Southern Religion

Unsafe abortion is still a matter of conscience

Legalization of abortion was not a radical goal, as Susannah Clark reminds us, reminding us in the British Guardian–not in 1967 when the British abortion act was passed. “Significant numbers of evangelicals, including high profile leaders,” supported passage of the act. One reason, also commonplace in that era among otherwise conservative Southern newspaper editorialists in the U.S., was concern about the dangers backstreet abortions and often deadly self-induced abortions to which the poor were prey. Although that was in the era before “life begins at conception” became something of a mantra.

She is responding to the Guttmacher Institute report, Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress [Download .pdf ]. It finds that the number of abortions has fallen “from an estimated 45.5 million procedures in 1995 to 41.6 million in 2003.” Moreover, “abortion occurs at roughly equal rates in regions where it is broadly legal and in regions where it is highly restricted [40% of the world’s women live in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws]. The key difference is safety—illegal, clandestine abortions cause significant harm to women, especially in developing countries.”

The result is 5 million women treated for complications, 3 million women who suffer untreated complications and 70,000 deaths a year. Guttmacher’s solution is better access to contraception, better after-abortion care and expansion of legal access to abortion.

Clark, a researcher for the conservative, London-based Evangelical Alliance, writes:

I find myself agreeing with the evangelicals of 1967 and the evangelicals of today: I long to see a reduction in the number of abortions carried out each year, both in the UK and globally, but I am glad that there are safe services women can access if they do chose abortion. I may protest about the 200,000 abortions a year in the UK, but I’m glad there are also people speaking up for the 70,000 women who die each year, mainly in developing countries, from unsafe abortions – just as people spoke up for the impoverished women in England in 1967. Compassion lies at the heart of both concern for the mother’s safety, and a desire to see the number of abortions reduced.


October 21, 2009 - Posted by | Health, Medical Care | ,

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