In 1973, the US supreme court legalized induced abortion. This legalisation became one of the biggest reasons for the drastic reduction in maternal morbidity and mortality from the erstwhile “criminal abortions”. By 1974, the rate of maternal deaths from induced abortions had dropped to 6% from 39%. Cases of sepsis (severe infection) has become almost nonexistent because abortions are handled by qualified personnel, using standard equipment under sanitary conditions.
However, the law has continued to generate a lot of debates, resulting in the pro-life/pro-choice divide. Today, about 1.3 million legal abortions are performed in the US annually. Thousands of lives may have been saved, but what about the concomitant increase in sexual permissiveness? Teens can easily engage in sex sprees because contraceptives are free-for-all and abortion clinics are accessible.
How do we maintain a balance?
In Islaam, induced abortion is not a hairstyle for which you walk into a salon and do as you wish. There must be tangible reasons – reasons that are not based on human whims and caprices but based on what is best for individual women, their unborn children, their families and the entire nation; through the lens of the Shari’ah.
The Qur’an is a complete code of conduct that leaves no stone unturned. Allaah says in chapter 17 verse 31 –
“And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great error”.
You are not responsible for the sustenance of that child; Allaah is. In a hadith narrated by Ibn Mas’ûd, the Prophet (saw) said that 4 things are written for a child by the 120th day in utero – his deeds, lifespan, livelihood and whether he will be fortunate or wretched (Sahih Bukhaari 3060). You can’t just yank off that foetus simply because it’s perceived as a harbinger of penury. Dear sister, keep the baby and put your trust in Allaah!
Among the conditions for which a woman could be permitted to have an abortion – after confirmation by a panel of experienced, upright and pious muslim specialist doctors – are:
*the pregnancy has not passed the first stage of 40 days but there is fear of harm to the woman or her baby or both
*the pregnancy is in the 2nd and 3rd stages (‘alaqah and mudghah) and, continuing the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s physical, mental and psychosocial wellbeing
*the pregnancy is within the first 120 days but the foetus has a congenital anomaly that is incompatible with life
***after the 120 days, abortion is strictly impermissible unless there is obvious life-threatening danger to the woman.
(culled from Al-Fataawa al-Jaami’ah, 3/1056)
In many developing countries such as Nigeria, induced-abortion is a crime and most hospital-based procedures are carried out for medical reasons only. However, our women are dying from sepsis and severe bleeding following self-induced abortions. Our girls are flushing foetuses down the sewers and others are dumping them in the woods. We need to come up with a balanced guideline to curb this menace while avoiding perversion and abuse.
While we’re at that, let’s remember that the root of most of our social problems is our deviance from the path of truth and piety. “Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves…” Qur’an chapter 13 verse 11.