Many sides of the abortion debate

I got more interested on this topic when the Republican Party failed to perform according to their expecta- tions in the 2022 US midterm elec- tions

Many sides of the abortion debate

Some social issues in the US divide the population into two almost equal groups. One such issue is abortion. Typically, lib- erals are pro-choice (they support abortion) while conservatives are pro-life. For a long time, I identified with the pro-life group. With all the birth control options available, I never understood why women get pregnant if they do not want a baby and even if pregnancy is accidental why do they not abort immediately. Aborting a developed foetus whose heartbeat is detectable does seem like killing a baby, as the pro-life activists assert.

I got more interested on this topic when the Republican Party failed to perform according to their expecta- tions in the 2022 US midterm elec- tions. There were predictions from pundits of a “red wave”, with the GOP capturing an overwhelming majority of the House seats and even edging out the Democrats in the Senate. That did not happen. The Democrats retained their slim majority in the Senate while the GOP managed to regain control of the House but with a narrow majority.

The experts attribute this to the ruling of the US Supreme Court (with a majority of conservative judges) overturning “Roe vs Wade” (the 1973 law that legalised abortion through- out the US) a few months earlier. Many experts are now saying that the 2024 presidential election will be decided based on only one issue: abortion.


I wondered why abortion gener- ates so much passion and hysteria on both sides. Feminists have always claimed that it is their right to do what they wish with their body. I turned to my trusted friend Susan, whose polit- ical views are like mine, for clarifica- tion.

I asked her, “Isn’t abortion right a by-product of women’s lib move- ments? It seems to me that women are saying they have the right not only to control their life and finances but also their body. Judging by how male and female bodies are designed by our cre- ator, females are meant to carry and nurture babies and males’ job is to protect and provide for them. This is true for all animal species. Doesn’t the abortion process go against the will of God?”

Without hiding my sarcasm, I added: “The same liberal women insisted that everyone get vaccinated for Covid regardless of one’s right to protect their own body.”

Surprisingly, she did not agree with me: “It is not that simple. Yes, I agree that males and females have clear purposes, but wide-spread sup- port for abortion did not arise from any ideological activism. Abortion has been around for centuries in every country, but always considered as an aberration from the norm of a man- woman relationship. Things started to change during the 1960s, and partly due to the Hippie and other counter- culture movements”.

Susan emphasized that her older sister was a hippie, and she had first- hand knowledge of that era. She con- tinued, “The Hippies brought two items to the mainstream: drugs like LSD and free love. As a result, women got trapped in abusive marriages or relationships. Free love meant that both men and women had multiple sex partners. If a woman got pregnant, no one was sure who the father was.”

Susan paused and seemed to be choking up. “I remember how my sis- ter got beaten up every night; not because she did something wrong, but because her husband was in a drug-infused rage. She started sleep- ing on the floor just outside the door of my parents’ bedroom. My dad assured her that he had his gun under his pillow just in case. She got a divorce but found out that she was pregnant.

“She hated her ex-husband and hated the idea of carrying his baby and then raising the child by herself without a job. Opportunities for women were very limited back then. Yes, she could get a waitress’ job at a minimum hourly rate but probably not much more. On multiple occa- sions her ex forcefully kidnapped the baby from her for some period, caus- ing all kinds of commotion; she hated this continuing interaction with her ex even after divorce. She did not get an abortion but wished that she did. I am glad that she didn’t because, before the Roe vs Wade ruling, count- less young women died in their effort to get abortions from unhealthy, unsafe clinics. Although there are more opportunities for women these days, the situation among the poor women is no different from what my sister faced.”

I was sad to hear the story but still presented my counter argument: “Don’t you think that allowing a time window like 15 or 20 weeks is suffi- cient time for anyone to decide if she wants an abortion?”

Susan was not convinced. “Most of these women are young who are probably getting pregnant for the first time. Their only clue is a missed peri- od. For the first eight to twelve weeks, they probably do not even notice a missed period. Once they notice, they need some more time to confirm the pregnancy. Once confirmed, the real agony and trauma set in; the shame, the fear, the financial worries, the thought of raising a child alone, sacri- ficing a job and/or education. The soul-searching and counselling from friends and elders can go on for weeks. Remember, women love babies and it is not an easy decision regard- less of length of pregnancy. That is why it does not make sense to put an arbitrary fixed number like fifteen or twenty weeks.

“The point is abortion is not an isolated social issue based on morality of church-going Christians. It must be looked at in the context of all social issues – rise in broken families, drug and alcohol use, permissiveness, unnecessary and premature deaths of poor young women”.

I responded: “One point of confu- sion is when a foetus becomes a living being? Does life begin at conception or when we hear the first heartbeat or when the baby comes out of the womb, completely detached from the mother able to survive on its own? Hindu scriptures are characteristically vague, dwelling on things like ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence) and indestructibility of the soul”.

Susan concurred, “Even in the Bible the word ‘abortion’ does not appear anywhere. The focus is on not killing anyone and many Christians interpret that to include abortion. There is a perception that Catholics are more strongly opposed to abor- tion than other Christian denomina- tions; that is true only for regular church-going Catholics. Views of other Catholics are like the rest of us and half of them believe that abortion should be legal in all cases. Church- going Catholics also refuse to vote for any political candidate who is pro- choice. This is where politics enters the picture and politicians start to customize their views on abortion to get the most votes.”

I wrapped up the discussion by complimenting the situation in India: “Although India is a socially conser- vative country it is remarkably pro- gressive when it comes to abortion. Not only is abortion legal if performed within 24 weeks of pregnancy, but there is also government provided service available to all women seek- ing abortion for a minimal fee. One unique situation in India is the prefer- ence of the parents for a son. With the availability of gender identification tools, many mothers opt to abort a female foetus. Such acts are consid- ered illegal and criminally punishable. A new law bans any discrimination between married and unmarried women in terms of getting abortion related help”.

I realized after this discussion that abortion is a much more complex issue than the usual talking points of “killing babies” versus “saving moth- ers” with no clear solution.