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Climate change muddles Swedish abortion debate

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 21 Apr 2011, 13:08

Published: 21 Apr 2011 13:08 GMT+02:00

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In an opinion article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily entitled ”Time for society to broaden its view on abortion”, Nicolas Espinoza at the Stockholm Centre for Healthcare Ethics and Martin Peterson at Stockholm University announced a new research project to review the matter.

"The women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s was wrong when it pushed through an abortion law which is based on the thinking that a woman's right to her body is almost always superior to that of the foetus," the pair wrote.

The researchers argued that the "law must in the future reflect the complex problems around the abortion issue", drawing comparisons with the climate change debate.

"If we strike a balance between the interests of current and future generations for the sake of the environment, then we should also strike a balance between the pregnant woman and the foetus."

The researchers, who are both academics within the field of philosphy, propose that instead of what they argue is the "binary" view of existing legislation - divided into two distinct categories of "permitted" and "forbidden" - a third should be added.

According to Swedish abortion legislation passed in 1975, a woman is free to terminate a pregnancy up to and including the 18th week. She is not required to cite any reason for doing so and the public health system is required to carry out her wishes.

After 18 weeks until the end of the 22nd, an abortion can still be performed but requires permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) which is often granted on the basis of either the foetus or the woman suffering a serious medical complication.

After the 22nd week abortion is not permitted in Sweden.

Espinoza and Peterson in practice argue that this legal right to free and state-funded abortion be limited and seek a definition of cases where it ”should not be society's duty to actively assist women who want an abortion”. They argue instead that society should leave these women to find an alternative to the publicly-funded healthcare system.

Arguing from a philosophical perspective they claim that their proposal removes the role of society in this discussion and affords women the power and responsibility to make their own decisions.

This point, among others, is rejected by Marcus Ohlström, a doctoral student in political science at Stockholm University, who penned a response entitled ”No support for a change in abortion legislation” in Dagens Nyheter the following day.

”Burdens and responsibilities are transferred, but not power. Power to make decisions for themselves are guaranteed by a rights-based legislation, where women are given both the right and genuine opportunity to conduct free and safe abortions. As in Sweden today,” he argued.

Ylva Johansson of the Social Democrats was neither persuaded by the philosophical arguments, arguing in a further debate article in DN that the proposal was little more that ”a murky proposal to restrict abortion rights”.

Johansson dismisses the reasoning of Espinoza and Peterson saying that the proposal ”neither benefits the climate nor future generations”, calling on woman to once again ”take up the struggle for our right to decide ourselves over our bodies”.

”One can rightly ask on what grounds Espinoza/Peterson place themselves above a women's decision by condemning them as morally wrong. The purpose is obviously political – the debaters conclude with a proposal designed to make it more uncomfortable and more expensive for women to have an abortion,” she argued.

Johansson continued to argue that Espinoza and Peterson are wrong in believing that legislation can prevent women from undergoing abortions.

”We know abortions are carried out regardless of how tough the legislation is, but at the expense of women's lives and health.”

Sweden's equality minister Nyamko Sabuni joined forces with Åsa Regnér, secretary-general of the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) in a article published on Wednesday to argue that it would be ”devastating if Swedish abortion legislation is undermined.”

Sabuni and Regnér expressed surprise at Espinoza and Peterson's article and argue that they consider Swedish abortion legislation to be perfectly adequate as it stands.

”It gives the woman the right to decide herself over her own body. No one other that the woman herself can decide if she is to continue a pregnancy.”

They argue that the ”success of anti-abortionists across Europe make it important to stand up for Swedish legislation” and warned of the risk of applying moral categorisations of right and wrong to reasons for wanting an abortion.

”It is never acceptable to limit a woman's right to control her body. To guarantee this right means, among other things, that society should assist women who want an abortion. More voices are however needed to strengthen or establish equal rights for women in other countries.”

Story continues below…

Sweden amended its abortion legislation in 2008 to extend the right to undergo abortions in Sweden to include women from other counties.

According to Welfare Board statistics for 2009 abortions performed in Sweden are on the decline.

A total of 37,524 abortions were performed in 2009, down on the 38,053 performed in 2008. Among teenagers, abortions declined by 7.8 percent to 22.5 abortions per 1,000 teenage girls compared with 24.4 in the previous year.

A total of 25 percent of known pregnancies ended in an abortion in 2009. Among teenagers, 80 percent of known pregnancies were aborted.

