Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Criminalizing Women's Health

Partial birth abortions, or abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, are almost always done when the fetus is not viable (usually hydrocephalic) and the woman's health is in danger. They are extremely rare, representing only 0.03% (three one-hundredths of one percent) of all abortions in Canada. It is ironic that someone trying to ban this necessary medical intervention should call themselves "pro-life."

Liberal MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce) recently introduced a private member's bill to restrict partial-birth abortions. His bill imposes penalties of 5 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Luckily, only one third of MPs are anti-choice. That's a lot more than there were before the last election (78 of the 100 anti-choice MPs are Conservative), but it's not enough for the bill to pass.

In his speech introducing the bill, Steckle said that Canada is one of the only countries in the world that provides no legal protection for the unborn. Here's another take on the same statistic:

As the only democratic country in the world with no legal restrictions against abortion, Canada serves as a valuable model for other countries. In the eighteen years since the Supreme Court declared our abortion law unconstitutional, we've shown that a lack of laws actually leads to earlier and safer abortions. In Canada, about 90 percent of abortions are done by 12 weeks, and about 97 percent by 16 weeks. This is a better record than in the US, where numerous legal restrictions serve mainly to delay abortions and increase the medical risk. Moreover, Canadian women have almost one-third fewer abortions than American women, and at rates comparable to countries in western Europe. Canada also enjoys one of the lowest maternal mortality and complication rates for abortion in the world.

We're not doing as well as that might sound. For example:

* Less than 18% of Canadian hospitals perform abortions, and many communities - including all of Nunavit and PEI - have no hospitals that perform abortions at all.
* The abortion drug mifepristone (RU-486) is not yet available in Canada.
* There are often insufficient services available to women with unwanted pregnancies to help them find the solution that is right for them, which may very well not be abortion.

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1 comment:

SUZANNE said...

Let me set the record straight about the number of late-term abortions. According to StatsCan, of 103 000 or so abortions performed in Canada, only 46 000 records had details such as gestational age. Of those 46 000, we know that 0.3% were past 20 weeks, which represents 325 abortions or so-- those are the ones we KNOW of. If we use that same 0.3% rate to all 103 000 abortions, that's over 700 abortions-- but we don't know for sure. Could be more, could be less.

PCAN activist Joyce Arthur has said that sometimes they are done for socially compelling reasons.

And even if the fetus is not viable, how is it humane to kill him, instead of letting him die a natural death? Late-term abortions involved partial-birth abortions-- which involve sucking out the baby's brain while he's halfway out the birth canal, but also dilation and evacuation, which involves the dismemberment of the baby in the womb, and saline injection, where the baby is poisoned and his skin is burned from the solution.

This is not humane.