A Look at the Abortion Problem
EACH year over thirty million abortions are performed throughout the world. That is about one abortion for every second of each day all year long.
The majority of these abortions are classified as illegal. However, in recent years many countries have passed more permissive abortion laws. In some places there are very few restrictions, meaning that the legal policy is ‘abortion on demand.’ Some authorities predict that most countries will eventually adopt this attitude.
What, precisely, is an abortion? An induced abortion (as apart from an accidental miscarriage) is the deliberate removal of a growing embryo or fetus from the mother before it is capable of living outside the womb. An embryo is the development stage during the first two months of pregnancy; it is called a fetus after that.
Most countries still have strict abortion laws, considering it legal for very few reasons, such as when the life of the mother is endangered by continued pregnancy. Abortions for reasons not approved by the law of the land are considered illegal. They may not be performed in approved hospitals. So they are often performed by persons who are not well qualified, under substandard conditions.
How is a “legal” induced abortion performed now? In early pregnancy, it is usually done in one of two ways. One method is referred to as “D and C”—dilatation and curettage. In this operation the opening of the womb is enlarged with small surgical instruments called dilators until there is an opening large enough to permit entry of an instrument called a curette. With the curette the surgeon scrapes the wall of the womb to dislodge the embryo.
Another method coming into wider use was invented in the Soviet Union. This employs a small suction tube that works much like a vacuum cleaner. It pulls the embryo away from the wall of the womb.
After the third month of pregnancy, an abortion is more difficult, and dangerous. It may require an operation like a cesarean delivery, cutting through the wall of the womb to remove the fetus. Or a saline solution may be injected through the abdomen to kill the fetus and induce labor, which begins in twelve to thirty-six hours. The fetus is then expelled by muscular contractions.
Such operations require trained surgeons, facilities and medication that only well-equipped hospitals can provide. Yet, most abortions are not performed under such conditions, since most are classed as illegal. Some of the methods used in illegal abortions by midwives and amateur abortionists are revolting. They often result in mutilation and death. The book Birth Control states:
“Many of them are sickeningly painful, even gruesome, and most of them are designed simply to introduce infections into the womb, which may kill the embryo—and the woman as well.”
The number of abortions in the world has reached epidemic proportions. In some countries there are as many abortions as live births. In others, they actually outnumber live births!
Abortion is “legal” in Japan, Russia and most Eastern European countries. Dr. Leslie Corsa, Jr., of Michigan’s Center for Population Planning stated of those lands: “On reasonably good evidence it appears that the frequency of induced abortions now approaches the frequency of live births.” In Hungary, abortions outnumber births. Note the available figures:
Year Live Births “Legal” Abortions
1960 146,500 162,200
1961 140,400 170,000
1962 130,100 163,700
1963 132,300 173,800
1964 132,100 184,400
1965 133,000 180,300
Latin American countries have strict abortion laws. So does the Roman Catholic Church. Most Latin Americans are Catholics. Yet, of this area U.S. News & World Report says:
“Abortion [illegal] is the most common form of birth control, especially in the big cities . . .
“The Brazilian Family welfare society estimates that 4,000 abortions a day—about 1.5 million annually—are performed in Brazil. This works out to one abortion for three live births.
“The ratio is reversed in neighboring Uruguay, where there are three abortions for each live birth. Other South American countries fall in between.”
Abortion is illegal in France, where most persons are Catholic. Yet, it is admitted that there are as many abortions as live births—about one million a year. Illegal abortion is also widespread in Italy, and in Spain and Portugal authorities call it “the chief method of population control.”
Belgium has about 200,000 live births each year. Physicians there estimate about 100,000 illegal abortions; police officials put the figure at 400,000. West Germany has one million live births a year, and an estimated one to three million illegal abortions.
In the United States illegal abortions number about 1,000,000, compared to somewhat less than 4,000,000 live births. So about 20 percent of all pregnancies end in abortions. Within the past few years, several states have passed new laws making it easier to get a “legal” abortion. New York state’s new law permits an abortion for any reason up to the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy, with no residency requirement.
While not all lands have passed freer abortion laws, the trend is unmistakable. It is toward legalizing ‘abortion on demand.’
