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

No.  There are some studies, but for a number of reasons any attempt at statistics would be suspect.  This fact was made clear in The Physical and Psycho-Social Effects of Abortion of Women; A Report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Operation and Consequences of the Abortion Act.(June 1994).  The Abortion Act mentioned was the British one of 1967 and 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 Westminister Hospital [in London] into 1000 attempted suicides in the hospital attachment area during 12 months, mainly of young people.” “The researchers 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 servey, 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 be routine or even likely that someone being treated for attempted suicide would be asked about any history of previous abortion.

Furthermore, no 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.

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

An inalienable right is one which cannot be transferred to the ownership of someone else.  Perhaps the easiest way of an explanation is by a comparison of two “rights,” both of which are recognized in the Canadian Bill of Rights: “life” and “the enjoyment of property.” Enjoyment,” here, means to have the use or advantages of property.

Property—whether it be a landed estate, a stamp collection, or any articles 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 can not 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 to the one who is saved.  Unlike property, life cannot be bought, bequeathed, or exchanged or exchanged.  Life is a gift from God, and the right to that life belongs to the individual human being from the moment of fertilization (conception) until death.  There are no means—scientific or otherwise—of transferring that life to another person, and thus, the right to life is inalienable.

What kinds of legal problems are raised by new reproductive technologies? P.M. Halifax, N.S.

There are probably enough to fill a library.  Here are a few.

  • What claims for damages are there—or should there be—for cases of embryo or sperm mix-up?
  • Can surrogacy contracts be enforced?  What if the host mother refuses to give up the baby?  Hat if the “contracting parents” refuse to accept a baby with a handicap? What if the host  decides to abort the baby?
  • Should there be age limits for IVF? Mothers t 65?
  • What are the respective rights and duties of surrogate and cases of divorce, separation, death?
  • How legitimate is a child conceived in vitro by a donor sperm>  Can she/he inherit property which is bequeathed by a husband’s parents to their grandchildren if the husband is not the child’s father?
  • Whose consent is needed in the use of donor sperm in in vetro fertilization?
  • Can anyone “own” an embryo created ex utero in law?
  • Should lesbians be included in programs?  (Two years ago Rona Achilles Ph.D. of the Department of Public Health.  Toronto stated: “there is evidence that some DI (Donor Insemination) practitioners are not comfortable helping single or lesbian couples get pregnant.”)