Modern Knowledge and Abortion 


By Dr François SW Ip 

In last weeks’ edition of the Mauritius Times (issue no 3124), I read in SR Balgopal’s article ‘Abortion: Public consultations for an informed debate necessary’: «…and the comment of Dr François Ip is very revealing on the ideological standpoint of this group.Dr François Ip had this to say: ‘Décider de légaliser l’avortement en avançant des prétextes comme le viol ou l’inceste n’est pas sensé.’» The words attributed to me have not been said by me. What I asked on that point of rape was how killing the child resulting from a rape is going to cure the woman of her trauma. May I add that she may be made worse with a legitimate and understandable anger at the rapist who has gone scot-free.  

Everybody wishes “clarifying an obscure law”. That law was made when knowledge about pregnancy, the development and vitality of the embryo was nebulous and incomplete and so there was a lot of debate regarding when it became truly human. With modern knowledge it has now become quite clear that from the moment of fusion of an ovule with a spermatozoon a new, unique human individual has been formed who is genetically distinct from her/his mother and father. He/she is not an integral part of the mother, not like, say, her tonsils, which she can dispose of as she wishes.

Some people claim that “her body belongs to her and she can use it as she pleases”. Why do most people disapprove of sale of blood, of organs, of prostitution and of suicide? Society at large demands medical care for and of the attempted (and failed) suicide. What if the doctor argues that the person had claimed by his/her gesture to dispose his/her body as he/she wishes? 

Anyone doubting about when a new human being is starting to be formed would do well to ask those working with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). At each attempt the doctor must be wishing, may be even praying along with the couple concerned, that the fused cell, the zygote, would start dividing, and continue to do so in the laboratory glassware till it is ready for transposition in the prospective mother’s womb as the first part of a continuum of development and growth till ripe old age. 

Therefore setting a time limit up 16 or 20 or 24 weeks would be arbitrary. Also apart from IVF, in most cases there is no knowledge as to the exact date of conception. Supposing the time is 16 weeks, would 16 weeks plus one day be disallowed? 

To ignore or to brush aside modern knowledge of embryology for the purpose of legalization of abortion is tantamount to obscurantism.  

Further modern medical knowledge concerns the tolerance during the whole duration of the pregnancy by the mother’s immunological system of the product of conception. If after its birth any part of the child is grafted on the mother it will be rejected. I like to contrast such immune tolerance with the intolerance of the embryo in many so-called modern societies for socio-econo-politico-emotional reasons. “Qui veut noyer son chien, l’accuse de la rage”? 

Most abortionists do not accept that the unborn child has any rights. How, then, is it that if a doctor prescribes to a pregnant woman some substance which results in a malformation of her child that doctor will be liable to prosecution? A doctor’s right to kill but not to maim? 

* Published in print edition on 23 September 2011

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