Why do so many women have abortions? What kind of women are having them?
It is often thought that the great majority having abortions must be unmarried women. However, that is not the case. In nearly every country the majority seeking them are married women. In Denmark, 76 percent are married women; in Chile, 85 percent. In the United States, some say 60 percent or more.
Why so many married women? It is resorted to primarily as a birth-control measure. A married woman seeking an abortion usually has as many children as she wants, often more. She seeks to get rid of an unwanted child. The more secular education a person has had, the greater the tendency to want an abortion.
In the United States there is a rising number of unmarried women seeking abortions. Some say it now equals the number of those who are married. Why has this come about? Dr. John W. Grover of Massachusetts General Hospital says: “Young women are falling in with the sexual revolution and experiment with sex irresponsibility.” Dr. Frank J. Ayd of Baltimore says the increased promiscuity of the young has resulted in an “escalation in illegitimate pregnancies, illegal abortions, and venereal disease.”
Many Catholic women have abortions. Yet, it is contrary to their own church law. In reporting on the National Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion in the United States, Newsweek of April 13, 1970, said:
“Fully a quarter or more of the women seeking help are Catholic, and there are at least two priests in the ranks of the clergymen’s service. When counseling Catholic women, Protestant clergymen ask them to consider carefully the church laws they are planning to break. ‘I was amazed,’ says Parsons [the clergyman who founded the service], ‘at the number of persons who said they used the rhythm method because they wanted to be good Catholics but were willing to violate the teachings when they got pregnant.’”
What effect does an abortion have on a woman? Physically, the threat of mutilation, sterility and death is always present.
In the United States there is said to be one death every hour from a bungled abortion. Nationwide, an estimated 45 percent of maternal deaths are due to illegal abortions. In Jamaica it is the leading cause of all deaths in maternity hospitals. In Colombia abortions are the number one cause of death among all women of childbearing age.
In addition to physical effects, there are mental effects. The publication Birth Control says: “There seems to be no question that for many women abortion is a traumatic experience. Regardless of religious background or beliefs, there is something repugnant about the thought of ending, if not a life, at least the promise of life.”
Swiss doctors report that over 50 percent of women having abortions had unfavorable psychological reactions. And Newsweek noted the comment of one woman, typical of many, who said: “Believe me, there is not a man who will ever know the agony and the pain a woman feels when she flushes a fetus down the toilet.” Women have committed suicide because of the feeling of guilt after having an abortion.
Nor are nurses and doctors immune to mental effects. In England, where abortions are easier under a new law, the Daily Mirror of March 9, 1970, noted: “Tory M. P. Norman St. John-Stevas said . . . that nurses all over the country were being more and more revolted by abortion duties. There were cases of babies being heard to cry just before being put into the incinerators.” And the New York Times of May 30, 1970, reported:
“Perhaps the greatest obstacle that abortion patients are likely to encounter is the reluctance of many obstetricians to perform abortions of any sort, let alone abortions on request.
“‘You have to realize,’ said one leading obstetrician . . . ‘that obstetricians by training and practice are geared to bringing new life into the world, not destroying it. For many of us, religious objections notwithstanding, abortions simply go against our grain.’
“The experience that other states have had with liberalized abortion laws indicates that only a minority of qualified physicians are willing to participate.”
Is an induced abortion the destroying of life? That is what the doctor quoted above called it.
The magazine Ob. Gyn. News, serving obstetricians and gynecologists, published, on May 15, 1970, the remarks of Dr. Frank J. Ayd of Baltimore regarding unwed mothers. He said:
“If the trend continues and if abortion on demand is permitted and accepted by this group alone [unwed mothers], the medical profession may kill more Americans in utero than all our wars have killed. The curet will be mightier than the sword.”
Thus, many doctors regard an abortion as the killing of life.
Others may insist that it is not really taking life. Yet, from the moment of conception, what will happen to the fertilized cell in the mother’s womb if its growth is not interfered with? It will become a baby and eventually an adult human. That is why Dr. Michael J. Halberstam of Washington, D.C., said of the fetus:
“Its future is unlimited. This fits so well with what we know of molecular biology—the fact that the fetus received its entire genetic potential of RNA and DNA at conception. . . . There is no doubt that the fetus is ‘alive,’ though in a special way. . . . As a physician I know that it lives and as a human being I am in awe of it.”
