Implement a total ban on abortion, United States, and then throw in prison terms on top of it. That way, we can follow in the enlightened footsteps of El Salvador and drive our pregnant teenagers and women to the dire act of suicide.
The health ministry in El Salvador says that suicide is the biggest cause of death among girls aged 10-19 and half of those girls are pregnant. In addition, the suicides of adult women who were pregnant accounted for one third of the country’s maternal deaths in 2011.
Dr. Mario Soriano, of the health ministry, says:
El Salvador’s abortion law is one of the most restrictive in the world. At the health ministry, we’re aware of the need to modify the abortion law.
A total ban on abortion was enacted in 1998.
In 1998, the country enacted a total ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest, or complications that threaten the life of the mother. And yet sexual violence is a huge problem in El Salvador, especially against teens. Dr. Soriano adds:
There’s a correlation between sexual violence and the high rate of suicides among adolescents — that’s the reality. Pregnancy is a determining factor behind teenage suicides.
He blames both the macho culture and the Catholic Church for the situation girls find themselves in. The Catholic Church not only fights against abortion, but also against any means of preventing pregnancy, like contraception and sex education. In 2001, the Church blocked a manual that would have allowed schools to teach sexual health.
Soriano goes on:
Women and girls in El Salvador aren’t empowered to be responsible for their body and know their rights. Our challenge is to ensure they know their rights and that their parents protect those rights.
Sound familiar? Across the United States, conservatives are pandering to the religious right by forcing the closure of clinics that provide abortion, placing limits on where and when women can get abortions, and building delays into the medical process to assure that religious activists have time to badger women, whom they must assume are weak-minded, into making a different decision.
The message is that women just aren’t smart enough or mature enough to make choices about their own bodies. Men and churches led by men must do it for them.
Will the United States gleefully follow El Salvador down the road to hell?
Our country is also trying to gleefully follow El Salvador down another road to hell. In El Salvador, women are being imprisoned for up to fifty years for the ‘crime’ of getting an abortion. Even a miscarriage can lead to charges of murder.
According to a local rights group, CFDA (the Citizen Group for the Decriminalisation of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion), 129 women have been prosecuted since the ban was instituted. Of those, 26 were convicted of murder and imprisoned.
If you think the United States is far from that situation, consider this: as of January, 2013, 38 states had fetal-homicide laws. The laws in 23 of them apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy. The whole push to enact ‘personhood’ laws is an attempt to criminalize decisions that were in the personal and medical realms for decades — decisions that women were totally capable of making on their own or with their doctors.
Unfortunately, an apathetic electorate put Congress into the hands of right-wing extremists. Now we, too, could soon live with images of women torn from their families and imprisoned for years over both abortions and miscarriages — all at the whim of judges and juries.
The total ban led to a 40 year sentence for one mother’s miscarriage.
Maria Teresa Rivera, serving a 40 year sentence in El Salvador for having a miscarriage, said from prison:
The judge didn’t believe me when I told him that I didn’t even know I was pregnant at the time and that I’d started bleeding at home and had a miscarriage … I’ll never understand why he was so harsh. I thought about my young son who’ll be nearly 50 by the time I’m released… My son won’t know me when I leave jail.
In response to recent recommendations from the United Nations Human Rights Council, twelve countries have issued statements calling on El Salvador to end its inhumane ban on abortions. They are Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
The United States is conspicuously absent from this list. If conservatives in this country have their way, we will join El Salvador as one of the most repressive regimes in the world when it comes to the reproductive rights of women. We can then smugly enjoy the status of international pariah.
Featured image by www.vice.com.