Today marks 34 years since Roe vs Wade, the historic US supreme court decision that allowed the legalization of abortion in the United States. Canada liberalized abortion for some pre-determined cases in 1969 and completely decriminalized it in 1988. Unfortunately, that´s not the same in Brazil, my home country, where abortion continues to be a crime unless the mother´s health is at risk or the pregnancy was the product of a rape.
When I was 17 my best friend´s girlfriend became pregnant. He was still in high school, she was starting dentist school in another city, away from family and friends. She felt she couldn´t go on with the pregancy and luckily for her, my friend´s dad was a doctor who was able to perform the abortion in a hospital, safely. It was not a decision taken lightly and both my friend and his girlfriend suffered greatly for it.
In Law School, we once discussed abortion in class. The teacher used to be against legalizing abortion until she lived in one of the poorest parts of the country and understood the reality behind the criminalization of abortion – how can you discuss the moral and ethical issues against abortion to a poor woman, who already has ten children under her belt, who had no access to contraceptives and whose husband walked away? She will abort no matter what – with or without a risk to her own life.
I am pro-life and pro-choice. I am pro-choice because I believe that a woman has the right to make the difficult choice to end a pregnancy. And I consider myself “pro-life” because I think that denying a woman the right to make that choice only result in more death and suffering. Legalizing abortion would mean more women would be able to seek help and counselling from a trained medical professional and fewer would die. Maybe with that she would be able to make a choice that isn´t marked by panic and despair.
Furthermore, legalizing abortion would not mean that they would be encouraged or that the number of abortions might go up. Brazil, where abortion is illegal, has one of the highest rates of abortion in the world. Thirty percent of all pregnancies end up in abortion, that is 1.4 million abortions. Holland, which has one of the most liberal policies regarding abortion, has one of the lowest rates (10%). And in Canada, there has been no marked increase in abortion rates since the decriminalization of the practice 19 years ago.
For abortion history, law and figures in Canada, go here.
For a brilliant overview of abortion through history, go here. (in portuguese)
For a lucid discussion of the difficult moral and ethical issues that surrounds abortion, go to Denise Arcoverde´s blog. (in Portuguese)
This post is a response to NARAL Pro-Choice Action Network´s call for bloggers everywhere to talk about the issue today.