Most people at most periods have an obligation of a minimum respect to human life. Human life is something which needs be justified and not just to be taken. It is something curious, not just an animal life. Respect for human life is the respect that touches our own life for when we observe the life of others, we experience our own. The justification of one’s own life and those of others means the affirmation of the existence of God as the Creator and Giver of life, that He reserves to Himself the power of life and death.
What then is human life if not that it bears essential quality and human solidarity which demands respect for life? It is pertinent therefore, that we look at life as the fundamental condition to all beings and must therefore be respected.
The question now arises. Why do human beings murder themselves and why do they murder unborn babies in the name of abortion? While the theist says that life is the gift of God and that God alone can take it, the atheist concludes that human life deserves respect and human solidarity. Here the concept for respect for life is subject to self-defense, insisting on moral life and the value of human life. Then the question again is, whose life are we talking about? That of the mother or that of the foetus?
A Christian would give value to human life because he relates it to spirituality and creation . God creates life and the soul remains in God’s image. Nobody therefore holds authority to life but rather, he holds charity to his neighbor’s life. Life has value because it comes from God. Men are created equal in life and are bound together in a type of existence they find themselves. There is that sanctity of life, that acceptance that life has value and that mankind is responsible to everything done to life in a way of contraception, suicide, abortion and so on.
Abortion is the termination of a foetus already forming in the female’s body. In medical parlance it comes in many forms call it sceptic, induced, therapeutic, complete, incomplete, evitable, inevitable, missed, habitual, criminal, threatened and spontaneous abortions. In whatever guise it may come, abortion has become an ethical question. Is abortion justified or not? That is the question.
The moralists have thrown abortion into two broad headings and that is the Direct and the Indirect abortions. The Direct abortion finds condemnation on a every lip while the Indirect is justified with the principle being that of methodology. The principle is doing evil and allowing evil to happen. For some reasons, we may permit evil under certain situation in order that good may come. In that case one has to describe adequately what is done and not simply taking the physical means. We look at the structure only to be able to describe the object of intention e.g. signing a cheque or signing a death warrant.
Human beings have certain ways of describing what is done. For example a technique of abortion can be describe as advanced medical scientific achievement while fornication can be described as religious or an act of worshipping God. An act of fire bombing can be described as making peace, or an armed-robber giving pathetic justification for his nefarious activities. It is natural that when we commit an act, for whatever self driving force, we describe it in good purpose. Describing abortion as saving the life of a mother is not sufficient a justification and abortion stands condemnable in all its ramifications. It has to be described as taking the life of the unborn child.
Abortion is defined medically as forcibly removing the foetus or embryo from the body of a mother in the first three months of pregnancy. The second three months is referred to as miscarriage while the third three months is known as premature birth. The issue is whether the removal at any of the above three stages is brought about by HUMAN INTERCEPTION. The next issue is whether the removal is brought about as CHOICE i.e. Extrusion or Expulsion. The question again is, can the living foetus be extracted from the mother’s womb before viability in order to save the death of a mother? Viability is a stage in which the foetus is capable of life in the womb. In other words it is the human choice to extrude the living foetus from the womb before viability. Indirect abortion could be justified, but never the Direct Abortion. The direct abortion involves criminal and therapeutic tendencies. It is a direct attack on human life. Many countries allow therapeutic abortion if only it is done to sane the life of a mother. It is the abortion that the doctor does in good faith to preserves the mothers’ life or if it becomes a risk to the mother‘s mental health. In most extreme social cases, it is done to save the girl from shame.
There are however some philosophical questions in the issue of abortion. In one thought, sanctity of life is for all people and that is, no life should be taken, whatever the circumstances. For others it is the mother’s life which is more important because of her existing social connections with relatives, friends and associates. The utilitarian philosophers would disagree with the above claim and go out-right to condemn abortion. To them, life should be protected and enhanced at all costs. There should be no disrespect to human life. Everyman has right to life. Therefore, abortion is the murder of a human being. This is seen as being too extreme. Another extreme stance is the social scientist who argues that abortion should be done to cut down population growth. It holds that the woman has right to her life including the right to remove any pestering thing in her body. The judiciary moralist sees abortion as good if it is in accordance with the general law but bad if not. To him, the situation can be classified according to the law and this throws in some ambiguities since there are situations which are not easily classified strictly under the law.
The most philosophical question is, when does human life begin? For Aristotle human life or soul begins after forty days of pregnancy which means that abortion can be procured before the forty days. Thomas Aguinas holds that you cannot do evil so that good may come.
For Boethuis personality is the individual substance of rational nature, that is, personality is only present in human brain and until then no human is human. The potentials according to Aristotle is defined by actuality. We cannot say that this is a human being in the real sense of it but that something is developing towards human being. To him, killing a deformed child or a slave is not like killing a man. Therefore killing a foetus is not like killing a human being.
The genetic school argues that from the very beginning of the fusion of male and female cells there is human life. It condemns abortion in all its ramifications. The developmental school of thought championed by Ramsey says human emolument starts not at a genetic basis or point of conception but alter some degree of development that had been achieved. It is only then that one can speak of an individual human being. The social-consequences school says the problem is not, when does life begin, but when does human life begin. It says life has to be defined in legal terms. In England infactide is lawful. The child must have been born, not still born. A foetus can be called a human being when it is viable. This view makes biology irrelevant. The problem is how to define human life as that which the society accepts. If a new born child comes out to be handicapped, how should he be define?
The above mentioned views are opinions and not far-reaching. What is bad is bad and there is no other way of saying it. Abortion is a criminal offence. It must, by all means be discouraged and condemned. We are calling on parents, guidance and teachers to have an eye on their children, wards and students to know what they do and what they go through in life. The child they have is the child they did not have. Abortion is MURDER! The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion. For a mother to kill her own child is a source of life’s sorrow. Life is important and must be respected, preserved and enhanced. Abortion is cruel and a crime against humanity.
That innocent life takes not,
It asked you not for life,
Your wish, your action
Victim of human cruelty
Vast cemetery you create,
Cemetery of the unborn,
For pride, for ego,
Victim of human cruelty
Remember the child you have,
Remember the child you did not have.
Abortion, destroyer of peace,
Victim of human cruelty
Sweet mother, own child you kill,
What else is left for you?
For you, sorrow, pains and death,
Victim of human cruelty
Curious is human life,
Take not human life
The unborn has right to life.
Victim of human cruelty.
Pat Asakome, a Broadcaster, an Author, a University Lecturer, an Analyst in Public Affairs, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.