Women should have right to reject pregnancy

May 03, 2018

Laws should not force women to risk death and injury by having a baby, according to a QUT legal academic who has says abortion can be decriminalised without society and governments making a moral judgement.

Dr Andrew McGee, a researcher in medical law and ethics with the QUT Law School, said there were two major grounds for decriminalisation - women's right to reject the health risk of pregnancy and the 'stalemate' regarding abortion's moral acceptability.

Abortion is a crime for women and doctors in Queensland, but a Law Reform Commission review is underway into 'modernising' the state's laws relating to the termination of pregnancy.

Overseas, Ireland is set to vote on an abortion referendum on May 25.

In a new paper published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr McGee and his co-authors, Dr Melanie Jansen and Dr Sally Sheldon, argue that, despite decades of debate, advocates and opponents of abortion have been unable to demonstrate conclusively that either side's view is false, or agree on when life starts.

They believe that this impasse means morality should be taken out of the equation, with law-makers instead recognising that pregnancy is a risk for any woman and that women should have the legal right to reject that risk.

"Because there is an ongoing absence of political and popular consensus about the issue in our society, we believe the law should adopt a minimalist, morally neutral position by not imposing criminal sanctions for abortion," the authors write in the ANZJOG paper.

"We emphasise that to accept that abortion should be decriminalised for this reason is not to adopt the view that abortion is morally acceptable, but rather to recognise that there is no basis for the law to criminalise abortion as an act which has not conclusively been demonstrated to be morally unacceptable."

The researchers say moral debates often neglect the risk to life and significant permanent changes and injury to the body from pregnancy.

"We argue that a woman should not be compelled to take these risks by laws prohibiting abortion, when no conclusive argument exists against the morality of abortion," they write.

"The actual physical delivery of a baby in childbirth is not a simple process by which the child seamlessly slides into existence outside the womb. On the contrary, childbirth is dramatic, risky and sometimes, traumatic, both physically and mentally, for the mother ... In addition to these risks, are others such as the risks associated with induced labour, spinal and/or epidural anaesthetic and caesarean section. We believe that there is a meaningful sense in which a woman is putting her life and health at risk in delivering a baby.

"Although the risk of death occurring is small in first?world jurisdictions, the risk is not zero ... If a woman does not want to proceed with a pregnancy, it is reasonable for the woman to cite risks such as these even if, statistically, the risk is low."
-end-
The full ANZJOG paper can be accessed at https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ajo.12817

QUT Media contacts: Mechelle McMahon, media@qut.edu.au

Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901 rose.trapnell@qut.edu.au

Queensland University of Technology

Related Pregnancy Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 has a prolonged effect for many during pregnancy
Symptoms for pregnant women with COVID-19 can be prolonged, lasting two months or longer for a quarter of the women who participated in a national study led by UC San Francisco and UCLA.

Relaxed through pregnancy
A group of researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have been able to show that maternal psychological wellbeing during pregnancy has a positive effect on newborn infants.

Trajectories of antidepressant medication use during pregnancy
In an analysis of women who started pregnancy when taking antidepressant medications, investigators identified three trajectories of antidepressant dispensing during pregnancy: more than half stopped their treatment, a quarter maintained their treatment throughout pregnancy, and one-fifth discontinued it for a minimum of three months and then resumed it during the postpartum period.

Are women using e-cigarettes during preconception and/or pregnancy?
A new study of 1,365 racially/ethnically diverse, low-income pregnant women found that 4% reported e-cigarette use.

A better pregnancy test for whales
To determine whale pregnancy, researchers have relied on visual cues or hormone tests of blubber collected via darts, but the results were often inconclusive.

Cannabis use during pregnancy
The large health care system Kaiser Permanente Northern California provides universal screening for prenatal cannabis use in women during pregnancy by self-report and urine toxicology testing.

Questions and answers about cannabis use during pregnancy
A new study shows that women have many medical questions about the use of cannabis both before and during pregnancy, and during the postpartum period while breastfeeding.

The effect of taking antidepressants during pregnancy
Exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy and the first weeks of life can alter sensory processing well into adulthood, according to research in mice recently published in eNeuro.

Is ivermectin safe during pregnancy?
Is it safe to give ivermectin to pregnant women? To answer this question, researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by 'la Caixa,' conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that reported cases of accidental exposure to the drug among pregnant women.

Going to sleep on your back in late pregnancy
This study looked at whether going to sleep on your back in the third trimester of pregnancy was associated with average lower birth weights.

Read More: Pregnancy News and Pregnancy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.