Sun | Jan 16, 2022

Letter of the Day | Abortion laws don’t violate reproductive rights

Published:Friday | October 22, 2021 | 12:09 AM


Even as a mere man I get the challenge that a woman faces when dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, even if the cause is simply consensual but unprotected sex. I can readily empathise with the dilemma a female faces when dealing with a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. I appreciate the dire challenge a woman faces with one of those rare pregnancies where it’s a toss-up between her life and the child’s life.

What remains a major logical puzzle for me is the view that abortion laws violate a woman’s reproductive rights. This, I don’t get. How so, I keep asking myself?

Think tough with me a few minutes. No abortion law taboos sexual intercourse except the non-consensual kind and so rape is a crime! Every female who is not a minor can have sexual intercourse and, if fertile, can become pregnant, and unless I am muddle-headed here, every such female by becoming pregnant HAS EXERCISED HER RIGHT TO REPRODUCE. Isn’t pregnancy one and the same as reproduction though not exactly synonymous with giving birth?

No abortion law, however excessively, strict can rob any fertile woman of her right to reproduce.


Abortion laws then do not cut against a woman’s right to reproduce but such laws limit her right to terminate the fruit of exercising her reproductive right. This is perfectly understandable since in law as in gynaecology there are at least two lives to be reckoned with, and both deserve protection and the vulnerable unborn is accorded especial protection in legal and quasi-legal documents and conventions. I remind/inform you of a few now.

As lawyer/philosopher/theologian Prof John Warwick Montgomery points out: “…in the area of property law, Anglo-American jurisprudence has maintained remarkable concern for fetal rights … In that realm of the common law – property rights – where the protections afforded are the most unqualified and absolute (in rem), the fetus has most consistently been given recognition from the moment of conception…” (In his Slaughter of the Innocents, 116)

Montgomery goes on to say that the International and Comparative Law of Human Rights favours the unborn and so, too, does the non-obligatory Declaration of the Rights of the Child which states in its preamble that the child “requires juridical protection before as well as after birth”. (118) On the same page Montgomery adds that “the American Convention of Human Rights, which entered into force in 1978, declares (Article 4) that “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law, and, in general, from the moment of conception…”

It seems to be largely overlooked that the United Nations in its Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1950, and again in 1989) stated in the preamble:

“Whereas the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth ...”

So then let’s clear our minds that reproductive rights are not and indeed cannot be compromised or countered by any abortion law, however strict, because there is no known law that blocks any adult female who is fertile from having sexual intercourse and from becoming pregnant. A pregnant woman is a woman who has reproduced, who has exercised her reproductive right!

Despite our emotional sentiments let’s all engage tough thinking at all times and on all issues of societal importance and concern.