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Raped by My Stepfather: A Survivor of Illegal Abortion On Why Safe, Legal Abortion is Essential

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Rape is RAPE

(Photo: mmtzjr69out/flickr)

 

Written by Dawn Hill for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This is one of a series of powerful stories from survivors of rape, you will find them all here.

This week, Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock argued in a debate that women who have been raped should not have access to abortion services because their pregnancies are a “gift from god.” As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I disagree with him completely.

My name is Dawn Hill. Though I am old now, there was a time when I was young and carefree as you perhaps are now or can remember being in your childhood. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time for all our children, but my mother found her new husband, my stepfather, much more important. He forever took the joy away from my life when I was just 11 years old: He began molesting me and continued until he began raping me when I was 13.

Mr. Mourdock last night said:  ”I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because of the times: in the fifties, abortion was illegal. Illegal in the same way the Republican Party platform states it wants to make abortion now by constitutional amendment and just as Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested casually he would “be delighted” to return to.

Please, take a moment to travel back to the fifties with me.

My mother took me to Mexico, where anyone could get an abortion for a price. I have blocked out many memories associated with this entire experience, but I remember the pain. Illegal abortions are not the simple safe vacuum procedure used today by legal abortion providers. Oh, no: They were a “dilatation and curettage.”

This means that my cervix was mechanically opened by insertion of larger and larger metal “dilators” until it was opened enough to get a sort of sharpened spoon inside my 13-year-old uterus, while strangers looked at my exposed parts that were theretofore called “private.”

It was cold and dirty in the room, and then the true torture started. They shoved this curette into me and scraped away the entire lining of my uterus with the sharp side. I screamed the entire time even though no one had seen so much as a tear out of me before this moment because I had developed a stony stoicism to protect my mind from the molestation.

This pain was, however, like nothing I’ve ever felt before or since. Can you imagine what happened to those women and girls who couldn’t even get this barbaric abortion? They stuck wire hangers into themselves and bled to death or suffered other horrible complications. Then, too, I also got a terrible infection from the filthy conditions.

I can tell you, though, that I would have gotten a hundred illegal abortions before carrying that monster’s offspring and going through labor, even to give the child away. That would have been the unkindest cut of all.

For women and girls, safe legal abortions are essential. While many will choose a different path than I with their pregnancies, having that choice is essential. Any encroachment on that right is an encroachment on the life, liberty, and safety of the women and girls of America.

Breaking the Cycle of Unwanted Pregnancy and Unsafe Abortion: A Call to Action

1:31 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Elizabeth Maguire for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This article is adapted from remarks made at the International Conference on Family Planning, Dakar, Senegal.

Millions of women in Africa and the developing world suffer and die needlessly from unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion. As we know, 215 million women want to space their births but do not have access to contraception, or contraception may fail – but for a variety of reasons, women are do not have access to the care that they need.

Actions to break this cycle are a major focus at the International Conference on Family Planning now underway in Dakar, Senegal, and we are pleased that participants will be sharing successful strategies for giving women ready access to contraceptive information and services and to life-saving treatment for complications of unsafe abortion. Thanks to many organizations and governments represented at here, we have seen major progress in both these important areas.

But much remains to be done and a much more comprehensive approach is needed. Even the best contraceptive and postabortion services are not enough to prevent women from suffering and dying from unsafe abortion. A third component that is often stigmatized and neglected even in the context of reproductive health programs is safe, legal abortion.

Unsafe abortion is a major – and entirely preventable — public health crisis. But eliminating it requires a comprehensive, holistic approach addressing all three of these components.

African women are at particularly high risk of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion, because unmet need for family planning is higher here than in other regions of the world. An estimated 47 million women in sub-Saharan Africa want to limit or space births but cannot obtain the information and care they need to do so.  Each year, over 6 million women risk their lives with unsafe abortion because they have no other option; of this number, 29,000 die needlessly, or in other words, hundreds of thousands in the space of a decade.  Africa accounts for more than half of all abortion-related deaths in the world.

These statistics – and the human stories that lie behind every number – are simply intolerable. Evidence tells us that abortion is one of the safest of all medical procedures when performed by trained health care providers in sanitary conditions and, with medical abortion pills, an early abortion is safe in the hands of women themselves with medical back-up nearby.

Globally, all but a handful of countries have at least one indication for legal abortion. In Africa, every country permits abortion at least to save a woman’s life, and, in more than 40 percent of African countries, in cases of rape, incest and fetal impairment.

But safe services, even to the extent of the law, are unavailable or inaccessible in most parts of Africa.

Today, we call on the global family planning and health community to take three steps that are completely feasible to help break this cycle. 

