Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 10. 1971
There is a curious lack of logic among anti-abortionissts. Setting up a straw man ("But don't you really think that birth control is better than abortion?") they proceed to knock it down ("Oh, you do, then why don't you advocate more and better birth control measures instead?"). The obvious statement that no amount of birth control can cure an unwanted pregnancy seems to be called for at this point.
To the best of my knowledge there is no one in favour of abortion law reform who does not also plead for more and better birth control. However, birth control and abortion on demand, together, are the only methods of dealing realistically with the problems involved. No sansible person would prefer an abortion, an operation, over birth control. But it's not that simple. First of all, let it be made very plain that there is no birth control measure yet available that is 100% certain. Even sterilisation has been known to reverse itself; while the safest temporary method of birth control, the "mini-pill", is 99% effective. It is no consolation to the 100th woman that the other groups of 99 are luckier in the draw. The diaphragm is about 97% effective and other measures less so. A woman who has been as responsible as she knows how, following the directions of her doctor, is now penalized for an accident beyond her control.
Then there are large numbers of married women who are extraordinarily ignorant of proper birth control, and it is their right to have clear and intensive education. There are women who conceive deliberately, or at any rate are not reluctant to accept another pregnancy and birth, but who later find that the embryo is deformed because of drugs, hereditary disease or other causes. If a woman is educated and well-to-do, she is more likely to find out in time in the first place, and more likely to be lucky in getting an abortion in N.Z. in the second.
The problem of young girls conceiving before maturity is a particularly difficult one Usually such children are somewhat emotionally disturbed in the first place. And then, reflecting the chaotic emotions of society, they refuse to prepare themselves by using birth control. To be effective, the pill must be taken from two weeks to two months before it is needed A diaphragm or other mechanical device for a woman requires foreknowledge and acceptance, purchase and preparation. To most of these young girls, the idea of preparing for intercourse is wicked and makes them "feel like a slut"; their justification for making love often lies in their being "swept away by passion". This group has learned the irresponsible, irrational and hypocritical lessons society teaches about sex, only too well.
Many young girls are not "swept away by passion" by anyone's standard. Perhaps these are the saddest of all. Seeking human closeness at any cost, they hope to retain a boyfriend by giving in to his desires even if they do not share them. Their problems are worsened, their education is interrupted and they are left to bear the brunt of their own misfortunes.
While few girls in their early teens suffer permanently from too-early pregnancy and childbearing, any teenage girl's health is likely to be injured because her need for nutrition is extremely high at this time of life. If she is pregnant, both she and the developing fetus may suffer, often quite severely, from malnutrition. While the too-young mother may largely recover from the effects of this deprivation, a child who has been deprived of protein, for example, in pre-natal and early post-natal development, will be permanently mentally stunted to a greater or lesser extent.
Abortion then is a necessary part of birth control, the back-stop part, but it should not need stressing that any new laws would be permissive. That is, no woman should be coerced into an abortion, just as no woman should be denied one.
Anti-abortionists raise another objection, uttered with so little logic that their entire approach is suspect They call abortion "murder" and then turn their backs on the whole problem If it is murder indeed, then why are they not pressing for the abolition of all abortions? For to support the present law is from this emotional standpoint to accept that our hospitals are places where murder is sometimes justified.
It is proposed here to examine as many aspects of abortion as possible in order to encourage clear and rational thinking on this difficult subject.
History and Abortion.
The earliest known records of abortion methods date from 3000BC in ancient China The ancient Egyptians. Greeks and Romans all developed an extensive literature on abortion. In spite of admonitions to "[unclear: beautiful] and multiply", ancient Jews, lacking the medical knowledge and equipment of the 20th century, nonetheless practised and preached an infinitely more humane approach to abortion than was common until very recently to the Western world.
Among most of the world's population, abortion has not been opposed on religion The Shinto faith in Japan has never contained religious or ethical objections to abortions The Islamic belief has been that life begins in the fetus only after 150 days, that is, around midterm. And neither Buddhist nor Hindu theology prohibited early abortion, it is considered a social rather than a religious issue.
We are therefore left with a patchwork of social and political laws on abortion in countries where these faiths predominate.
Among all the known hundreds of primitive societies throughout history and up to the present time, abortion is unknown in perhaps one. It seems therefore that no matter what prohibitions there may sometimes be against abortion, and no matter what the dangers of the act of abortion, women have always resorted to it and presumably always will—at least until a safe and sure morning-after pill of some kind is perfected and is universally and freely available.
