Friday, September 4, 2015

Religion and abortions do not make a pretty mix

Abortions and the Catholic Church have always been a very contentious issue. The formal stance taken by the Catholic Church is that abortions are completely disallowed and any pregnant woman whoever undertakes one is excommunicated, which requires the pardon of a bishop for it to be lifted. 

It is a very serious offence amongst followers of the Catholic Church. In 2012, an Indian dentist, Savita Halappanavar living in Ireland, suffered a miscarriage and repeatedly requested an abortion, which kept getting denied. Doctors did not consider her to be in ‘medical’ danger, which is a prerequisite to obtaining a legal abortion. The lady’s foetus’s heartbeat stopped, and she then continued having complications, ultimately dying from septicaemia.

The case created ripples of discontent and anger amongst the local population and news of this story soon went viral, attracting condemnation worldwide and bad publicity for the Catholic Church.

To mitigate the effects of this news and to quell the fierce condemnation of pro-choice groups, Pope Francis announced this week that obtaining abortions would be a pardonable offence, but for only a year. He stated that he was aware of the ‘pressure’ that certain women face, when aborting their unborn babies. The doctors and patients alike should be pardoned for this otherwise gross offence.

Although Pope Francis has been a forward-thinking papal force, he doesn’t explain the time limit that has been enforced on this pardoning of abortions or clarify whether it has retrospective effect. Maybe this was a temporary measure taken to quell the growing cries of anger from human rights groups, but it’s difficult to comprehend what difference a year will actually make to women wanting abortions.

Regardless of a woman’s decision to abort or not, it is unlikely that a year’s ‘guilt-free’ abortion will play a decisive role in her choice. This whole step seems to be an ill-thought out tactic to try and place the Catholic Church in a positive light amongst liberals.

Similarly, in Pakistan, abortions are only allowed if a medical necessity arises otherwise it is very much an illegal act. There are many unqualified women who perform ‘backroom’ abortions for those who can’t afford good medical treatment or want the cloak of secrecy, but many women die from complications which arise from such sub-standard and, ultimately, dangerous procedures.

It is still a taboo subject in a very conservative society like Pakistan, where the choice to reproduce is usually denied to women.

Religious sentiments aside, it is considered selfish and unladylike for a woman to destroy human life, but difficulties can arise where a woman has been raped and becomes pregnant as a result of the act. Abortion may be the only solution for the unwanted foetus, but these are murky areas that religious authorities find uncomfortable in dealing with.

In Morocco, when a girl became pregnant by her rapist, the authorities made her marry her rapist to legitimise the unborn foetus, which is simply repugnant and wholly unfair to the victim involved.

Another difficulty lies in aborting a foetus that is revealed to have a disability in an ultrasound. The question arises that should a child with heavy disabilities be born or should it be aborted to prevent financial stresses to the parents?

A frank discussion surrounding abortion is needed, especially for those women who really don’t want to rear numerous children or those who don’t wish to have a disabled child. Moral compasses can become skewed when difficult situations arise.

Religion and abortions do not make a pretty mix, but the year of pardoned abortions by the Catholic Church goes some way in tackling the immense guilt and angst women who abort go through.

Ultimately, it is a very difficult decision to make, but one which requires great deal of aforethought, mental fortitude and enough conviction of God’s forgiveness for the religious-minded.

from The Express Tribune Blog

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