Over the years, there have been so many ethical issues which has placed humans across different ethical divide as a result of the difficulty in making decisions unanimously in regard to such issues. One of such ethical issues is abortion. There has been a controversy as whether to legalize abortion or not. While some are in favour of legalization, others are vehemently against it. Amidst this divide, it is pertinent to evaluate abortion as an ethical issue and the evil it poses, while bearing in mind the position of the Catholic Church. This is what this article is aimed at achieving. To achieve this, a background to abortion will be given, while looking at the reasons for indulging in abortion, national and global statistics, regulations pertaining to abortion and the stand of the Catholic Church.
WHAT IS ABORTION
Abortion is the forceful/untimely evacuation of the foetus from the uterus, thereby terminating pregnancy before the foetus is able to survive on its. The term abortion comprises both induced abortion (in which case it is a planned, orderly and systematic process) and miscarriage (in which case it occurs spontaneously). Induced abortion is carried out either through medications, or surgical means. The former means is effective only in the first trimester, while the latter is safer due its lower risk of side effects.
REASONS FOR ABORTION
People indulge in abortion for several reasons. Firstly, when the physical and mental health of the woman is challenged by the pregnancy, abortion is done to save her life. Secondly, people result to abortion for the purpose of birth control. When contraceptives used during sex fails to prevent pregnancy, it results to an unwanted pregnancy which is subsequently aborted. Another reason is when the pregnancy is a product of rape or incest, then the foetus is aborted. Apart from the above, if the foetus is detected to have any severe medical defect that will hinder the proper development of the foetus when it’s delivered, abortion is also performed.
REGULATIONS ON ABORTION
Despite the above reasons, in some locations, abortion is still considered illegal. The legality of abortion is dependent on the part of the world it occurs. While it is legal in some countries, it is however considered illegal in some other countries. The degree of legality is different in various countries. While some are totally legal such that anybody can have access to Medical practitioners for abortion e.g. United Kingdom, others are restricted to certain conditions as rape, incest, genetics e.g. New Zealand etc. In the defunct Soviet Union Socialist Republic (USSR), abortion was legalized in 1920. In Japan, it was legalized in 1948, 1967 in the United Kingdom and 1973 in the United States of America. However, in countries like Nicaragua, Elsavador, Dominican Republic, Malta and the Holy See; abortion is not allowed as it is completely illegal within the territory.
In Nigeria, abortion is totally prohibited by two different regulations. First is the Penal Code (Northern States) Federal provisions Act, Chapter 345 of the laws of the federation of Nigeria (Revised ed. 1990), Articles 232-236. This is binding on all the Northern states within the country. A similar one that is binding on Southern States of Nigeria is the Criminal Code Act, Chapter 77 of the laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Revised ed. 1990), Articles 228-230, 297-309, 328. The penalty for the breach of this regulation ranges from fines to imprisonment of both. However, if abortion is done to save the life of the woman, then it no longer become a crime as stated by the above regulation.
GLOBAL STATISTICS OF ABORTION
Despite the above regulations, people still embark on abortion in Nigeria, though not openly. A good number of the abortion done in Nigeria are done by private practitioners (some of which may not be qualified to carry out the procedure), as a result of the restriction by the regulation. This however could lead to unsafe abortion. Globally, about 42 million abortions are performed each year. This represents 20% of the total pregnancy (210 million) per year. Data on the incidence and prevalence of abortion in Nigeria is not available, probably due to the restriction of abortion, thereby, preventing the report of abortion cases by those concern.
THE POSITION OF THE CHURCH
Considering the huge number of the incident cases of abortion globally, one wonders from the ethical perspective, if abortion is part of the societal norm. The issue of abortion is so controversial that it has separated people in different ethical divide. Those in favour of abortion are often referred to as the Pro-choice, while those in opposition are often referred to as Pro-life. While the formal argues that a woman has every right to decide whether to keep a pregnancy or not, the later recognises the embryo or foetus as a discrete being with the right to life and liberty of human person.
In the light of the above controversy, the Catholic Church like no other, stands as a reliable and consistent teacher in words and action, on the issues of abortion. The Church’s teaching that abortion is a grave moral evil, has been clear, emphatic and unwavering.
Although certain theologians of the Church have in the past held a different believe of abortion, it is worthy of note that, this believe held by such individuals does not represent the stand of the Church. For instance, in the 17th Century, certain theologians like Thomas Sanchez and Joannis Marcus had taught a different doctrine of abortion from that of the Church. Sanchez, a Jesuit theologian taught that abortion is lawful if the foetus is not yet animated when the intention is to prevent the girl detect as pregnant, from being killed or defamed. Marcus claimed that the foetus lacks a rational soul until birth. These teaching were however debunked and condemned by pope Innocent XI in a decree of the Holy See made in 1679. Bearing in mind the argument put forward by Marcus, it is important to state that abortion is evil and as such a sin irrespective of the time of animation or ensoulment. This is because abortion contravenes the law of God commanding us not to kill i.e. the fifth commandment.
In conclusion, abortion is not just same as killing an unborn child, but also homicide as described by pope Sixtus V and as such, is morally and ethically evil from the religious perspective, despite its legalization by civil law. Secondly, the reason for performing abortion does not justify the evil act. Although some believe that it is a useful means of controlling the population, it is also evil even in that situation. Aristotle describes this as infanticide and vehemently condemned it. On a final note, it is much easier to prevent a process than to control it. If there is no unwanted pregnancy, there will be no need for abortion. And if unwanted pregnancy is not desirable, then abstinence from sex is the sure bet.
BY: FANNY UZEZI OVIOGO