Save the Fetus, Kill the Woman

If I owned spiked heels, my yearning to throw a shoe at the Speaker of the House John Boehner might actually pack the desired punch. But aside from the fact that I’m just not that kind of dyke, I’m also not into physically threatening political opponents, unlike the right.

However, I am hoping that Boehner (why does a public official from Ohio who lives in DC have a perpetual tan?!) and the rest of his paleoconservative cronies in Congress, including many Dems, are compelled by mass outrage and protests to back down from the current slew of bills that would mean the end of access to abortion services for millions of women.

Whether Planned Parenthood, NARAL and other mainstream women’s groups were inspired by the success of mass upheaval in the Arab world or they are simply taking stock of the deadly implications of pending legislation, I can’t say for sure. But I am thrilled that these groups have called a mass protest in NYC for Saturday, Feb. 26th. I fully endorse it and hope people spread the word and these actions take off elsewhere around the nation.

I also want to be brutally clear that making abortion even more inaccessible than it currently is will not save lives, as the right claims. Without a scintilla of doubt—in fact, with scientific proof—I can say that it will amount to a death sentence for desperate women who must terminate their pregnancy, by any means necessary. Below is a piece I wrote for the ISR about a Lancet global study. The facts are devastating.

Abortion Restrictions Are Deadly

THE FACTS are in: Restricting abortion kills women. The highly esteemed British medical journal, The Lancet, has released yet another groundbreaking report on “one of the greatest human rights dilemmas of our time”—access to abortion.

In their October 2007 global study, “Induced abortion: estimated rates and trends worldwide,” researchers compiled data confirming what abortion rights activists have been claiming for decades. In countries where women are prevented from obtaining safe and legal abortions, and denied access to contraception, they will be maimed and some will die—in the tens of thousands—from unsafe and illegal abortion procedures.

This study of worldwide abortion rates and conditions from 2003 data concludes that of the estimated 42 million induced abortions, 48 percent, or nearly 20 million women had illegal, often unsanitary procedures. Not surprisingly, 97 percent of those unsafe and illegal abortions took place in the developing world, mostly countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Approximately 67,000 women die every year as a result of complications from illegal abortions.

Contrary to what anti-abortion forces claim, the incidence of abortion doesn’t decline with illegality, but rather rises as abortion goes underground.

In Africa, for example, out of the 5.6 million abortions women had in 2003, 5.5 million were under unsafe and illegal conditions. In Asia—aside from China where all 10 million abortions that year were legal and safe—25.9 million abortions were performed, yet 9.8 million were done under unsafe conditions. In fact, restricting abortion actually increases the rate of abortion in some regions. African women of child-bearing age have abortions at a rate of 29 out of every 1,000; whereas Western European women, who have access to safe, legal, and often free abortions have a rate of 12 out of every 1,000 women. Women in North America, including Canada, have an abortion rate of 21 out of 1,000.

Right-wingers’ claims that abortion, including in the United States, is inherently unsafe are also dismissed by these findings. In fact, of the 1.5 million American women who undergo legal and safe abortions every year, less than 0.3 percent of them have complications requiring hospitalization. Another recent study, by the UN, shows that women in the U.S. are far more likely to die in childbirth as a result of a lack of access to good-quality health and family planning services. In this study on maternal mortality rates that ranked 171 countries, the U.S. came in forty-first. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the for-profit, privatized health-care industry in the U.S.—to which 47 million Americans have no access

In a preliminary report, The Lancet condemns the causes of this “preventable pandemic” of unsafe abortions in uncompromising terms. “The underlying causes of morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion today are not blood loss and infection but, rather, apathy and disdain toward women.” The journal’s editorial, “Women, more than mothers,” concludes:

The need is known as is the knowledge to fix it. More money exists than ever, and a range of existing global initiatives has yielded useful experiences and lessons. There can be no more excuses and no further delay. Women’s rights are worth fighting for; their lives can and must be saved.

Sherry Wolf—Public Speaker, Writer and Activist—is author of  Sexuality and Socialism, associate editor of the ISR and writes for She lives in Brooklyn, NY.


8 responses to “Save the Fetus, Kill the Woman

  1. Unfortunately, I remember when abortions were illegal. The choices were horrific and scared women for life. I know this because I still know those women who suffered illegal abortions. Never again. Never again.

  2. I read an interesting article the other night that, while it doesn’t address the abortion issue, should give people with critical thinking skills pause. I have often wondered why, when confronted with facts, regressives just dig their heels in and shout louder. This article goes a long ways towards explaining why.

  3. Honestly, Republicans don’t care what dangers women who want to seek illegal abortions face. Women seeking abortions are trying to kill a life anyway, so why be concerned with their own safety? It doesn’t bother me that some sick individual who thinks they have the right to kill another person just because that person hasn’t been born would die trying to do it. In fact, if their sick acts result in their death, what difference is it than a murdered killed during an attempted murder? I find it funny that this article presents the facts about women dieing while ignoring the facts of the deaths of the fetus they’re trying to kill. America’s women are turning into some deranged individuals.

    • Today in the US, approximately 1/4 of all pregnancies are terminated. When is the “pro-life” crowd going to come up with a concrete plan for feeding, clothing, housing, educating, and providing health care to the millions of additional children who would be born each year in the wake of an effective abortion ban? So far, I haven’t heard a thing. Until I do, I don’t think they have anything serious to say.

  4. I leave the last comment for now as a perfect example of the contempt that anti-abortionists have for women. It speaks for itself.

    • You ever notice how often it is that comments like this are made by men? How many women do you know who make comments like this? I was in a relationship with a woman who had an abortion and I can tell you that she was traumatized for life by the experience. Another woman whom I had a relationship with chose to bear her child and give it up for adoption – she was terribly traumatized by the experience, too. It would be so nice if these haters could walk even a few feet in another person’s shoes, wouldn’t it??

    • Wow, you presupposed the conclusion and when asked to expound your ideas, you’d probably refuse.

      This is the problem with socialists–so wrapped up in rhetoric that they cannot defend themselves.

      Tell me, Sherry, as honestly as you can, which ethical system abortion would be permissible under?

      And femininazism doesn’t count.

  5. I was born in the early 1950’s in London. At the time London, like most of working class Britain, was still suffering the devastating effects of the war. Most people were living in overcrowded conditions. There was even still some rationing going on and lots of people didn’t have two h’pennies to rub together. My family of four lived in two rooms in a three bedroom house with four other adults. This was the reality of our lives and most other people.
    My mother said birth control then was a ‘hit and miss’ affair. So abortion was the only option for many women. It did not become legal until 1967. Obviously this meant that abortions were illegal, but every woman knew someone who had had one, and knew who to go to get one.
    And as the film ‘Vera Drake’ so clearly showed, there were a lot of dangers in this. That’s why women got out onto the streets and demanded ‘Free abortion on demand.’
    There are many women who are now in their eighties and more who had an abortion back then and have NO regrets what so ever. And that is what they say, not me.
    We cannot let these people take us backwards, because some of us remember what it was like.
    So let’s make sure we never return to back street abortions.
    We need to make abortion free, legal, safe and with no apologies.

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