Gender and Sexuality: Pregnancy termination

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Wangui Banks
Wangui Banks
United States

Pregnancy termination

It has taken me a long time to write this thread because it is such a sensitive issue.

As a woman, I feel compelled to support the right to choose and yet because I am a woman I also feel compelled to protect the lives of unborn children.

I am finding it harder and harder to sanction something that I know in the end causes the death of the very beings we are supposed to protect. This is an issue that has me deeply torn especially as I delve deeper into my spirituality. How can I claim to be a more conscious being who realizes her interconnectedness with all Life and still say abortion is ok?

I have close friends who have had abortions, some of whom I actually supported through it all. I also have close friends and relatives whose mothers were pressured by family members to terminate their pregnancies. Needless to say they are ever so grateful that their mothers chose not to do so.

I also understand why a woman who was raped, or one whose pregnancy is a danger to her life, would want the pregnancy terminated.

I am not starting this thread to pass judgment, I am simply looking for more clarity.

For those of you who are spiritual and pro-choice, how are you able to reconcile both?

Sharing your view

Hi Wangui,

This is a topic that came to my mind too because of the elections. I haven't made my choice as to which political party I should join but there's one thing that I've learned about the reps and the dems insofar as this very topic is concerned.

Personally, there is no question for me if I were in this situation. I consider a child as a gift from God so I would oppose any abortion for myself. Legally, in my first home country, abortion isn't generally allowed (except if the mother's life is on the line and other extreme situations) and this law is supported by the culture/traditions of that country.

Here in the US, since the law sanctions it, there is an option given to the women to decide if they want to abort or not. Unless that ruling is overturned, it's within a woman's right to do it, legally that is.

However, what is moral may not always be legal. Hence, I share with you your view - I'm likewise curious as to how women who would abort their children are able to reconcile the matter of their personal choice vis-a-vis the right of the unborn child. (I'm excluding of course the women whose lives are in peril if they continue their pregnancy and other extreme situations.)

Sara D.

A Matter of Perspective

I do not consider a fetus an unborn child. Indeed, the American Medical Association does not refer to the fetus as an unborn child. I think it is a matter of each individual woman to determine what her pregnancy is - whether it is a fetus or an unborn child. Certainly, at some point in the pregnancy a woman can change her perspective on her condition from that of carrying a fetus to that of carrying an unborn child. However, this change in perspective should be a natural inclination, rather than coerced by society, family members, etc. Again the matter of perspective is an individual choice that should be respected. These perspectives are inherently influenced by the woman's cultural and religious background and obviously varies for each woman who has ever experienced a pregnancy. If you are interested in reading what various religious perspectives say through their scriptures on this subject and other reproductive issues I would advise checking out the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice at

For me personally, as a progressive Muslim and follow interpretations of the Qu'aran and Hadith that the nafs or ensoulment of life does not occur until 120 days of the pregnancy. Additionally, "Muslims are taught, like the others who follow the Abrahamic religions, that Adam and Eve were sent to be custodians on earth. This means that we, as their descendants, have the duty to take every step to ensure that life is not only sacred but respected, and this means ensuring that as long as we have control, every birth should be one that truly brings joy and satisfaction." -

This brings me to another point of discussion on this topic. So often conception via rape is cited as an acceptable instance for abortion. However, few discuss the permissability of abortion for a woman experiencing domestic violence. She may not have conceived her pregnancy through a violent act, but rather endures and bears violence committed by her intimate partner. What of the decision to not bring a life into a violent partnership, which will undoubtably affect the well-being and quality of life of the child - whether it grows up witnessing and/or experiencing family violence or grows up without a father?

Finally, the cultural context is signficant in answering this post as well. As an American ex-pat it has been a complete 180 degree difference on the societal views and moral debate of abortion in American (where moral condemnation appears to prevail) to a society wherein female foeticide has been practiced for decades resulting in a declining sex ratio. Fortunately, there is now a movement and campaign efforts to end this gender discrimination practice, but integrally society's views of women's disadvantaged and inferior status must be changed before this practice will be eliminated. I cannot even begin to try to place myself in the shoes of a poor, rural woman whose status relates to the sons she bears and who bears societal pressure to terminate based on sex identification.

Wangui Banks
Wangui Banks
United States

Potential and actual life

Dear Sara,

thank you very much for sharing the link to this wonderful website. Margot Milliken said it best: "Even if it seems that the best choice is to terminate a pregnancy, we must acknowledge we are ending a potential life. This seems more honest than acting as if our “pro-choice” stance does not involve taking life, even though we may assume that that life is not fully realized, conscious or developed."
This, for me, already puts aside the debate of whether or not a fetus is an unborn child and recognizes the indisputable fact that we are dealing with potential life. In which case I cannot refute that actual life, say of a woman, takes precedence over potential life. I really liked the rabbies' explanation of Jewish principles on abortion: "a woman’s life, her pain, and her concerns take precedence over those of the fetus; existing life is always sacred and takes precedence over a potential life; and a woman has the personal freedom to apply the principles of her tradition unfettered by the legal imposition of moral standards other than her own." (Rabbi Raymond A. Zwerin & Rabbi Richard J. Shapiro)

I never before imagined that I would find religious leaders and scripture that support abortion and even accept that it can at times be the best solution. Not only that, but they even recognize women as wise and valuable. Wow, how revolutionary;-)

Holly Wagner
United States

I am just wondering...if a fetus is not an unborn child, then what is it?