Since abortion legislation was adopted in 1975, the number of terminations carried out in Sweden has varied between 30,000-38,000 per annum.

In a response on Tuesday to the broad criticism of their arguments, Nicolas Espinoza and Martin Peterson rejected the accusation that they are against abortion or a woman's right to decide over her own body.

The pair furthermore deny that they belong to any political or religious cause and insist that are interested in discussing the abortion issue from a moral philosopical perspective.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:51 April 21, 2011 by galexe
what about the foetus right over his/her body and life? they should be killed according to the social democrat blody ideology.
18:52 April 21, 2011 by dunce
A fetus is a human being at the moment of conception is a scientific fact not a religious opinion and has right to live. Arguments against abortion in the past were dismissed as based on religious opinion but genetic research has provided opponents of abortion the ability to beat them with their own stick.
19:00 April 21, 2011 by calebian22
"The researchers, who are both academics within the field of philosphy...."

In other news, academics are trying to stir up controversy in order to garner grant money to continue their worthless existence. .
19:26 April 21, 2011 by 3rdjerseyman
Interesting angle, however not the most philosophically compelling.

The infant's DNA is completely unique ( unless an identical twin ) and as such, establishes the foetus as an individual. We have established a society without reference to supernatural authority, on the basis of the logic of individual rights. My right to liberty as a human is a mirror image of your's both based on our absolute individuality. We have also based our laws on the observation- again without reference to any faith based system- that life is valuable. Indeed, we all seem most avid to live as well and as long as possible. We also observe this characteristic amongst all members of the animal kingdom.

Logically then, how do we give the putative mother the right to totally extinguish the life of the child? We can make a case that the mother should not be forced to surrender her life to the child's. We can even make a case that the mother should not be forced to suffer severe physical injury for the child's sake ( although both cases are commonly observed to have been freely made choices by legions of mothers ).

In the case of individual right, what benefit does the mother derive from abortion that is greater than the child's benefit in the retention of the right to live, that we the living hold so important that we reserve our highest sanctions for those who would deprive us of it?

Individual rights, proportionality and the greater good all dictate the legal minimization of abortion and recognition of the unborn as part of the continuum of human life deserving of humane consideration.

Environmentally, and as a factor in human progress, are you really positing the notion that the million aborted Swedes would not have made contributions to humanity and society proportionate to the population as it exists today. To say otherwise is profoundly misanthropic.
19:58 April 21, 2011 by bcterry
18:52 April 21, 2011 by dunce

A fetus is a human being at the moment of conception is a scientific fact not a religious opinion and has right to live."

Your wrong, it is not a fetus until the beginning of the 11th week.

Scientific fact.
20:38 April 21, 2011 by Rebel
galexe, aren't the socialists who call themselves Moderates just as pro-abortion as the socialists who call themselves Social Democrats? Have not heard the little bald dude say anything negative about abortion while at least his predecessor warned on several occasions that we need to increase the Swedish birth rate.
20:45 April 21, 2011 by Douglas Garner
If we added half of the aborted children to the Swedish population, would we then offset immigration by an equal number, or would this more directly solve the projected workforce concern?

Sorry, but I cannot help but think that there are multiple agendas at work here!
22:49 April 21, 2011 by dizzymoe33
I get so tired of the governments always trying to tell me what I can and can not do with my own body. It is no ones business. I think we women should demand laws about where and when and how often you men can have sex and other things I mean it is only fair here. Why should we women be the only ones being told what to do. I am not property nor shall I ever be. The members of Government need to stay out of it. I am tired of Big Brother always sticking their nose where it doesn't belong. Maybe if more education was given to help prevent the pregnancies in the first place it might help.
10:06 April 22, 2011 by stanJames
I guarantee you that the catholic church is behind any anti-abortion moves.

And if you look at its history, you will find that it is the worst murderer in history

hitler, a catholic, used the churches hatred of Jews to get elected and 55 million were murdered before the war ended. And the church has yet to EXcommunicate him.

In 2009 the RATZInger pope UNexcommunicated a bishop williamson. He is an anglican bishop kicked out of the church of England for denying the holocaust.

The same church that wants more children to molest. IN almost every country where the church operates, children were molested by priests and bishops. And the church, instead of dragging known vile priests to the police, instead moved htem to new locations where they could continue their vile deeds

Look at this website - it says all - www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm. HOw the vatican conspired with nazis during the nazi era.

