The Victorian government has decided that it is going to decriminalise abortion in this state, and clarify the legal position. I’m glad. I think it’s best to be totally clear about the exact situations in which abortion will be legal or illegal. Much better than leaving things in a legal and moral vacuum.
I do not think that abortion should be illegal, or perhaps I should say that I believe that it shoudld be legal in some circumstances. As far as I am concerned, there are clearly circumstances where a woman should be able to choose whether or not to keep a child: where the child is the product of a rape, for example, or where a child is likely to be severely disabled. And what if the mother is unwell or unable to cope with a child for some reason? But on the other hand, I am very wary of late term abortions unless there is a very good reason (for example, the child has a massive congenital defect).
The abortion issue is such a divisive one. I don’t feel that I can be quite comfortable with either extreme position. I think women should think carefully before having an abortion, and, as far as I’m aware, the vast majority of women do. I have had some friends who have taken this step, and I do not think these women made the choice lightly. I would never castigate them for taking that step, and I do not think it is my place to do so. Nor would I judge them if they had chosen to keep the child.
Would I have done the same in similar circumstances? I just don’t know. When I saw my daughter at the 12 week ultrasound, I was amazed at how perfect and developed she was already. My daughter is such a precious bundle of joy, but she has had the luck to be born into a stable family with parents who can look after her.
The other difficulty is that it takes two people to create a child, but only one person bears the child. So there are two people who have an interest in what happens to the child, but one person (the man) is able to walk away if he wants to, whereas the other person (the woman) will at least have to bear the child, even if she then gives it up for adoption. The burden of the child is disproportionately on the woman. I do get a bit frustrated with men jumping up and down about the issue and telling women what to do. Yes of course they have a right to an opinion on the issue, and of course the father of a child should be able to have a say in what happens to the child. But ultimately, the man isn’t the one who has to cope with the child when it arrives. If he wants, he can walk away the day after conception and never see the child again. This just isn’t possible for the woman. She is literally the one left holding the baby!
What I do object to is someone telling me that I cannot make certain choices because of what their faith says, when I do not share that faith. I’m perfectly happy for people to make choices for themselves on the basis of their own faith. I’m also perfectly happy to have a reasoned dialogue with someone whose moral perspective is informed by their faith. But I’m not just going to agree that a certain thing should be done on the basis of a faith that I do not share, without discussing the issue in a logical and calm manner. I think that the move to legalise abortion is a good thing; it will hopefully lead to some logical and calm decisions about what is right and wrong in this very difficult area of morality and law.