Health and wellness

Most abortion cases are on-demand and do not involve rape victims

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 9:00pm

I am writing in response to Jason Sylvester’s question: “How does [abortion] rise to the level of killing a child?” (“On abortion as ‘murder’: debate should rest on scientific fact, not emotion”, June 22)

The aim of my first correspondence (“Abortion vote in Ireland is over, but rhetoric cannot blur the line between right and wrong”, June 19) was to offer a philosophical reflection on abortion, without addressing the nitty-gritty of statistics from medical literature and political debates. However, I will happily discuss the specifics.

I agree with Mr Sylvester that from knowledge comes truth and, as such, my opinions are informed: as a PhD candidate, I am dedicated to research. It is a scientific fact that all major organs and body systems of the unborn baby are formed and beginning to function by the end of the first trimester, and continue to grow in the fetal stage. By and beyond 12 weeks, then, abortion is the killing of formed and growing unborn babies.

To Mr Sylvester’s “ex scientia vera” (from knowledge, truth), I would respond with “sapere aude” (dare to know).

I would also reiterate my point about situations – hypothetical or empirical – tangential to the fact of abortion and their inability to right the wrongdoing. Such tangents are apparent in Mr Sylvester’s letter which, for instance, points out that many embryos do not successfully implant in the endometrium and are expelled during menstruation without the woman’s knowledge. This is unrelated to abortion, which occurs when the embryo has implanted and when the woman knowingly decides to invoke this expulsion, either chemically or surgically.

Watch: Debate over abortion rights rekindled in Chile after 2014 rape case

Similarly, the possibility of miscarriage is tangential to the decision to abort a fetus that has not been miscarried. Did Mr Sylvester intend to equate abortion to miscarriage, physically and psychologically?

Mr Sylvester has highlighted the case of abortion following rape. Rape cases account for a small fraction of all abortions. Rape, incest and fatal fetal abnormalities constitute the “hard cases” and these could be legislated for independently. The vast majority of abortion cases occur on an on-demand basis and their realities are not to be equated with the anguish experienced by the rape victim.

Life created from a rape transcends the crime. Life is probably the only positive outcome possible from the horror of rape. We should not discount the adoption option or ignore the availability of the emergency contraceptive pill. Piling a second tragedy upon a first is not an act of compassion towards the rape victim or the innocent child.

Lydia Hayes, Sheung Wan