Today, I will write on something different from the general public ethics that deals with issues of governance and leadership. For the first time, I am publicly contributing to the on and off discussion on the subject of abortion.
Last week Tina Haulyondjaba wrote a piece titled “Perhaps it’s time we legalize abortion?” I would like to appeal to the logic used in it as reason to justify the legalization of abortion – indiscriminately.
Tina’s key argument can be summed up as follows: ‘any woman or girl that has no intention of wanting a baby should be allowed to have an abortion,’ and this choice is motivated on the grounds of voluntary and involuntary (particularly rape and incest) events. Abortion, in this case, will effectively address the issue of baby dumping, neglect and the unsafe abortion practices carried out by many young girls and women. Moreover, she thinks this ultimate decision to be quick and a somehow clean solution to the perceived pain that a child’s birth will result.
However, the arguments provided are simply of utility, which fail to take into consideration that the search to maximize personal pleasure by avoiding an inconvenient pregnancy by all means, does not necessarily address other underlying causative beliefs and behaviours.
Although the author of the article ventures into trying to argue for safe abortion, it is all in favour of the convenience of the pregnant woman, and that is how far her humanity extends, sadly.
The author ignores aspects such as person responsibility and the cultural surrounding in which women find themselves. In so doing, she fails to recognise that we are in Africa and that some of the global debates that have been over-glorified are literally conflicting with the local contexts. Instead of battling to enforce a concept that is culturally foreign and offensive, she ought to think within the perimeters of possible alternatives that could work effectively within the Namibian context.
Obviously, the central issue is not therapeutic abortion or the abortion in cases of rape and incest, the author alluded to. These are important ethical issues to think about and they are not cheap shot acts as they have lasting impacts on the victims. However, these are rare cases, and to make an argument appealing to them is to create a false dilemma and should therefore not be confused with abortion on demand. To follow Tina’s argument that abortion should be legalised simply because the baby is unwanted, is an argument if pushed to its logical conclusion could lead to other forms of termination of human life. Mere undesirability of a human fetus does not warrant sufficient moral ground to call for its destruction.
The logical concern I have is about the author’s ethical dilemma, albeit false, which confines the readers to a form of either/or reasoning. A logical fallacy. With this dilemma, she does away with all other options that could be brought to the table to address the issue of unwanted pregnancies. However, she has reduced a complex matter like human pregnancy to one radical option and argues against those who may be oppose to her choice of termination.
Moreover, the article has presented the argument for abortion as a matter of principle – that it is a lesser evil, and is adamant that we consider legalising it. But it is argued for without exploring or even fairly engaging the arguments from the other camp, and much of it is covered in appeal to emotions and near ad hominem responses.
I personally hold that to advocate for abortion, which is an ultimate and radical option, does not give room for society to consider ways of how to deal with the issue of unwanted pregnancies. An unplanned pregnancy comes with drastic demands on the mother, however, does it solve the problem if we put legal measures of terminating the pregnancy? Somehow, we have to think of other alternatives as a society, other than what we have been sold as a better option, an option we have not been allowed to debate for ourselves. A child in an African perspective belongs to the community, regardless of the weakening of this view. This cultural view raises different ethical question, which we cannot ignore simply because there are those that are politically being advanced by developed nations.
Adoption in my view is better compared to abortion – and is culturally more appropriate. We can advocate for better and effective systems of enhancing adoption of unwanted births. In so doing, we would ease the expecting mother from carrying the moral burden of terminating the pregnancy, and although giving up a child for adoption does not do away with the ethical questions, I believe it is an honorable option.
Finally, I would like to appeal to those who are opposed to abortion as an option to unwanted pregnancies. If we are going to argue against abortion, we also need to prepare ourselves to be part of the answer to unwanted pregnancies. It does not help us to say we are pro-lifers but when these children are born, we leave them to wallow through life in misery and pain. It is not pro-life to only argue for the preservation of that life without an intention to actively participate in raising it.
In addition, adoption could take different forms, from legally taking the child to informal arrangements of committing to the responsibility of ensuring that they are well cared for and even help the mothers to develop skills or find employment that will allow them to live a decent life.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are in my private capacity. These are not the views of my employer IUM or its affiliates.