Undesired Pregnancies and Women's Right to Abortion
by Dr. Nelson Soucasaux, Brazilian gynecologist
The instinctive dualism between the rejection of pregnancy and the desire
to become pregnant is a very special feature of the extremely ambiguous
situation typical of women's nature and constitution. The problems related
to the confrontation between women's two halves, the aphrodisiac side and
the maternal instinct (their demetric side), are extremely complex, so the
existence of a conflict here is perfectly understandable. (For more details
on this subject, see my article "The Possibility
of Becoming Pregnant, its Implications for Women and Abortion,"
published here at the MUM.)
Female eroticism is, to a considerable extent, self-eroticism, and related
to the woman's body itself and to its aesthetics, and possessing a strong
narcissist component. Women are concerned with the preservation of their
aesthetics and the shape and fitness of their bodies. The great care with
which women beautify themselves clearly demonstrates this fact. On the other
hand, for the fulfillment of the maternal instinct, a considerable sacrifice
of the female body is demanded (not to mention the other implications and
problems resulting from motherhood in other areas of women's lives). From
my point of view, the main reason for women's ambiguity between desiring
and rejecting pregnancy lies just here.
It is an undeniable medical fact that pregnancy and child birth
greatly damage women because, besides the physiological overcharge and even
the risk of death they cause, they distort their bodies and stretch their
tissues, which do not always return to normal during and after puerperium.
This fact conflicts with the great female effort to preserve the aesthetics,
the shape and the health of their bodies. From the corporeal point of view,
pregnancy and childbirth do not benefit women in almost anything except
for some reduction on the incidence of breast cancer (See Note
1 below). In fact, they are much more prejudicial, since they necessarily
imply considerable anatomic and physiological "aggression" to
The aforementioned duality of female attitudes regarding avoiding and
desiring pregnancy has several consequences both on women's lives and gynecologic
practice. Among them we can mention the irregular use of contraceptives,
the occurrence of conflicting pregnancies and the problem of abortion.
Let's talk about abortion.
I consider the right to the interruption of undesired pregnancies, that
is, the right to abortion, a fundamental right of women. This right is related
to the self-preservation of the female body against the arduous sacrifices
that gestation and childbirth impose upon it. I think that the so frequently
debated rights of the embryo cannot prevail over the rights of the woman
who houses it inside her body - a body that has to be considerably sacrificed
so that the embryo can develop and be born - especially if this happens
against her will. The physically injurious aspects of pregnancy and childbirth
for women are always ignored by those who, many times with fanaticism, are
against the legalization of abortion or discriminate against it. Nevertheless,
as I said above, these physical injuries are a medical fact, a
medical reality, and all of us gynecologists know them quite well.
We live in a culture that excessively mythicizes the "wonders"
of motherhood and tries not to see its negative side - and everything in
life has its positive and negative sides. In spite of its pleasant, fulfilling
and constructive aspects when it is fully desired, pregnancy has a harmful
side. What I am about to say may be shocking, but, biologically (and naturally),
the embryo invades and plunders the woman's body. And birth is a violent
event not only for the mother but also for the child (See Note
A woman has to desire very much to be a mother if she is up to tolerating
willingly and with satisfaction all of the sacrifices and risks inherent
to pregnancy and parturition and if she is up to receiving the child with
Besides this aspect of the preservation of the female body against the
"natural aggressions" of pregnancy, there are all of the
other reasons that have been much discussed by everybody and that, in my
opinion, also give women the perfect and entire right to abortion. However,
it seems to me that the facts emphasized here (often forgotten or not correctly
conceptualized by most of those who debate the issue) are the ones that
can finally put an end to the debate, recognizing once and for all this
fundamental right of women regarding their bodies.
Faced with the accidental occurrence of an undesired gestation, abortion
is the only way a woman has to preserve herself against the corporeal aggressions
of a pregnancy. In such a situation, considering the very peculiar biological
situation of the embryo, its rights cannot prevail over those of the woman
who carries it inside her body.
For a pregnancy that is left to evolve under conditions of strong rejection,
I would like to emphasize that the implications of this fact for the child
who will be born are also considerable and, therefore, should not be neglected.
Unfortunately, this is another aspect that those who oppose women's right
to abortion naively or tendentiously often forget.
The absence of awareness of this natural ambiguous situation between
the rejection of pregnancy and the desire to become pregnant by most women
has several consequences in gynecologic practice. Among them are: 1) the
incorrect use of contraceptives with all of its consequent worries, creating
many difficulties for a safe, calm and pleasant sexual life; 2) the frequent
occurrence of undesired pregnancies (or desired on the one hand and rejected
on the other, consciously or unconsciously) that have to be solved
through abortion; 3) the problems resulting from pregnancies that are left
to evolve under strong rejection and, consequently, in adverse emotional
Note 1: It is well known that, according
to several statistical studies, women who have more than two or three children
- mostly if the first gestation takes place earlier in life - have a minor
incidence of breast cancer. From the corporeal point of view, this seems
to be the only beneficial aspect of pregnancy to women. This relative protection
is due to the specific hormonal patterns of pregnancy. Even so, given the
high incidence of the disease, the number of women with children who develop
breast cancer is also enormous.
Note 2: As to the traumatic aspects of
pelvic parturition for children, see Stanislav Grof's studies on the "perinatal
matrixes of the unconscious." According to Grof, they consist of unconscious
psychological contents clearly related to the phases of childbirth blended
with archetypal and mythological elements, and are detected at deep psychical
research (Grof, S.: "Beyond the Brain - Birth, Death and Transcendence
in Psychotherapy," University of New York, Albany, 1985).
The text above is an adapted excerpt from my book "Novas Perspectivas
em Ginecologia" ("New Perspectives in Gynecology"), published
by Imago Editora, Rio de Janeiro, 1990, and also a further development of
my article "The Possibility of Becoming Pregnant,
its Implications for Women and Abortion," published here at the
MUM. For more information on "Novas Perspectivas em Ginecologia,"
see page http://www.nelsonginecologia.med.br/novas.htm , at my web
Copyright Nelson Soucasaux 1990, 2004.
Nelson Soucasaux is a gynecologist dedicated to clinical, preventive
and psychosomatic gynecology. Graduated in 1974 by Faculdade de Medicina
da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he is the author of several
articles published in medical journals and of the books "Novas Perspectivas
em Ginecologia" ("New Perspectives in Gynecology")
and "Os Órgãos Sexuais Femininos: Forma, Função,
Símbolo e Arquétipo" ("The Female Sexual Organs:
Shape, Function, Symbol and Archetype"), published by Imago Editora,
Rio de Janeiro, 1990, 1993. He has been working in his private clinic since
Web site (Portuguese-English): www.nelsonginecologia.med.br