• Question: Do you believe that abortion is murder or emergency contraception? Some people argue that as soon as a baby is conceived it is alive and human, but others argue; How can a ball of cells be called human? What is your opinion on the matter?

    Asked by caragh26 to Meeks, Stephen, Tom on 24 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Stephen Curry

      Stephen Curry answered on 23 Jun 2010:

      Well caragh26, that is a very difficult and controversial question. But also a very important one.

      In the UK and many other countries abortion is not murder since it is not illegal. But of course many people are not happy that it is permitted by law, often for religious or moral reasons.

      In my opinion the great difficulty with the ‘abortion issue’ is that it is in fact two issues: the rights of the foetus and the rights of women over what happens to their bodies.

      For some people the question of the rights of the foetus is determined by the time at which they think the growing embryo ‘becomes human’. By UK law that time point effectively starts at 24 weeks into the pregnancy. This time limit is considered to be the age at which the foetus could survive outside the womb.

      Personally, that particular rationale has always seemed a bit arbitrary to me because a younger foetus has the potential to reach this age – to become human. Therefore my wife and I would never take the decision to terminate a pregnancy.

      However, many people take a different view and I agree that they should have that choice. I imagine that most people consider the situation extremely carefully before making the decision to terminate since, even if you think ‘technically’ that you are not ending a life by an abortion, it is likely be a very emotional and difficult decision.

    • Photo: Marieke Navin

      Marieke Navin answered on 23 Jun 2010:

      Hi Caragh. I don’t believe it is emergency contraception, I really don’t – it’s way too far down the line for contraception. I do believe in the morning after pill for that because accidents can happen. I agree with early abortion. As in I agree with a woman’s right to choose. It isn’t for a long time that the baby starts to become human-like and aware and move and things and these are long after the window for abortion. I don’t think a ball of cells is human, but it has the *potential* to be human, but ultimately I think in the very early days it is the mother’s right to choose. After a cut off point, the baby has rights i think, but for me this is quite a bit before the 20 week window.

    • Photo: Tom Hartley

      Tom Hartley answered on 24 Jun 2010:

      This is a really interesting question, but it is not really a scientific one, so I am going to give you my opinion – I don’t think there is a right answer; we have to go along with what the majority of people think in a democracy.

      I don’t think either of the two options you’ve given me are right. When an egg is first fertilized it is just a single cell, albeit one with the potential to develop into a human being. Stopping the fertilized egg from developing beyond this stage doesn’t seem anything like murder to me. At the end of nine months an unborn baby is more or less identical to one that has been born the day before. It would not be OK to kill a fetus at this point. Somewhere in between we get to a point where (even if we don’t think of it as murder), it is not acceptable to deliberately kill the developing human.

      One type of emergency contraception is a pill that can be taken to stop pregnancy very early on after fertilization but before the embryo has implanted itself in the womb. I don’t think this is a problem, but it is a strong drug, so it would be better to avoid this (by using regular contraception).

      As women have to take the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, it is right that they should have control over their fertility, and should be able to stop a pregnancy if it is ethical to do so. Because effective contraception is now freely available we should do our best to avoid these horrible ethical dilemmas (much harder for the pregnant woman than for anyone else). It’s easy to imagine circumstances when it would be almost impossible for a woman to go through with a pregnancy. Ultimately women who are denied access to medical abortion might resort to non-medical approaches which can be very dangerous, so overall I am in favour of controlled access to medical abortion.

      As a man, my view is less important. But I think abortion is a little too easy at present, and we should do more to encourage alternatives and to support mothers who are torn about their decision to go through with pregnancies if it is at all feasible. This is only my view and I know many people would disagree with it, which is why I am glad we live in a democracy where we can all contribute to these decisions.