I remember a time when all abortions were illegal in the USA. I remember when only certain states allowed any abortions. It scares me to see us rapidly approaching those times today because, if for no other reason, I know, from memory, that while the wealthy will find ways for safe abortions, those who lack that wealth will not...and those women will suffer and they will die.
But today, I am not writing about the USA. Today I write of Haiti.
In Haiti today women who have an abortion have them in secret. Wealthy women in Haiti can fly out of the country, but poor women says Haiti Grassroots Watch, "...have to use various medicines from pharmacists or traditional healers, or they have operations performed by doctors working without any oversight from health authorities."
Abortion is illegal in Haiti, and anyone convicted of performing the procedure can receive up to nine
years in prison. A woman who obtains the procedure or carries out her own abortion is also subject to
penalty of imprisonment. Back-alley and self-induced abortions carry a high risk of infection and
death, and many women are reluctant to go to the hospital because of the social stigma attached to
Grassroots Haiti writes:
Olga Benoit, of the Solidarite Fanm Ayisyèn (SOFA or Solidarity for Haitian Women) organization, recognizes that abortion is part of Haitian society, despite being illegal. For her, fake doctors (called “charlatans” in Haitian Creole) pose the greatest risk.
There is a big difference between what the law says and what is really happening on the ground,” she said. “Ever since 1987, SOFA has noted that girls, adolescents and young women are exposed to enormous risks – risking their health and even their lives – because they have to go to charlatan to get an abortion.”
“As the years go by, more and more doctors have complained about the cases of women in critical condition who end up in the hospital after an abortion,” she added.
Obstetrician and gynecologist Nicole Magloire, who is also executive secretary of the National Consultancy Against Violence Against Women, said that Haiti has doctors capable of performing surgical abortions safely, but, “because it is illegal, good doctors who are capable of doing the procedure in safe sanitary conditions have to operate clandestinely, and this makes it more expensive, and thus largely inaccessible.”
"... “So long as the state continues to consider it a crime, it will do nothing to assure that women who are obliged to have an abortion can do so under conditions that do not put their lives in danger. At the moment, people can take advantage of women,” Benoit noted. “There are women who have been butchered by doctors but who have nowhere to turn.”
No one can say with any certainty how many women have died from unsafe abortions in Haiti. During a recent workshop, Minister of Public Health Dr. Florence Duperval Guillaume said that “...of every 100,000 live births, we have recorded 630 maternal deaths,” due to complications. The ministry speculates that 20 to 30 percent of maternal deaths are due to botched abortions. That is probably a way low estimate.
Globally, half of all abortions take place under unsafe conditions and each year, 70,000 women die
and over eight million suffer medical complications following abortions due to improper conditions or
follow-up. We can also say that according to the recent report Abortion World Wide: A Decade of
Uneven Progress, 98 percent of abortions in poor countries take place in dangerous conditions. We
can say according to surveys of knowledgeable health professionals in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico
and Peru, women seeking abortions commonly go either to traditional practitioners, many of whom
employ unsafe techniques, or to doctors or nurses, who generally provide safer services. Some
women try to self-induce abortion using either highly dangerous methods or abortion-inducing drugs
purchased from pharmacists or other vendors. We can say disadvantaged women turn to unsafe
methods and inadequately trained providers. In Guatemala, among women obtaining an abortion, the
proportion of women who go to a traditional birth attendant is three times as high among poor rural
women than among better-off urban women (60% vs. 18%).
Women are being maimed and killed due to a patriarchal, capitalist, and oppressive system which decides for them what they are allowed do with their own bodies.
In Haiti, where nothing is easy, where the maternal death rate is the highest by far in the region, when you throw in medieval like laws, religious taboos, traditional injunctions and the like, the situation for poor women denied their reproductive rights can become down right dire.
Hell, throw out the issue of reproductive rights and the situation is still dire. Gender in Haiti reports:
As a difficult reality for Haitian mothers, there are not enough resources to educate and provide care for those in pregnancy. Many postnatal deaths occur when women delay seeking treatment, from the amount of time it takes to reach a treatment center, and from the lack of available resources and or physicians at the care center. And finally, in a study conducted by Healthcare for Women International, 1/3 of the patients interviewed did not seek medical care during their pregnancy due to lack of funds.
The Guardian reported in 2011:
Anyway, you get the picture, I hope.
The following is from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. It is several months old, but most of you most likely never saw it.
Unsafe abortions: Haiti’s abortion crisis
November 23, 2013