If a pregnant and frantic teenager threatens to commit suicide unless she gets an abortion, wouldn’t an abortion be the lesser evil?

A short answer is that records show that the girl would be much more likely to commit suicide if she had an abortion, rather than if she were refused one.  A study published in 1971, showed that 13,500 women were refused abortions in Sweden between 1938 and 1958, and of this number, only three committed suicide.  In Britain, Dr. M. Sim found that in a 12-year period in Birmingham, a city of 1,250,000 population, there was only one case of a suicide by a pregnant woman.  The woman was married, was mentally ill and under psychiatric care, and the question of abortion was not raised.

Dr. Harley Smyth, the Toronto neurosurgeon, said at the Borowski trial “…it has been recorded that she [the woman] is much less likely to commit suicide if she is pregnant.  There seems to be something with pregnancy that makes it very unlikely that she would take her own life…” The same opinion can be found in a study of maternal morality in Minnesota: “The fetus in utero must be a protective mechanism.  Perhaps women are reluctant to take another life with them when they do this [commit suicide.]

By contrast however, there is a growing problem of post-abortion suicide.  In his book “Abortion (revised 1988), Dr. J. Willke notes the Report of Suiciders Anonymous to the Cincinnati City Council, 1981.  Suiciders Anonymous is a national fellowship in the United States which tries to help those who have attempted suicide, some of them several times.  During a 35-month period a total of 5,620 suicide-prone members in the Cincinnati area had received help and of these 4,000 were women.  Significantly 1,800 of the women, i.e., 45 per cent of the women who had attempted to kill themselves, had had abortions.  Of those who had attempted post-abortion suicide, some 78 per cent were between the ages of 15 and 24 years.

At times the threat of suicide can be a form of emotional blackmail:  “Let me kill my baby or I’ll kill myself; and you will be to blame.”  But abortion is never a favour for the mother.

Why do pro-abortionists claim that suicide is common when girls and women are refused abortions?

Dr. Bernard Nathanson answered that question at the Borowski trial.  He said that in the late sixties when he was a leader in the National Abortion Rights League (NARAL), they used that argument to get legal abortions for psychiatric reasons.  He said too: “…we asked the Medical Examiner of New York City to go through his files to discover to give us a figure on how many women who were pregnant who had killed themselves, were suicides as a result merely of being pregnant…we were interested to bolster our arguments for the psychiatric indications for pregnancy…The Medical Examiner was unable to give us one case, one case, where a woman had clearly committed suicide because she was pregnant – this was in New York City – so we were chagrined and never of course publicized that finding.”

Dr. Nathanson stated: “Women do not kill themselves, and never have, as a result of being pregnant.”  They do attempt and achieve suicide after abortion.

How do you answer people who say that we cannot impose our morality (about abortion) on others?

All criminal law involves the imposition of someone’s moral principles or somebody else who either does not agree with them, or who believes that he or she is (or should be) exempted.

The Criminal Code says: Thou shall not commit rape, or theft, or arson, or embezzlement.  Obviously, the rapists, arsonists and thieves do not subscribe to these moral principles.  The arsonist enjoys setting fire to buildings; the embezzler enjoys manipulating and stealing money; such actions do not offend their morality.  However no sensible person  suggests that these offenses should be removed from the Criminal Code because they “impose someone else’s morality.”  That way lies anarchy.

Common sense shows that it is precisely because there are people who reject the moral (e.g., rapists, arsonists, thieves and abortionists) that society needs a Criminal Code which does impose a standard of morality on the people.

We invite our readers to send their questions and comments, addressed to “You were Asking?” to The Interim.