Would it be killing to put a baby to death one month after it was born? Would it be killing if the baby was one day old? One minute old? Any person who took the life of these babies could be charged with murder.
But what real difference is there between a baby one minute old and one that is only a minute away from birth? Even if it is one day, or week, or month or more away from birth, it can still be born as a human.
We cannot escape the fact that from the moment of conception, a new human life has begun. No amount of so-called ‘sophisticated’ argument can diminish the truth that it would normally become an adult if permitted to do so.
Further, when a person agrees to an abortion, he or she is saying that one person has more of a right to life than another. But that is what Hitler said, and so murdered 6,000,000 Jews and millions of others. Society condemned him as a mad murderer. Yet, more than 30,000,000 lives are taken each year through abortions!
How Jehovah’s Witnesses View the Matter
Jehovah’s witnesses, as Christians, appreciate that the most important viewpoint is that of the Creator of life. So they are guided by God’s Word on this matter.
When we turn to God’s Word, the Bible, we find that reproduction was one of the main purposes of marriage, though not the only one. But Christians today are not under a divine command to “be fruitful and become many.” Some may even choose to remain unmarried, as Jesus said, “on account of the kingdom of the heavens.”—Gen. 1:28; Matt. 19:10-12.
Hence, married Christians today may choose to limit their families or have no children at all. They may do this to have greater freedom to serve God, or for reasons related to health or their economic situation. Since the Bible does not directly discuss birth control, each couple has the right to reach their own conclusions about it.—Gal. 6:5.
However, the Bible does show that life is precious to God. And the practice of induced abortion does not in any way show godly respect for life. According to God’s law given through Moses, the human embryo or lotus was considered a life. (Ex. 21:22, 23) The Bible book of First John, chapter 3 verse 15, says: “You know that no manslayer has everlasting life remaining in him.” Revelation 22:15 declares: “Outside are . . . those who practice spiritism and the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone liking and carrying on a lie.”
If a mother’s life is definitely endangered at childbirth, then a choice must be made between the life of the mother and that of the child. Here it is the responsibility of those involved to make the choice. Many, in view of the mother’s importance to the family, choose to have her life saved. However, such occurrences are rare in most nations today because of advanced medical procedures.
Benefiting from God’s Laws
Jehovah’s witnesses see that the way to limit families is not by having abortions, but by exercising care and self-control so as not to increase the size of their families.
Even if they should have an unplanned child, they still work to give it all the love they can. They know that God will help them because they have respected his laws. Psalm 37:25 says: “I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.” Jesus said much the same in his famous Sermon on the Mount, showing that those who obey God’s laws benefit from His help in caring for their responsibilities.—Matt. 6:25-33.
Too, single girls who are Christian witnesses of Jehovah benefit from God’s laws in that there is no growing abortion problem among them. Why not? Because unmarried men and women who live by the Bible’s Christian principles and laws do not practice fornication. They do not go along with the immoral trend of today’s youth. They respect the fact that marriage is the place for sexual relations. They safeguard their virginity until then. Thus by keeping God’s laws they benefit in not being troubled by unwanted pregnancies.
Living up to Bible laws and principles indeed solves the problem of abortion. Jehovah’s witnesses in over 200 lands find this true. But if other people choose to go against God’s laws regarding sexual morality and killing, that is their responsibility. They must answer to God for their actions.
Why are Jehovah’s witnesses so concerned about doing God’s will? Because God is the Creator; furthermore, they love him and respect his law. Also, we are living in the “last days” of the present wicked system of things.—1 John 2:17.
All the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy shows we are very near the time when God will execute his judgments against this corrupt system of things. Only those who respect God’s laws and serve him will live in his new order of peace and security, with the prospect of eternal life. At that time God’s laws will be respected by all who are living. Then, no more will there be the problem of abortions.
[Picture on page 5]
For many women abortion results in unfavorable mental reactions