The pro-life vs pro-choice debate has been given new life after legislation in both Ireland and Texas has heightened controversy over the issue.
In England, we are lucky that we can obtain an abortion up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy, with relative ease compared to many. The UK education system also provides sex education from a young age, helping to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
Some countries, however, are not so fortunate. Recently, Ireland has passed a law that allows for an abortion if the woman’s health is at risk at any time during the pregnancy. This only came into being after a woman died because doctors would not give her an abortion for fears over its legality.
Texas has just passed a bill that will essentially close all but six abortion providers in the state (Texas is nearly three-times the size of England, and these clinics are centrally located), causing many women to have an horrendously long journey for even the abortion pill. Many pro-lifers argued that the US has a very liberal approach compared to its European counterparts, since they can obtain an abortion on request. This may be true in the strictest sense, but many European countries have multiple exceptions to their first trimester limits; including rape, incest, mental or physical health issues, sometimes even economic reasons, and in almost all cases if the woman’s life is in danger.
The UK does not have abortion as legal upon request but the limits are recognized very liberally, and many other European countries only have it legal on request in the first trimester. With this being said, the Texas bill that aimed to ‘improve health and safety standards’ should have been termed as ‘limiting the accessibility of abortions’. Abortion providers are held to very high standards with yearly check-ups on their practices. Abortions will now have to take place in an ambulatory surgical centre (meaning an out-patient clinic that has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital), which makes little sense since abortions are not surgical procedures: they require no incision.
They have also included a law that bans abortions after 20-weeks. Considering that very few abortions are performed after 20-weeks it could be argued that this will make no difference. However, the poor sex education standards in the state often mean that those seeking later abortions are young girls, or potentially victims of rape and/or incest. Amendments that would have included both rape and incest as exceptions to the 20-week rule were voted down in the House of Representatives. Many fear this may lead to illegal and unsafe abortions that desperate women will seek out after seeing no other option.
This new legislation begs the question of whose life is more important, the woman’s or the potential life inside of her.