Financial systems have always been fragile. Barry Eichengreen

The right to choose

Only a society which guarantees women the right to abort is a truly humanistic one.

Alexander Görlach opposes abortion and sees danger for a humanistic society in which unborn life is regarded as inferior: “Any society must deliberate how its children are born and raised. No society can define itself with strategies preventing them.”

Görlach’s text belies a certain helplessness, given that only women can get pregnant and are therefore able to make decisions for which they don’t have to ask for advice or permission from the man involved. Görlach doesn’t think it’s right that women are allowed to decide about the unborn “life” (if you want to call it that) in their bellies: “We have entered a dreary downward spiral in which humans view themselves and others as mere goods that are dealt with as convenience permits.”

To make it absolutely clear: If a woman decides to abort, in almost all of the cases she’ll do it because she has good reason to – not just like that, the more so because abortion is a medical procedure. As a matter of fact, the abortion rate in Germany has been declining continuously since 2004. In 2013 the number of abortions was 102,800, 3.8 percent less than in 2012 (the same is true in the USA, where abortion rates have been declining since 2008).

Not as easy as it seems

Generously, Alexander Görlach grants women the right to abort in the case of rape. Bravo! But this actually isn’t as easy as it seems: To get an abortion, an assaulted woman would first have to undergo a gynecological examination, so that evidence could be secured. She would then have to press charges against the offender so as to show a copy of the complaint to her gynecologist to get an appointment for the abortion. All of this would have to happen as quickly as possible after the deed – but a lot of women are traumatized after a rape, don’t know what to do, or even live in a relationship with the offender. A visit to the police station is the last thing they are thinking about.

But for Görlach it’s basically about the norm, not the exception. “Abortion is an inquity”, he writes, and I conclude from that that he would like to dispose of this iniquity once and for all by prohibiting it.

To see what happens when abortion is illegal, you don’t have to look around very far – Ireland will do. Here, a strict abortion ban is in place – with a small loophole in case a pregnant women is diagnosed with suicidal tendencies. In such a (rare) case, the woman in question is allowed to travel to England to get an abortion there. Meanwhile, even the European Court of Human Rights asserts that Ireland is violating the European Convention on Human Rights, because there is no regulation allowing an abortion in case the life of the pregnant woman is in danger (as there is in Germany).

The Irish government is therefore obliged to change the existing laws, but it isn’t exactly in a hurry to do it. With tragic consequences: In November 2012 pregnant patient Savita Halappanavar died of septicemia at a hospital in Galway. The 31-year-old was 17 weeks pregnant and suffering from back pain. At the hospital, she was found to be miscarrying. According to her husband, Halappanavar asked for medical termination several times over a three-day period during which she was in severe pain, but nothing was done. The doctors told the couple that a fetal heartbeat was still present and that they were “in a Catholic country”. Days later, after the heartbeat stopped, the dead fetus was removed, but it was already too late – Halappanavar died of septicemia. Please note: We’re talking about a European country, an EU member country even, which acknowledges the Charter of Fundamental Rights for citizens of the European Union. Obviously this doesn’t include all citizens, at least not in Ireland.

No humanity

Is this what a “humanistic society” looks like? A society in which the life of the unborn child is no longer “inferior” to that of the mother? In Alexander Görlach’s text, a lot of ink is spilled on the topic of humanity. Why is it so short on human warmth and empathy?

Read more in this debate: Alexander Görlach.

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