Criminalization of Abortion Kills Women
Abortion is often referred to as a demonic practice that consists in taking away the lives of innocent children. For example, in the article “Why is abortion immoral,” Don Marquis, a professor of philosophy at the University of Kansas, states that what makes abortion wrong is that it deprives unborn children from enjoying future experiences of life. According to this view, legalizing abortion is one of the greatest misfortunes because it exterminates the unborn child’s opportunity to value the experience of living and to desire the continuity of this experience. Human beings have the inherent right to life regardless of their stage of development, Marquis claims. By that he means that the life and future of a fetus are identical to those of any human being. It is argued that every legislative system should adopt restrictive abortion laws to protect the lives of unborn children.
Marquis and others claim that abortion violates the right to life and that such practice should be strictly prohibited in order to protect the life of the unborn child. The problem with this categorical position is that the legalization of abortion does not increase abortion rates. Instead, it prevents women from accessing 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 tragically cause a tacit form of discrimination in which women who live in poor communities are more likely to die as a result of unsafe abortion.
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. The problem is whether the solution proposed, the establishment of restrictive abortion laws, successfully prevents abortions from happening or not. 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. 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. Restrictive abortion laws are ineffective as preventive laws and it is necessary to get rid of the misconception that liberalizing abortion laws instantly increases abortion rates.
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. Restrictive abortion laws fail to protect human life because they expose many women to death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), restrictive abortion laws lead women to access clandestine abortion. Unfortunately, around 20 million unsafe abortions are performed annually, resulting in approximately 80,000 maternal deaths. Maternal mortality resulting from unsafe abortion is somehow an implicit consequence of restrictive abortion laws; in other words, these laws implicitly cause the discontinuation of the experience of living for many women. 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. If the criminalization of abortion is useless as a preventive mechanism and it is also the cause of additional deaths, restrictive abortion laws might not be worth.
Criminalization of abortion generates outrageous situations where women risk their lives accessing clandestine procedures and even performing self-induced abortion. 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. According to Susana Lerner and Agnès Guillaume, a study conducted in the poorest rural areas of Latin America nations 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. pp. 1-14.