Law and Abortion.
At present the laws regarding abortion outside most of Asia and Africa are as follows:
In the United Kingdom abortions may be legally performed to preserve the life, physical and mental health of the pregnant woman or any of her existing children, or if there is a substantial risk of physical or mental abnormality in the fetus. In practice the situation is that if a girl or woman is fortunate in her choice of doctor and is living in or near a large centre, she will probably be able to obtain an abortion pretty well on demand. If she is unlucky, and poor, then although her situation may lie well within the strict bounds of the law, she may not be able to obtain an abortion. Any two doctors may recommend an abortion.
In Scandanavia the laws generally have been reformed but are tightly controlled. In Sweden the abortion decision is given after the Medical Board has examined each woman's case, if it is felt that there is a serious threat to life or to physical or mental health, arising from disease, a bodily defect, or exhaustion; for eugenic reasons; or in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape, incest or impregnation of girls under fifteen or sixteen. In Norway and Finland there are now similar laws. In Denmark there is a network of Mothers' Aid centres where abortion applications are processed and if refused, the girl or woman is given financial, medical and moral support in bringing the pregancy to term and in caring for the resulting child for up to two years.
In the rest of Western Europe, with the exception of Switzerland, abortion is either extremely difficult to obtain or else is banned altogether. Switzerland is halfway between Scandanavia and the rest of Western Europe—the law is less liberal than in Scandanavia and is most strictly enforced.
In Western Europe, generally, it should be noted, there remains a very high rate of illegal abortion, for most women wanting abortions do not fall into the legal categories.
In the Soviet Union, abortion on demand was introduced in 1920 banned in 1936 along with easy divorce, and reintroduced in 1955 after Stalin's death. Abortion is now available on demand, with a small fee required if there is no medical reason for it. There seems to be some indication that for "abortions on demand" there is often no anaesthetic given, in order to keep down the incidence of the operation.page break
In Eastern Europe, unlike the Soviet Union, abortion, records are widely published, and the subject is widely debated. The law varies from abortion on demand, to something approaching the Scandanavian system; while in East Germany and Albania there is no legal abortion at all. In East Europe generally, the abortion rate is high; but it must be taken into account that there is a great deal of confusion in this area of the world. First of all, most East European countries are predominantly Roman Catholic, and the Catholic Church officially is now strongly anti-abortion. The governments, finding it difficult to reconcile their anti-malthusian theories with the reality of the rising birth rate and the consequent cost in schools, medical services etc., have not made birth control devices freely available, let alone promoted them. Abortion in this area, then, is used instead of contraceptives, and is switched on and off with the fluctuations of various governments' attitudes and theories.
Before 1860 abortion in Japan was not an offense at all. After the arrival of Christianity and the westernizing influences, it came to be punished more and more severely. At present, the legal position in Japan is that an abortion may be performed by any doctor when there is a defined possibility of hereditary disease or deformity, when the patient or her Spouse suffers from leprosy, when the woman's health may be impaired for physical or economic reasons, or if the pregnancy resulted from violence or compulsion. The law is broad, therefore, but it is in practice and not in fact that there is abortion on demand in Japan The law and its amendments were passed partly because of the serious overcrowding of the islands at the end of World War II; and partly because of the clear-eyed view the law had, that the real choice was not between the life of the fetus and the life or health of the woman; but between the life of the fetus and the life or health of the woman which may be injured by having an abortion performed by quacks.
In the United States, abortion on demand is now available in three states, while in several others it is available where the life of the woman is endangered, or in cases of rape or incest, or where there is a substantial risk of disease or deformity in the embryo. Even in the three most advanced states however, in practice there is no abortion on demand, for the operation must be performed in a hospital rather than a clinic or doctor's surgery, and the fee usually charged puts the operation out of reach of the women who need it most Prior to the repeal and reform of some of the states' abortion laws, there grew up in some large cities, groups of Protestant and Jewish clergymen who organised a Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, freely available to any woman, counselling women without coercion and if the desire for the abortion was firm, recommending safe illegal abortions. The experience of these courageous and humane people led them to believe that reform of the law would do little to relieve the suition of illegal abortions and overburdened women, and that "it is the solemn and religious obligation of the church" to press for free abortion on demand.
