TO SURSIS OR NOT TO SURSIS, THAT IS THE QUESTION?

I identified two issues when I reviewed the proposed changes to the abortion legislation. One I anticipated, the other truly shocked me.

In the original debate, I voted (along with thirty-five other Deputies) to decriminalise the act of a woman ending or attempting to end her pregnancy. The argument given at the time was that criminalisation creates a stigma and deters women from seeking professional assistance. That assessment seemed reasonable, and I supported the proposition.

Unacceptable moral, ethical, and legal issues

However, when reviewing the proposed legislative amendments, it was apparent that the combination of changes will create an unacceptable moral, ethical, and legal deficit.

The amendments to the law increase the period for ‘elective’ abortions from 12 to 24 weeks gestation. Beyond 24 weeks, professionals can still perform an abortion, but the medical justifications become far more stringent. The quantum of the increase is an issue, but I will come back to that later.

The proposed decriminalisation of a woman aborting or attempting to abort her pregnancy creates an unacceptable moral, ethical, and legal deficit. Something that was not made clear in the original debate and is what I found shocking when I considered the implications.

Legalising self-abortion at any time during pregnancy

Decriminalising self-abortion for the entire gestation period from inception until birth (0-40 weeks) means that a mother can deliberately abort a healthy ‘survivable child’ at any time right up to and during the contractions just before birth at full term. The ‘survivable unborn child’ has no protection under the law. There will be no legal sanction to levy against the mother for this action; it will be completely legal.

We must ask ourselves whether this is acceptable under our community’s values, morals, and ethics. We also need to decide at what point we should protect the interests of the completely innocent unborn child. I would argue this should be when the fetus becomes sufficiently developed to be a ‘survivable child’ capable of being born and growing as a member of our community.

Other jurisdictions have dealt with this issue by decriminalising abortion only up to their elective abortion limit. For instance, in 2019, New South Wales, Australia, decriminalised abortion up to 22 weeks, their gestation limit for elective abortions.

Protecting the ‘survivable child’

We create laws to protect the innocent based on the values of our community. It is unacceptable not to protect ‘survivable children’ (viable fetuses in medical terms). Babies having developed sufficiently to survive outside the womb and grow to be part of our community.

Time limit for ‘elective’ abortions

The issue of when a fetus becomes a ‘survivable child’ brings me back to the two out of twelve propositions I voted against in the June 2020 debate. Those were the propositions extending the ‘elective’ abortion gestation period from 12 to 24 weeks.

I could not support those propositions because medical advances enable babies to be delivered and survive at considerably shorter gestation periods.

According to the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, among babies alive at birth and receiving care, 35% born at 22 weeks survive, 38% at 23 weeks, and 60% at 24 weeks. Therefore, if we allow elective abortions at 24 weeks, we will be sanctioning babies with up to a 60% chance of surviving being aborted.

Returning to my initial observation:

 TO SURSIS OR NOT TO SURSIS, THAT IS THE QUESTION?

The 18 re-elected Deputies from the last Assembly (who all voted for decriminalisation) need to ask themselves two questions:

  • Do I REALLY want to decriminalise self-abortion from inception to birth (0-40 weeks)?
  • Am I comfortable allowing ‘survivable children’ to be electively aborted at 24 weeks gestation?

The 20 new Deputies elected at the last election need to ask themselves:

  • Do I believe that all the decisions made in June 2020 were correct and the intent is captured accurately and appropriately in these changes to the law?
  • Am I happy to endorse these law changes to proceed without giving them any further consideration?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘NO’, I recommend Deputy’s vote for the Sursis.

Not to procrastinate or ‘kick the can down the road’, but to ensure that this Assembly makes the right decisions on a matter that literally involves life and death.

Deputy Carl Meerveld

 

 

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