Personal Autonomy and Abortion

Abortion advocates such as International Planned Parenthood Federation and United Nations organisations are concerned with women's reproductive rights and autonomy, especially when the choice is to not reproduce.

  • With all medical procedures there needs to be a balance between physician and patient autonomy.
  • Others whose rights should be considered are the father, other children, grandparents and even the child itself.
  • With abortion, the woman's right is seen to override the doctor's right to conscientious objection.
  • Informed consent is necessary to protect autonomy but is often superficial when it comes to abortion.
  • There have been several out-of-court settlements in civil liability cases.
On it"s website, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that it "is supporting "Stronger Voices for Reproductive Health" [i.e.abortion], an innovative initiative that aims to empower users with knowledge about their reproductive health and rights and supporting community mechanisms so they will have a "stronger voice" to ensure steps are taken to improve reproductive health care. UNFPA partners with the International Labour Organization, UNICEF and WHO in this initiative."

While over half a million women die each year due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth, almost all deaths occur in developing countries, where women are "100 times more at risk."

An estimated 70% of reproductive health care funding to developing countries is targeted for family planning with only 15% invested in ante-natal care and the remaining 15% goes towards providing safe births.

The Peruvian government found that after 20 years of family planning, the maternal mortality rate failed to drop as expected. Former Peruvian Minister of Health, Fernando Carbone Campoverde, stated that "75% [of maternal deaths] were [due to] causes that were not being focused on by family planning services, such as poor antenatal care and lack of attention at delivery."

In the United States, for example, there have been several requests for asylum by women fleeing China to escape being forcibly aborted. Groups campaigning for women"s reproductive rights (i.e. the right to legal abortion) have so far not protested this violation of women"s rights. 

Informed Consent
Informed consent is a basic principle in medical ethics and "a critical element of any theory that gives weight to autonomy," according to medical ethics scholar Robert Veatch. For a woman to be able to properly exercise her autonomy, she must be given factual information as to the development of the foetus, how the procedure is performed, and the possible physical and psychological risks involved.

Abortion advocates argue that that by presenting themselves for abortion, women have already made up their minds and that giving them too much factual information will only serve to cause them undue stress.

Most proponents of abortion tend to minimize the existence of Post Abortion Syndrome and that induced abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. Despite this there have been several out-of-court settlements in civil liability cases.

The fear of civil liability lawsuits against abortionists and clinics is one of the reasons many younger doctors are avoiding the practice altogether.

An article by the director of the Family Planning Association in Australia published in Australian Doctor, (February 15, 2002) said that lawsuits filed against doctors and facilities performing abortions have begun to hurt the abortion industry. Several lawsuits have been settled for quite large sums in cases in which women have alleged they were not warned about the abortion-breast cancer risk, or possible psychological damage resulting from their abortions.