In Canada the old ambiguous laws on abortion were reformed in 1969 when the Criminal Code was amended; legally a woman can now obtain an abortion to preserve her life or health. The interpretation varies widely from abortion on demand for fortunate well-to-do women in large cities and with sympathetic psychiatrists, to no abortion under any circumstances for poor women, or those serviced solely by a Catholic hospital or doctor Pressure is increasing to repeal the abortion law entirely in that country.
In Latin America generally, abortions are forbidden by the Catholic authoritarian governments. In that continent, where the well-to-do women use the Pill as freely as their North American Catholic sisters, the poor women, the mass of women, resort to sticks and sharp implements to abort themselves, with the result that the largest quantity of blood for transfusions in many hospitals, is used to try to save some of the lives of abortion victims, women tormented by constant pregnancies in the midst of appalling poverty. In Chile alone have recent governments begun to educate poor women in birth control (particularly the "loop" or intrauterine device) with resulting lower abortion rates.
New Zealand's abortion law is ambiguous Strictly interpreted, an abortion is permitted only to save the life of the pregnant woman, sometimes, following the English case of Dr. Alec Bourne in 1938, and others, it has been interpreted more liberally on the principle that there is no clear line between preserving life and preserving health. More recently however, because the law is unclear, many doctors arc finding themselves unable to practise their profession according to their best judgement because of attempts by one section of the community to impose its morals upon the rest of the N. Z. population.
Religion and Abortion.
Among Western religious bodies, opinions and rulings on abortion vary widely not only among the various sects of Judaism and Christianity but inside many of the sects also. It is important consider Judaism first because it is from this religion that Christianity sprang.
Orthodox Judaism provides that abortion may be performed only in order to save the life of the woman, up to and including the birth process itself Conservative and Reform Judaism are more flexible on the matter, as on most issues, with an example of a particularly liberal view being that of Rabbi Israel Margolies of New York who, speaking on abortion, insists that "It is a man and woman who must decide whether or not they wish their union to lead to the birth of a child, not the church or synagogue and certainly not the state".
Judaism has never been concerned with the concept of the soul and the moment of its inception in the fetus; nor does it treat the fetus as a human entity apart from its mother. If the infant dies before thirty days, no funeral service is held, no memorial prayer for the dead need be recited, for the infant is not considered to have lived at all Yet this theology has not corrupted the sense of the value of life. Few religions place more importance upon the value of the individual and his or her responsibilities; few religions have such a record of enduring family life.
The Roman Catholic position on abortion is important far beyond that church's representation in a population as Protestant attitudes—sometimes examined and sometimes taken for granted—are of course rooted in it The Catholic stand has varied through that churcn's history. Although early Christian dogma opposed abortion, the Roman abortion laws remained unchanged even after Christianity became officially accepted in 313 AD. A few theologians condemned all abortion on the grounds that the soul was infused at conception: but most held Aristotle's view that there were three stages of development, the vegetable soul, the animal soul, and the rational soul An abortion became murder only after the soul had become "rational" or "animated". This point; was set at 40 days after conception for a male and 80 to 90 days tor a female, presumably on the principle of female inferiority It was never explained by these dwellers in ivory towers; however, how the fetal sex was to be determined in advance.
In 1588 Pope [unclear: Sixtus] V ruled that the old 40 and 80 day law was abolished and all abortions were murder, to be punished by excommunication. But three years later in 1591, Pope Gregory XIV revoked all the penalties except those for an abortion after forty days, partly because the law had been so widely ignored. Abortions before forty days were therefore not considered grave sins up until 1869 when Plus IX decided that all abortion would be punished as murder. Spokesmen who claim that the Roman Catholic, or Christian, position, has been consistent, must therefore be grossly misinformed.
There are Roman Catholic theologians however, who consider that morals cannot and should not be legislated; in some countries (though notable not those which are predominantly Catholic) this has been evident in Roman Catholic abstentions in government, in matters such as divorce and birth control legislation Some Roman Catholic spokesmen in the United States. Canada and Europe specifically include abortion legislation in this argument.
Catholics still maintain that as the time of "infusion of a soul" cannot be determined it should be presumed to take place at the "moment of conception", to be on the sale side. (What happens in the case of identical twins, when a fertilized ovum splits in half, has not to my knowledge, been theologically examined Perhaps it would turn out that identical twins, poor things, are only half souled.)
