25 March 2009


In my previous post, I told the story of an 80-pound, nine-year-old Brazilian girl who had been impregnated by her step-father. Because of her tiny size, doctors agreed she would be unable to carry one child, let alone the twins she was expecting, thus it was likely the girl would not survive her pregnancy. In Brazil, abortion is legal for rape or to save the life of the mother, so in this case an abortion was legal on both counts. The local archbishop excommunicated the girl's mother and the medical team who performed the procedure, but not the pedophile rapist, holding antiquated dogma in higher esteem than the life of an innocent 9-year-old.

Austin Cline, in his article “Vatican: Raping Child Not as Bad as Abortion to Save Child's Life”, asks: "Who still believes that the Catholic position here is to "protect" children rather than to protect male control of female bodies?"

I read several blogs supporting the decision by the Catholic Church. I can believe that a few religious zealots would allow their 9-year-old daughter to die during the pregnancy of her rapist's twins (there are parents who allow their children to die because of religious opposition to medical care or other religious beliefs) but I have to presume that most parents, religious or not, pro-life or pro-choice, would not hold their own daughter's life in such low esteem.
People have been arguing endlessly over when life begins and if abortion should or should not be legal. I understand that some people honestly oppose abortion because they believe it is a form of killing. I personally would be glad if there were never another abortion, but that isn't likely to happen, Thus, my question to those who want to make abortion illegal again is how would one enforce that law, especially 26 years after Roe vs. Wade?
I was out of college 6 years before abortion was legal. I personally know of 4 people who had illegal abortions while I was in high school, college, or into my early working life, before abortion was legal. In my Senior year of college, I was contemplating abortion when I had a miscarriage (Whew!) My miscarriage was natural, but there was a girl in my dorm who let everyone know she had “miscarriage pills” if anyone needed them. (I have no idea if there really was such a thing then or not, and if so, if they were effective or even dangerous.) Since abortion was such a taboo subject at that time, I would guess that there were many more abortions among my acquaintances than I knew nothing about.
I know that criminalizing abortions would not stop abortions, only drive them underground.
A few years before the 1973 Supreme Court decision, birth control pills were developed. We certainly have become more open about sex and therefore we talk more about means of preventing pregnancies than we had previously. As the years have passed, it has become more acceptable to be single and pregnant. (In 4 of the last 5 weddings I have attended, the bride already had a child or was visibly pregnant at the wedding.) One would think that unwanted pregnancies wouldn't happen much anymore, but they do. Yet there are some who hold onto the mistaken belief that "abstinence only" sex education will keep their children safe.
A study authorized by Congress and reported in a 2007 Washington Post article concluded: "A long-awaited national study has concluded that abstinence-only sex education, a cornerstone of the Bush administration's social agenda, does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom."
Martha Kempner, an official at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States said, "Comprehensive education means teaching about abstinence and a myriad of other topics." Among them, she said: "contraception, critical thinking, one's own values and the values of your family... Abstinence-only was an experiment and it failed."
Since people had abortions before they were legal, I can assume that women will continue having abortions even if abortion would become illegal again. Unfortunately, they will be performed by unqualified people, as I would presume few doctors would risk losing their licenses to practice medicine. Abortions would become part of the black market, performed with coat hangers or in “back alleys” by unqualified practitioners —risking many women’s lives.
Instead, I would like to see both anti-abortion and pro-choice supporters join together to reduce unwanted pregnancies. Unfortunately, those most opposed to abortion are also the most opposed to the means of preventing them —sex education and birth control —and they are the most likely to be highly religious.
In the article sited above, Austin Cline says: "If we assume that Brazil's political leadership opposes abortion because they sincerely believe it causes harm, and not because they want women to be controlled, then they should look seriously at more liberal abortion laws. The lowest abortion rates are in countries like Belgium, where abortion is readily available, where sex education is comprehensive, where contraception is widely used, and where there is a strong social safety net for young, unwed mothers. Those countries have far fewer abortions than restrictive countries like Brazil and, of course, fewer complications."
Cline doesn't think the Catholic church is sincere in its claim that its opposition to abortion is, in part, to prevent harm.
Cline continues: "When it comes to the Catholic leadership, though, I can't bring myself to credit them with simply and sincerely believing that abortion should be criminalized because of harm it causes. The policy positions they adopt are far more consistent with the goal of controlling and subordinating women to male control, not with even just reducing abortions, never mind eliminating them. When people decide that raping children is less heinous than saving children from a pregnancy that will likely kill them, then all vestiges of human decency, morality, and reasonableness have been ravaged beyond recognition."

I couldn't agree more.

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