“Yesterday (Monday 9th February 2009) the front page of the Herald Sun newspaper reported ‘the darkest hour’ for Victoria. A few months ago the news media should have reported the darkest hour for the unborn, but unfortunately the decriminalisation of abortion bill went through parliament and was passed, thus making many people call Victoria the baby-killing state of Australia…In my dream I saw fire everywhere, with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the spirit of God. That his conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb…Can we stop the fires? Yes we can! But it will take God’s children to rally together and repent and cry unto him as in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (The Holy Bible).” -Danny Nallah, Catch the Fire Ministries, February 10, 2009
The September issue of the journal International Family Planning Perspectives carries an encouraging summary of worldwide trends in abortion legislation (here, and see news article on Medical News Today.) This is a regular report, compiled once a decade.
The news is almost universally good.
Since 1998, 20 countries have made substantial changes in their abortion laws… Sixteen countries added indications that moved them from one of our categories to another, or recognized rape, incest or fetal impairment as grounds for legal abortion. In contrast, only two added restrictions that moved them from one category to another. In two countries where abortion laws are made at the state level, significant liberalizations occurred in several states. Other countries…maintained existing indications for abortion but adopted changes affecting access to the procedure.
This is a review of legislation only–in practice the social conditions, availability of abortion facilities, and the opinion of the prevailing government, may also have a key effect on the practical availability of safe abortion. However viewed as an indication of the responses of legislators to the needs of women, this is promising.
Nine MSN and the Melbourne Herald Sun report that the Victorian Abortion Reform Act has passed in the legislative council unamended by the same 23/17 vote that it passed in the upper chamber, which I reported yesterday.
Although the bill was expected to pass, the quick rejection of all the amendments was unexpected, making the ride to law relatively swift, if not smooth. Some anti-abortionists have threatened “retribution”.
This represents a huge leap forward for women’s rights in Victoria.
ABC News reports that the Abortion Law Reform Bill has passed another major hurdle in Victoria. Already accepted without amendment by the lower house, on Friday, 10 October, 2008 it passed a conscience vote in the upper house by 23 votes to 17. There are still over 60 amendments to be considered before the bill can be put to a final vote.
There’s a saying sometimes attributed to Rose Kennedy: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”
I don’t know whether words to that effect were ever spoken by the matriarch of the Kennedy clan, but I think they’re wrong. If men could get pregnant, really, in the here-and-now, a simple, a practical medical abortion pill would be available from any filling station, and more complex procedures would be available while the mechanics checked your oil pressure.
We’re getting reasonably close to that for early abortion for women in some countries, but there’s still some way to go. It should be an absolute unquestioned right for any woman to ensure that she is not pregnant when she does not want to be.
In countries where it is unable to mount any realistic challenge to abortion rights, the Catholic church still seeks ways to make things harder for women seeking abortion. A letter in the Guardian reported yesterday, 3 October, 2008, that the Catholic church is exhorting its members in the UK to mobilize against reforms that would make it easier for women to obtain abortions early in a pregnancy.
Currently in the UK a woman needs two doctors’ signatures for an abortion, even early in the pregnancy, and unlike in some countries she is not permitted to take prescribed abortifacients at home but must have them administered at a clinic. The reform would normalize abortion under the 24-week limit with modern best clinical practice. Another part of the reform would permit abortion in Northern Ireland for the first time. These badly needed modernizations are to be tabled before Parliament later this year.
The letter is signed by Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice, MPs from all three major parties, the representatives of reproductive health organizations and campaigning organizations.
As I noted last month (“Kenya is reconsidering its abortion law“, September 19, 2008), there are plans to table a new bill, The Reproductive Health and Rights Bill 2008, before the Kenyan Parliament, with a view to revising its ancient laws criminalizing abortion doctors, women seeking an abortion, and those helping them. The Catholic church and the Muslim leaders have predictably opposed it and the bill is thought extremely unlikely to prevail.
Meanwhile of course illegal abortion in Kenya continues, and is highly risky because of the unhealthy conditions and the nature of the quacks and folk medics who are still willing to procure abortions. Najum Mushtaq reports in a piece for IPS News Agency that Ministry of Health produced a study in 2004 financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and titled “A National Assessment of the Magnitude and Consequences of Unsafe Abortion in Kenya”. According to the study’s findings, says Mushtaq, “300,000 women get abortions in Kenya each year, nearly half of them between 14 and 24 years of age. More than 20,000 of them end up in hospitals with complications after unsafe abortions.
Another study of hospitals in Western Kenya notes that almost 50 percent of all gynaecological emergencies arise from badly-performed abortions. The research, which was carried out in 2006 by Kakamega Provincial General Hospital in Western Kenya, also observed that more than half such patients were teenagers.
Serious problems for a developing nation that needs to be careful how it expends its limited medical resources.
The Columbo Page reports today, October 1, 2008, that the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Welfare is beginning consultations with a view to legalizing abortion in the case of rape. The paper cites media reports that 12 percent of underaged schoolgirls become pregnant annually in Monaragala and Kurunegala districts.
Associated Press reports that a vote on the new constitution has passed by a strong margin in the South American republic of Ecuador, despite opposition from the Roman Catholic church. While the constitution defines life as beginning from conception, it contains wording that opens up very wide chinks in Catholic traditionalism. The family is recognized “in its diverse types” and the new constitution guarantees “the right to freely make responsible and informed decisions about one’s health and reproductive life.”
Yes, it has opened the door to abortion and same-sex marriage a little wider.
About bloody time too.
There’s an interesting column in the Malta Independent about opposition to an attempt to take Malta down the Irish route to banning abortion. Daphne Caruana Galizia reminds us of what happened in the case of Girl X following the passage of the 1983 anti-abortion amendment (Article 40.3.3) to the Irish constitution. Raped by a neighbor, the girl was detained, by order of a court, in her own home to ensure that she did not, as she intended, get onto the boat to England to have the pregnancy terminated. In the end, she had a miscarriage, and Ireland was shocked into enough commonsense to amend the constitution again to stop that kind of nonsense.
A June 2007 TNS/MRBI poll found that 43% of Irish people supported legal abortion if a woman believed it was in her best interest while 51% remained opposed. 82% favoured legalization for cases when the woman’s life is in danger, 75% when the fetus cannot survive outside the womb, and 73% when the pregnancy has resulted from sexual abuse (Wikipedia). So 24 years after the Irish constitutional amendment, the vast majority of the Irish public supported abortion on lines roughly equivalent to the liberal UK laws, and a bare 51% majority oppose Roe v. Wade-style abortion on demand. The Irish politicians haven’t yet caught up with public opinion, sadly, and a repeal of the amendment seems unlikely to happen soon.
Some organization called Gift of Life, in a campaign led by Paul Vincenti and Tony Mifsud, is apparently trying to take Malta down the same road. Understandably they’re getting a pretty rough ride. Mifsud’s choice of rhetoric, accusing women leaving Malta to have an abortion in Italy or England of “abducting a foetus”, is not helping his case. Fortunately for the women of Ireland and Malta, countries with close ties to both countries permit their citizens free entry and exit and provide abortions.