Anglican churches throughout the world vary in opinion on abortion, in 1967, in a dramatic reversal of his previous position, the Archbishop of Canterbury voted for the present U. K. law The church in that country remains somewhat divided upon the question of abortion but Dr. W. R. Matthews. Dean of St Paul's, has said "l distrust the method of deducing moral laws from theological premises We should never forget that one of the duties which has been deduced from theology by most of the churches is that of intolerance and the persecution of heretics. I do not find that Jesus deduced his ethical teaching from a theological system. He based it on his belief in God as Father. The Christian ethic springs from the one central conviction that God is love ". A fine clear statement, but the more usual attitudes of churchmen have given rise to such comments as that of Sir L. E. Jones: 'There seems to be something about the human reproductive system which throws the ecclesiastical mind off its balance". I would add, also, legal and political minds.
Before the change in the Canadian abortion laws, representatives of the Anglican Church of Canada, and of the United Church (a union of Presbyterian and Methodist churches in Canada) not only insisted that health should be included as a ground for termination of pregnancy but required that "health" should be interpreted in the broadest sense, that of the World Health Organization; "A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Their recommendations were not however specifically followed. Some Anglican and Presbyterian spokesmen in New Zealand have been as rigid and harsh in their anti-abortion stance as any Roman Catholic. In general, Protestant clergymen who favour reforming or repealing the present abortion laws seem disturbingly unwilling to stand up and be counted. Overly cautious and defensive, they seem to be unresponsive to the great need for the open debate and controversy that a changing theology of abortion requires.
Medicine and Abortion.
Despite disclaimers from conservative medical spokesmen, there are many conditions that a woman may be suffering from which would be greatly worsened by carrying a fetus to term and giving birth. There are on record, cases in the U.K. and Canada since the passage of reformed abortion legislation there, where women suffering from cancer, Hodgkin's disease, cardiac disease and other such illnesses, have been refused abortions. Sir Francis Adams, in "Criminal Law and Practice in New Zealand" says: "In cases coming within the present group of sections a surgeon may well find himself in the dilemma that if he operates he may be held to have offended against one or more of those sections, whereas if he refuses to operate he may be called upon to face a charge of manslaughter of the mother," A serious situation indeed, and one calling for more outspokenness on the part of all sectors of the medical profession in this country. As Dr. Alec Bourne in theeelebrated English abortion case of 1938 reasoned, it is difficult to the point of impossibility to draw a distinct line between health and life itself. If a woman lives for a few weeks or months after the birth of an unwanted child, if all the strains of caring for an unwanted child are added to the previous stresses and the woman's death is hastened by weeks, by months or by years, is this adherence to the strictest letter of the law a salve to the conscience of such doctors?
Again, it is maintained by some medical spokesmen in New Zealand that abortion is a dangerous operation. Statistics are quoted in order to "prove" this statement but the spokesmen are either deliberately dishonest or unprofessionally careless. For New Zealand abortion statistics are meaningless, because in order to obtain a legal abortion it is necessary for a woman to be suffering from a severe if not dangerous illness. It is only when abortions are permitted on demand, upon normally healthy women, that meaningful statistics can be obtained. In Hungary, for example, statistics show that deaths from abortion amount to 6 per 100,000. To put this in perspective, it should be added that deaths from tonsillectomies average 17 per 100,000, while maternal deaths in childbirth average 24 per 100,000. As far as the safety of the woman is concerned, abortion by a doctor in a hospital or clinic is four times safer than childbirth itself.
In fact, in recent years, new and safer methods of abortion have been increasingly used, not only in China and the USSR where they originated, but in North America and other areas. The main new methods are either the vibrator-and-section method, or suction by itself; they can be performed much more safely and quickly than the old fashioned 'd and c.' (This is the operation used in the first 12 weeks for an abortion, as well as for other medical indications; it involves dilating the cervix and scraping the walls of the uterus). After three months, when it is no longer possible to performed a 'd and c,' two methods are possible: a) a saline injection to induce labour, or b) what is in effect a minor caesarian operation. Both have considerably higher risks, as is shown by abortion statistics from Scandanavia. There, the cumbersome committee meetings required, result in many late abortions with increased dangers.
