Abortion: Beyond the polemics

Recently Alabama and Georgia passed new laws on Abortion.1 The new laws are so extreme that it was even criticized by a televangelist.2 

In contrast to New York a few months back3, these two states have gone the opposite direction eliciting nationwide outrage from activists and celebration from conservative circles.

As is the case, some Muslims have tried to voice their own opinions on the issue. Some joining the “liberals” in trying to oppose the bill. Others lending support to the “pro-life” camp.

However, between the heated arguments some major issues are being glossed over or simply overlooked. With this article I seek to bring those issues to light.

The Bill Passed by the Republicans:

Under the legislation, which the Republican governor, Kay Ivey, signed Wednesday, women in Alabama would be forced to carry unwanted or nonviable pregnancies to term in nearly all circumstances, including when a pregnancy results from rape or incest. Doctors who perform the procedure would face felony charges and up to 99 years in prison — which is more prison time than convicted rapists face in the state.4

It does not take more than a cursory glance to see that these laws are incredibly harsh. These measures are so extreme it should give every principled “Pro-Life” advocate a cause for concern. More so if you are a Muslim, because the Shariah always takes context into consideration.

The Usuli perspective on this issue:

The general consensus on the matter is once the soul enters the fetus abortion is forbidden. i.e. After 120 days. Exceptions are made for extreme cases where the mother’s life is at risk.5

While one can argue that the new laws in Alabama and Georgia allow similar exemptions, but the ban is from any point of conception.

Muslims tend to be in the “Pro-Life” camp because from the Islamic perspective, children(in all shapes and forms) are a blessing from Allah. The Quranic verses are quite explicit regarding this matter.6

However, reality often contrasts with lofty principles.

The issues within the Muslim Community:

Despite Muslims being pretty vocal in regards to being on the pro-life camp, if one looks into the underbelly of our communities, they will realize that Muslims don’t shy away from the practice of aborting babies.

In Muslim Communities across the globe there is unspoken practice that take advantage of abortion laws. While in the popular discourse scholars talk about the virtues of having daughters, many families choose to abort babies when they find out the gender of the child in the womb. 7 Or worse, they abandon them in the dumpsters AFTER they are born.8 Some women are even threatened with divorce if they don’t go through with the abortion.9

There is also another unspoken trend of men who are engaged in non-marital relationships with women. They have engage in these relationships with the promise of marriage. However when pregnancy unexpectedly happens, these men force their partner to abort their babies. The excuse? They are not ready.

And in rural villages, pregnancies(from rape) are used as a tool for forced marriages. But that’s another discussion.

Plenty of stories are out there for those who are willing to listen.

The cold hard truth is reality often contrasts with the lofty principles. 

Pregnancy and Women:

Pregnancy and Abortion affect women the most. This is undisputed. Physically and emotionally they are ones who are most impacted by pregnancies. Unsafe abortions and complications in pregnancies can also result in death. 10

Even when it comes to birth control it is often women who have to take the necessary measures often at the expense of their personal health.

While you can argue that there has been plenty of medical advancements, you need to understand that not everyone has the privilege of having access to these facilities. Healthcare comes at a price. 

Furthermore unwilling mothers who suffer from trauma and lack proper support will more likely than not fail to give their children a healthy environment to grow up in. And many willing but single mothers lead very difficult lives trying to raise children because of the policies against social welfare by the same people who campaign against abortion laws.

In the modern society where zinah is the norm, women are disproportionately impacted by the corrupt practices that are prevalent. Corrupt practices that are perpetuated and sustained by a privileged class who use this issue as a smokescreen of piety.

The bigger picture:

Muslims need to understand that they do not live in an Islamic State. A state that can pass laws to penalize their citizens is a potentially dangerous state to live under. Especially a state that is known to institute discriminatory laws against Muslims.

A Muslim should be very wary when bills like this are passed. It is not out of the question that somewhere down the line, support for Palestinians can be criminalized. Trying to aid Muslims in war zones can also be criminalized. Admittedly this is bit of a stretch but with Islamophobia still growing, one should not scoff at this grim possibility

More civil liberties are better than less civil liberties.

We can always make an ethical argument against those who seek unethical abortions. And why stop there?

We can work towards ensuring better support for parents and single parents. We can work towards combating the hyper-sexual culture of the west. We can work towards educating children to make more appropriate choices and build a better society overall.

But we cannot do that by blindly being “Pro-Life” and empowering those who seek to disempower us.

As I have stated in the beginning, the purpose of this article was not to argue for “Pro-Choice” or for “Pro-Life”. But rather to encourage Muslims to start seeing and approaching this issue from a broader and more holistic perspective rather than simply jumping on bandwagons and ignoring the issues that plague our community.

Further Reading:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/opinion/abortion-alabama-law.html
  2. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/05/16/pat-robertson-says-alabama-abortion-law-has-gone-too-far/3690680002/
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46994583
  4. Ibid. 1.
  5. https://islamqa.info/en/answers/42321/ruling-on-aborting-a-pregnancy-in-the-early-stages
  6. http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=17&verse=31
  7. https://www.academia.edu/29990184/FEMALE_FOETICIDE_AN_ISLAMIC_PERSPECTIVE
  8. https://www.thedailystar.net/city/newborn-rescued-dumpster-in-mohammadpur-dhaka-1575814
  9. https://www.wbur.org/npr/661763318/why-the-abortion-rate-in-pakistan-is-one-of-the-worlds-highest
  10. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/maternal-mortality

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