These are two diametrically opposite views on what has been gnawing at the roots of human morality since centuries. For those who view the world in simple black or white, abortion is a heinous crime, nothing less than murder, and totally untenable on ethical, humanitarian and legal grounds.

Simplistic arguments propound that the mother is the owner of the foetus and thus is entitled to decide on giving birth to the child; it is her sole prerogative to decide whether to have an abortion if she thinks giving birth is not the best thing to do in the circumstances. There are gray areas and it is not surprising that society as a whole has not come to a unified opinion or decision. Consider instances where a woman has been raped and becomes pregnant. Would she want a child by her rapist to reminder her all through her life of the atrocity and humiliation she underwent? There are also cases of women who have been married and then discarded while pregnant. Should she have the child and attendant problems or abort the foetus and improve her chances of remarriage?

Consider a case where a woman is informed by her doctor that the foetus is malformed or has defects. Could she or should she endure a life of hardship tending a physically handicapped or mentally retarded child? Should the child be born and be allowed to live and suffer and curse the day he was born with such defects or should the woman undergo Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP). The moment, a debate on abortion starts, it goes off in all directions. Indian society is nice. Because we are such hypocrites. It is second nature for us to adopt a moralistic tone, get on a high horse and comment on someone else’s backyard.

The moment the ball comes into our backyard it is a different ball game! On one hand we have great qualms about eating eggs, even unfertilized ones because eggs have “life”, it is against “dharma”. However, no one blinks an eye when it comes to sonography, sex determination and the decision for an MTP in case it is a female or for some other reasons. Career women feel it will obstruct their whole life or spoil their figure and good looks to become “pregnant at this point in time”. “People can say what they like”, a woman who considers abortion might say. “It is my life, the life of the child that is in question. After all society is not going to do anything for me or for the child.” And that is the telling thing.

Another interesting aspect of our society: is how people frown on unwed mothers. How many of us would welcome a unwed single mothers or mothers-to-be in their neighborhood? Even if an unwed mother respects the law of life and decides to give birth to the baby rather than abort the foetus, the nine months of pregnancy will be the hardest of her life without any support from a society with a rich tradition and heritage. In such instances a woman becomes a woman’s worst enemy and women know it.

It would take some doing for society to see a change in women’s attitude and adopt a more caring attitude for unwed mothers or mothers-to-be. Single mothers are fine in the west but here in India? What about our sanskriti? Unthinkable. For a woman, the news that she is pregnant could be the best news of her life were it not for external factors that mark the occasion and force her to take an unthinkable step much against her will.

We all know of women who have been promised marriage, lured into relationships and left in the lurch. Should she abort the foetus, marry Mr Right eventually and live a nomal life or give birth to a child with all likelihood of unhappiness for two lives? And then again, when people are so uncaring and inconsiderate of all those living, sentient beings around them, do they have the moral right to preach to another about abortion and about a being that is yet to come into this world? One could go on and on...

Interestingly enough, when presented with a moral dilemma, people inevitably choose to violate moral rules if it resulted in minimizing harm (Emotion journal, research by Michigan State University researchers, lead researcher David Navarete). Those in favour of abortion in extremely mitigating circumstances might find some support in this. Of course this is not in support of abortion but simply a view from the other side. There is always a larger picture, a broader perspective to consider on such a vexing and sensitive issue. In medical termination of pregnancy there are three processes used for abortion by medical practitioners. One is suction aspiration in which a high pressure vacuum pump literally sucks out the embedded embryo from a woman using vacuum force. Another method is Dilation and Evacuation or extraction (D&E) in which the cervix is dilated and the contents of the uterus are surgically evacuated.

The third method is dilation and curettage. The cervix is dilated and the lining of the uterus in which the embryo is embedded is removed by a surgical procedure.

Abortions are only considered “safe” in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Neither of these is easy or bearable for a woman. They are crude and can result in haemorrhage, damage and permanent sterility in women and infection. There is heartless cruelty to the unborn life to which society so conveniently turns a blind eye. Mahatma Gandhi is held in high honour but his saying “God alone has the right to take away the life because he only gives it...” apparently carry little weight. If not out of pure logic, social considerations and religious considerations then at least from the view point of being human let us have a consensus on saying No to abortion. Have we heard of animals having abortions? What society can do to prevent very concept of abortions is to pave the way for mothers to be and to accept that having an unwanted child is not all that bad when society is there in support—for her and for child. Anyway... till such time as we evolve, may be abortion will stay with us giving moralists a chance to rant till they are hoarse.

Society does not need more children; but it does need more loved children. Quite literally, we cannot afford unloved children - but we pay heavily for them every day. There should not be the slightest communal concern when a woman elects to destroy the life of her thousandth-of-an-ounce embryo. But all society should rise up in alarm when it hears that a baby that is not wanted is about to be born. ~Garrett Hardin