Restrictive abortion laws, a fatal epidemic that threatens the integrity of women. Some of the negative consequences derived from restrictive abortion laws are not exposed in their most obvious nature; instead, this epidemic can affect society silently. When these laws are exposed in their most abstract existence, their degree of destruction can be as great as that of a natural disaster that occurs in the most unexpected manner. Isn’t it difficult to control a phenomenon that appears to be so invisible to society? Restrictive abortion laws are an abstract form of exclusion that affects specific groups of women in relation to their socio-economic strata. These laws are implicit demonstrations of discrimination themselves because of their tacit approval to categorize the value of a woman’s life depending on her socio-economic class.
The exclusion of low-income women from getting access to safe abortion results in a tremendous social injustice, one that puts their lives at risk in a demeaning manner. According to Susana Lerner and Agnès Guillaume, studies show that around 50% of induced abortions result in fatal complications. Most of these cases specifically victimize women belonging to disadvantaged social classes since those who belong to higher socio-economic status are able to finance safe abortions. It is important to emphasize that many of these complications result in increasements in maternal mortality rates, which means that low-income women who access clandestine procedures are more likely to face death than those with financial stability. When it comes to access to health insurance, poor communities tend to be the most vulnerable. This is because in many developing countries the health system works differently in the public health service than in the private one. It means that poor communities benefit less from the health system than the more affluent population. Because public health service is manipulated and controlled by the government and its programs, the health service provided to the most vulnerable communities is affected by social and political problems such as corruption, the practice in which the rich get richer by taking advantage of the vulnerability of the poor. Hence, it is valid to affirm that corruption contributes to a great extent to the inefficiency that can be seen in the lack of budget execution in public health services. Once again, it seems that the social, economic, and political status in which a person belong to act as labels that define the amount of resources available.
Women who belong to low socio-economic classes have the right to access safe abortion. According to Friday Okonofua, “In countries with restrictive abortion laws, abortion services by skilled providers are often too expensive to be affordable and accessible to women of low socio-economic status.” Restrictive abortion laws are in theory discriminatory laws that implicitly favor specific groups of people, which in this case are the ones who have financial stability. Our society is hierarchical, which means that certain groups of people are most vulnerable with respect to various social, cultural, educational, and political issues. This hierarchy generates social inequality that inevitably aggravates the conditions of the most vulnerable groups of people, depriving them of their fundamental rights. Social inequality in economic matters triggers multiple problems that end up affecting the harmonious development of society. Restrictive abortion laws illustrate social inequality in its maximum expression because they provoke discriminatory treatment to certain groups of people, while benefiting other social classes.
Different from the common belief, abortion legalization has nothing to do with abortion rates. On the contrary, it has a relationship with maternal mortality rates. In the article “Las adversas consecuencias de la legislación restrictiva sobre el aborto: argumentos y evidencias empíricas en la literatura latinoamericana,” the authors claim that about 73% of women who live in poor areas in Latin American countries and want to terminate their pregnancy, either practice abortion themselves nor access clandestine procedures. Imagine the risk that these women take when undergoing this type of brutal practices. It is absurd that despite the fact that some Latin-American governments with restrictive abortion laws are aware of these barbarous situations, they do not have the political will to legalize abortion. Nothing should be more valuable than human life, in the same way that there are no excuses for people belonging to medium or high classes to have access to more opportunities and resources than those in economic disadvantage. It should be considered that, unfortunately, differences in terms of levels of poverty or social exclusion that often determine who can have greater access to health services in society. There cannot be compliance with human rights if there is unequal access to health services. Women should have the right to access safe abortion, which should be considered a fundamental principle that represents social justice.
On the one hand, the sense of integrating human rights into society is in some way to ensure that all human beings receive equal dignity regardless of the different social, racial and economic environments that surround them. Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian activist, once said, “I have no right to more than I need when my brother has less than he needs.” Life is priceless, and countries that adopt restrictive abortion laws are indirectly putting life in the market so that those who belong to medium and high socio-economic status are the ones who can afford it. Restrictive abortion laws are pure demonstrations of how the lives of women with financial disadvantages are denigrated because of the economic class to which they belong. Clearly, humanity has reached the point where money and wealth are above everything, including life. Social injustice has become a phenomenon that accompanies us in our daily basis without being perceived. injustice is something outrageous. Human beings have dignity and deserve respect and dignified treatment, regardless of origins, beliefs or social status.
Lerner, S., & Guillaume, A. (n.d.). Las adversas consecuencias de la legislación restrictiva sobre el aborto: Argumentos y evidencias empíricas en la literatura latinoamericana. Retrieved from http://www.alapop.org/alap/images/DOCSFINAIS_PDF/ALAP_2008_FINAL_197.pdf
Okonofua, F. “Abortion and Maternal Mortality in the Developing World”. J Obstet Gynaecol Can, 2006;28(11):974–979