Philobiblon: 70,000 dead women - the toll of man-made law on abortion

Monday, February 06, 2006

70,000 dead women - the toll of man-made law on abortion

The International Planned Parenthood Federation estimates 19 million women worldwide will have an unsafe abortion in 2006; a similar number took this risky step last year - 70,000 died. This accounts for 13 per cent of the 500,000 maternal deaths each year, the federation's report, Death and Denial: Unsafe Abortion and Poverty, released today, says.

Just meditate on that number of a minute - 70,000 women a year, every year. That's twenty-six 9/11s, every year. Man-made and man-dictated laws are killing that many women every year. Of course they are poor, almost all in poor countries, hence almost invisible. You might call it a gender war.

And of course the toll goes further, in illnesses, disability and infertility. Take just one example from the federation report:

Sarawati, a 37 year old health care worker from India said: "I wish this method [medical abortion] was available when I was young and had an unwanted pregnancy. I went to a Dai [traditional healer] because I did not want to have surgery done by the male doctor; I had pain and fever for many days. I never could get pregnant after that, and my husband left me."

But, the so-called pro-lifers will say, the laws are saving "babies". Well actually what they are acting on are bundles of cells or fetuses, but anyway, they are not "saving" them. For as the federation report says:

Punitive legal measures and restricting access to safe abortion do not reduce the incidence of abortion; they just make it more dangerous. The result is that more women suffer. Not surprisingly, it is the poorest women - women least able to pay for any minimal level of care - who end up paying the highest price.
... Colombia, which prohibits abortion even to save a woman’s life, averages one abortion per woman throughout her reproductive years. In Peru, this rises to an average of two abortions per woman."

The US government is complicit in many of the deaths worldwide, having forced the closure of clinics and forced others to avoid all mention of safe abortion options. This "global gag" rule, imposed by Bush in 2001, requires any organisation wanting US funds to sign an undertaking not to counsel women on abortion - other than advising against it - or provide abortion services.

Of course the other institution most responsible is the Catholic Church, both through the successive Popes' attitude to birth control - which makes a good number of these abortions necessary in the first place - and its refusal to coutenance abortion.

There is, however, some good news. Tony Blair has for once managed to detach himself from Bush's lead and the Guardian reports that the British government is to provide the IPPF with funds to at least partially replace the lost US money and increase the availability of safe abortions.

The Department for International Development will contribute £3m over two years. DFID and the IPPF - whose clinics across the world have suffered badly - hope that others, particularly the Scandinavians, Dutch and Canadians, will be emboldened to put money in too.
"I think the UK is being very brave and very progressive in making this commitment," said Steven Sinding, director general of the IPPF. "We're deeply grateful for this gesture not only financially but also politically."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that you blame anti-abortion laws for the deaths of women "forced" to have unsafe abortions. Also the fact that you point out how women in some countries actually have an average of one or two abortions per woman in her lifetime! That in itself is shocking to me. Even more shocking is that you think that is OK. If abortions were legal, how many would they have then? Birth control or heaven forbid abstainning from the behavior that leads to pregnancy in the first place could never be an option in your eyes. You people make me sick! You will reap your just rewards when you meet your maker.

2/06/2006 03:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious. You say man made and man dictated laws are killing women, as if abortion was somehow natural and not also man made. hy don't you count up the number of legal abortions performed every year. How many 911's does that add up to?

2/06/2006 03:37:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

The very point of the report is that these abortions happen whether they are legal or not. And lack of access to birth control is why lots of these happen.

On the second point, assuming Mr/Ms Anonymous you are the same person, abortion is indeed "natural". Nature, or if you prefer, as I suspect you might, "God", aborts about half of the eggs fertilised.

I suspect you'd call yourself pro-life. What about a poor woman in a poverty-stricken country with a handful of children already, who she can't feed properly. If she chooses not to have an abortion, all of them will suffer, perhaps die. What should she do?

2/06/2006 05:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've often wondered what the anti-choice people think will happen if they outlaw abortion.

I've come to realize that some of them actually think abortions will end. How ridiculous.

The only way to force women not to self-abort is to lock them up during their pregnancy. What a glorious vision, thousands of pregnant women locked in jail and forced to give birth against their will.

And how can you know who is really pregnant? We are going to have to start monitoring women's periods. Perhaps volunteer watchdogs will be assigned to each neighborhood to make sure that every woman show proof of her current menstrual status.

Abortion will never be completely outlawed in this country. It's not going to happen. The childish thinking that leads these people to believe it will be outlawed is the same type of thinking that believes the President would never lie to us, or men are smarter than women.

2/06/2006 10:03:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Well said. And if you do lock up all those women and force them to give birth, what will you do with the babies?

2/06/2006 10:07:00 pm  
Blogger Alun said...

Where can I apply to join "you people"?

2/06/2006 11:54:00 pm  
Blogger Alun said...

Sorry, I've tried to think of a more substantive comment, but I'm still shocked both by the posting and by the responses. I'm surprised that a religious person like Anonymous #1 would advocate anal sex, which I assume would qualify as "abstainning from the behavior that leads to pregnancy". I agree that contraceptives would be the better option. I don't believe that women prefer abortion to contraceptives.

I'm amazed that Anonymous #2 could even post a comment. Last time I looked computers weren't natural and certainly are man made, which appears to be a bad thing. He certainly is a curious individual.

Still if a post makes rude and obnoxious people sick then it must be a good thing.

2/07/2006 12:19:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Thanks Alun.

2/07/2006 12:38:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious. You say man made and man dictated laws are killing women, as if abortion was somehow natural and not also man made.

In fact most abortions are natural and occur spontaneously.

If that involved real walking talking children then it would be the largest medical emergency in all of recorded history.

Yet even the "pro-life" just shrug.

Just another datapoint among many that show that the "pro-life" don't care about 'children' nearly as much as they pretend.

2/13/2006 09:17:00 pm  
Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

That was me, above...not sure why it posted anonymously.

2/13/2006 09:23:00 pm  

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