Termination of pregnancy : should it be recognized as a human right ?

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  • Publié le : 12 octobre 2010
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According to the United Nations, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.”
According to the Meyers EnzyklopädischemLexikon, a termination of pregnancy is “an intervention in the development of human life in utero”. It is the “killing of the fruit of the womb in the mother’s body or inducement of the miscarriage of a not yet viable “fruit” from the mother’s body”
Of course the opinion that it’s better to use contraception than it is to abort is held almost universally and the goal of reducing the number ofterminations is expressly pursued. Abortion is considered as an emotive-symbolic issue that provokes conflicts over basic moral and religious values. It is not worldwide a partisan issue. While in Austria, Spain, Canada or in the USA all the left-wing parties have a pro-right profile, it is much less unified in France, Ireland and Italy and it is not a partisan issue at all in Great Britain.Abortion is nevertheless an important issue as in 2003 43 million of termination of pregnancy were performed, so 29 abortions pro 1 000 women or 31 abortions for 100 births. But the half took place in not adapted structures because of social, legal or religious pressure and led to 1 million accidents. Indeed clandestine abortions always generate pains. States which don’t allow terminations have 330deaths for 100 000 terminations whereas when it is legal, only between 0.2 and 1.2 woman dies for 100 000 abortions.
But having an abortion is prohibited in 68 countries that represent 25.7% of world’s population. Only 56 countries (representing 39.3% of the world’s population) allow termination of pregnancy without any restriction, or on demand. Among them, there are only 20 members of the 27European states (Ireland and Malt prohibit abortion and Cyprus, Luxembourg, Poland, Finland and Spain have restrictive laws).
Even if modern laws mention that one becomes an officially person only after birth, only few recognize the right to terminate. This right would proclaim that the fetus must not have particular lawful protection because the woman must be able to choose totally freely, withoutany justification. Concerning this right the European Convention on Human Rights have not ruled on. Because of the absence of consensus on the scientific and juridical definition of the beginning of life, it ordered that each state can decide on this issue.
The right to abortion is therefore controversial, so we can ask the question: Should it be a human right?
This paper argues that a mothermust have the right to choose, that is to say that she must be able to decide to terminate for personal reasons. It is focused on the issue of the indications and not on the time issue. Indeed I am not saying that a mother can decide to have an abortion whenever. With respect to ethical and moral matters, it is generally agreed that performing an abortion after three months, except to exceptionalreasons (save the mother), is forbidden. I am not claiming that this time limit must be extended.
Our study is focused on European and Northern American states, “the liberal democracies” as they are often called. Indeed they are usually the states at the origins of the emergence of new norms and I think that before blaming countries which don’t respect this right, we have to reconsider our ownlegislations and make them irreproachable if we want to become the spokespersons of women’s rights worldwide. We analyze in the first part the history of termination of pregnancy to understand why it became an important issue in our societies and to know what it is said in the different laws. We next make obvious that the women have in fact the right to choose because their rights to privacy and...