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fetus /ˈftəs/, also spelled foetusfœtusfaetus, or fætus, is a developing mammal or other viviparous vertebrate after the embryonic stage and before birth


A few months back there arose a debate on my Facebook page on the Pro-Choice versus Pro- life issue which went on for several days till I deleted the whole thread. This debate is not a new one, or  one restricted to only a few countries across the world. The whole controversy of “ If you are pro abortion you are anti -life” can trace its roots back to the 19th century, before which abortions were legal in most parts of the world[1]. It was only in the 19th century that not just the medical fraternity  but religious institutions as well went on a crusade of “criminalizing” abortion. Since then the situation has gone just one way: downhill.

The classic example of the pro- life lobby ( which by the way only talks about the life of the child) is the premise that a fetus is an “unborn child” and a simple and the commonest surgical intervention is “murdering” that “child”. Calling a fetus an “unborn child” is akin to calling a living person an “un-dead” corpse. Unlike what the various religious institutions say about  “life beginning at conception” , the scientific inquiry  emphatically states that a fetus is just that, a fetus, and has no independent existence till its birth. It is but an extension of the pregnant woman. There is a difference between potentiality and actuality. An embryo is a potential human being, In actuality, it is a mass of undifferentiated cells that is in existence inside a woman as a part of her body, especially in the first trimester.

 The countries that have legalised abortion have made this scientific fact their foundation to allow medical termination of pregnancy.  However it should be noted that even the law of the land has taken the sentiments of the  pro- lifers into consideration.  Most countries  have legalized abortions up to 20 weeks. The reason behind such a law is the notion that the fetus attains almost human form by the 20th week, apart from the fact that the woman’s health is at grave risk  if the abortion  is performed at such an advanced stage of pregnancy.

A few of the pro- lifers, when pressed hard, concede that abortions should be allowed only in rarest of circumstances. The only example that is given is when a woman has been raped. The logic  for allowing this exception is the fact that the unfortunate event was beyond the control of the woman. An event where she was not a willing participant. She is therefore not made liable to bear the brunt  In all other cases, the logic of “Is she is old enough to  get pregnant, she is old enough to be a mother” is applied.  A nation would be treading a  dangerous path if it bases its laws not on facts and objective analysis but on high grounds of religion and morality, especially in cases where the health of its citizens is concerned. Morality has no place in the legal lexicon of a nation if it wants to progress.

One often hears about the “rights of the child” whenever abortion is portrayed as evil and  sin against HIS will and that’s where the fallacy lies.  The whole pro- life debate is so “child” centric ( a child that is not yet born) that it forgets that there is a woman involved who is a living, conscious and aware being having an independent existence.  This may be a woman who is  a 16 year old child herself having no access to  affordable  contraception in a youth friendly setting, or a 28 year old married woman who  has decided not to have a child right at that moment and gets pregnant because the condom broke and / or the morning after pill did not have the desired effect. Motherhood should be an informed choice not an imposition. Imposing motherhood would lead to denying the woman her right over her own body, the right to choose how many children she wants and how often she would want to become mother. The entire movement of pro- choice is about valuing a woman as a free agent determining what she wants.

It would be a colossal mistake to think that making abortions unlawful puts an end to them. Contrary  to the popular belief held by the pro-life lobby, making abortions un-lawful would only lead to higher numbers of unsafe abortions conducted by untrained people under unsafe conditions. This would thus lead to consequences like infertility in women (when she would actually be desirous of a child) , even cancer or even  death.  Making it unlawful would also stigmatize women who have undergone abortion , thus such women would not come out to seek post- abortion medical care for fear of social ridicule.

 Legalization of abortions not only protects the women from unsafe abortions but would result in a decline in maternal mortality. The majority of the maternal morality resulting due to unsafe abortion practices are preventable all that needs to be done is  provide safe abortion, affordable contraception , preventing common obstetrical complications, nutrition and improving pre-natal care. All this can only be accomplished by legalization of abortions.

A young Indian woman, Savita Halappanavar,  died in October 2012 because the Government of Ireland denied her life saving abortion rights. She came to the hospital after 17 weeks of pregnancy miscarrying . She was in extreme pain but was refused an abortion in order to save her life.  She was only 30. And the list goes on, many unnamed women………..

Often times the supporters of  pro-life  go to un imaginable extents to safeguard the rights of the fetus.  So much so that governments have provided laws for the “unborn child”  by severely compromising the dignity and the right of self determination of the pregnant woman. Alicia Beltran, from Wisconsin was arrested and put behind bars. Her crime? She was honest enough to tell her doctor about her addiction to  pill addiction which she had self willed to leave. She was accused of putting the life of  her unborn child in danger as she refused to toe the line dictated by the authorities. The irony of the whole situation is that while the State was quick to appoint a lawyer for the fetes, no such right was provided to Alicia. Alicia is not a lone woman, who has been harassed  in the name of  “rights of an unborn- child”. Such laws treat an egg as if it was already a human being, a separate entity from the mother.  Instilling fear in the minds of pregnant woman  and force them to undergo drug treatment is only   medically counterproductive but plays havoc with the mental, emotional and psychological well being of the woman, something that is of paramount importance for raring a child.

 Life and rights of a living , coconscious person  or a rights of an unborn “child”, who is not even considered a person either by law or by science, but only by the dogmatic , fundamentalist religious institutions. Whose rights should prevail? You decide.




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