Google "vatican bank scandal" to see how the churches bank laundered money for the Maria.

Also - an endless list of crimes by the church, including murdering the liberal pope JOhn Paul I with poison. www.catholicarrogance.org.
11:51 April 22, 2011 by johnny1939
It is up to her own soul what she wants to do ...nobody is forcing her to abort but it should be there for the woman who needs it and not be forced back to the dark old ages. The earlier to happens the better maybe 16 weeks would be better. I also hope that parts of the aborted baby can benefit someone else. Why get pregnant anyway? There is so much info out there whether you want it or not + "the day after pill". Protection is sold in readily available shops all over the country...given out free in schools w/o questions. I myself picked up a handfull of very attractive rainbow colored one at a health expo for seniors not long ago...baloons for next party? or maybe I get lucky?
13:13 April 22, 2011 by Borilla
Here we go again. The religious right (of every denomination) are trying to slip their superstitions into the political sphere. Next we will be hearing the same silliness that is being spread in the US that Darwin was wrong and that "creationism" must be taught in school.

Women have the right to control their bodies. Men, whether Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew or Buddhist do not have the right to order women to have children. Actually, I am quite surprised that the Assange supporters aren't out in full cry about this. After all, that is what he is advocating - that women don't have the right to control their bodies and he does. Perhaps a conflict in views.

Start the fight here because these bigots will keep coming back and refining their arguments until every woman is barefoot and pregnant again, just as in the middle ages.
14:45 April 22, 2011 by martiancat

my thoughts exactly.

plus, people would find "children living off society because their parets are teenagers" or "child abandonment rates" so much more upsetting than this.

also, it is a fact that we have overpopulated the Earth, just as much as a child is a child (disregarding the age).
01:25 April 24, 2011 by capt
Nice thought there, Sweeds doing their part to not "overpopulate the earth"? how chilling. In the mean time Europe is turning he page with immigrants born from large families.
17:37 April 26, 2011 by JenniferP
Why should I have to help pay for something that I view as murder. You want an abortion - you shuold at least have to pay for it yourself!!!
23:46 April 26, 2011 by Cmhiggins12
@Stanjames & Borilla

Everyone knows that if you have any connection to any religious institution, they would never let them publish anything related to abortion to begin with. The article even states this about the authors. I get so tired of the same old lame "here we go again, the religious right..." Why can't you actually put some thought into the validity of the argument instead of just going off on religion again. You are actually no better than the blind pharisees that you are condemning.
11:04 April 27, 2011 by Indignerad
I wish we could just let less civilized countries argue about abortion instead of bringing the debate over here, where the legislation is adequate already.
02:16 April 28, 2011 by IranianBoy
Wow! now two philosophy students want to restrict the rights of women! by comparing abortion to climate change!!!! LMAO.....

how does philosophy have anything to do with medical issues that are pure technical? (like when the fetus starts to feel and understand its sorrounding environment)

or is their discussion basically about a woman having right over her fetus that is not alive yet by technical definition?!

I passed a course of philosophy ( I don know why a CS student should pass that!!) but what I understood was that philosophers cannot even agree on one simple thing or issue! they cannot even agree on the color of a flower! it is unfortunate that in some places like US, there are philosophers who decide for the fate of the patient, instead of the doctor.
23:13 April 29, 2011 by Uggla
I am not catholic or even christian for that matter, as a matter of fact I am a firm supporter of free will, but I still find abortion to be ugly!
13:57 May 2, 2011 by karex
I don't think that "the day after" pill concept would work in Sweden: rules demand that you go to the Dr. to get a prescription to be able to buy the medication. But it can take weeks or months to get an appointment.

So much for day after...
17:07 January 3, 2012 by janeway
galexe: NO!

dunce: NO!

calebian22: YES!

3rdjerseyman: NO!

bcterry: YES!

dizzymoe33: YES!

stan James: YES!

johnny1939: YES! (Also, there's not just one responsible for a pregnancy. Condoms may break, pills not be effective, rape, incest, homelessness, and plenty of other reasons, which none of us have any business to meddle in.)

Borilla: YES! (You forgot: "and in the kitchen."

JenniferP: NO! (When you break your leg skiing I will not want to pay for your doctor's visits, your sickleave, because you made a choice engaging in that kind of activity and it goes against my views.)

Indignerad: YES!

IranianBoy: YES!

Uggla: NO! (Does your views coincide with your nick?)
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