By Julio Tudela of the Bioethics Observatory at the Catholic University of Valencia
In a recent comment published in The Lancet, Richard Horton makes a radical defence of “safe abortion,” together with the need to reduce the number of stillbirths.
While defending the moral status of the foetus in all cases, the author vindicates “safe abortion” and “the right of a woman to decide the fate of her own body,” countering any attempt to reduce the number of abortions, and considering it as “contributing to the stigma surrounding abortion,” to paraphrase Ann Furedi, who professes that this idea “haunts our movement.”
While stating that the aim of reducing the number of abortions merely stigmatises it, increasing the risk in the pregnant woman, the author does not mention the harm to the aborted foetus. Should the aborted foetus be deprived of a moral status that, nonetheless, should be respected in the stillborn?
The fact that abortion has become common, as the author mentions, does not change its ethical consideration or mitigate its devastating effects.
Finally, the right of a woman to decide the fate of her own body does not mean that she is entitled to dispose of the life of her child, a person distinct from her.
Abortion is an evil in itself. Therefore, as such, no effort should be spared to reduce its numbers and, ultimately, eradicate it. Protecting and helping women who want to have an abortion is compatible with doing likewise with the embryo, who is innocent.-Horton R. Offline: Access to safe abortion and ending stillbirths – together. The Lancet. 2016;387