“The assault on Planned Parenthood is unjustified. It is penny-wise and pound foolish. The law strictly and clearly prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion services. The Republicans’ elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood, will in the end cost more than it saves by ending the ability of millions of American women to receive family planning services, breast and cervical cancer screenings and preventative healthcare at cost-efficient Planned Parenthood centers. And the denial of simple birth control and family planning services may well increase both the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in our country.”
- Bill Clinton
American women have lost a great deal of freedom in the past few weeks. All across the USA various states are planning to either reduce funding to bodies such as Planned Parenthood or to try and make abortions more difficult to perform and obtain. Most recently, South Dakota has passed laws to reduce the period of abortion to just 20 weeks. Women have to undergo a series of unnecessary and traumatic procedures just to decide what to do with their own bodies.
In addition the Republican majority has voted to cease funding Planned Parenthood, a service that is a provider of female health services such as cheap obstetrics and gynaecology programmes, vaccination and child wellness information, contraception and abortion. It also encourages breast examination and scanning for breast cancer. You can claim it is cost cutting but these programs save money in the long run by prevention of disease rather than cures.
The arguments boil down to the presence of a human soul. Some say it’s divinely manifest to human beings at birth. Others specify an arbitrary month from which the baby is considered alive. I say it’s an illusionary concept brought on by the wish that we could live forever. The soul is the idea that our consciousness can transcend death and live forever maintaining our experiences and personalities. However, we know that it’s just an illusion brought on by the complexity of our brain and the fact that we are self aware. Our personalities, our thoughts our experience are all part of the hardware of our brains, consisting of millions of neurons. We know that damage to these neurons changes our personality and our ability to control our body. The human soul is sadly wishful thinking and the desire to preserve our mind beyond death, an extension of the desire to live forever and escape the failure of flesh.
An abortion is a terrible thing; in an ideal world we wouldn’t need any. No woman WANTS an abortion unless necessary. The people deciding the fate of women’s reproductive health are men who have no idea of the thought that goes into an abortion and the cost of said abortion on the woman’s body and indeed on her own psyche. Not to mention they have no idea of the cost they are now forcing women to pay by forcing them to term and making them jump through the various hoops in a decision that is already difficult. Making it more difficult just hurts women rather than saving the children.
The men who support this movement do so often out of blind faith or worse without understanding the issues. The women who support the pro-life movement often cannot see a reason why any other woman would choose to end a foetus’s potential life. It’s a movement of privilege and of a lack of perspective in the reality of the world.
However we do have a world where there are some countries where abortion is illegal and sex education are talked of in hushed tones and in the words of abstinence rather than contraception and rhythm methods rather than the oral contraceptive pill. It is from here we can see what a world with no access to tested sex education and contraceptions is really like.
Internationally, the struggle for abortion rights continues. From 1994 onwards the right to abortion has been regarded as part of the Reproductive Health and Rights as laid out at the International Conference on Population and Development. It is estimated that roughly 19 million non-medical abortions a year occur and that roughly 13% of maternal deaths are due to such an abortion. In addition there are huge medical bills generated by treating women who have had complications from such an abortion. Across most of the world little priority is given to reducing unplanned pregnancy and reducing unsafe abortions by increasing contraception and education. In fact in a lot of the world there exist entities that seeks to prevent such information, most famously the Catholic Church.
Specifically in the Philippines, where the catholic church’s campaign to ban contraception and active campaigns to prevent their use also coincide with a massive anti-abortion drive with the provision of medical abortions being illegal.
· In the next 30 years, it’s estimated that the population in the Philippines will double to 170 million people. In perspective this is half the population of the USA on an area of land slightly smaller than Italy.
· It is estimated that 35% live in the slums and below the poverty line. Often living on rubbish dumps and in landfill sites and with little to no hope of a solid income. Starvation is common with many families eating less than 3 meals a day.
· Close to 40% of the population are under 15 and this demography is rising. Many families have more than two children.
· A doctor is required to prescribe contraceptives and can chose to not do so. Doctors are often encourage
d to tell their patients to use catholic approved methodology both by their churches and by their superiors and many government clinics ban dispensation of condoms. However many doctors provide such services illegally.
