Text: Lera Shvets
At the beginning of the year, in his address to the State Duma Patriarch Kirill made a proposal to exclude abortion from the compulsory health insurance system. And earlier this week, he signed an appeal for a complete ban on abortion in Russia, drawn up by the social movements For Life and Orthodox Volunteers. And so, while Russian Facebook is going crazy, and a productive couple M & M's, Mizulina & Milonov, one in the Federation Council, the other in the State Duma, are already rubbing their hands and getting ready for work, we decided to remember which countries banned abortions and why led.
There were many reasons for tightening the legislation: from the desire to dramatically improve the demographic situation in South Korea and the USSR to the desire to achieve true morality in Ireland or post-revolutionary Iran. There were also many consequences at the exit: this is a difficult economic situation in which many poor women have found themselves, and an increase in maternal mortality, and even the emergence of abortion tourism - travel to other countries to have an abortion.
↑ Protest in Krakow in April 2016 against toughening of abortion legislation
Banning abortion as an economic tool
Elena Mizulina, while still a deputy of the State Duma, supported the words of the patriarch and proposed amendments to the legislation, among other things, involving the withdrawal of abortion from the compulsory medical insurance system. A similar amendment was adopted back in 1976 in the United States and named after its author, Republican Henry Hyde. The Hyde Amendment meant the exclusion of abortion from the public funding system, namely from Medicaid, the medical assistance program for those in need. As a result, this led to the fact that in many states abortion has ceased to be a basic woman's right, and has turned into a privilege available only to certain segments of the population.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, over the past decades, the problem of abortion has become the most acute for the poor. For example, in 2014, 75% of abortions were performed by patients with low income or income below the subsistence level. On the one hand, in 17 states, the Hyde Amendment is invalid and additional legislation allows the government to cover abortion-related costs from the state budget. But these states are home to less than half of women on Medicaid. According to research by the institute, 60% of women with incomes below the poverty line live in states where they cannot get an abortion for free, except in special cases, such as rape or danger to their mother's life. Many of them have to delay the very moment of the abortion in order to save money: they often have to sell property or save on paying bills and buying food for their families.
Banning abortion as a moral appeal
In the early 90s, after the fall of the Polish People's Republic, the conservative (read - Catholic) political forces in Poland gained great influence. Accordingly, the moral views of religious communities began to slowly transform into state legislation. This led, among other things, to the criminalization of abortion in 1993. As a result, today Polish women can terminate their pregnancies only after the consent of two medical specialists confirming that there is a danger to the mother's life, or that the fetus is damaged or the pregnancy was the result of violence.
After the Conservatives won the parliamentary elections in 2015, talks about tougher legislation resumed. And recent proposals to increase the prison sentence for doctors from two to five years and to allow abortion only in case of maternal health risks have sparked a wave of demonstrations across the country.Representatives of public organizations launched a flash mob on social networks: people post photos in which they are dressed in all black, and put the hashtag #CzarnyProtest. On October 3, they are going to boycott work and study to express their opposition to the suppression of women's rights.
But while the amendments are being considered by parliamentarians, and the dissenters are dressing in black, abortion tourism is increasing in Poland. The Federation for Women's Rights and Family Planning estimates that approximately one hundred thousand Poles annually perform clandestine abortions or travel to neighboring countries of the European Union for this service. As noted in the official report of the Federation, due to the fact that women travel to completely different countries, there are no accurate statistics on abortion tourism. The report cites the words of Dr. Janus Rudczynski from a clinic on the German-Polish border, who claims that more than a thousand women from all over Poland come to them every year.
Banning abortion as a fight against the demographic crisis
Another argument that can often be heard in support of the abortion ban is the struggle to improve the demographic situation in the country. Politicians in the Republic of Korea in the mid-50s and party leaders in the USSR at the end of the 30s of the last century thought in these categories. When the Communist Party introduced a ban on abortion in 1936, there were calls to think "not narrowly with personal interests, but with the life of the collective." But against the backdrop of sharply rising fertility rates, maternal mortality and infanticide rates began to rise.
According to Victoria Sakevich, Associate Professor at the Institute of Demography at the Higher School of Economics, in the four years since the adoption of the new law, the number of deaths from abortions has increased almost fivefold, and the share of murders of children under one year of age in the total number of registered murders has more than doubled. The system of clandestine abortions began to develop rapidly: only 10% of abortions were initially performed for medical reasons, and the remaining 90% began to be performed outside a medical institution. Moreover, as Sakevich points out, in 1936 only 23% of those prosecuted for illegal abortions were medical specialists, the rest were housewives and ordinary workers. As a result, the ban on abortion, which had existed for almost twenty years, was recognized as an unsuccessful initiative and was lifted under Nikita Khrushchev.
↑ Protest action in Washington, June 27, 2016
Banning abortion to help mothers
When Augusto Pinochet completely banned abortion in Chile in 1989, his main argument was that medicine was at a high enough level that abortion was no longer necessary to save the mother's life. Since the introduction of this legislative amendment, all types of abortions in Chile have become illegal, including cases of sexual violence. Opponents of abortion often cite the example of Chile as a counterargument: they say, they often say that the prohibition of abortion leads to an increased mortality of mothers, but this is not so - in Chile, mortality rates have only decreased. And this is really so, it is difficult to argue with the statistics of the World Bank: the indicators of maternal mortality have fallen twice since the beginning of the 90s. But at the same time, only according to official statistics, 33 thousand women are hospitalized annually due to complications obtained during clandestine abortions. Real figures can be much higher.
In early 2015, discussions about the need to legalize abortion resumed with a series of videos released by the public organization Miles. In the video, pregnant women give detailed instructions on how to have an abortion on their own by throwing themselves under a car or falling down stairs. A year later, in March 2016, the lower house of the Chilean parliament adopted amendments to the legislation allowing abortion in cases of sexual violence, danger to the health of the mother or child.But in order for the amendments to take effect, they still have to go through several stages of confirmation.
Banning abortion as a political instrument
In Brazil, abortion is only allowed for victims of sexual assault and if the pregnancy threatens the mother's life. But at the same time, abortion is prohibited in cases where the fetus is deformed or it is known in advance that the child will have a disability. When the Zika virus began to rage in the country, leading to microcephaly in the fetus, requests for drugs to terminate pregnancy increased in Brazil. Brazil's demand for such drugs has grown by 108% since the beginning of 2015, according to Women on Waves, published in a joint article with the University of Texas, Oxford University and Princeton. The organization helps women around the world by providing online consultations and mailing pills to help terminate pregnancies. But at a certain point, the organization had to stop shipments to Brazil, because postal and border officials began to simply confiscate them.
Another unexpected response to calls from the international community and human rights organizations to allow women to have an abortion in the event of an illness or deformity of the fetus was, on the contrary, a proposal by members of parliament to tighten legislation. Parliamentarian Anderson Ferreira introduced a bill that would increase punishment for women who had an abortion due to infection with the Zika virus. Ferreira has suggested in some cases that women be imprisoned for up to 15 years. Explaining his decision, Ferreira referred to the growing feminist movement, which, in his opinion, decided to take advantage of the unstable situation and lobby for its own interests - the legalization of abortion.
Photos: Flickr, AP / East News (1)