Monday, November 29, 2004

Reading the Tea Leaves

This could be the future of women in the United States, too, though right now it is the current situation of many women in Latin America:

SANTIAGO (WOMENSENEWS)--Monica Maureira remembers how--as the nurses interrogated her and the doctors lectured her--she watched her hands going transparent from the blood loss.
She was 16 years old and was hemorrhaging after having
had a clandestine abortion in Chile, a country
where abortion is illegal and considered immoral.
"I remember the nurses telling me that if I didn't give them the name of the doctor who gave me the abortion, they would let me bleed to death," Maureira says.
She lived to tell her story, but many women don't.
Across Latin America, an estimated 5,000 women die every year as a result of clandestine abortions, according International Planned Parenthood Federation. An estimated 800,000 are hospitalized due to complications, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, based in New York and Washington.
Abortion is prohibited across most of Latin America. Cuba and Puerto Rico are the exceptions. While some countries allow abortion in cases of rape or danger to the mother's life, there are no exceptions in Chile, Colombia and El Salvador. These countries prosecute hundreds of women for having abortions.

Would abortions become rarer in the United States if all abortions were made illegal? There is a theoretical case for that, based on the idea that when something is made harder to obtain fewer people will get it. On the other hand, the statistics from Latin American countries are not reassuring on this count:

"It's mostly poor women who end up going to the hospitals for their complications of an illegal backstreet abortion and some of the doctors or the midwives working in the maternity wards used to report the women to the police right there," says Casas. The maximum penalty is five years in prison.
But despite such legal risks, Latin America continues to experience abortion rates that are much higher than most countries where it is legal.
There are an estimated 4 million abortions every year across the region. Up to 200,000 clandestine abortions take place in Chile every year--twice as many as in Canada, which has 100,000 a year--and Chile has half the population.

We don't know what the Chilean rate would be under legal abortions, of course, and Chile is not like Canada in education or income. But I suspect that an abortion is one of those things which desperate women will go for even when the "price" is made very high. And even when the alternative price is the very real possibility of death.

Read the whole article at Women's Enews. It has some interesting analysis about the role of men in this crisis (it does take two to tango, you know) and about what should be done in the future campaigns of sex education. Maybe the Latin American experts can move here when Roe is overturned and teach us these things, too?