My response was too long to post as a reply, so I had to start a new topic...I apologize for the length.
My opinion, for what it's worth (I hope I'm not being too blunt or candid):
When I think of the issue of abortion I think of a few other hot topic issues.
This is such a controversial subject here in the U.S. and in my family (my mom's mother died giving birth to her 8th child because she would not abort and her child died shortly after).
A lot of conservative Christians in the U.S. oppose teaching children about contraceptives as part of the sex education curriculum in schools, which usually occurs around 7th grade. One side of my family leans this way and from their point of view, when I've asked them, they strongly believe that to teach about contraceptives will only give children more of an incentive to engage in premarital sex. I don't know if there have been studies to actually support their views or alternative views on this, but I'm always of the opinion that knowledge is a good thing.
I think there's another side to it, at least with my family. If a woman gets pregnant outside of marriage there is a natural consequence. The thought being that as a result of our sinning, we face consequences, pregnancy being one of them. So, by teaching about contraceptives, we are therefore interfering with the consequence of sin. I don't personally believe pregnancy is the main consequence of pre-marital sex.
Regardless of whether our children learn about these things in school or not, they will learn about them at home. And, I actually prefer them hearing it from me first. I also plan to teach Safina about how to track her own unique cycle (something Ashish says he didn't even learn about in Medical school). I will use my life and my experience to hopefully prepare our children for what they will surely face growing up.
Contraceptives is one side of the issue - cultural mores is another. In the U.S., I believe women have more power to insist on using contraceptives to prevent 'unwanted' pregnancies. When I was working for World Relief, I learned how so many women around the world don't have this choice! The AIDS epidemic in Africa being a significant consequence of this. So, while teaching about abstinence before marriage works, for the most part, in the U.S. it doesn't always work in other parts of the world.
You can imagine the controversy of working for a Christian aid organization in the U.S. that follows the president's emergency plan for AIDS relief (ABC's) - abstinence, be faithful and correct and consistent condom usage.
Trying to gain financial support for this program was, and probably continues to be, a huge barrier!
So, I think the issue of contraceptives plays into the whole of the abortion debate.
I feel even more strongly that if women were truly given a choice, we would see a significant drop in abortions. I feel this way, especially with women who get pregnant young, are not married and are either homeless or are a few nights away. Really what choice do they have?
My grandma must have been an incredibly strong woman because she went home knowing when she was pregnant with her child that if she carried the baby to term she would most indefinitely die! What courage and conviction! She had a choice, a choice I cannot even fathom. Her choice left 7 children motherless and the ripple effects of that are seen to this day. But she made the choice. My grandfather wanted to abort.
I think this is why I love the organization our church supports, Robin's Nest! They are just a transitional home for young, unwed pregnant women, but they provide women with a choice! It's such a small, but to me, profound effort. And, all of the woman who have gone through the program have 'chosen' to keep their babies. They were taken to all of their prenatal check-ups, they were fed, had shelter for them and their babies, AND provided with resources to help them support themselves and their child after labor and delivery (things like job training, etc.)
I think it's so easy to talk the talk when it comes to abortion and in the U.S., at least, put a bumper sticker on our car saying we're PRO-LIFE. And, criticize and condemn. But, what are we really doing to prevent even the assumed 'need' for abortions. I strongly believe that in many ways the church in the U.S. is turning a blind eye to the root of the issue.
This couple who takes pregnant women in, take them in to their own home. I can't even begin to tell you how counter-cultural that is here in the U.S.
And, maybe it's just me, though I've talked with so many women about this - but if women truly had a choice, they wouldn't choose abortion.
Well, there's my two cents for what it's worth. I haven't had a chance to look at Obama's speech, yet. And, I probably didn't respond to Pradeep's question for the medical community - that's a whole other dicey topic. Maybe I'll let Ashish contribute to that side of the issue...
Love to you all,