Right to Abortion- A Perspective

John Grigg remarked in 1973, To my mind life begins at the moment of conception… Conception is the magic moment.It is just as evil to kill a pre-born baby conceived through rape or incest as it would be to kill a toddler who was conceived by rape or incest. No religion permits followers to abort children for any reason. It is one of the six kinds of murder described in Hindu culture. Moreover, abortion thwarts a soul in its progress towards God, like any other act of violence. It teaches that a fetus is a living, conscious person deserving of protection. Hinduism has traditionally taught that a soul is reincarnated and enters the embryo at the time the embryo is conceived. Buddhists consider abortion the destruction of a living being, and consider it as a violation of the First Precept. Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama felt that if the unborn child would grow to be retarded or if the birth will create serious problems for the parent, these are cases where there can be an exception. It should be approved or disapproved according to each circumstance. Sikhism believes that life begins at the moment of conception. Once conception has taken it would be a sin to destroy life through abortion. Under Christianity, embryo after the union of male sperm and female ovum receives life from God, not from the parents or any human society or authority. At the same time, it allows abortion to save the life of mother. Eugenics is a questionable science, whose promoters also included Adolf Hitler who wanted a pure Aryan race to be born.

Currently, over 60% of the world’s people live in countries where induced abortion is permitted either for a wide range of reasons or without restriction as to reason. In contrast, about 26% of all people reside in countries where abortion is generally prohibited. There may be examples of situations where the killing of a person may be justifiable, although they are by no means universally consented to, such as killing in self defence or as a form of capital punishment, but taken in isolation it is generally accepted that to kill is wrong. Russia was the first country to legalise abortion in 1920, although the law was repealed in 1936 and abortion remained illegal until 1955. Abortion requires the consent of the pregnant woman and should be performed by a licensed physician in a hospital. Brazil, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Mexico are among the countries that permit abortion to save mother’s life. The Abortion Act, 1967 allows abortion if the continuance of pregnancy involves risk to the life of mother.

It is an unarguably a basic human right for a woman to decide whether she will have an abortion or not , as observed by Jane Tweedie .Without relying on religious arguments concerning the sanctity of human life, there is relatively little argument for according these foetuses with the rights of persons, as there seems little to distinguish them, aside from the sentimental significance they may hold for existing persons, from other animals with no hope of achieving a qualitative life experience. It also raises important questions concerning the problem of where to draw the line between a quality worth having and a quality that is not worth having, when does disability become unbearable and how and who should make the decision. George W. Bush has justified abortion in cases of rape and incest. Abortion is a very personal issue and an especially emotional subject. The philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson wrote – If abortion rights are denied, then a constraint is imposed on women’s freedom to act in a way that is of great importance to them, both for its own sake and for the sake of their achievement of equality and if the constraint is imposed on the ground that the foetus has a right to life from the moment of conception, then it is imposed on a ground that neither reason nor the rest of morality requires women to accept, or even to give any weight at all.

In India, there is an urgent need to reform the law i.e. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 which only permits abortion on medical grounds up to 20th weeks on advice of two medical practitioners. But the change in law also invites attention to check false cases of medical termination and allowing abortion after 24 weeks may also pose danger to the life of mothers. The recent case of Niketa and Harish Mehta before the Bombay Court brought into light the issue which requires to be addressed by jurists and law experts. When they opted to seek legal exemption to abort their baby, they did not act stereotype by doing it illegally without consent.

While amending the law to move with progress in science, we must remember what Mother Teresa once said, “Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants.”

Bhumika Sharma


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