Deliberate termination can mean many things, but it certainly does not reflect the central matter at hand: the woman who is carrying the child. Suddenly, we forsake a human life and their existence to justify how a fetus can determine what morality should be portrayed as. In the case of Ireland, its legal antagonism was initially the topic of heated discussion. 31-year-old Indian pregnant dentist Savita Halapannavar died of a severe septic miscarriage, that resulted in a fatal cardiac arrest in Galway, Ireland. As doctors later proclaimed, this could have been avoided had the necessary medical attention and action be taken in time to avoid the disastrous complications. Savita was even conscious to request for an abortion to prevent the risk of a fatal consequence, but Ireland’s Catholic laws forbade abortion under any circumstances. This was more than medical negligence or matter of inefficiency.

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It is rather a humanist quest to ask to live according to our physical autonomy. We trivialize the gravity of serious issues such as abortion rights. How seldom have we actually questioned this externality we women face, to have a society decide on what we ‘ought’ to do? Having to grant ourselves the daunting task of consulting everyone other than ourselves, on issues that solely revolve around us and within us. Being pregnant feels like carrying an earth in our womb when its supposed to be the most personal thing.

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The greatest agency any person can have is to be able to influence what grows inside them. To call a matter of choice what should be purely within the reach of the child-bearer, and impose instigative methods of powerful surveillance belittles us if we were not so already. It does not merely fall back to the question of dichotomizing pro-choice and pro-life. We have normalized a discussion of external morality rather than dissecting the problematic notion of endangering the individual sovereignty of a woman’s virility. We cannot simply assume motherhood to be a universal accomplishment and neither can we accommodate social and political interference when it only unloads the traumatic burden of chosen morality on women.

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Abortion is not only the definitional deliberate termination of a pregnancy, or a circumstance dictated action to avoid unwanted results. By appointing ourselves to be the custodians of matters around ‘ethical’ issues surrounding women, we degrade their sole duty; that is to decide what they wish needs to be done. Like Madonna said in her song, “Papa Don’t preach…”, “I’m keeping my baby!”. It is our choice - let us make it, on our own. Legalizing what never needed a law will not stop society from criminalizing our choices in any way.

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For Savita Halapannavar. May she smile from heaven, knowing that she is being thought of as the beacon of willpower and strength.