April 20, 2007

And so it begins

I guess the plan is to return to this (NOW) and this (Choice Matters). Warning! Graphic image and disturbing testimony.

9:33 am - On Edit - This was a drive-by post, and I wanted to say a bit more. I want to make this very clear: I don't like abortion. If I had my druthers, there would be no women who felt that this was their only option. But...this isn't the case. In a society where health care is not a right but a privilege, where contraception is often not covered by health insurance plans or prescriptions for said contraception can be refused by pharmacists who oppose it, where single moms are often reviled for (a) living off welfare or (b) working and putting their kids in day care, where young girls are the victims of incest, where women are the victims of rape, where children are languishing in group homes and foster care waiting for someone to adopt them, I cannot see forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. And that IS what we are talking about here: forced pregnancy.

But, on the other hand, I want to have this discussion. But I want it taken to its logical conclusion. If abortion is to become a crime, then we have to determine what the criminal penalties will be for all parties involved. We cannot just lay this at the ob-gyn's feet. What criminal penalties should the women receive as well? For an idea of what this might look like, we only have to look south of the border to Chile. And guess what? Making abortion illegal doesn't stop them. It just drives them underground.

Lidia Casas, a lawyer and professor at Chile's Diego Portales University, in Santiago, says during the 1980s, Chile began a policy of prosecuting women. Between 250 and 300 cases go into the justice system per year, she says, and in 2001, around 50 people were convicted for having an abortion.

"It's mostly poor women who end up going to the hospitals for their complications of an illegal backstreet abortion and some of the doctors or the midwives working in the maternity wards used to report the women to the police right there," says Casas. The maximum penalty is five years in prison.

But despite such legal risks, Latin America continues to experience abortion rates that are much higher than most countries where it is legal.

There are an estimated 4 million abortions every year across the region. Up to 200,000 clandestine abortions take place in Chile every year--twice as many as in Canada, which has 100,000 a year--and Chile has half the population.
So, if we wish to decrease abortions in this country, lets really have a sane discussion about how to prevent the need for them in the first place.

No woman enters into this decision lightly. No woman, no matter how pro-choice she may be, would wear her abortion as a badge of honor. Abortion is the ultimate failure: of contraception, of our medical system, of our society. Women abort when they have no other options.

Let's have the discussion. And let's work toward making sure that abortion is legal, safe and rare.

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