One question that I think often gets lost in the abortion debate is “What would happen if we criminalized all abortion?

Well, here’s a brief answer in the context of Africa:

Worldwide, there are 19 million unsafe abortions a year, and they kill 70,000 women (accounting for 13 percent of maternal deaths), mostly in poor countries like Tanzania where abortion is illegal, according to the World Health Organization. More than two million women a year suffer serious complications. According to Unicef, unsafe abortions cause 4 percent of deaths among pregnant women in Africa, 6 percent in Asia and 12 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean

The 120-bed hospital in Berega [Tanzania] depends on solar panels and a generator, which is run for only a few hours a day. Short on staff members, supplies and even water, the hospital puts a lot of its scarce resources into cleaning up after failed abortions…

On a Friday in January, 6 of 20 patients in the women’s ward were recovering from attempted abortions. One, a 25-year-old schoolteacher, lay in bed moaning and writhing. She had been treated at the hospital a week earlier for an incomplete abortion and now was back, bleeding and in severe pain. She was taken to the operating room once again and anesthetized, and Emmanuel Makanza, who had treated her the first time, discovered that he had failed to remove all the membranes formed during the pregnancy. Once again, he scraped the inside of her womb with a curet, a metal instrument. It was a vigorous, bloody procedure. This time, he said, it was complete…

Dr. Mdoe said he suspected that some of the other illegal abortionists were hospital workers with delusions of surgical skill.

“They just poke, poke, poke,” he said. “And then the woman has to come here.” Sometimes the doctors find fragments of sticks left inside the uterus, an invitation to sepsis…

“We as medical personnel think abortion should be legal so a qualified person can do it and you can have safe abortion.” There are no plans in Tanzania to change the law…

The steady stream of [botched illegal, amateur abortion] cases reflects widespread ignorance about contraception. Young people in the region do not seem to know much or care much about birth control or safe sex, Dr. Mdoe said…

In most countries the rates of abortion, whether legal or illegal — and abortion-related deaths — tend to decrease when the use of birth control increases. But only about a quarter of Tanzanians use contraception…

An assistant medical officer, Telesphory Kaneno, said: “Talking about sexuality and the sex organs is still a taboo in our community. For a woman, if it is known that she is taking contraceptives, there is a fear of being called promiscuous.”

In interviews, some young women from the area who had given birth as teenagers said they had not used birth control because they did not know about it or thought it was unsafe: they had heard that condoms were unsanitary and that birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives could cause cancer.

Here are Tristero’s thoughts on the above article:

Access to a safe and legal abortion is a moral good. The decision to terminate a pregnancy should be an entirely private one, and the right to make such a difficult decision in private is also a moral good.

The cultural war in this country over the right to a safe and legal abortion is, as it has been for past forty years, not really a religious struggle. It is, as Denise Grady’s brave article demonstrates, really about guaranteeing healthcare for poor women. Those opposed to keeping abortion safe and legal – ie, those who seek to deny professional medical care to poor women – wrap their repressive agenda in the robes of priests in order to hide the moral idiocy of their position. They spew false sanctity in the service of extremism and bigotry.

We stand on the moral high ground in the abortion debate, not those who use terrorism – the murder of Dr. Tiller – as an excuse to deplore access to safe and legal abortion.

  1. PChun says:

    Tanzania?? I remember when abortion was illegal in THIS country and desperate friends had to go to Mexico or to shady illegal abortion "clinics" or try to abort themselves with a coat hanger or other horrid desperate measure. It was an intensely scary time. I was in my teens/early twenties. A close christian friend was raped at a party, totally traumatized by the rape, and totally terrified that she could get pregnant, which she did….horror story, back alleys, debilitating shame. The REALITIES of legalizing this medical procedure, to make it safe in these unfortunate circumstances, was rational and necessary. Have we forgotten our own legal struggles in our own country, not so very long ago? I sadly remember.

  2. Schu says:

    The struggle over abortion is not really about religion, it is about power. Who has the power to decide when life starts, and who has the power to tell woman weather or not she can continue to be pregnant. The fundamental groups that call themselves Christians rant and rave over the Old Testament misquotes that they preach so that they can control all women.