It is a remarkable fact that the fetus has differing values according to whether it is attached to the uterus or whether it is dead. As long as it is alive it is variously considered state property, Sacred and Innocent Human Life (presumably opposed to some other, guilty type of life) or a potential human being. Once dead, however, it does not require a death certificate up to twenty weeks, or nearly five months; and it does not require and is rarely given any kind of burial. In point of fact, this tiny combination of dead cells is disposed of like any other pathological material in a hospital, like a diseased appendix or amputated limb. It is treated as rubbish. As it becomes more widely known that an extremely large number of fertilized ova at various stages of development are sloughed off by women throughout the world in menstrual flow, even Roman Catholics begin to re-examine their position. A North American Catholic theologian stated that if indeed the church were convinced that a fertilized ovum were possessed of a soul, then "we should have to insist that a search should be made in the menstrual flow of every woman who has had sufficiently recent matrimonial (sic) intercourse to see if there were not some germ there, or, better still, we ought to pour baptismal water on this blood, taking care that the water should penetrate everywhere, and pronouncing "sub-conditione" (of life) the baptismal words".
If it were not for the lives of girls and women, traumatized by illegal abortions or by the birth of illegitimate or unwanted children—then such statements would indeed be hilarious.
Another argument used by anti-abortionists is that women who have abortions suffer severe guilt and depression, amounting to serious mental damage Any person who performs an act that has been sternly taught as immoral, is going to suffer guilt feelings about it. Doubtless the New Guinea headhunters who fail to hunt sufficient heads, suffer pangs of guilt and shame in their particular circumstances... As far as statistics can show, a woman's guilt after an abortion depends upon her religious and moral beliefs and those of her environment rather than upon the act of abortion itself. For example, women in Norway where there is a less harsh attitude towards unmarried mothers and premarital sex, and something of an acceptance of abortion as a necessary evil, the number of women suffering severe metal depression after an abortion amounts to 2%. But in Switzerland, a country so anti-feminist that women have only recently been granted the vote, the rate is nearly 50%. Another factor to be taken into account and not apparent in these statistics, is that a certain proportion of people including women, at any given time may be suffering from mental stresses; and these can be made worse by say, abortions on the one hand, or on the other by unwanted pregnancies and their often tragic results. Catholics who have abortions have among them a higher proportion of guilty and depressed women than do Protestants or Jews.
In countries like New Zealand, where public information on abortion is extremely limited, and public debate of very low calibre, it is particularly reprehensible that some doctors take it upon themselves to pass noisy moral judgement in the matter of abortion. Their expertise extends only to medical matters, in morals they are no more and no less competent than the poorest and most ignorant woman with a problem pregnancy. If doctors or their associates have genuine moral objections to performing such operations, their consciences should of course be respected; so also however should the consciences of those women who believe that having an abortion in their particular situation is the most moral decision for them.
Another argument used is that the illegal abortion rate tends to rise where abortions are somewhat more freely granted. This argument is entirely accurate; as women begin to become aware of their oppression in bearing unwanted children their self-respect blossoms and they become assertive over their new-found rights. If they are denied legal abortions they tend not to suffer passively any longer, but to act on their own behalf and obtain an illegal one. The only way to cut down on illegal abortions is to promote most vigorously all manner of birth control and to repeal all abortion laws, leaving the matter of abortion to the woman, her conscience, and any medical practitioner who feels morally free to perform the operation.
Some of the methods used by women, usually in full knowledge of the dangers involved but desperate enough to risk their health and their lives, are: pieces of wire or sticks prodded into the uterus; the pumping of air into the uterus; drugs and potions of various kinds which can cause insanity, blindness or death; the suction of a vacuum cleaner; syringing with various liquids such as soap solutions. Some of these methods have been known to accomplish abortions; some can cause injuries resulting in infections like peritonitis; some cause massive haemorrhages endangering life; some result in sterility; some, such as the use of the vacuum cleaner, in instant death.
Biology and Abortion.
Now to turn to the question of whether, or when, a conceptus is a person Ignorant and simplistic people proclaim with much emotion that any abortion is murder and close their minds to any examination of biological facts. A common idea on abortion is that "life begins at the moment of conception". The biological fact of the matter is however that fertilization does not occur at any particular "moment" but is a process taking about twenty four hours. Malcolm Potts. Fellow and Director of Medical Studies at the Sidney Sussex College in England, said in 1968 at the University of Chicago Conference on Abortion: "At the completion of fertilization a genetically unique structure has been produced but it cannot be said to warrant a special status or the label 'a potential human being'. We must see the genetic uniqueness of the fertilized egg in the context of the richness of all biological processes. Every cell in our body contains all the genetic information to make a new individual. Botanists have already taken a single cell from the leaf or root of a plant and grown a new individual." The same experiments have also been successfully performed with frogs and it is only a matter of time before a whole new human being can be grown from any piece of living tissue of an already existing person. Why then the disproportionate concern for the tiny clump of cells in the reproductive system? Many products of the union of sperm and ovum are grossly malformed and these are usually sloughed off early in pregnancy. Some indeed can still be described as they were in the Middle Ages, as monsters, and are in no way human beings although they may have hair, skin, a nervous system and other tissues.
