It’ll come as no surprise that a compassionate women’s rightist (read: Feminist) like myself found this article in the New York Times this morning unsettling. With the disturbing and disheartening murder of Dr. George Tiller fresh on everyone’s mind, the article subtly suggests the negative implications abolition of our nation’s stance of legalized abortions would have for women (props to NY Times for keeping up the liberal standard of appropriate, timely, and informative reporting).
The article focuses on Tanzania, where the illegality of abortion leads women and girls to dose themselves with herbs and have their stomachs pummeled or objects inserted vaginally to rid themselves of unwanted pregnancies. These barbaric procedures frequently lead to “incomplete abortions,” as well as infections and punctures of the uterus or bowel which can be fatal.
Worldwide, 13% of all maternal deaths result from back-alley abortions. Saying no to abortion does not save lives, but endangers the 19million women a year who seek unsafe abortions as a result of limited legal options.
I think it’s high time the “pro-life” camp begins reflecting on what “pro-life” values really mean. Abortion (or infanticide in the really early days) has always been around, with forms of infanticide frequently occurring in the animal world. Making abortions illegal does not stop them, but rather, changes who is endangered by the practice.
As a regular volunteer at Women’s Centers that offer services for raped and battered women, NOT providing these services as one option among many seems irresponsible and cruel. I challenge radical anti-abortionists to do something productive with their time: go spend time with those women who most frequently use abortion services. Spend time with the poor and see what its like for a mother to not have enough food for her children; visit women who have recently been raped, seeing their fear and timidity; and evaluate for yourself whether the misguided 13 year old girl really has the ability to care for a child in our difficult economic times.
I certainly do not like the idea of abortion, but sometimes, an unfortunate option is better than the alternatives. “Safe, legal, and rare” results from a feeling of compassion for the world’s most disadvantaged women, and a respect for life that considers quality of life, both for women and unwanted children.