Abortion as a Result of Rape (factual)
The decision of whether to allow an
abortion to take place on the grounds of ‘rape’ has been one that has been debated over for many years. A rape of a young girl in 1938 by British soldiers led to one of the first well known abortions by a doctor (Mr Aleck Bourne) on the grounds of mental health. At the trial he was acquitted and established the grounds for rape to be one of the fundamental grounds on the 1967 abortion act.
The grounds of rape which the abortion act takes into consideration:
1. The act takes into consideration whether the unwanted pregnancy will continue the TRAUMA for the MOTHER but also for the existing FAMILY.
2. It may be argued that any CHILD born of rape may suffer extreme TRAUMA of learning their origins.
The aim of this act was to exonerate the doctor from prosecution if two doctors could give their assent on at least one of the six grounds for abortion outlined in the act.
Judith Javis Thomson’s (great name) argument (1971) justified ‘a woman who is pregnant through rape having an abortion primarily on the grounds of ownership rights over her body. This view was subject of much controversy and strongly followed the common feminist view at that time
Thomson outlined the following justifications for having an abortion:
 Self-defence – the strain on her body justifies the killing of the child e. g if the woman is old or has already had many children.
 Ownership - the body belongs to the woman so she can remove the child whenever she wants to. This follows the view that the child is part of the woman because she is inside her and that a woman wouldn’t have a problem removing a toenail if it was causing her emotional pain thus, she can remove the child if it is also causing her distress.
 Order of Rights – The possible rights of the foetus are acknowledged but these are seen to be of less importance than the Mother during pregnancy. This view is of much controversy by Christians and Roman Catholics - we are all important in God’s eyes so how can one person be more important than another regardless of age.
 Consent – The child has no rights to inhabit the woman’s body unless she wants the child to be there. This again follows the view of ownership, which was outlined above. This is one of the stronger feminist arguments.
 Minimal Responsibility – There is no law which compels of us to be a good Samaritan, the woman might wish to help the foetus but the sacrifice is too much on her own mental and physical health. This view could be argued as selfish depending on who you talk to – a point of debate I feel.
HOWEVER, If all of these which consider the foetus as a person, it still doesn’t take the focus away from killing the foetus directly or indirectly.
In all the arguments that I have outlined above by Judith, the abortion was justified in terms of health – therefore no more than the preference of the Mother. This could lead to abortion on demand.
The foetus itself doesn’t have any malevolent intentions. If anyone is to blame it’s the rapist and not the innocent foetus that was created through an act of terror.
Whilst is may be acknowledge that the foetus cannot have the sane rights as a fullly grown and responsible adult and also that a woman cannot be expected to bring up a child unless she wishes to, her rights DO NOT INCLUDE KILLING AN INNOCENT LIFE. She may have to go through the pain of pregnancy but could pass over the child to adoption.
Consequential arguments fail to take into account the psychological damage that abortion can cause. Although, the short term consequences of rape may be good – the ensuing guilt caused by killing the baby adds to the trauma of the rape. However, this point could be argued that by having the child and knowing a child born of you is out in the world may cause more distress.
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