  • First, stop avoiding discussion of abortion. It is part of many women’s lives and always has been. Not talking about it will not make it go away.  We are glad this conference has made the space to talk about abortion. This must be the beginning of a greatly expanded dialogue on this critical issue.
  • Second, do a better job of ensuring that every woman who has an abortion or is treated for complications is offered contraceptive counseling and a choice of methods – on site and ideally by the same health workers who provided the abortion or postabortion treatment.
  • But we cannot simply hide behind postabortion care as if the job is done.  A third and most important step within the power of family planning programs and providers is to ensure that each woman experiencing an unwanted pregnancy receives counseling, and, if she wishes to terminate the pregnancy, is referred for a safe, legal abortion in the same or a nearby facility.  Currently, few programs require or train family planning providers to offer such counseling or referral.

In summary, the family planning community – and the wider global health community – must honestly confront the realities of unwanted pregnancy if we claim to value women’s lives and well-being and if we truly respect their rights. We must ensure that women everywhere have access to a full continuum of care:  contraceptives, postabortion care and safe induced abortion. 

Rachel’s Sabbath and the Far Right’s Attack on Women

8:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, and posted on RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This article was originally published by the IndyStar.com.

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, congregations across the country are designating the weekend of March 4-6 as Rachel Sabbath. In the Bible, Rachel is the matriarch who dies in childbirth.

The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of the crisis in reproductive health services and care around the world. Rachel Sabbath supports the United Nations goal of improving maternal health by doubling current global investments in family planning, reproductive and health services to women around the world. The effort could save $1.5 billion in long-term medical costs and it would save the lives of 400,000 women and 1.6 million infants each year.

Women in developing countries are at greatest risk. In Niger, the risk of women dying from pregnancy-related complications is one in seven, the highest in the world. The lowest-risk country is Ireland. Despite our exemplary medical care, 40 nations have a lower risk of maternal death than the United States.

So it is both shocking and appalling that in America, federal legislation is being proposed that would eliminate Title X funding, which covers family planning and preventive reproductive medical care. Federal and state legislation also is targeting Planned Parenthood funding.

What’s behind these efforts? … Read more

Learning the Right Lessons From the Philadelphia Abortion Clinic Disaster

9:07 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Carol Joffe for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This article is cross-posted with permission from Beacon Broadside.

Reading the Grand Jury report on Women’s Medical Society in Philadelphia, the now-closed abortion clinic ran by Dr. Kermit Gosnell, is stomach turning. This was truly a chamber of horrors: a filthy facility, with blood stained blankets and furniture, unsterilized instruments, and cat feces left unattended. Most seriously, there was a jaw dropping disregard of both the law and prevailing standards of medical care. Untrained personnel undertook complex medical procedures, such as the administration of anesthesia, and the doctor in question repeatedly performed illegal (post-viability) abortions, by a unique and ghastly method of delivering live babies and then severing their spinal cord. Two women have died at this facility and numerous others have been injured. What remains baffling is how long this clinic was allowed to operate, in spite of numerous complaints made over the years to city and state agencies, and numerous malpractice suits against Dr. Gosnell. Indeed, it was only because authorities raided the clinic due to suspicion of lax practices involving prescription drugs that the conditions facing abortion patients came to law enforcement’s attention.

As information about this clinic spread, many have understandably compared Women’s Medical Society to the notorious “back alley” facilities of the pre-Roe era, when unscrupulous and often unskilled persons (some trained physicians, some not) provided abortions to desperate women, in substandard conditions. This is an apt comparison. But Gosnell’s clinic should not only be understood as a strange throwback to the past. Women’s Medical Society represents to me an extreme version of what I have termed “rogue clinics,” facilities that today prey on women, disproportionately women of color and often immigrants, in low income communities. Read more

Unsafe Abortion: The Costs to National Health Systems

6:43 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Christi van der Westhuizen for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive justice.

This is the third in a series of articles from Keeping Our Promise: Addressing Unsafe Abortion in Africa this week. The conference has brought together more than 250 health providers, advocates, policy makers and youth participants for a discussion of how to reduce the impact of unsafe abortion in Africa.

How much does unsafe abortion cost national health systems? This is exactly the question that a group of medical experts and health researchers set out to answer in 2007, using the example of the east African country Ethiopia.

Ethiopia was selected because its policymakers sought more information about the economic burden that unsafe abortion placed on the country’s health system. The Ethiopian government liberalised abortion care in 2005, allowing it in cases of incest, rape, threats to the woman’s life and health and in cases where the patient is a minor or has physical or mental disabilities.

The researchers wanted to show how much money could be saved if surgery and medication for care after unsafe abortions were not needed. This is an important consideration as such savings would free up money for other health priorities, explains Dr Haile Gebreselassie, senior research advisor at Ipas Africa and involved in the design of the cost study.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →