We don't pussy-foot around at the Church of Infinite Dimensions: abortion is the killing of a partially formed human while it is in the womb.
Abortion is very common in the developed world, typically around a quarter of all pregnancies in these countries are aborted. This is not to be wondered at. If a community has any commitment to family planning there are bound to be significant numbers of unwanted pregnancies to be dealt with. Even with contraceptives freely available and widespread education in such matters there will still be accidents and contraceptive failures.
Abortion is a source of great contention in the community, because it involves the taking of human life. The issue of life and death is always central to any religion, hence the necessity for this church to take a stand on the issue.
The great majority of abortions are carried out in the first trimester, (the first 12 weeks), of the pregnancy. This is ideal, since the fetus is small, soft and largely undeveloped, making it quick and easy to kill and remove, and most likely without pain to the fetus.
There are two strategies to kill and remove the fetus, namely chemical and physical.
Chemical methods are administered by pill or injection and involve two stages: first a chemical to kill the fetus, then another to induce labour and the delivery of the abortion. Although apparently simpler than the physical approach, chemical methods take longer, are not quite so reliable and may have side effects.
Physical methods involve the breaking up of the fetus and its associated tissue and some method of removal.
Most abortions today are performed using the Suction Aspiration technique. The cervix is dilated with rods of increasing size, and a sharpened vacuum tube is then inserted into the uterus. The fetus and placenta are broken up and vacuumed out. The uterus is then scraped with a instrument called a curette to make sure that no products remain behind.
The older technique of Dilatation and Curettage doesn't involve a vacuum tube and the fetus and placenta must be cut up with a knife, introducing a greater risk of perforation of the uterus and infection.
Although most people would consider an abortion after 12 weeks rather late, and prefer that it had been done during the first trimester yet there are reasons why a women may leave her abortion until half way through the pregnancy:
Because the fetus and placenta are larger and the fetal bones have started to become hard the destruction and removal of the fetus and placenta are more difficult.
Again there are chemical means known as Instillation along the same lines as in the first trimester, however, because the fetus is larger, the chemicals are more dangerous to the mother and the labour is more significant.
If the fetus is not too advanced the Dilatation and Evacuation technique may be used, whereby the fetus is dismembered by forceps in order to make the pieces small enough for removal. In particular the skull may need to be crushed to remove it.
If the fetus is late in the second trimester the Dilation and Extraction technique may be employed, (also known by some as Partial Birth). Here the fetus is manoeuvred into the breach position and pulled from the womb by the feet until the head jams against the cervix. At this point the spinal cord is severed, the skull opened and the brains sucked out by vacuum. The head may then be collapsed and the dead fetus removed.
Final trimester abortions are rare and are generally seen as undesirable, since the fetus is becoming well developed and may be viable. Nevertheless there are reasons why they may be carried out. Usually this is because of a late diagnosis of serious fetal abnormality or to prevent serious injury to the woman.
Because the size of the fetus has become so large, physical means are more difficult, although the Dilation and Extraction technique may be utilised until quite late.
Late abortions are most generally achieved through chemical means, as in the other trimesters, first killing the fetus, then using prostaglandins to induce labour. It is possible to induce the labour without first killing the fetus but then, since the fetus is alive and possibly viable, there is the moral question of whether to kill it, now that it has been delivered of its mother. It is morally simpler to kill the fetus in utero.
If you flinch at the techniques described above you shouldn't be surprised. After all, killing in any form is usually a rather gruesome business, whether it is cutting the head off a chook and watching the body run around the yard, or shooting a stag in the chest so that his lungs fill with blood and he suffocates. It's NOT pretty. You shouldn't expect abortion to be any different. In fact, it is more difficult to make the death humane because it must be performed in the delicate womb of a living woman.
However, you should bear in mind whether the fetus can feel pain, since if it cannot, you may find the business less worrying. Medical thought tends to the notion that it is not possible to feel pain without the apparatus of awareness. The minimum stage of development for this facility, requiring the structural integration of peripheral nerves, spinal cord, brain stem, thalamus and, finally, the cerebral cortex, doesn't exist before 26 weeks’ gestation. Hence abortions before the 3rd trimester are probably painless to the fetus.
Although the idea of being torn apart and vacuumed up while alive is distressing to a developed human such as you or I, yet it is misleading. The fetus in the first two trimesters is not conscious as we know the word.
Much of the moral contention in the matter of abortion originates over disagreement on WHEN a fetus is to be considered human, especially in the sense of having the right to its life. There are various markers in the development of the child that may be seen as morally significant, however, there is no ABSOLUTE point which demands universal agreement.
The earliest point at which a new individual can be said to exist. Once there is new DNA there is a new blueprint for life. No scientist could consider that a single cell could be conscious, or could feel, certainly not in the way that we understand such things.
In terms of the early embryo, the development of the primitive streak at around 14 days after fertilisation is considered by some to be a morally significant stage of development. Until the development of the primitive streak it is possible for twinning to occur, hence a true individual life is only certain after this point.
Rapid brain development occurs in the period from 20-32 weeks. Exactly where the brain has enough structural development to begin to function properly is open to debate, but the halfway point of 26 weeks seems an appropriate juncture.
The stage at which the fetus is capable of an existence independent of its mother. This is something of a dubious distinction since such a fetus can only survive with intensive medical assistance, and even then it still needs someone to bring it up. Excessively premature babies have a high probability of death, and even if they live they will probably suffer some permanent disability. To achieve a high probability of normal life a fetus needs at least 28 weeks in utero to be viable.
