With a worldwide buzz on the issue of abortion once again, the topic has become a point of some controversy for many people for many different reasons. In the United Kingdom, abortion is currently legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy throughout the country. However in America individual states can dictate their own laws on abortion. These are called ‘trigger laws’ and it means that abortion is illegal within the 1st and 12th week and the 13th and 26th week of pregnancy. There are currently six states with trigger laws and three intending to criminalise abortion.
This has become a hot topic in the run-up to the American elections, with Mitt Romney assuring the people of Ohio that he had no plans to attempt to create new laws which would limit abortions. Although this directly contradicts his Republican views (and a recent bill supported by his running mate Representative Paul D. Ryan to cut federal funding for abortion), many believe that this was said in attempt to reassure perspective voters, particularly women, who had previously not supported him.
There is also the grand opening of Ireland’s first abortion clinic in Belfast, which has caused a local group of anti-abortion campaigners -who attempted to persuade local politicians to refuse to grant an opening licence- to begin a furious battle against the clinic. The British non-profit organization Marie Stopes International is the group behind the clinic, who already offer women in Ireland and Northern Ireland advice on their services. The clinic plan to offer abortions only within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, and the abortion would involve only taking pills, and not surgery. The clinic’s new programme director Dawn Purivs states how “Over 4,000 women travel from the Republic of Ireland to England every year to access safe abortion services. Many will continue to do so, but we are offering them another choice.”
In Ireland and Northern Ireland, abortions are allowed only under exceptionally limited circumstances. However last year the European Court of Human Rights believed that Ireland had failed to put in place the right to an abortion if the mother’s life was threatened, which was granted by the Irish Supreme Court in 1992. In Northern Ireland now, abortions are restricted to cases such as if pregnancy were to have a permanent or long-term effect on the mother’s physical or mental health, causing many women to travel to the UK.
So, why is it that in 2012 when murderers, child abusers and wife-beaters receive appallingly short sentences, we still look down on women who make a personal decision as if they are the same as a murderer? Of course the decision is one that needs to be made relatively quickly, both to benefit the mother, father and child; so it is only right that a limit should be placed on the time in which you can have an abortion. However, the circumstances need not be life-threatening in order to qualify for an abortion. Death is not the only good reason to grant a woman an abortion. In cases of rape or poor health, women should be allowed to voice the decision to have an abortion. It would also be fairly widely agreed that some people simply do not make good parents, or are not practically prepared for a child. Therefore is it not cruel to bring the child into a world where they could be ignored or mistreated?
The issue here is choice. Women are no longer second-class citizens and their sole job is not to have children. There are cases where having an abortion is the most responsible thing to do for everyone concerned, and in 2012 there should be no discussion that women have the freedom to choose what is best for them, and make their decision for the best reasons.