|Written by LIT-CI|
|Monday, 01 October 2012 01:12|
Legal and secure abortion to save lives
On 28th September, 1871 the “Freedom of Womb Bill” came into force according to which, children of slaves born as from that date on were to be considered free. Oven a hundred years since the end of slavery and women keep on fighting for their democratic rights, the date 28th of September was chosen as the Latin American and Caribbean Day of the struggle for decriminalisation of Abortion.
Criminalisation does not prevent abortion…
There are many people who believe that criminalisation is the best way from stopping abortion. This is not true. When we analyse the data we arrive at the opposite conclusion. In Latin America, where abortion is regarded as a crime in most countries, the rate of abortions (abortions every thousand women) is the highest in the world. In the regions where abortion is legal, the opposite occurs: rates of abortion are the lowest.
In Latin America, only three countries legalized abortion. They are: Cuba, Mexico (only in Mexico City ) and Puerto Rico. In Uruguay, currently, a bill has been approved by the House of Representatives to ensure that “all legal adult women have the right to decide the voluntary interruption of pregnancy during the first 12 weeks of gestational process.” This is an important achievement, though still partial, since the same law establishes limitations on the exercise of that right such that women should “submit to an interdisciplinary team consisting of a gynecologist, a mental health specialist and another from the social area, to advise and suggest five days of reflection on the decision.” Even the therapeutic abortion – practised when the woman’s life is at stake – is forbidden in many countries. Such is the case of Chile, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Surinam. Last month a sad event proved what this intransigent conservative legislation can do. A 16 year old adolescent, bearer of a serious disease, died in Dominican Republic, because doctors refused to initiate a treatment against cancer.
These numbers prove that the argument commonly used by those who oppose abortion, that the legalisation of the procedure would turn abortion into a generalised practice and transform it into a contraceptive method has not passed the test of time.
… but it does jeopardise the lives of millions of women
In Latin America 4.4 million abortions take place, 95% of which are considered unsafe. About a million women are hospitalised due to complications of badly made abortion.
Abortion is the first cause of maternal mortality in Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua and Paraguay; in the remaining countries it is among the first causes. Millions of women jeopardise their lives this way.
Another commonly used anti-abortion argument is defence of life and it has already proved wrong: criminalisation kills women and does not inhibit abortion.
Who are the women who abort?
An inquest into the profile of the women who abort in Brazil shows that they are between 20 and 29 years old, have a steady couple, have been studying for up to 8 years, they are workers, Catholics, with at least 1 previous child and they use contraceptive methods. These women resort to abortion as a desperate attempt at interrupting an undesired pregnancy.
The struggle for women’s rights has its ups and downs
Latin American continent is full of popular front administrations that claim to be left but practically no headway has been achieved within the scope even if in some case women are leading these administrations. Dilma in Brazil is an emblematic example. Abortion was one of the most outstanding issues debated in the second shift when she was elected President and opted for an alliance with the most conservative sectors. She launched a written commitment (Letter to God’s People) not to modify the legislation about abortion. The process that occurs in Uruguay, where there are possibilities of decriminalizing abortion, due to a long struggle of social movements – although with some restrictions – is, unfortunately, an exception in Latin America.
The rule is that, with the global economic crisis, governments around the world are attacking the achievements on this issue. For example, in the USA, a country where abortion has been legal since 1973, Obama sent a Health reforming packet to the Congress, which includes restrictions to the use public resources for abortion. Such resources would only be allowed in case of rape of a minor or to save the life of the expectant mother. The same thing has been happening in Europe: abortion is one of the rights under the threat of austerity measures by governments that pursue the application of troika policy of cuts, as in Portugal.
We defend the right to be mother and we defend legal, safe and free abortion
Women’s right to motherhood is not fully guaranteed and neither is their right to abortion. But this reality affects rich women and poor women in very different manners. Those who can pay for it have full access to all the prenatal testing, in high quality hospitals, they can have the latest generation ultrasound and usufruct all the resources that allow her to prevent and identify diseases of mother and child.
All this is denied to a poor woman. That is why the defence of social rights such as the access to decent public health, to public schools from the very early childhood, to 6 month maternity leave, etc. is fundamental. We defend women’s right to all the conditions of being mothers when they wish to be so.
The defence of the right to abort is not an encouragement to abort. What drives women to abort is poverty and destitution they suffer. Abortion should be avoided by means of access to sexual education, free distribution of contraceptives, including the pill for the day after. But when abortion is the only way out to avoid an undesired pregnancy, women’s right to have access to it should be guaranteed within the public health system.
We cannot close our eyes to the fact that thousands of women abort. Those who can afford it, have access to it in private clandestine hospitals that collect high fees for the proceeding and make profit out of the prejudice and intolerance. Criminalisation of abortion does not safeguard life. The contrary is true: it jeopardises the lives of millions of poor women who, desperate, resort to insecure methods in order to exert their right to decide about their bodies and their future.