With the shockingly ill-informed comments of a US politician in mind, Nat maintains choice remains the most reasonable stance in the abortion debate.
I am not a conservative person by any means. I believe in democracy (that belief has been severely challenged lately, but that’s another blog). I believe in human rights, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. I believe in environmental protection. I believe in economic assistance for the underprivileged. I believe in the regulation of financial institutions. I believe in a whole host of things. But do I believe in abortion?
I’m going to circumvent the issue by putting it this way: I believe in a woman’s right to make choices over her own body and I believe in birth control.
The issue of abortion rights is coming to the forefront of the American election due to the comments of Todd Akin, a candidate for the US senate. In a now-famous interview on American television, Akin, a conservative Republican who opposes abortion, declared that when a woman is raped, her body has ‘ways to try to shut that whole thing down’.
I’m sorry but that’s just stupid. I’m no biologist but even I know Akin’s statement is stupid.
Akin has since backed down, but remains defiantly in the running for election, despite pressure from members of his own party to step down.
In Thailand we went through our own debate on abortion rights when, almost two years ago, a couple thousand aborted foetuses were discovered buried in the grounds of a Buddhist temple. They had come from illegal abortion clinics. There was a great outcry over the abortion laws, with parties ¾ both in favour and against ¾ declaring that the law on abortion, as it stands in Thailand, is insufficient. The government at the time responded by declaring that it was against abortion, believing that the ready availability of birth control, even to teenagers, should be the focus of any efforts to curb the birth rate. So they got around the situation, just as I did.
Abortion is illegal in Thailand. For all the debate we had two years ago, the law remains as it has been from legislation dating to 50-odd years ago. Sections 301-305 Thai Penal Code of 13 November 1956
allows abortion only under certain circumstances, such as: to save the life of the woman, to preserve physical health, to preserve mental health and in cases of rape or incest. Abortion is not permitted in the cases of: foetal impairment and economic or social reasons. Abortion is not available on request. All legal abortions must be performed by a physician.
As far as Buddhists are concerned, life begins with conception, not birth. As a Buddhist, the idea of abortion is abhorrent to me. Having said that, I have no trouble with the idea of the morning-after pill. Go figure. I have no basis for my opinions other than gut feeling. One thing I am very clear on, however, is that as a man, I have no right to dictate to a woman the decisions she makes concerning her own body.
I know several women who have had abortions in Thailand and it was done safely by sympathetic doctors. It cost about THB 20,000 (depending on the hospital) and my friends are fine now. Of course, my friends had that amount of money to spend on a safe abortion; what about the majority of people who can’t afford that? The average yearly income in Thailand is about THB 120,000 or USD 4,000,and plenty of people earn less. What do those women do?
My friends were lucky. As with most things in life, having money gave them the right to make their own choices. Do I judge these women who have had abortions? No. After all, I am a Buddhist who believes that each person is responsible for his own karma. Whatever sins I may have committed in the past will bring retribution later, but I get to decide if it was worth it. The point is, it’s my choice.
I may be against abortion, but I think it should be legal, available and affordable to those who want it. Governments should subsidise abortion for those who can’t afford it because taking care of the people is what governments should do. Legislations should not be based on morality, but on the welfare of the individual. That means providing access to birth control and abortion, among various other services. And if a woman is willing to take the karmic risk, that’s no one’s business but her own.
27/08/2012 - 11:37