  3. warnerlamb says:

    Why is there even a debate about whether homicide should be criminalized? It should, and the conspirators -- either the murderous mother and/or the accomplice physician -- should be either put to death or receive life imprisonment, just like any other homicide. Why is the homicide of a baby any different from a 5 year old, or a 25 year old, or a 65 year old? Do we place relative values on life based on how old it is? I really don't care that people bent on murdering other people want to be able to do it with safety for themselves. They're the perpetrators!!!!!!! Oh, the audacity of the immoral….

    • Schu says:

      You are making several conclusions, and trying to make them a fact. Regardless of the fact that you think abortion is a homicide, by law it is a medical procedure. I realize that you want you religious tenants to be law, and forced on all of us, but so far you have failed. Hopefully you will continue to fail, as the US does not need a series of religious wars, as happened in Europe.

  4. PurpleSims says:

    Here is my opinion……if abortion is legal….it happens to be the killing of the unborn child……we are getting into the killing of people that aren't productive to society also….like Terri Schiavo…….I am beginning to think that all murders should be legal. I don't want to have to be on a murder jury, I would have to say not guilty……that murder is legal and they shouldn't even be trying this person. Sorry for my views. I know no one is going to like my views. We also put dog's lives higher up than human life. That's ashame.

    • Metavirus says:

      i have no idea what your point is

    • Tawny says:

      We do not put dog's lives higher than humans. We put to death MILLIONS of dogs every year because they are homeless. We certainly do not do that to people.

      Terri Schiavo wasn't killed because she wasn't productive to society. First of all, she wasn't "killed." She was allowed to die of natural cases because, according to her husband who was her chosen health care conservator, she wanted it that way. Get your facts straight.

      • Schu says:

        Unfortunately she does not want facts, she wants to argue solely on emotions using charged statements instead of facts.

  5. Tawny says:

    Something anti-abortion advocates need to realize is that there are already too many people on this planet. Having every one be born who was an embryo once would be a disaster for the planet and for humans.

    If all the people who had been aborted had been born instead, we would be so over populated now that all of our resources would be long gone.

  6. Vaneeza says:

    i completely agree. In pakistan an abortion is only legal if it is result of a rape or if the mother's life will be at risk if the baby is born . These laws need to be changed because these are not the only two instances for which a woman or a couple might think of an abortion . Again Pakistan is a country where you dont talk about sex or sexuality . It is on the whole a conservative society but that obviously doesnt stop people from having sex because it is a natural need of every human being . So people do have sex outside of marriage and they have unprotected sex due to the lack of access to contraceptives or the lack of knowledge . When it results in pregnancy alot of young unmarried women resort to abortion but since it is illegal and still a taboo , they have to go to these untrained people who ruin their bodies with their unsterilised instruments and a complete lack of knowledge of human anatomy or surgical skills

  7. Vaneeza says:

    . As a result many women here die of hemorrhage , sepsis , perforations.etc . While i was in medical school , we had to study forensic medicine as a subject and in one of our textbooks there was a photo of a woman who died after such an attempt. The photo was of a young woman and the person who tried to perform ther abortion put some kind of a pointed instrument through her vagina , perforating the uterus , upon which the instrument reached her abdominal cavity and loops of intestine were pulled through her vagina thinking that this is the umbilical cord and sadly such cases happen quite often here .So definitely abortion should be legalised without any conditions so women can have safe abortions in proper hygenic coditions

  8. Vaneeza says:

    i am sorry if this comment is too graphic or inappropriate to be written here . The administrator can delete it if he feels like that way

  9. Tawny says:

    Yes, thank you for sharing Vaneeza. We need the truth to be told.

    Anti-abortionists in the U.S. conveniently forget what it was like for women who got illegal abortions years ago. They often died painful, horrible deaths.

    In desperation, women put themselves into the hands of untrained, ignorant practitioners. One abortionist used the top of her washing machine in her filthy laundry room as the "table." Abortionists used chemicals like potassium permanganate in an attempt to burn the baby out. It resulted in holes being burned into the women's uteruses. The practice of illegal abortion was barbaric.

    If we make abortion illegal it will bring back all that horror and death but, of course, all that matters is we keep embryos alive. Who cares about the women?

  10. SeandBlogonaut says:

    I saw the title of your post and was going to suggest an article, but I see that you already quote it. There was such a stink when, following the Obama administrations move Australia removed restriction on the funding of aid to orgs that provided Abortion as part of their services. The most stringent oppostion came from the head of the Australian Christian Lobby , an ex special forces commander. Oh the irony.

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