People like myself wondered how Bush could get all bent out of shape over human life that was entirely theoretical, while blowing the crap out of real, non-theoretical human life in Iraq. Consistency has never been his strong point. But this was just one example of how the hypothesis that life begins at conception could be taken to absurd extremes.
When we talk about abortion as a matter of life and death, somehow we've become convinced that there's only one life involved -- the hypothetical unborn one. But there's another, actual life involved -- one that no one argues doesn't actually exist -- that of the woman.
Unfortunately, we have a real world example of what happens when abortion is illegalized. It's one that's so well documented that we can actually call it a clinical experiment, with countries with liberal abortion laws as the control.
In 1965, Romania had the highest rate of legal abortion in the world -- one in four pregnancies in women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four ended in abortion. Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu came to power and, in an attempt to increase the population, banned abortion in 1966.
As a result, the legal abortion rate fell, but maternal mortality rates (MMR) went through the roof. Complications due to illegal abortion became by far the most common cause of death in pregnant women, accounting for 85 percent of all maternal deaths. The reason that we know the cause was unsafe abortion was that the romanian ban may have been the most restrictive in the world. Women were under police surveillance with mandatory pelvic exams and routine pregnancy testing. Pregnancies were monitored closely. In the US, it's impossible to say how many women actually died because of unsafe abortions before Roe v. Wade, since family embarrassment and shame would often cause people to claim another cause of death. In Romania, every dead pregant woman and every miscarriage was investigated as a possible crime. Logic would dictate that in a society where abortion was illegal, but easier to get away with, the MMR would be even higher.
MMR rose throughout Ceaucescu's reign, beginning at 86 per 100,000 live births in 1966 to 170 per 100,00 in the eighties. Romania had the highest rate of maternal mortality in Europe.
Then came the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of Ceaucescu, executed by firing squad after he refused to step down. Abortion was legal again and, within one year, maternal mortality had dropped 50 percent and continued to fall. According to the World Health Organization, "Between 1990 and 2002, Romania's MMR (three-year moving average) fell by almost 73%..."
So what we see is that when abortion is illegal women -- who are indisputably alive -- die. And, since these women are pregnant, that hypothetical unborn life would logically be dead too. The math doesn't really work. As a lifesaving measure, banning abortion sucks.
You can make unsupported -- and unsupportable -- arguments that a blastocyst becomes 'ensouled' with conception, that abortion should be illegal in order to save lives. But the best evidence we have shows that illegalizing abortion creates a public health crisis. Women don't abort because pregnancy is merely inconvenient -- the fact that abortion continues even after it becomes a game of russian roulette proves that. Women abort because they feel they have no choice. When abortion is illegal, that lack of choice can be disastrous.
If you've got a problem with abortion, making it illegal is demonstrably the exact wrong thing to do. The thing to do is to make abortion unnecessary. As long as the term "crisis pregnancy" means something in our world, women will abort -- legally or illegally.
Technorati tags: politics; health; women's rights; reproductive rights; pro-choice; pro-life; Romania proved that when abortion is illegal, women die