· The church believes that there is no real problem with this even proudly stating that because of the huge population, the Philippines is a major source of man power the world over. Many politicians in the government believe this and enforce bans to encourage the pro life movement. The Philippines actually has a problem where there are insufficient local jobs forcing the economy to be reliant on overseas investment from it’s own nationals.
· They are less forthcoming about the treatment of the Philippine people in the Middle-East where they are often treated as little better than slaves or whether a population export business is really sustainable in the long run.
For the American Religious Right Wing, it has become a testing ground for their hypothesis on family planning. Many pro-life support groups fund education in “natural” contraception and abstinence education here. Operation Outcry
is one such centre which spreads misinformation.
Groups such as Likhaan Centre for Women’s Health
used to receive aid from the US government. The Rise of the Bush administration caused a cut to the international aid budget to organisations that encouraged contraception over abstinence.
· Despite abortion being illegal, there are medical practitioners who provide safe clandestine abortions. Sometimes at cost, sometimes for charities risking their licenses and jail terms to ensure women are safe. The cost of such an abortion is between £40 to £60, which is a large sum of money when you live on a garbage dump.
· Despite this the vast majority of abortions that occur are performed by local healers and are via abdominal massage which can cause incredibly painful abortions and severe damage to the uterine wall that can cause death. These are done without anaesthesia and any modern medical support. It is the equivalent of being punched in the stomach.
· Many hospitals do not report abortion attempts to the police. It would scare the few women who do come in and increase the death toll.
Some of the testimonials I have found looking through literature from Likhaan and their involvement with Unreported World are heart breaking, I have reprinted some.
“Remy has had two attempts at abortion, where she tried to induce abortion by massaging her own abdomen, but she gave birth each time to a son. The third time she took bitter herbs and threw herself out of a window. When that didn’t work she continued to massage her abdomen until one day she felt her water break and watched blood flow down. She blacked out from the pain. She bitterly wished she had access to contraceptives earlier in life. In the eyes of the church, she had committed a crime, a mortal sin by killing her own flesh and blood. She couldn’t afford to have this child; she already had two children she could not afford to feed. To bring a third into this world would have been a crime in itself.”
“The abortionist is not medically trained; she says she learnt how to do the procedure when working with another doctor who used to perform back alley abortions. However she can only do abortions upto 8 weeks, beyond that and the procedure becomes dangerous. The girl she is treating is crying, even though she is under anaesthetic for the loss of her baby. The baby is 11 weeks old, this time she is lucky but other have had to be taken to the hospital”
“Many women are scared of coming to the hospital, many leave it so late that they are on the verge of death. Most are bleeding profusely, have infections or are septic. Often have tried to induce abortion using a sharp bamboo stick or a guava tree branch or consumed cytotan which induces contractions”
It is estimated that nearly 400,000 abortions take place annually here with nearly 80,000 women hospitalised yearly, and that 12% of maternal deaths occur due to unsafe non-medical abortion. (sourced from Juarez, Fatima et al.)
This was in 1994; it is believed that the number has risen every single year. It is impossible to hold any survey without risking the women involved and the abortion providers themselves are operating outside the law. The back street abortionists see themselves as providing a essential service and alleviating suffering by stopping that of the others despite being staunch catholics themselves.
These are not crimes of hatred but the efforts of loving mothers who don’t wish to bring a child into a world where they cannot feed and clothe the child. Each one is wracked by incredible guilt due to the actions of their faith without realising the cause for their suffering is the catholic restriction on contraception, education and aborti
ons. Many of the women believe that the fact they survive the harrowing abortion process is testament to the fact that God forgives them for their sin and that god understands why they did it. To them undergoing their back street abortions is literally putting their lives in God’s hands.
What would we see in the USA? How many doctors would take to providing abortions in places where it was banned? How many nurses and how many quacks? How many women will have to throw themselves down stairs or from windows?
This may be the future of women in the USA and indeed all over the world if we don’t fight for the right. Take a stand, because the entire world is watching what you do.
If not, stories like this will stop being distant occurences and start being a lot closer to home.