The most obvious point at which a fetus becomes a child, and an official member of society. This is why your BIRTHDAY is such an important day, for you and your family. It is symbolically significant, when the umbilical cord is cut, severing the physical link between mother and child. It marks a clear break. Of course there is still the emotional bond and the child is still dependant on its mother, just not in such an intimate way.
For those who see self awareness as being the significant stage of development, a newborn would not be considered to have moral status since it lacks this awareness; such capabilities do not develop until some months after birth.
It is an extreme, but logical, notion that a child is not a full human being until it is independent of its parents and can make its own home and support itself. In its own way this view is perhaps less extreme than the idea that a single fertilised cell is a human being.
People who oppose abortion do so because they are thinking of the rights of the fetus, rather than those of the pregnant woman. Typically such people are men. This is not surprising, since they will never have to be pregnant, and thus find it difficult to see from the women's perspective.
All over the world, for thousands of years, women have found themselves with unwanted pregnancies. Those who like to put their head in the sand when dealing with problems will often say: "It's her own fault. She shouldn't have got pregnant in the first place." To answer such heartless criticism one may simply point out:
Ultimately it is the woman that is pregnant, and the woman that will bear the responsibility of the child, therefore it is only right that she should choose what to do. Doing nothing is also a choice.
To allow nature to take its course and have the baby may be ok if that is what the woman wants and if she has the necessary support, but it means 18 years or more of giving up your life, and it is not fair to demand that anyone do that against their will. How many of the male politicians and clerics who oppose abortion would give up 18 years of the prime of their life for the sake of a child that they didn't want? Answer... NONE!
To terminate a pregnancy is a big thing, you are, after all, taking a life, or at least, a potential life. But what kind of a life would it be, for both of them, mother and child?
If the mother is young, poor and single, the prognosis for either of them is not good. Dependant on welfare and family, always struggling to pay the bills, cheap housing, stuck with the hopeless. Not a wonderful life in all probability. And there is no need to be forced down that dead-end path. One can always have another child under better circumstances in the future, if one has an abortion now.
There is also the possibility of adoption. This solution is not generally favoured by women because having brought the pregnancy to term and having delivered the child, they are unlikely to wish to let go of it. Furthermore, those that do let go are likely to regret it for the rest of their lives. In addition, the child may not be genetically suited to its adoptive family.
To abort or not to abort? It may be a difficult decision, but it is HER decision.
Once such a decision has been made it should be enacted in the safest and least painful manner possible.
For the pregnant woman, if the procedure is performed in a proper clinic, by a trained surgeon, undergoing an abortion is 10 times safer than childbirth.
If, however, the abortion is carried out by the untrained, in a non-sterile environment, with primitive equipment, the potential for perforation, infection and serious illness is far greater, and many women have died from such ham-fisted surgery in the past.
International research shows that women will still seek abortion, even if the procedure is illegal. Surely this fact on its own should be enough to ensure that proper clinics are kept open for those that need them.
Many studies have been done on abortion since the 1960s, they show that:
I say again: The Church of Infinite Dimensions believes in the sanctity of all life, but this means quality life. If the taking of a life may improve the quality of the lives of others, then in certain carefully considered circumstances, the Church will countenance it. Abortion is such a circumstance.
The Church believes in practical approaches to real world problems: blaming people for unwanted pregnancies is not going to help anyone. Nor is "pie in the sky" idealism that is out of touch with reality. The Church recognises that many unwanted pregnancies will result in an unsatisfactory quality of life for the mother and the child, should the pregnancy be brought to term. The Church sees such scenarios as sufficient grounds for abortion, and holds that since the pregnant woman is going to have to carry the responsibility of bearing, delivering and raising the child, it should be her decision alone as to whether to abort a healthy fetus.
In the case of serious deformities and disablements, that would prevent the child ever being able to stand on its own two feet in the world, (figuratively speaking), the Church calls for the compulsory abortion of the pregnancy.
Other reasons for abortion, such as dangers to the mother's health, or deterioration of her financial position, are acceptable to this church to a greater or lesser degree, but the point remains that it is the woman's right to choose. In short: the Church says that a mother holds the right of life and death over her child until birth. At any time before that she is entitled to abortion on demand.
The point at which a fetus becomes fully human is open to debate and there is no absolute answer. However, the Church considers that a fetus is NOT fully human before it has a properly functioning brain, in other words, not before 26 weeks. For this reason the Church is relaxed about abortion during the first 2 trimesters.
In the case of a normal, healthy fetus after 26 weeks, the Church would prefer that abortion were not carried out, but is prepared to countenance such an act if the mother feels it is in her best interests. The Church believes that the mothers needs come first, at least until birth, even though it mean the destruction of a viable fetus.
Again the Church recognises that there is no absolute answer to the question of when a fetus becomes fully human, but with respect to the question of when a human should enjoy the right to have its life protected, it CHOOSES to assign that point shortly after the child has been born, after it has been examined and passed fit to be a member of society. Only THEN does this church consider the taking of its life as murder.
Abortion: Better Health Channel - information from the Victorian Government, Australia
Abortion time limits : a briefing paper from the BMA [British Medical Association] English, Veronica & Mussell, Rebecca. London : British Medical Association, May 2005
Dilation and Extraction for Late Second Trimester Abortion Martin Haskell, M.D., September 13, 1992
Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria - Report on late term terminations of pregnancy April 1998
Abortion, Some Medical Facts - National Right To Life