Archive for April 8th, 2006

Some time ago, I vowed to do a series of posts about abortion. And I started it. First, I theorized that the pro-life movement was fueled, not by the desire to preserve life, but by the urge to reign in women’s sexuality. Then I wrote about how the anti-abortion movement depicts women. Then I wrote an update with more information about the first two posts.

And now the important post, what effect an abortion ban may have. We have no idea how an abortion ban would affect the country until it happens. Until then, we can only guess. And we can look to other countries as examples.

In Mexico, where abortions are outlawed, an exception is made for women who have been raped. How’s that working out? Not so well, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Police, public prosecutors, and health officials treat many rape victims dismissively and disrespectfully, regularly accusing girls and women of fabricating the rape. Specialized public prosecutor’s offices on sexual violence, where they exist, are often in practice the only place to report sexual violence, further impeding access to justice for rape victims in more remote locations. Many victims of violence fear retribution from the perpetrator, especially if he is a family member. As a consequence, the vast majority of rape victims do not file a report at all. Generous estimates suggest 10 percent of rape victims file an official complaint. The real proportion is likely even less.

For rape victims who become pregnant but do not report the rape, legal abortion is ruled out….


The full horror of what rape victims go through in their attempt to obtain a legal abortion—often including humiliation, degradation, and physical suffering—is in essence a second assault by the justice and health systems.

Think about it. Even if an abortion ban is “moderate” and allows for the exception of an abortion in the case of rape or incest, the raped woman seeking an abortion must prove that her pregnancy was the result of a crime.

While the Mexican example seems extreme, consider a woman who was date-raped, or raped while unconscious. Not only do plenty of people believe a woman “deserves” what she gets for allowing herself to put into that situation, there’s likely to be little or no traumatic physical evidence that the sex was not consensual.

Even if rape would be easily proved or in the case of incest where a blood test could be done to determine that the father is…well…the father…it’s likely that the trauma of going through a bureaucratic procedure would discourage many women from even applying for an abortion.

In a related story, this week’s upcoming New York Times Magazine is going to run a full feature called “Pro-Life Nation,” a description of the full criminalization of abortions in El Salvador. (You can hear an interview with the article’s author, Jack Hitt, about the topic.)

Frankly, it sounds gruesome.

First, since there are no exceptions to the criminalization of abortion in El Salvador, women who were raped or whose pregnancy endangers their lives may not get an abortion. It’s all illegal.

In the interview, Hitt cited what happens in the case of an ectopic pregnancy – one where the fertilized egg does not drop into the uterus, but is instead caught in the fallopian tube. In all cases of such a pregnancy, the fetus dies. If the fetus isn’t removed, it will continue to grow until it ruptures the woman’s fallopian tube and causes massive internal bleeding, which could lead to the woman’s death.

In El Salvador, doctors can only monitor an ectopic pregnancy until either the fetus dies or until the rupture of the fallopian tube occurs. Otherwise an abortion is illegal.

Furthermore, if a doctor performs an examination of woman and finds evidence of an abortion, he must report her to the authorities, who procure a search warrant for the woman’s vagina. A state-hired “forensic vagina specialist” then examines the woman for proof of her crime. (Yes, this is an actual job title.)

And everyone involved in an illegal abortion can be prosecuted, including the abortionist, woman, and anyone who knew about the procedure – a boyfriend, say, or mother – but didn’t turn the woman in.

Again, El Salvador is an extreme example. But it brings to light the necessary bureaucratic measures needed to police an abortion ban. Every woman’s vagina under an abortion ban is a potential crime scene.

Budge and I duke it out over just about everything, but every now and then he says something smart. Here’s the latest:

I see [government's] pernicious unintended consequences of action that, more often than not, are worse than the ill government hopes to cure and I hold that the individual is sovereign over the state within the bounds of respecting everyone’s liberty.

Most folks agree that abortions are unfortunate and should be avoided. But I think Mexico and El Salvador show us that a comprehensive abortion ban as a solution to reducing abortions would only create a bigger problem, a government intruding, literally, into its citizens' private lives.


World-famous Montana literature magazine, CutBank, issue number 65 will be released this Saturday, April 8.


Where: Elks Club Lodge, 112 North Pattee St.

When: Doors open at 7. The music kicks off at 8. Bands include Russ Nasset and Revelators, Poor School, Purrbot, Razzm'tazz, and Bloodfactor Five.

There's also going to be a silent auction fundraiser for the magazine, with tons of great stuff from Missoula artists, restaurants, and businesses.

Admission: $5

Those of you who haven't yet partied with Montana writers are in for a treat. This party is usually hopping. You'll get a chance to trade shots with Big Sky luminaries such as Kevin Canty, Dee McNamer and newcomer Brady Udall. (And poets, too!) There's always an outside chance Bill Kitteridge or Jim Crumley shows up, too.

H*ll, maybe I should go, too! D*mn the kids! The wife can watch 'em! Drink a beer with your (un)favorite blogger!

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