By FREDERIC ADOR
Published: March 27, 2013
Nowhere has the word “life” been used with more passion than in the United States. Ever since Roe v. Wade, U.S. states have been enacting laws both for and against women’s right to abortion, and now the trend seems to be heading toward more restriction. According to The New York Times, 19 states have adopted 43 new provisions restricting abortion rights in the last year, and the start of this year has shown no promise of change.
On March 22, North Dakota put forth a ballot to end abortions by asking the public to decide whether or not life begins at conception. That resolution that was preceded by a law their officials made deeming abortions after six weeks of pregnancy illegal—the most restrictive abortion law in the country. This development came only days after Arkansas representatives voted in favor of a law banning abortion after 12 weeks.
Representatives may be creating more restrictive abortion laws with the intention of preserving lives, but they are not the answer because they back women into using illegal and dangerous abortion techniques that can seriously endanger their health—if not kill them. If those opposing abortion really want to fight unwanted pregnancies at the root of the problem, broadening people’s access to contraceptives and other resources for family planning as well as properly educating the youth about sex would be a far better solution.
Unfortunately, current New York state law on abortion is relatively restrictive as well, permitting abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy only if the mother’s life is in danger. Technically, federal law overrules that law but in any case, the in-state restrictions have influenced the way some doctors have presented family planning options to their patients, even pushing women to have the procedure carried out in another state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken a progressive stance on abortion, now pushing to make New York state’s abortion laws less restrictive. But with a Republican majority in the State Senate and with the rise of stricter abortion laws in other states, there are doubts that this legislation will be passed.
Criminalizing abortion with the restrictive policies popping up across the country will not help women and families across the U.S. save lives—in fact, it will do the opposite. As a collaborative study between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute showed in 2007, abortion rates are similar in countries banning abortion and countries where abortion is legal alike. What tends to change are the risks to women’s lives associated with having an abortion. As abortion is criminalized, women tend to undergo “back-alley abortions,” which are often provided under unsafe conditions by poorly trained providers. According to the Guttmacher Institute, these “back-alley abortions” carry higher risks of complication, hemorrhaging and infection when compared to safely-provided abortion. In developed countries such as the U.S., a WHO study also showed that the case–fatality rate for unsafe abortions is 40 times higher than that of legally induced abortion.
Anti-abortion activists have upheld abstinence-only education and natural family planning (relying on a meticulous tracking of a woman’s fertility cycle) to avoid unwanted pregnancies. But the Cochrane Collaboration, a medical research non-profit organization, hasn’t found an abstinence-only program that has had an enduring effect on teen’s sexual behavior. In addition, studies have proven that this method is not as effective as contraceptives because it is more stringent for woman with a less regular cycle.
The most effective way to lower abortion rates is to allow contraceptives to be more widely available and to educate the youth about not only contraceptives, but the risks, realities and consequences of sex in general. This is not a romantic idea of how to address the issue but a fact, as it has been proven by studies conducted by the WHO-Guttmacher Institute and a Washington University School of Medicine study from 2012.
Restrictive abortion laws allow a piece of legislature to forbid women to decide what to do with their bodies. Other than safety and health problems, this decision affects social and economical issues as well; raising a child comes at a cost. There have been too many families that could not survive emotionally and financially with the burden of an unplanned child. I believe that it is only when people will be able to choose what is best for them that the United States of America will truly be the land of the free.