Forty years ago today, on January 22nd 1973 the United States Supreme Court struck down a Texas state law outlawing the surgical procedure known as abortion. This day marks the 40th Anniversary of the landmark ruling known as Roe vs. Wade. This signature court decision not only further extended the right of a woman to control her body but is also an affirmation of human liberty. Despite this victory, there are still prohibitionist groups who would seek to re-criminalize or outlaw the abortion procedure.
The most stark example demonstrating what life would be like if abortion was re-criminalized is outlined in a 2009 New York Times story describing the outrage expressed at that time by Brazil's religious community after an abortion was performed on a 9-year old Brazilian girl. She was impregnated after being raped by her stepfather and when this was reported in the country's news, the overall issue of abortion came to the forefront of public discourse.
The 9-year old girl's story highlights an unfortunate, growing problem with the potential to get worse in the heavily Catholic country that no one wants to openly admit or discuss: the growing trend of the rape of underage girls. The New York Times reported that clinics, like Pérola Byington Hospital, were performing more abortions on underage girls who are impregnated due to sexual assault. The article states that of the 15 cases of patients impregnated due to rape Pérola Byington Hospital averaged each day at the time, nearly half involved children under 12.
Brazil's abortion policy is one of the more lenient in Latin America. To this day, except for cases of rape and incest and a recent court decision regarding the procedure, abortion in Brazil is illegal. Only Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua are stricter in that abortion in those countries is outlawed entirely reflecting the stance of the Roman Catholic Church on the issue. Even though the 9-year old Brazilian girl's abortion was within the country's guidelines the Catholic Church decided to intervene.
The law of God is above human law a Brazilian archbishop declared as he signed an order excommunicating all of the health workers and doctors involved in the 9-year old's surgery. His decree was soon watered down by a bishop's conference limiting the excommunication only to the doctors who systematically -- whatever that means -- performed the girl's abortion. At first the Vatican agreed with the archbishop's initial action but later changed its mind. Despite its change of heart, the church's overall stance is still in favor of the existence of a developing embryo over the life of the girl. Only the doctors involved in performing the girl's abortion were condemned. This was obviously done in hopes of intimidating Brazilian surgeons who perform abortions from doing so (even in similar situations) ever again.
To this day, Brazil's Ministry of Health cites not only the growth of the rape of underage girls but the growing rate of illegal, unsafe abortions each year in which the latter comprise the majority of abortions performed there. Despite a study released in 2010 demonstrating illegal abortions are widespread in the country resulting from the procedure's illegality, Brazil's politicians sought to tighten (rather than relax) restrictions. Clinics willing to perform abortions are mainly concentrated in the more populated southeastern parts of Brazil and, as a result, people in rural areas of the country have a minimum 11-hour trip increasing the risks to a woman's health.
The events and actions of the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil and abroad regarding abortion demonstrates the lack of regard the organization has for human life and its apparent approval of the awful hurdles people (especially women) must go through in order to have one. Clearly so-called conservative religions and anti-abortion groups believe that women's lives are unimportant. The issue of abortion is symbolic of their overall hostility to a person's ability to make important decisions in their own lives.
In the case of abortion, opponents claim an embryo or developing fetus is a human being and performing an abortion is tantamount to murder. They are wrong. An embryo is not a human being and having or performing an abortion is not murder. Just like there is no rational justification for opposing abortion, there is no credible scientific evidence that proves a developing fetus is human. Claims that a fetus in development is alive and human are based on faith and nothing more. Advances in medical science enable surgeons to determine when a fetus is viable. If one is, doctors (rightly) will not abort a near-term fetus unless it poses a threat to the life and health of the mother.
In all of its tenets and teachings, religion demands its followers to sacrifice all or a part of their lives to the greater glory of God in some manner. In terms of abortion, a woman cannot have one lest she face condemnation and even excommunication from the leaders of the religion she is a member of. In most cases, couples who have sex out of wedlock will face the same consequences. In the Catholic Church, even a married couple can even face disciplinary action on the part of the institution's hierarchy if they do not use church-approved family planning methods when couples have sex. Still, the church considers the act of sex as a means of procreation. Catholics are not allowed by church edicts to use barrier methods of contraception to prevent a sperm implanting an egg.
Re-criminalizing abortion results in women being treated like breeding cows. They would be forced to bring pregnancies to term including those resulting from rape or contraceptive failure. Then women would have to endure the anguish of an unwanted pregnancy along with the difficulties of raising an unwanted child. At the same time, their hopes and dreams are destroyed. Religions, individuals, and groups hostile to abortion are not pro-life in any sense. They are anti-life and anti-human. Just like environmentalists wish to sacrifice mankind to nature, anti-abortionists seek to sacrifice the lives of actual humans to potential ones regarding people as tools for reproduction in the name of their irrational, perverse, mystical, and altruistic (i.e. sacrificial) morality.