Abortion: To do or not to do?

  By Murtala Assayouti 

A desolate highway, a lonely hardworking girl, a bunch of street misfits with cruelty in their hearts. A gang rape that leaves a girl shattered for life. 16 years old Aminah does not have any fond memories of that night. She had been trying to meet her target for the day hawking bottled drinks late into the night on the notorious Ikorodu Road. " I had to sell at least 20 bottles so that I could get my commission. Business was slow that day. So I worked late…I did not know…" Sobs and tears. But the worst was yet to come.

Two months later, Aminah finds out she is pregnant. The tears flow freely, for she is of poor background. She would never have the means of taking care of a child alone, one who would never know her father. Abortion seems the best option. But even that holds a lot of apprehension. Even if she did manage to raise the money for the procedure, the societal stigma of immorality sounds out, health implications she cannot foresee follows her, not to talk of the psychological trauma that will live with her for the rest of her life. What then is she to do?

Halima's story is a lot different. An episode of love gone awry. Her first year of university finds her love she had only read about and seen on TV; a fairy tale love. But unlike the fantasies she holds so dear, reality has a cruel twist. Dele is a sadistic player spinning her in a web of illusions and deceit. When the wall crashes and pregnancy comes calling, Dele runs denying his role in the whole fiasco. She is left to the dire predicament of deciding between her education and an unborn child. What then would she do?

Mrs. Jimoh is a 38 year old, dutiful housewife with a complicated case of a rogue ovarian cyst. Childless for many years, and it seems her dream will never come true. Or so it seems. Miraculously she gets pregnant at a late age, but doctors tell her she and the child, if the pregnancy progresses as it should, can never survive childbirth. Her cherished dream will after all not be achieved, unless of course if her belief in miracles is absolute. But can she risk that ultimate tragedy? Can she hope beyond hope? What should she do?

Abortion comes readily to the fore in all three cases. Reasons to or not, controversies rage on concerning induced termination of pregnancy. In a world where a whopping estimated 46 million abortions take place yearly despite the intense argument, there is a need to understand the phenomenal and the debate surrounding it. Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo, resulting in or caused by its death. An abortion can occur spontaneously due to complications (miscarriage) during pregnancy or can be induced. A pregnancy can be intentionally aborted in many ways. The procedure used depends largely upon the stage of pregnancy and the size of the unborn child. It can be divided into three main categories: those that invade the uterus and kill the child by instruments which enter the uterus through the cervix; those that kill the preborn child by administration of drugs (mifepristone aka RU-486)) and then induce labour and the delivery of a dead baby (misoprostol); and, those that invade the uterus by abdominal surgery. There is evidence also to suggest that, historically, pregnancies were terminated through a number of other means, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure, vigorous exercise etc.

The first trimester (0-12 weeks) of pregnancy is relatively less risky for the pregnant female to undergo abortion as the second (12-28 weeks), whereas the third trimester is considered the most dangerous period for a woman to perform abortion, worst if it is by untrained personnel. THE DEBATE The abortion debate deals with the rights and wrongs of deliberately ending a pregnancy before normal childbirth, killing the fetus in the process. Usually debates about abortion focus on politics and the law: should abortion be outlawed and treated like the murder of a human person, or remain a legal choice available to all women?

Abortion is a very painful topic for women and men who find themselves facing the moral dilemma of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. It's one of the most polarizing moral issues - most people are on one side or the other, very few are undecided. In the history of abortion, induced abortion has been the source of considerable debate, controversy, and activism. In USA, elections are won and lost on a candidates stand on abortion.

NIGERIA'S ethical system condemns abortion and brands it Illegal by law with exception for maternal life, health, and/or mental health even though thousands of girls die yearly under the scalpel of a loosely trained professional performing the operation in a sub-standard condition, or herself out of a desperate need to do so where legal forms of abortion are legally unavailable. An individual's position on the complex ethical, moral, biological, and legal issues is often related to his or her value system. The main positions are the pro-choice position, which argues in favor of access to abortion, and the pro-life position, which argues against access to abortion.

Opinions of abortion may be described as being a combination of beliefs on its morality, and beliefs on the responsibility, ethical scope, and proper extent of governmental authorities in public policy. Religious ethics also has an influence upon both personal opinion and the greater debate over abortion. The moral debate about abortion deals with two separate questions: Is abortion morally wrong and should abortion be legal or illegal?

The secondary questions also arise, as those two questions don't end the debate. If we conclude that abortion is not morally wrong, that doesn't mean that it's right to have an abortion; we need to ask whether having an abortion is the best thing (or least bad thing) to do in each particular case.

If we conclude that abortion is morally wrong, that doesn't mean that it's always impermissible to have an abortion; we need to ask whether having an abortion is less wrong than the alternatives. On one side are those who call themselves 'pro-life'. They say that intentionally caused abortion is always wrong (although it may on very rare occasions be the best thing to do). Generally, the pro-life position argues that a human fetus is a human being with the right to live making abortion tantamount to murder. On the other side are those who call themselves 'pro-choice' or 'supporters of abortion rights', and who regard intentional abortion as acceptable in some circumstances. The pro-choice position argues that a woman has certain reproductive rights, especially the choice whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. ISLAMIC VIEW In principle, the Qur'an condemns the killing of humans (except in the case of defense or as capital punishment), but it does not explicitly mention abortion.

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