Casablanca — When the issue of abortion was brought up in the third and final U.S. presidential debate, I sighed. “Here we go again,” I said to myself, because it was 2 A.M. in Morocco and I was adamant about having to live stream the debate. I knew what Donald Trump had to say was going to disappoint me. And it did. Trump again reiterated his pro-life stance, calling abortion “[ripping] the baby out of the womb” and Hillary again had to condemn his scare rhetoric and defend women’s rights to choose.
Watching that debate unfold made me think of the status of abortion rights in my own country. I am proud of Morocco for amending the penal code in June; it finally made abortions legal in cases of incest, rape and birth defects. That said, nowhere in Morocco can you get a legal abortion if you don’t fall in one of the exempted categories detailed in the law’s latest amendment.
Now before you all attack me in the comment’s section (perhaps there’s no way to avoid that part), I know we live in a Muslim country and I know that the laws of Islam are infused in the laws of this country.
I was surprised, however, to find out that the majority of Islamic theologians have permitted abortion for up to 120 days from the start of the pregnancy. As for what is actually said in the Qu’ran, the killing of humans is condemned, but abortion itself is never explicitly discussed. It also says, “Kill not your children for fear of want. We shall provide for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin.” But after all is said and done, the debate surrounding what is considered a “human” or “child” is a messy one, and it seems like what is said in the Qur’an is not explicit in its discussion of abortion and can therefore be open to interpretation.
For many pro-lifers, life begins at conception. This is why abortion remains illegal in many countries, including Ireland, Poland and many African and Middle Eastern countries. For pro-life activists and pro-life politicians, abortion at any point, however early in the pregnancy, is considered murder. As a Boston University student, I remember walking past a Planned Parenthood center on my way to a friend’s place and being stopped by a pro-life activist. “If you’re ever thinking about abortion, please call us,” she said. “Abortion is murder,” she added. She gave me a flower and a pamphlet, and I walked away.
Planned Parenthood, if you haven’t heard of it, is a U.S. national non-profit that provides a whole array of health services for women, way beyond abortions. As I walked away from the woman, I felt bad for all the women who had to be walking in there, having just made the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason. I also felt bad for women who were probably just going in for a routine breast exam or a pap smear, but had to be stopped by those activists before going in and listen to them bash the non-profit that was about to provide them with essential healthcare. Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear those activists’ perspectives; they seemed to really think of abortion as murder.
While I can appreciate those pro-lifers’ efforts to “defend another human life,” I don’t think it’s right to call women who get abortions “murderers.” Based on scientific evidence, I’ve come to believe that a first trimester embryo is not a full-fledged human. That embryo or fetus is not sentient; it does not have feelings and, therefore, I would not qualify abortion as murder. But I know that a lot of people don’t agree. This is a deeply controversial, deeply personal topic — and that is why I’m pro-choice.
I believe the woman should have the right to decide, for herself, if she considers that embryo human and if she wants to abort it or not. I don’t think the laws of a nation should impose a specific point of view on people that may have varied points of view. And while I maintain great respect for Islam as a religion and for those who choose to follow it, I also believe in the human’s and the citizen’s right to choose what they want to do with their bodies.
Making abortion illegal does a few things:
1) It doesn’t make it stop, it just makes it unsafe. Every day in Morocco, 600-800 women get illegal abortions, many of which are unsafe, leading to deaths that could otherwise be prevented.
2) It strays away from the real problem: the lack of sex education in this country. Even though the Moroccan Ministry of National Education and Moroccan Modern Industries (IMM) signed an agreement in 2014 for the implementation of sex education in Moroccan schools, not much has actually taken place, even though 61% of Moroccans are in favor of sex education.
3) It feeds the high rate of illiteracy in the country which, if you were wondering, affects approximately 30% of the population. When teenagers don’t get the sex education they need, they are bound to make mistakes. Even when they are careful, accidents happen. But because abortion is outright illegal, except for the few that are allowed, many choose to give up school. Often times, the children born out of these situations are also not able to go to school, and thus continues the vicious cycle of illiteracy, unwanted pregnancies, and so on.
4) This is the most important one: It takes away a woman’s right to do what she wants with her own body. This is a major slippery slope. Call me crazy, but it feels like if men were the ones getting pregnant, abortion would probably be legal, and pills and condoms would likely be distributed in schools.
Before you start typing up an angry comment about how Morocco is not the only country where abortion is illegal (I know this is the case) or about how women shouldn’t even have sex in the first place (what about men?), please consider this:
I am not telling anyone what to do. I respect each person’s right to live their lives however they wish to. I am simply sharing my perspective, one that I know may not be a popular one. Finally, and most importantly, I am simply supporting a woman’s right to choose.