Thursday, August 03, 2006

"Pro-Life" Is Not About Life

This morning's required reading: Jill's guest post at The Rude Pundit about what legal abortion has meant to women in the United States, what the lack of it means to women all over the world whose lives are being compromised by U.S. international funding policies, and what the "pro-life" movement's agenda really is (hint: it's not a reverence for life). Here's an excerpt:

One of the more egregious anti-choice examples is the Global Gag Rule, a policy that is trumpeted as "pro-life" but which in fact contributes to the deaths of thousands of women every year. George W. Bush instituted the gag rule on his first day in office. It bars United States international family planning funding from contributing to any organization that so much as mentions abortion as an option to its clients, advocates for abortion rights, or performs abortions, even if they do so with their own non-U.S. funds (U.S. funds have been barred from paying for abortions abroad since the 1970s). So if a family planning organization in, say, El Salvador -- where women who terminate pregnancies go to prison for as long as 30 to 50 years, and if a botched illegal abortion requires a hysterectomy, the woman's uterus can be used in court as evidence against her -- petitions their government for abortion rights, they lose U.S. funding.

Today, 90 African women will die from illegal abortions. Ninety more will die tomorrow, and 90 more will die the day after that. While only 10% of the world's abortions happen in Africa, that continent accounts for about 50% of abortion-related deaths. One in 12 women who have abortions in Africa die. For every woman who dies, 20 to 30 women have their reproductive systems permanently damaged.

This is what happens when abortion is illegal and birth control is difficult to obtain. This is what "pro-life" policies bring.

In other countries, women go to jail for having abortions, and doctors go to jail for performing them. Because international anti-choice policies focus on marriage and abstinence, and de-fund organizations that don't tailor their programs to U.S. ideals, many women abroad lack access to information about their bodies and are unable to obtain a slew of other reproductive health services. After all, in rural areas of developing nations, the same clinic that provides information about abortion also provides HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention information, well-baby care, pre-natal care, condoms, and general healthcare. Shut down that single clinic, and you've cut out all of those services in the name of "life."

But it's become fairly apparent that "life" has very little to do with being "pro-life." After all, Viagra kills a whole lot more people who use it than RU-486, or the "abortion pill" (not to be confused with emergency contraception, the "morning-after pill") does. For that matter, so does childbirth. And one would imagine that if we wanted to lower the abortion rate, the best way to do that would be to prevent unintended pregnancies from occuring in the first place. We all know that dictating that everyone should wait until marriage to have sex isn't going to work -- as far as I'm aware, there has never been a society in all of human history in which that method succeeded in preventing fornication. But certain modern societies have been very good at decreasing the abortion rate. Belguim, the Netherlands, and various other northern European countries have the lowest abortion rates in the world -- and some of the most permissive abortion laws. Their secret? Sex education starting very early. Accessible and affordable contraception. Fewer taboos around human sexuality.

By contrast, a country like Brazil has one of the highest abortion rates in the world -- higher than the United States. And the procedure is illegal there.

No comments: