If a foetus can't live independently before 22 weeks why can't women have terminations before then?
Letter of the day: abortion debate
In response to my defence of abortion, reader George McNally (Write Back, July 17) states that the right to life is absolute.
Leaving aside the question of whether he includes all living things in this judgment, no right is absolute in all circumstances, because rights often conflict and choices have to be made. The right to life in wartime is an obvious example.
Perhaps Mr McNally is a pacifist, but it has to be said that they are rather thin on the ground in Northern Ireland.
Pregnancy is another example. If the rights of the mother conflict with those of the unborn, a choice has to be made. Whose rights are more important?
Let me help Mr McNally here. The reason I mentioned a foetus before viability in my original letter was that it can be regarded as a basic criterion for personhood.
Before viability, the foetus is potentially a person, but it does not yet have the rights of a person; afterwards, it does.
Its right to life then becomes equal in importance to the mother and decisions have to be made in that light.
Perhaps Mr McNally rejects such a dividing line. Perhaps he believes that life begins at conception. Yet this is a mistake, for even sperm cells have 'life'.
The question is not when life begins, because that is ambiguous and continuous over a period of time, but, when does personhood begin?
And viability outside the womb, where the person can exist independently of the mother, seems as good an answer as any.
This would suggest that the mother should have an absolute right to abortion up to about 22 weeks.
Editor, Irish Freethinker