The right of abortion, a left or right position?
Abortion is constantly brought up as a talking point in debates, especially in election years. And often the right positions itself against, and the left for. In progressive European countries the issue is rather lukewarm, with many parties advocating the right of abortion; in other countries, the issue is debated more vociferously.
In concrete terms, it is about the possibility of removing a human foetus (before reaching a certain week in pregnancy), and the procedure is occasionally paid for by taxpayers’ money.
Critics argue that there are contraceptives, that it is an unnecessary procedure, which can be equated with murder. Even if the foetus is not a complete human being, it is prevented from developing into a fully-fledged individual.
Whereas the proponents argue that the woman owns her body and has the right to abortion for personal reasons. And that if the right to abortion did not exist, women would still try to have an abortion illegally, which would be dangerous for their health.
The main issue is whether or not abortion should count as murder. Some argue that the foetus is not a human being until a certain week into the pregnancy, which would allow abortion without the procedure being classified as murder. It is also debatable whether or not abortions should be paid for by the taxpayer. The debate also includes whether it is really only a woman’s choice? As we know, it takes both a man and a woman to have a pregnancy; the foetus shares genes with both the mother and the father.
Further back in history, various herbs were used to induce an abortion. In ancient Greece, Silphium was used, and it was almost eradicated from its primary cultivation country, Libya. There are also sources describing tools and instruments for physical intervention. Abortion was women’s work and was performed by midwives or cunning folk. We find few texts on whether it was forbidden or not. However, if the man died, and his unborn son was aborted, it was considered wrong as the son could claim the inheritance. There seems to have been a practical and legal view of the whole thing. The great thinkers of the time thought that abortion was acceptable if it was done early in pregnancy, before the foetus had become human.
Attitudes to children were also different from today. In Roman times, the head of a family had the right to kill their offspring up to the age of 20, if they were found to be disgraceful or incapable. Whether this right was often used is debatable, but the law existed. In Sparta, too, there was the possibility of sorting out the newborns, when weak babies were taken away and put into the woods.
With the spread of Christianity came a different view of man and abortion; removing a foetus was increasingly equated with murder.
Perhaps it is really pointless to discuss abortion from a right-wing or left-wing perspective? But we can clearly note that the attitude towards killing a foetus or child changed with Christianity. And the classical right or conservatism is born out of a Christian tradition, and has inherited its approach.
Now the right and left positions are more than just the legacy of Christianity. Being traditionalist, conservative and anti-progressive may well contribute to landing in a more classical Greek view, which holds that abortion should be allowed if it is done before a certain week of pregnancy, as Aristotle and other scholars concluded, before the foetus become ensouled or strong enough.
How the left argues the issue is also interesting. After all, the left is progressive and questions the teachings of the Church, and many are atheists, so it almost becomes a reflex to revolt against Christian dogma. Most leftist, on the other hand, believe that they represent the soft and humane stance in society. They are against the death penalty, critical of the right to bear arms, and advocate pacifism. The left is constantly seeking justice for weaker groups, and is constantly looking for new groups to protect. And is there really a weaker group in society than unborn children?