All signs point to yes; aborting a pregnancy is a natural response in female mammals.
Ludek Bartos from the Institute of Animal Science in the Czech Republic recently led a study that suggests that female horses have adopted “abortion strategies” and that they can “choose” to terminate a pregnancy if they are put in a position where the foals paternity may be uncertain. Published in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, this study has caused many anti-choicers to exclaim that the creators of this study are simply assuming the horses intentions. They argue that the phenomena should be referred to as “miscarriage” instead of “abortion.” Some have even proclaimed that it’s impossible for animals to choose to terminate pregnancies, because they don’t have the medical technology to perform surgical abortions.
What these critics fail to acknowledge is that abortion does not have to be performed surgically, in humans or in animals. Herbs like penny royal and chamomile have historically been used, rather successfully, to cause pregnancies to abort in women. Of course, this has varying results, is not always safe, and is only successful in very early stages of pregnancy. Other ways of self-induced abortion include various other herbal concoctions, applying pressure to the uterus and of course the now legendary coat-hanger type method. Some women have even reported successfully self-aborting by ingesting certain herbs and meditating. In animals, hippos, armadillos and rabbits have all been know to suddenly miscarry when their environmental conditions are unfavorable, or because they are such that giving birth would potentially kill them. The reason that scientists choose to call this a self-induced abortion instead of a miscarriage is because the pregnancies are typically lost before the mother animal begins to feel negative effects from the strain of carrying a pregnancy in a hostile environment.
Ultimately, what these sorts of studies accomplish is that they challenge the long held belief that a “mother” only acts in certain ways, and that to act in a way that is not considered “motherly” is to defy nature. In fact, it is completely natural for mammal mothers to abort, abandon or even kill their offspring in order to protect or better the lives of themselves, their current offspring, or the future of their bloodline. Now, certainly human beings are different from animals, but human history is filled with examples of societies where abortion or even infanticide was considered normal or acceptable. For some reason, though, many people in the United States seem to think that the fact that a woman may genuinely want to have an abortion is impossible, indeed unnatural.
Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion about the morality of abortion. However, it’s important that we lay to rest any misconceptions about what is a “natural” mothering act and what is not. The reality is that there is no universal in regards to mothering. Wanting to abort is a perfectly understandable and acceptable response to an unplanned, unwanted, or unfavorable pregnancy. That is indisputable. Now, whether or not women should be allowed to act on those desires, that is up for debate.
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on Nov. 17, 2012 at 6:21 PM