This is a post I’ve been thinking about since I started my blog almost a year ago and I finally got to actually writing when a group of us began having a discussion about late term abortions. Modern day medical technology limits the viability of a fetus at 20-odd weeks. The majority of abortions are done before any chance of viability, except where the woman can’t get funding, or there is a fetal defect or health hazard past the point of viability requiring termination. At the moment, everything works out pretty well. Viability is after the fetus can feel pain and after most abortions and women get to control their own bodies because forcing them to carry a pregnancy to term is effectively assault. But medical technology is advancing, and advancing quickly. What happens when viability begins to encroach on the gestation when the majority of abortions occur, in the first trimester? What happens when there is an alternative to abortion or carrying a pregnancy to term?
I am fully aware that this will be incredibly controversial in the pro-choice world but I’ve never shied away from a controversy. The time in the future is one where a fetus can be ‘delivered’ at 10-12 weeks and implanted into a surrogate uterus when the pregnancy is unwanted. At this point in the future, and I am certain we will get there eventually, there is an alternative to forcing a woman through a pregnancy that doesn’t require termination of the pregnancy. The question becomes, do women have the right to control their genetic material?
Assuming a woman would be allowed to “deliver” a pre-term fetus that could be carried full term in a surrogate uterus, should women be allowed to decide to abort the fetus, thus controlling their genetic material? There are many problems with the adoption system and many women have told their stories about the horrors and the pain of adoption. I know a woman who adopted a child and had vowed to never do it again; meaning if she had found herself with another unwanted pregnancy she would have chosen to abort. Setting aside these arguments, which is perhaps pushing this hypothetical into fantasyland, should a woman be allowed to decide whether her genetics are perpetuated? I can’t say that I have an answer for this and this is a pretty fantastical proposition, but we cannot ignore the possibility of one day reaching this point. Perhaps by then birth control will have a 100% effectiveness rate and the patriarchy will have been destroyed, ensuring women aren’t raped, meaning there are no unwanted pregnancies. But maybe not. Maybe we will actually find our society in a situation where a woman has 3 choices when faced with an unwanted pregnancy: carry to term, abort, or implantation in a surrogate womb. What then?
Stemming from this hypothetical, I always say that I support a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy at any time. Pre-viability that is abortion and post-viability that is delivery. I would not agree with abortion of a healthy fetus in the third trimester, post-viability, but I believe a woman has the right to deliver at any point post-viability for any reason. There is no need to outlaw post-viability abortions if women are allowed to deliver after that stage. But this goes back to the hypothetical, should a woman have a right to control her genetics, for whatever reason, and terminate regardless? I really don’t have an answer to this question. Clearly there is a big difference between a 10 week old fetus and a 30 week old fetus and that adds complexity to the question. What I do know is that post-viability a woman should 100% have the right to deliver the fetus for any reason whatsoever. If a woman no longer wants to be pregnant, nobody should be able to force her. I realize pre-term delivery has implications for the long-term health of the fetus, but I will not cross the line and deny a woman her humanity; her inalienable right to control what happens to her own body.
Setting aside the unknowns, if there was an alternative to pregnancy before 20 weeks that wasn’t abortion, should women still have a right to abort?