Holly Wagner
United States

I understand the argument that the life of the mother takes precedence over the unborn child. However, in most of the studying I have done, I have found that only 6% of abortions are done to save the life of the mother, and that over 90% are done for convenience/social reasons. I would imagine that most of us agree that abortion to save the life of the mother is reasonable. But for me, the discussion is really about the other 90%.

Saving Lives

I think it is also worth considering what "saving a life" really means. What I am suggesting is that sometimes social reasons are for the benefit not only to the mother, but perhaps to the protection of a society. Imagine a small society that has the capability to safely abort through herbs but doesn't have regular access to preventative measures. Imagine then that this society lives in very specific food-people balance. Suddenly 1/2 of the women are pregnant at the same time. If all of these women carry out their pregnancy, there is a strong likelihood that they will throw off the balance irreparably. 1/4 of their working population is gone. They can't farm. Two women had twins. They can't feed the additional mouths. Poverty strikes. Violence breaks out from poverty and hunger. Repeat.

This is a very theorhetical situation, but the point is this: being responsible for human development means responsibility in all actions. And, the impact of having children effects more than just a mother. Rather, it effects a whole society, be it a small tribal one or in downtown Detroit.

Hopefully this has provided some additional food for thought to an already engaging conversation. I find that the concept of valuing life has been marketed to be interpreted only in reference to the potential life of a fetus... when really it touches all of us.


The dignity of our being and abortion

I can see that I’m giving my opinion some two years after the debate. But since it is still an actual subject of reflection, I think I can do so.
I marveled at the discussion between W. Bank and Sara. I appreciated the “advanced Islam” of Sara and her arguments, as well as the wonderful site she advised to visit; but I also appreciated the practical way by which W. Bank puts the problem of abortion, we can see a real dilemma: on one hand, as a woman (and a mother), she fills that she has to defend life, but on the other hand, she fills that as a woman she has to defend the dignity of women. It seems that it is a dilemma between to defend the life in general and the rights of women. This is how I feel the problem, and this will be the main line of this “article”; hoping that it will have some repercussions on some people and that they will react for or against it. I’m opened to all critics.
Since I am not a native English-speaking man, I present my excuses for some mistakes and some misunderstandings.
As a human being, we are endowed with reason. The specificity of our humanity confers us a dignity which is unique. This is undeniable for all of us. Moreover, for those who believe in God, especially for those who share the “Abrahamic” religions’ perspective of the creation, we can go further. “God created man in his image and likeness”, is it said. This likeness, which is not a physical reality, but a spiritual one, is the foundation of the dignity of all men. Being the likeness of God is the base of our dignity. And the fact that God created them male and female is for us an invitation to interpersonal communion. Love is therefore the fundamental an innate vocation of every human being.
From all these, we can affirm that freedom, which is a characteristic of our dignity as human being, should not be a freedom from (which could wrongly lead to indifference), but a freedom for, which is a community-creating force. Thus, our freedom should be for the promotion of Love, of the building up of a truly human community, a community that doesn’t put aside its weak, innocent and defenseless members. It is our human dignity which is questioned when we put aside fetus. In fact, whether we call them unborn or whatever, this is the necessary condition, the necessary step through which you and I have passed to be what we are. Can we be truly worthy of our humanity when we set others aside because we want to live a more comfortable – obviously materialistic – life? For me, the dignity of women that we fight for implies also this: the defense of life, especially of defenseless life such as fetus and babies. For me, it is truly the dignity of us all, and so of women, to be supporters of life in all its stages. Our sense of freedom cannot involve choices to kill innocent or not.
Of course, when abortion is for therapeutic reasons, as the only solution to save the mother’s life, there is no doubt about what to do. But, as Sara has said, the statistics proved that the percentage of people involved in this is few. In this article, we speak of the “90%” remaining who go for abortion because of social issues or whatever reason different from therapeutic. But, as W. Bank underlined it, we have to be truthful to ourselves, and not deny that it isn’t always easy not to think about abortion, especially in some situations such as rape, extreme poverty… Nonetheless, it is not because it is difficult that it is morally right.
I want to end this article by congratulating all the women and mothers who fight daily, and surely more than I do in this article, so that live may be protected. Thanks to you, our dear mothers and sisters, who have assured for nine months our right to life and have protected all through this life. Thanks to you!
N.B: Sorry if this production of mine was too hard tor some.

Wangui Banks
Wangui Banks
United States

The spirit of compassion

I really appreciate your article Mickael and your compassion for all on either side of the debate.
It has been a couple of years since I started this thread and I am inspired by each person who has contributed so wisely and kindly and without compromising their own beliefs. It is indeed possible to have a dialogue where we are all comfortable and eager to share without the fear of impending battle.
One thing that I hadn't noticed at first in the IMOW community but which resonates all through the museum, is the true spirit of compassion coming from its members, staff and contributors. It is truly heartwarming.

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