If the purpose of restrictive abortion laws is to protect life, something might not be working as it was expected. For centuries, many women who have the will to terminate their pregnancy, regardless of their motives, have desperately looked for, and consequently found a variety of resources that allow them to access procedures that satisfy their needs. The degree of difficulty for women who access this type of procedures depends on different variables such as the legislative system that surrounds them, the religious and social influence on them, and especially the socio-economic class in which they belong to. Unfortunately, socio-economic status ends up being a great determinant to access safe abortion. Restrictive abortion laws are abstract forms of social injustice themselves that degrades the integrity of women by putting their lives in the market, one in which people belonging to high social classes are more likely to have access to it.
It is understandable that some countries around the world, especially Latin American countries, adopt restrictive abortion laws in an attempt to reduce abortion rates. However, it seems that it is still necessary to take into account some of the negative effects triggered by these laws that end up being excluded from the whole picture. Restrictive abortion laws act as doses that control the symptoms of an epidemic without exterminating it and also cause the development of a lethal plague, abortion-related deaths. By that it is meant that restrictive abortion laws do not necessarily reduce abortion rates, on the contrary, they increase the rates of clandestine abortions in countries with restrictive abortion laws. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the lowest abortion rates -5.5 abortions per 1,000 women per year- belong to The Netherlands, a country that does not adopt restrictive abortion laws and allows women to access free abortion resources. The legislation of abortion does not automatically ensure that more women will access to these procedures, at least it makes sure that women access safe and dignified abortion.
Restrictive legislation of abortion is related to higher rates of clandestine abortion, which as a collateral consequence causes increments in abortion-related deaths. High priority of the legislative and political system should be given to the access to a decent and affordable health system instead of implicitly compelling women to decide between life and death. Instead of criminalizing legal abortion, among the most important objectives is to ensure that women have access to a health system that protects them from accessing medical procedures that threaten their lives and their integrity in society. If restrictive abortion laws are completely abolished from the legislative system of the countries that adopt them, women would no longer be forced to seek a way to access unsafe abortions that can result in monstrous situations for them and their families. To be more specific, clandestine abortions could lead women to death.
Increasing legal access to abortion prevents women from risking their lives during clandestine procedures. According to Iqbal Shah, a Research Scientist in the Department of Global Health and Population in Harvard,and Elisabeth Ahman, a specialized researcher in human reproduction, around 192 women die every day due to medical difficulties that arise from clandestine abortion in developing countries. Because restrictive abortion laws make it difficult for women to access safe abortion, an approximate of four women die every half an hour in an attempt to terminate their pregnancy through unsafe abortion. This is exactly where restrictive abortion laws are failing to protect the value of human life. In an ideal society, women would not consider abortion regardless of their motives. However, we live in a defective society, one where there is social inequality, injustice, and war. Our society is not perfect from every angle, thousands of women have sought and will continue to seek access to clandestine abortions regardless of their legal status.
Restrictive abortion laws cause women to access unsafe abortions and involve an enormous, but tacit discriminatory dilemma that affects more women who belong to lower social classes than those belonging to higher socio-economic classes. Think about it in this way, making abortion illegal means that appropriate trained personnel are not allowed to perform this type of procedures because otherwise they would put at risk their professional career. Because illegally performing these procedures implies serious consequences for professional medical personnel, these providers are likely to ask for great amounts of money that motivate them enough to make an agreement with women who need access to illegal, but safe abortions. In other words, women who are part of a society with restrictive abortion laws only have access to safe procedures as long as they have something to offer in return.
It is not a secret that money has become one of the most effective strategies to corrupt human beings. Being this the case, money is needed when it comes to convincing reliable personnel to perform illegal, but safe abortions. Women who belong to high socio-economic classes are more likely to access safe abortions due to their financial status, a privilege that only a specific portion of the world population enjoys. According to Susana Lerner and Agnès Guillaume, around 71% of the Peruvian women who experience fatal medical complications derived from clandestine abortions live in poor rural and urban areas while the remaining percentage, 29%, leads to women who belong to high socio-economic classes. Women belonging to low social classes are more exposed to serious health consequences related to clandestine abortions than those of high socio-economic status. Apparently, the amount of money you have defines how valuable your life is for society. Social inequality makes life to look like an object that is offered in an auction, one in which the person who has more money to offer is the one who has the privilege to own it. Restrictive abortion laws are some of the most abstract representations of social exclusion that silently affects women, especially those living in poor conditions.
Lerner, S., & Guillaume, A. (n.d.). Las adversas consecuencias de la legislación restrictiva sobre el aborto: Argumentos y evidencias empíricas en la literatura latinoamericana.
Shah, I., and Elisabeth Ahman. “Unsafe Abortion: Global and Regional Incidence, Trends, Consequences, and Challenges.” Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2009.
World Health Organization (WHO), (1998), Unsafe abortion: global and regional estimates of incidence of unsafe abortion and associated mortality, Ginebra, WHO.