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The TownhallSocial issues

“My baby’s body, my choice”

By Simon Mwebaze

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.

In 2020, there were 930,160 legal abortions performed in the US. According to the WHO, around 73 million induced abortions occur worldwide. Furthermore, in 2020, the WHO added comprehensive abortion to its list of essential healthcare services. While this may seem plausible, we must dig further into the statistics and data on abortion to understand the issue better.

To understand the need for abortion, we must understand the reasons behind abortions. During 1996 and 2020, a survey was done in Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Utah. More than 2.4 million women who had abortions were asked their reasons for aborting. The top reasons were social-economic (96.50%), preserving the mental health of the mother (1.28%), saving the life of the mother (1.14%), fetal birth defects (0.69%), and rape or incest (0.39%).

Studies across the world exhibit similar results. In a 1998 Guttmacher Institute study done in 26 countries, 94.2% of abortions were to protect the mother’s lifestyle choices. Hard cases including rape accounted for 5.8%. In 2017, another study by the same institute found that hard cases accounted for 5.8%.

The main reasons behind abortions are about the mother. But there is another side to this coin. It makes sense to respect the right of the mother to do what she decides with her body. But is the abortion process only about her body? Is there another body or “clump of cells” involved in an abortion? Who speaks for them? Does that body still count as part of the woman’s body? Let us dig deeper into the abortion process.

Abortions are performed in three major ways. The first method is medical or chemical, the second is surgical. The processes are applicable depending on the trimester of the baby or “clump of cells.” The trimesters include the first, second, and third trimesters.

Medical or chemical abortion is where the mother swallows pills that assist in the termination of the fetus. The procedure is recommended up to the 9th week of the pregnancy within the first trimester. The mother swallows tablets containing Mifepristone which blocks the hormone called Progesterone. The hormone handles stabilizing the lining of the uterus.

Once Mifepristone blocks Progesterone, the uterine wall breaks down. This cuts off blood and nourishment supply, killing the fetus. After 24-48 hours, the mother takes another pill, Misoprostol aka Cytotec. 

The combination of Mifepristone and Misoprostol causes cramping, contractions, and heavy bleeding. This flushes the fetus out of the uterus.

The next types of abortion are surgical. There are three types, Suction abortion aka D & C (Dilation and Curettage), dilation and evacuation (D & E), and instillation abortion. 

Suction abortion is the most popular abortion and is for pregnancies from five to 13 weeks. A suction catheter with a force of 10-20 times more powerful than a household vacuum tears apart and sucks the fetus into the machine.

The second type of surgical abortion is dilatation and evacuation. It is for pregnancies within the second trimester. It is performed between 13 and 24 weeks of the pregnancy. The process uses a catheter to suction out amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. Because the fetus is too big to go through a catheter, they use a sopher clamp. The clamp tears the fetus apart limb by limb. Additionally, they remove the heart, intestines, and lungs. Finally, they crush the head before removing it piece by piece.

The final type of abortion is induced in the third trimester beyond 25 weeks. This is termed instillation abortion. The fetus is injected through the womb with a drug called Digoxin that causes fatal cardiac arrest in the fetus. The mother carries the fetus for a few days until she goes into labor to deliver a dead baby. If the baby does not fully come out, dilation and evacuation is performed to clear out any remaining baby parts.

While the procedures are performed on the body of the mother, there is also another major party involved in the procedures, the baby. Does the body of the baby still count as the body of the mother? Who has the right to decide on their termination if it is not? Is it still “her body, her choice”? 

It is also concerning that “my body, my choice” is an argument that is only evoked for abortion. Why does responsibility for women’s bodies only come to the forefront after unwanted sexual consequences? Why isn’t “my body my choice” relevant for abstinence or safe sex?

Over 94% of women agree that they are not socially and economically ready to have a child. This may make sense since a majority of women undergoing abortions, over 57%, are in their 20s. If a woman is not ready economically or socially for a child, should sex be on the table? A child is one of the obvious consequences of having sex.

A woman can and should do whatever she wants with her body. But should she do whatever she wants with the body of the baby? Does the baby have a say? Should she also take responsibility for whatever consequences come out of doing what she wants? It does not seem so.

We should be honest that when women say, “my body, my choice,” they really mean, “my baby’s body and mine, my choice.”

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Simon Mwebaze

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