"The Limit"

FATHER: Doctor, you must listen to me. My wife is forty three years old. I've told her. We showed her all the facts. Women over forty have a great chance of having a retarded child.
DOCTOR: And you don't want to take that chance?
FATHER: What's the sense? We've got two sons. All that a man could want.
DOCTOR: A woman might want a daughter.
FATHER: It's not all that simple. There comes a time when it's past having children. You're just not ready any more. It's a job for younger people. And you've worked bard and now you're starting to see a little daylight . . . maybe to begin having that extra dollar, she's pregnant, and there it goes again. The bills . . . the problems . . . the worries.
MOTHER: It would be nice to have a girl.
FATHER: I looked it all up. I wanted to show my wife we weren't doing anything different from anyone else. One out of five pregnant women have abortions in this country.
FATHER: And more than half are married women.
Also true?
MOTHER: He just doesn't want the baby.
DOCTOR: If you want to be very accurate, one out of four married women abort their pregnancies.
FATHER: That's their right.
DOCTOR: Is it?
FATHER: We're men. Who are we to tell them not to?
DOCTOR: Most other people will. One thing you forget to look up is what percentage of the American people are against abortion on demand. It's over eighty percent.
FATHER: Then someone's being hypocritical. Who's getting ail the abortions?
MOTHER: I never thought of myself doing anything like that.
FATHER: You doctors know the law is wrong. It goes back to the time when women were slaves. The men wanted children to build their armies . . . to run their industries.
DOCTOR: Do you regard your wife as your slave?
FATHER: Oh, I know in this case I'm a special pleader but if we're going to emancipate women, then pregnancy is something they ought to control . . . and no one else.
DOCTOR: Does your wife think that?
FATHER: She's agreed.
MOTHER: I don't know how to tell him. I don't want him to be angry. He has worked hard and he is entitled to some pleasure in life now. Some relaxation. But this child in me . . . and it is a child . . . not matter what some people say . . . I don't want to give up my child.
FATHER: Yes, my wife understands the situation. Can you do something to help us?
DOCTOR: I'm afraid I can't.
FATHER: Look, Doctor, let's be honest with each other. We're alone in this room. You know most of the illegal abortions are done by doctors. You have to know someone.
DOCTOR: I'm sorry, but it's something I stay away from.
FATHER: You want to force us to go abroad? To Mexico, Puerto Rico?
DOCTOR: Or Eastern Europe, where it's on demand. But even there, illegal abortions still go on.
MOTHER: I can't do anything like that. Please. I want this baby.
FATHER: You don't believe in abortion, do you, Doctor?
DOCTOR: It depends on the circumstances.
FATHER: Well, you're entitled to your morality, but you can't force it on other people.
And, what some people think is moral shouldn't be made into law. If my wife has this abortion, it hurts no one.
MOTHER: A child has to be wanted. And a child knows. A child grows . . . and he knows.
DOCTOR: If your wife did have this child, it might change your ideas completely. You'd regret even having thought of abortion.
FATHER: It's not a question of not wanting. It's a question of not being able to have it.
DOCTOR: But you're willing to spend the money to have your wife aborted. You've spoken frankly and so will I.
There are people who come to me each month . . . begging to have a child. They ask me to help them.
FATHER: Doctor...
DOCTOR: They beg men to create life and you're here . . . begging to destroy it.
FATHER: There's no life. There's an embryo...just the beginning of something.
DOCTOR: I only ask that you think about it. That you think long and hard. That you try to find your real feelings.
FATHER: I have.
DOCTOR: And are your rights more than those of the child you've begun? Who's to answer that? MOTHER: My husband is a good man. And he feels very deeply about this. And maybe I'm just being sentimental. After forty, I guess it really isn't wise to have a child.
DOCTOR: Oh, that all sounds so logical...so bold and so right. But to me, it's still destruction.
If there's a little of the world's killing that we can stop, at least let's begin with ourselves. With our own bodies . . . with our own lives.
FATHER: You use everything but the word "murderer."
DOCTOR: I don't mean for it to sound that way. But I'd be less than truthful if I concealed my own feeling. Maybe I should say murderer.
FATHER: You're being melodramatic, Doctor. But this is our decision . . . and not yours. As reasonably mature people, we say to you that we've decided to limit the size of our family.
Now, either you help us or you make us lie and deceive another doctor into arranging for a legal abortion.
What's your choice, Doctor?

1. What role should a father play in the decision on abortion?

2. Does a change in laws lead to an evasion of responsibility?

3. Who speaks for the rights of the fetus? If they are is conflict with those of the mother who decides which prevails?

"I find one point to commend in this last sketch, and that is the wishes of the father seem to be considered for once. I know it may strike you as strange. I know the United States is a matriarchy, but I think it is extremely important, in this whole consideration of abortion, that some consideration should be given to the father's wishes. After all, the father has played some part in conceiving this child--a small part but a vital one, and this should be taken into account."

Department of Psychiatry, University of Umea, Umea, Sweden /
"We are known in Sweden for having a rather liberal act of abortion and it may be interesting for you to hear how this case would be judged with us.
"She would not be granted an abortion in Sweden. The reason is she wants to continue her pregnancy and have a child. "Further, we know from Swedish investigation that an abortion made under pressure when the woman is under the influence of her husband or other influence is apt to give her self- reproaches afterwards. This illustrates one of the reasons against abortions on demand: you never know when an abortion is free and when the woman acts through the influence of another person. "I think the doctor handled this case in a rather bad way. Instead of talking about murder and destruction, I think he could have concentrated his efforts on informing the husband about the risks of an abortion in his wife and the self-reproach aspect. After all, this was probably her last chance of having another child."

'So we see where the existence of a law which is prohibitory, and which, on the face of it, violates the principle of self-determination and autonomy, does in fact work to preserve the self-determination or autonomy of the woman against the superior force of her husband. She can do what she really wishes by saying to him: 'I would like to do as you wish, but it would be illegal.'

Divinity School, Harvard University /
"This is the most typical case in which abortion is requested. It poses sharply the question of whether we should permit the prospective parents to be the sole determiners of whether abortion is to be performed or not, at least in consultation with a physician. It presses the abortion to its ultimate conclusion of whether there will be abortion on demand, as the ultimate result of even beginning to make moderate changes in the existing law.
"From the moral viewpoint, there is a whole set of traits of character that we consider when we talk of what a man ought to be, and what kind of character he should uphold. These traits would certainly involve some sort of responsibility for his action and a willingness to accept the consequences of his acts.
"These are not only individual traits, but traits that somehow are important for civic virtues and civil life, also, particularly for those nurtured in the Christian tradition.
"There is a certain nobility of character ascribed to those who are willing to sacrifice their own purposes, their homes and aspirations when some weighty value is at stake over and against it, such as a life of a fetus may be considered to be.
"There also is respect for those who can find meaning in what is at first considered to be adversity, who can succeed in overcoming it and transcending it. "So when pregnancy is now seen to be primarily the result of rotten luck, lack of practice of contraception, and not a function of the will of God who gives life and who alone has the power to take it away, then the basis for sustaining the whole society is eroded severely."

Chapter 3- A Biological Background to Debate