"Unborn child" is a new cry in New Zealand but "Unborn child" is a meaningless phrase. It is an emotive term designed to conjure up images of curly hair, rosy cheeks and booties; in fact at any time that an abortion should be granted upon demand—if only for the health of the woman—the creature which is a potential human being is not more than two inches long. If abortions were granted upon demand, women would want to have them as early as possible, for many obvious reasons, and the potential human being would be a barely discernible shapeless little scrap of living tissue. If correct terminology is to be used, then we begin with a sperm and an ovum once fertilization has taken place it is known as a zygote, until, implanted in the uterine wall several days later, it is a blastocyst. Soon it is known as an embryo, and after three months it is a fetus. If abortions were freely available and if the general climate of opinion were not so harshly condemnatory, there would be few women or girls who would put off facing the truth of their situation and wait until the fetal stage had been reached.page break
Liberal religious leaders in the United Kingdom and in North America increasingly stress the concept of a continuum of life, an "accruing value" of the life of a potential human being. Unless one's religious beliefs instruct one that a fertilized ovum is "ensouled" it is obvious that a microscopic dot of human material is not a person. These liberal religious leaders place considerable emphasis upon the actual experience of the pregnant woman who usually does not feel that the life within her, even if planned and eagerly awaited, is a "real person" until nearly midterm when it is felt to move.
Machismo, Women's Rights and the Wanted Child.
It is very easy to make black and white pronouncements: it makes life simple to have moral decisions that are cut and dried especially if they can never be applied to one's own body but only to other people's. Much more difficult to realize that life is a complex matter and moral decisions have to be made after taking into careful consideration the whole context of each situation—with imagination, compassion and respect for others' consciences.
Even in the rigid sphere however, there is no more consistency in practice today than there was in moral theories of the past centuries. A Roman Catholic woman who had suffered rape used to be permitted to use a douche up to ten hours after the assault. More recently, she is permitted to obtain a "d and c" operation within five days of the assault. These rigidly laid down rules show once again how ivory tower theories are made with blithe disregard for facts. For all too many women have learned to their sorrow how great is the risk of conception even if a douche is used immediately after intercourse; while permission for a "d and c" is an example of Jesuitry at its most artistic; it is not permissible to detach the blastocyst from the uterine wall once it has become attached, but it is entirely moral to scrape that wall to ensure that the zygote cannot attach itself! The end result is not only the same, but intended to be the same—the death of the life just begun.
This leads us directly to the whole question of who makes the laws, both legal and moral. Who also makes pronouncements medical and psychiatric. Roman Catholic authorities are not only exclusively male, but exclusively celibate-male. How far such people can remove themselves from the actualities and real sufferings of life has been indicated in some examples above. Protestant churches are still either exclusively or nearly exclusively male strongholds. Most medical doctors and most psychiatrists are male, and nearly all are taught by males from male-written textbooks and points of view. It would be arrogant enough for a group of women to set itself up as arbiters of what is moral and what is immoral for other women in such matters as birth control and abortion; but at least there would be a shared experience of life that might engender compassion and care. That men, from government and church leaders, through doctors and psychiatrists, down through all too many husbands and boyfriends, want to keep the power to Coerce women to conceive, and to force women to continue pregnancies against their wills, might well seem to an impartial observer from, say, Mars, to be a psychotic disorder on a massive scale.
It seems very suspect that so many grown men (in government, church, medicine etc) as well as some women, find it so very much easier to identify with an unformed potential human being at a very early stage of development rather than with another adult human being—who happens to be female: the reluctantly pregnant woman. It could be a sad comment on the stage of psychological maturity of those concerned.
This matter of power of men over women's pregnancies warrants a closer look. For example, Latin America is a traditional stronghold of "machismo", the pseudo-mystical cult of virility, a prime proof of which is the fathering of the largest possible number of offspring. It has been reported that many husbands in that continent are taking their wives back to the doctors and asking for the removal of the intrauterine device commonly used in underdeveloped countries for some of the more fortunate of the poor women. It appears that these wives have begun to behave with increasing self-respect and less passivity with their new freedom from constant pregnancy; and the husbands prefer the continual additions of mouths crying with hunger around them, to the strain of adjusting to women who are rapidly becoming "people".
