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Is it all about babies?

By Mary Smith - posted Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Is the opposition to abortion simply about saving babies? Or, are there other motives behind the graphic images of advanced fetuses?

Many anti abortionists, or pro-life activists as they prefer to be called, focus on the issue of late abortions even though the vast majority of abortions, about 90 per cent, are performed during the first trimester.

Most women facing unwanted pregnancy act swiftly, I cannot imagine that a woman would deliberately wait until the fetus reaches 20 weeks before having an abortion. Late abortions occur in cases of fetal abnormality and complications affecting the health of the woman. Other pro-lifers adopt a feminist facade and spread misinformation about the safety of legal abortion while conveniently ignoring the dangers of illegal, unsafe abortions which affect millions of women, mostly in developing countries.


By focusing on the few late abortions, the pro-life lobby hopes to harness public support in chipping away abortion rights. Indeed, not only do they want ALL abortions banned, they also want to ban contraception.

In El Salvadore and Nicaragua the Catholic Church pro-lifers succeeded in banning ALL abortions, including those necessary to save a woman's life, doctors are reluctant to provide emergency treatment to any woman with pregnancy-related complications and even fear to treat women with ectopic pregnancies. Their fears are not unfounded, any doctor accused of performing abortion, even to save a woman's life can spend up to 30 years in jail.

In the Philippines (PDF 114KB), it is estimated that about 400.000 illegal abortions take place every year, yet contraception is banned from public hospitals and clinics. The government endorses Catholic-approved Natural Family Planning only. But Natural Family Planning or abstinence does not work if women are forced by their husbands to have sex.

You need not take my word for this; check out what pro-lifers have to say about contraception:

"By outlawing contraception, you're closer to outlawing surgical abortion," says Matt Sande, director of legislative affairs for Pro-Life Wisconsin.

Sande says the 1992 Supreme Court ruling that narrowly upheld Roe v. Wade - the court's landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion - forces the hand of abortion opponents because it reasoned that abortion was the legal fallback for contraceptive failure.

"So if, as the pro-life community, you're trying to outlaw surgical abortion but the court has told us its legal basis is founded on the necessity of abortion, shouldn't the pro-life community begin to take a look at contraception?" Sande says.

"We're trying to overturn Roe v. Wade, but the court is pointing us over here," he adds. Those who don't turn their attention to trying to outlaw contraception at this point, Sande says, hurt the anti-abortion cause.

And closer to home Nicholas Tonti-Filippini says:


The pro-life concern is that the effect of mini-pills such as Micronor, because they are unlikely to suppress ovulation, are much more likely to be abortifacient. The lining of the uterus is altered so that if the effect on cervical mucus fails to prevent the passage of sperm, then embryos created are likely to be unable to embed and develop in the lining of the uterus. The mini-pills do carry a significant risk of loss of human lives at an early stage.

Even if one of the modes of action of the pill is preventing the fertilised egg from attaching to the uterine lining, it would still not constitute an abortifacient action, the pill would not be acting to kill the fertilised egg but merely to prevent its implantation in the uterine lining. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as starting at implantation, when the fertilised egg attaches itself to the uterine lining.

In the US, 86 anti-abortion groups have committed to opposing all forms of contraception. Pro-life organisations in Australia also oppose contraception, even though they are not as vocal about it as their American allies.

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About the Author

Mary Smith lives in suburban Sydney with her family. She has been active in the pro choice movement, on and off, for about 20 years.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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