In the Vanguard of Criminalizing Abortion
Posted on Apr 9, 2006
What happens when abortion is a felony offense in any circumstance? Jack Hitt provides chilling answers in his brilliant investigative piece on abortion in El Salvador.
New York Times:
It was a sunny midafternoon in a shiny new global-economy mall in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, and a young woman I was hoping to meet appeared to be getting cold feet. She had agreed to rendezvous with a go-between not far from the Payless shoe store and then come to a nearby hotel to talk to me. She was an hour late. Alone in the hotel lobby, I was feeling nervous; I was stood up the day before by another woman in a similar situation. I had been warned that interviewing anyone who had had an abortion in El Salvador would be difficult. The problem was not simply that in this very Catholic country a shy 24-year-old unmarried woman might feel shame telling her story to an older man. There was also the criminal stigma. And this was why I had come to El Salvador: Abortion is a serious felony here for everyone involved, including the woman who has the abortion. Some young women are now serving prison sentences, a few as long as 30 years.
More than a dozen countries have liberalized their abortion laws in recent years, including South Africa, Switzerland, Cambodia and Chad. In a handful of others, including Russia and the United States (or parts of it), the movement has been toward criminalizing more and different types of abortions. In South Dakota, the governor recently signed the most restrictive abortion bill since the Supreme Court ruled in 1973, in Roe v. Wade, that state laws prohibiting abortion were unconstitutional. The South Dakota law, which its backers acknowledge is designed to test Roe v. Wade in the courts, forbids abortion, including those cases in which the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Only if an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother is the procedure permitted. A similar though less restrictive bill is now making its way through the Mississippi Legislature.