In ghettoes in the United States, it has been reported that many husbands and lovers object to women taking the Pill, so that the women have to hide their medication on pain of having it destroyed. These men are very often precisely the ones who leave the women when they become pregnant. The poor man, and particularly the poor coloured man, is low man on the totem pole, but there is another human being lower down—the coloured woman.
In New Zealand, some small studies indicate that many Maori men, too, frequently dislike their wives using contraceptives although the women increasingly desire to use them.
The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church has until very recently pronounced that women should have as many babies as humanly possible. Even now the pill is not sanctioned by the pope, while overburdened, poor and ignorant women the world over suffer because of constant pregnancies, aging them prematurely and reducing them to the level of animals.
There are the husbands who receive a large emotional bonus when their wives are pregnant whether the wives want the pregnancy or not; and there are the husbands who persuade their wives to have "just one more" especially in order to "try for a boy".
There are public spokesmen overseas who are "liberal" enough to agree to some reform of abortion laws but who wish to reserve to the husband the right of veto over the wife's abortion.
All this points to the revelation that men like power, but specifically that vast numbers of men now living, have that power, and keep it and use it, individually and collectively, to control and often to force the pregnancies of women. And they very often do this without taking the responsibility for even the economic consequences of their actions—and this applies equally to moral and legal authorities and to ghetto husbands and lovers who decamp when they have proved their power. This use of power is a vicious circle however. Women like power every bit as much as men do; it is just that they cannot usually exercise the same sort of power over men, as men can over women. But women have and use all sorts of power over children. It's a sort of pecking order of men pecking women who peck children; but the bottom hens grow up and the male ones remember and take it out on their wives who take it out on their children...
Although some agencies show genuine and informed concern. New Zealand generally has a harsh and punitive altitude towards premarital pregnancy. Meanwhile this country's appalling illegitimacy rate continues to rise. The same people who make pious noises about "the unborn child", use this same "unborn child" as a weapon to punish unmarried women for their sexual activity. They do not seem able to realize that to use a human being as a weapon, an object, is to deny that person humanity. Lip service is paid to the value of "the unborn child" but these people show little care for the resulting conditions of child and mother, often living in poverty, or for the girl with the sole responsibility of raising a child, a responsibility heavy enough when shared with a loving partner. Too many so-called Christians pass down easy judgements from their high seats of virtue, or turn their backs, or at best shut the stable door when the horse has gone.
According to the mores of society, a woman might sometimes admit that she hadn't wanted a particular pregnancy, but it is laid down pretty clearly that she mustn't admit that she doesn't want her children once they are born One of her two main functions in life is motherhood, and in her eyes and those of society, her value largely depends upon her acceptance of it. However much one thinks one ought to, one cannot love "to order". A woman with an unwanted child may be able to fool her neighbours, her husband or even herself, but she can never fool the child The emotional wounds, whether or not accompanied by physical harm, condemn vast numbers of unwanted children to our crowded mental hospitals, borstals and prisons.
To try to ensure that every child is born a uniquely wanted child, with the right to be cared for materially, emotionally [unclear: and] [unclear: strick] color will be a [unclear: bong] [unclear: Choosen] [unclear: attitude then which] [unclear: seen or in common]—[unclear: that chiebearing is a duty, or an accident, Woa sort od respect for ide can there be in conceving and breaing a chld of duty? What hope for joy, wamth] [unclear: being is to result from a caspal accident? Nothing less than a caring act of mind and will should evevr be responsible for the most] [unclear: ecious of abercetions creations—a new human personality.]
[unclear: The sarcity of Life an the Crimal Law—Granvide Williams Abortion—Lawarence Leader]
Crominal Law and Practible in new Zealand—Sir Fraios Adams.
Papers cosseoinal at the Chage Conference on Aborror, 1986.
The Report or the Status of Wordrt in Caaacia.
[unclear: Papers to the Parliamentery Committee on Abartion, Ottawa, Canada Canrade etc.]
[unclear: Mrs. Davied mother of two children, was brought up an Anglican and married a Catholic Born in New Zealand she sport half her life here, then lived in England and also in Clarks where she Toronic Liaison Officer for the Assn for the Repeal of Canadian Abortion Laws]page break