It is known that women who have had abortions sometimes try to commit suicide. Are there any real statistics? M.K. Stratford, Ont.

No. There are some studies, but for a number of reasons any attempt at statistics would be suspected. This fact was made clear in The Physical and Psycho-Social Effects of Abortion on Women; A Report by the Consequences of The Abortion Act.(June 1994). The Abortion Act mentioned was the British one of 1967 and the Commission began its work in 1992, to study its effects after 25 years.

It is of interest to note that the Inquiry Commission was “not to look at, or make a statement on, the ethics of abortion itself, but instead to investigate the effects of abortion on those directly involved – the women.” One such effect is suicide.

Mentioned in the Report is “a symposium held (1976) at Westminster Hospital [in London] into 1000 attempted suicides in the hospital attachment area during 12 months, mainly of young people.” “The researches reported that the only common factor that they found was that ‘…several times as many women who attempted suicide had had abortions as there were in the control group…’ and the figure rose to nine times as many women as in the general population. In the survey, not one woman who attempted suicide was pregnant.

What is very significant in a discussion of suicide/abortion statistics is the following passage. “…the Commission was concerned to learn from Dr. Kumar, who was representing the Royal College of Psychiatrists, that it would not be routine or even likely that someone being treated for attempted suicide would be asked about any history of previous abortion. Furthermore, no further investigations into this link have been instigated by the psychiatric profession.”

A further hindrance in obtaining statistics is the factor of “denial.” It is well known that some women deny – even to themselves – that they have ever had an abortion. Many more deny that anything they suffer, including depression, is the result of a previous abortion.

The British Commission dealt only with the effects of abortion on women. Fathers, too, have attempted suicide when their children – still in the mother’s womb – have been killed.

Pro-life literature talks of ‘an inalienable right’ to life. What exactly does this mean? L.W. Maple Ridge, B.C.

An alienable right is one which cannot be transferred to the ownership of someone else. Perhaps the easiest was of an explanation is by recognized in the Canadian Bill of Rights: “life” and “the enjoyment of property.” “Enjoyment,” here, means to have the use or benefits or advantages of property.

Property – whether it be a landed estate, a stamp collection, or any article such as a watch or oil painting – can be bought donated, inherited, bequeathed or confiscated. The right of enjoyment of property is transferable, that is ‘alienable.” By contrast, life belongs strictly to the one individual, and it cannot be transferred from one person to another. However much a mother or grandmother would give her life to save a dying child, such a transfer is impossible.

It is true that a man may lose his life in an effort to save someone else, but his life does not pass over the one who is saved. Unlike property, life cannot be bought, bequeathed, or exchanged. Life is a gift from God, and the moment of fertilization (conception) until dearth. There are no means – scientific or otherwise – of transferring that life to another person; and thus, the right to life is inalienable.