Abortion is a sensitive topic to discuss but one that people have strong feelings about. As the Supreme Court in the United States issued its verdict, overturning Roe v. Wade, a decision that legalized abortion nationwide, many are rallying against this decision and many are for it, whereas Spain has announced that girls who are 16 years of age can get abortion without parental consent.
The Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice Debate
When people talk about abortion, we often see two groups emerging: Pro-life and pro-choice. Both sides have strong arguments. If you are pro-life, then you are against abortion, even if pregnancy would cause severe health issues or death for the mother or for the embryo.
That also means, if a woman becomes a victim of rape, and gets pregnant in consequence, she should deal with it and give birth, despite the psychological effects of the pregnancy and her traumatic experience.
One of the pro-choice arguments is that legalizing abortion stops illegal abortions taking place. This is true because if a woman has no way to get abortion in a clean, sterile place, then she will go to a “back-street” doctor who will use unsterilized equipment, and this can lead to infertility, or worse, death. This was seen a lot before the legalization of abortion.
This is not to mention the situation when women are forced to continue with an unwanted pregnancy, this of course oftentimes leads to babies being abandoned, a situation common in many parts of the world.
However, it’s a pity that pro-choice umbrella is abused by those who commit acts of immorality as they use it purely as a way of birth control.
If you are pro-choice, then it means you believe people have the choice to decide if they want that baby or not, even if you would never have an abortion yourself. But is it as clear cut as pro-life or pro-choice? I don’t think so.
Whenever the abortion debate comes up, I always assume I am pro-choice. I believe that in certain circumstances abortion should be allowed, and that the woman, not the state, should make that choice, especially in cases when, for example, leaving a pregnancy would endanger the mother’s or the baby’s life, or if a woman has been raped.
However, that doesn’t make me strictly pro-choice. I do not agree with using abortion as a family-planning method. I do not believe people should abort a baby because it is unplanned, or because they are not financially able. After all, in these situations, if the woman really can not keep the baby, she can consider adoption, giving an opportunity for those couples who for some reason can’t have a child.
Clearly, I am not pro-life. I believe there is a need for abortion under certain circumstances. At the same time, I am not fully pro-choice either, because the excuse of need has its God-given limits as well. So, what am I?
Islam: The Pro-Need Approach
After reflecting upon it as a Muslim, I realized that I am actually pro-need. The pattern that emerges from the Islamic point of view is that abortion is allowed when there is a need, instead of stressing the right for life or for choice.
When such a need arises, medical opinion is crucial in order to make this decision involving someone who is Islamically qualified, where possible. Unless there is a justified need, then abortion is not permitted.
Islam highly values the life of both the mother and the foetus. The mother’s life takes precedence over all else: when pregnancy puts her life in danger, it is permitted to end it; also, if the foetus is born with severe medical difficulties, and with poor life quality perspectives. However, a foetus cannot be killed just because it is an unplanned pregnancy or because the parents fear poverty:
“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Qur’an 17:30-31).
Another fundamental principle is to remove adversities and difficulties. If a woman is a victim of rape and pregnancy happens, she can choose abortion to protect herself from the trauma she may go through during pregnancy and child rearing as a result of the crime.
The rules of Sharia are meant to keep us on the middle path, one that is neither too strict nor too loose. These rules should not be abused either by taking away the rights that Allah, the Almighty, has given us to protect ourselves from hardship and suffering, or by exploiting the excuse of need, and transgressing the limits of legitimacy.
Islam provides answer for the abortion argument: It’s neither pro-life nor pro-choice. Islam is pro-need and that concept never crops up when people discuss abortion.
It should be on the premise of the fact that Islam has answers that suit and support everybody’s needs in society, from a mother in danger to a healthy unborn child that has a right to live.