Restrictive Abortion Laws, More of a Hindrance Than a Help
Restrictive abortion laws, a solution that fails to exterminate its principal target and causes the appearance of monstrous phenomena in society. Due to its controversial nature, abortion has divided society in terms of differences of opinion. Many people who are against abortion have pointed out that abortion violates the right to life and that such practice should be strictly prohibited under all circumstances in order to protect the life of the unborn child. Different from common belief, the legalization of abortion does not increase abortion rates. Instead, it prevents women from accessing to clandestine procedures that expose them to death. Even when restrictive abortion laws exist, innumerable unsafe abortions are performed regardless of their legal and hygienic settings. Such laws fail to protect human life and causes a tacit form of discrimination in which women who live in poor communities are more likely to die as a result of unsafe abortion.
Some people believe that restrictive abortion laws are the most effective solution to evade abortion practices and to protect the right to life. For others, restrictive abortion laws are ineffective political and social regulations that fail to protect human life and are unable of preventing women from accessing abortion regardless of their legal status. In the article “Why is abortion immoral,” Don Marquis, a professor of philosophy at the University of Kansas, states that abortion is a pure representation of murder in which the person who takes away the life of the unborn child is brutalized. For him and many others, the legalization of abortion causes an immoral situation in which human life is devaluated. If the main objective of establishing restrictive abortion laws is to protect human life, it is necessary to take into account not only the life of the unborn child, but also the life of the mother. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), restrictive abortion laws lead women to access clandestine abortion. Around 20 million unsafe abortions are performed annually, resulting in approximately 80,000 maternal deaths. Restrictive abortions laws fail to represent ethics and morality because of their abstract nature of putting in danger women’s lives. The fact that the maternal mortality resulting from unsafe abortion is somehow an implicit consequence of restrictive abortion laws mean that these laws kills millions of women every year. This phenomenon must stop being invisible to society and must be taken into account when adopting restrictive abortion laws. It is a matter of comprehending that establishing restrictive abortion laws increases the exposure of women to death during clandestine procedures.
It is undeniable that the ideal situation would be that abortion was part of fantasy. However, these situations occur in real life even if restrictive abortion laws exist. According to Susana Lerner and Agnès Guillaume, approximately 19 million unsafe abortions were carried out outside the legal system in the 2000’s. Among these clandestine procedures, it is estimated that about 4 million induced abortions were performed in Latin American countries, regions that present the highest abortion rates and where restrictive abortion laws are more severe. Restrictive abortions laws do not ensure the disappearance of abortion practices in society. It is estimated that abortion rates in Chile, Argentina, and Peru, countries where abortion is severely penalized, indicate that about 50 abortions are carried out for every one thousand pregnant women. At the same time, the abortion rates corresponding to countries with more liberal abortion laws, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland, show that for every one thousand women in pregnancy, about 10, or less, abortions are performed. The problem is whether the solution proposed, the establishment of restrictive abortion laws, successfully prevents abortions from happening or not. If the criminalization of abortion is useless as a preventive mechanism and it is also the cause of additional deaths, restrictive abortion laws are not worth. To picture how ineffective restrictive abortion laws are, it is necessary to get rid of the misconception that liberalizing abortion laws instantly results in increasements in abortion rates.
Criminalization of abortion generates outrageous situations where women risk their lives accessing clandestine procedures and even performing self-induced abortion. Because there are no indications that abortion rates decreases with the establishment of restrictive abortion laws, it is more likely that unsafe abortion rates will increase exposing women to death, especially those who belong to the lower social classes. Making abortion illegal creates an implicit situation of social injustice where women who belong to the highest social classes are more likely to access safe abortions because they can afford these procedures regardless of their legal status. A study conducted in the poorest rural areas of Nigeria, Asia, and Latin America indicates that about 73% of women who are part of the most marginalized communities practice self-induced abortions or obtain abortions from non-professional medical personnel. In their state of desperation to end unwanted pregnancies, many women belonging to poor communities are even willing to poison themselves. Lisa Haddad and Nawal Nour state, “Unsafe abortion methods include drinking toxic fluids such as turpentine, bleach, or drinkable beverages mixed with livestock manure.” Being this the case, in its attempt to protect and highlight the value of human life, restrictive abortion laws in fact are putting life itself at risk and creating a space of economic exclusion in which the lives of low-income women seem to be less valuable than the lives of those who belong to high socio-economic classes.
Don Marquis (1989).”Why abortion is immoral,” The Journal of Philosophy. pp. 183-202. Retrieved from http://faculty.polytechnic.org/gfeldmeth/45.marquis.pdf
Haddad LB, Nour NM. Unsafe abortion: unnecessary maternal mortality. Rev Obstetric Gynecol. 2009;2(2):122
Lerner, S., & Guillaume, A. (n.d.). Las adversas consecuencias de la legislación restrictiva sobre el aborto: Argumentos y evidencias empíricas en la literatura latinoamericana.
World Health Organization (WHO), (1998), Unsafe abortion: global and regional estimates of incidence of unsafe abortion and associated mortality, Ginebra, WHO.
Warriner IK and Shah IH, eds., Preventing Unsafe Abortion and its Consequences: Priorities for Research and Action, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2006.