Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blog Against Sexism Day

"Pregnant rape victims are essentially assaulted twice," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "First by the perpetrators who raped them, and then by officials who ignore them, insult them and deny them a legal abortion."
Ken Roth is referring to rape victims in Mexico although the way things seem to be headed, give it a year or two and it could just as easily be South Dakota, Tennessee or Alabama.

Human Rights Watch has just released a report, "The Second Assault: Obstructing Access to Legal Abortion after Rape in Mexico," documenting the obstacles faced by rape victims trying to get an abortion in Mexico. In Mexico, legal abortions are only available to rape victims and only to victims who have reported the assault. Due to shame, fear, trauma, humiliation and the rest of the multitude of other reasons rape victims do not report many women are being forced to carry to term the child of their rapist. As utterly abhorrent as that is, the report found that even when victims do come forward and report they are still effectively denied access to abortions through shaming, delays and outright refusals.

"Lidia Muñoz," a 25-year-old rape victim, was intimidated by medical personnel in a public hospital in Mexico City in 2005. An NGO representative who was present gave the following account:

When she got the authorization and went to the hospital to have the [abortion] done, the doctor in charge of her care said to her: ‘We are going to have many problems, because we are going to have to do a death certificate [for the aborted fetus]. You are going to have to bring a hearse, [and] to buy a coffin to take away the body, because we can’t have the body here.’

"Marta Espinosa," a 12-year-old pregnant rape victim in Yucatán was passed from one state agency to another when she tried to obtain a legal abortion. A social worker who physically accompanied her said:

It was a 12-year-old girl, she came from the rural part of the state.... The first doctor had seen her [when she was only] one month pregnant.... The next clinic at eight weeks.... When she came to Mérida [the capital of Yucatán], she was 12 weeks pregnant.... I went to social security, I went to [the public hospital]. I went to the offices of those in charge.... Everyone turned their back. They said: ‘It is not possible.’ I brought the article [of the state penal code] where it says that [abortion after rape] is within the provisions.... In the Family Services agency [where I worked] they wanted her to have the child by any means.... They said to me that she was many months pregnant now, and I said: ‘That’s because many months have gone by while you tell me no.’ (The authorities did not authorize a legal abortion.)

Read the report. I have been reading a lot lately about abortion and choice and the various legal maneuvering going on and I keep intending to write but losing the words. The abortion debate makes me sad and frustrated. Abortion makes me sad. I am pro-choice. I am strongly pro-choice. But I can’t get away from the fact that abortion makes me sad. I am pro-choice because we live in a world that is violent toward women. Rape, domestic violence, trafficking all play in when talking about abortion. Beyond pregnancies resulting out of violence or occurring within violent relationships, our societal framework, that encourages absenteeism amongst fathers, that shames women into carrying pregnancies to term and then shames them for needing assistance, that creates hurdles to access to contraceptives, that is no where near reaching gender equality, necessitates having abortion as a safe and legal option. I think that if we could get to a place where on a societal level we truly supported the children that are born, where men and women bore an equal share of the burden of raising children, where there was no rape or domestic violence, or sexual exploitation, where there was readily available contraceptives, where there was gender equality…then maybe we could start having the discussion about what place abortion has in our society. I don’t know if my position would change or not, but I am all for getting to the place where we could find out.

Today is International Women’s Day and it is also “blog against sexism day.” So here is my plea – let’s learn from Mexico instead of rushing to join them. Let’s table all the restrictive anti-abortion legislation and take all that energy and all that money and address the violence and the social inequalities that make abortion a necessary option first.

-A. Monkey