Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous medical conditions that a woman will encounter during her life. Around the world, an estimated 800 women die each day from complications related to pregnancy. That is 290,000 women each year that do not survive pregnancy.
Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois made the ludicrous claim that abortions are never necessary to save the life of a woman. His claim is that advances in medical technology make abortions unnecessary to save a woman’s life. The figures clearly lead us to a different conclusion. Pregnancy is dangerous for women.
While most deaths from pregnancy are in the Third World, and especially Nigeria and India, the United States is not immune. 880 women die from pregnancy related problems each year. Joe Walsh is defending his position that abortion should never be an option, regardless of the circumstances, a position about as extreme as it can be. The usual exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother are tossed out because of what this congressman incorrectly believes.
The Walsh claim is that “with science and technology, you cannot find a single instance in which a pregnant woman’s life is at risk”. As with any medical condition, science and technology can only do a certain amount. Vast numbers of people die of disease every day, even preventable diseases, despite science and technology, and that includes death caused by pregnancy or childbirth.
It ought to be a woman’s decision, along with her physician, as to whether a pregnancy will endanger her life or not. It should not be up to government to make that choice for her. Conditions that can have an adverse impact on a woman include ectopic pregnancy in which the fetus attaches outside the uterus, and preeclampsia, which causes blood pressure to increase dramatically, which can result in stroke and seizure. At least 6-8 percent of women are subjected to preeclampsia.
In the US, in 1987, there were 7.2 deaths per 100,000. By 2003, that number had risen to 14.5 per 100,000. The CDC believes that at least some of this rise is due to the increase in hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Pregnancy has become not less dangerous because of technology, but more dangerous because of our lifestyles. Taking away the option of abortion and preventative contraception would increase the number of deaths.
The United States ranks 50th in the world in terms of maternal health. The rate of death related to pregnancy and childbirth was cited by Amnesty International as a human rights issue. Under a President Romney, this disastrous situation will only become worse due to his medieval perspective on women;s health issues, contraception and abortion. Women cannot afford to elect this man as president.
There are a number of things that society can do to ensure that women’s lives are of paramount importance. Conservatives often treat women as second class citizens in terms of health and well-being. Voluntary family planning is probably the most important health decision that a young woman can make. The more children a woman has, the more likely it is that complications will arise during or immediately after pregnancy. Conservatives want to limit a woman’s ability to obtain abortions, and even contraception that may save her life. By limiting what some religious institutions, and increasingly, all institutions must cover in their health plans, a woman’s ability to plan her pregnancies will be severely curtailed.
Midwife skills and access to emergency obstetrics should the need arise are essential during pregnancy and childbirth. Since many women will not have access to these services under a Romney administration, the chance of complications during pregnancy will rise. The number of deaths of women will increase merely because they do not have regular access to a physician during this crucial time.
The UN Population Fund has determined that 215m women lack access to modern contraceptives. Just filling that gap would reduce deaths during pregnancy by as much as one third. Under a Romney administration, access to contraception would be curtailed by not forcing medical insurance to guarantee coverage. This will force the rate of deaths to rise.
Religious organizations should think first about the health and safety of their congregants, and not put their own reproductive agenda ahead of women’s health, which is what they are doing. Forcing women to go without contraception ensures that the risk of pregnancy and associated childbirth would rise to unacceptable levels. In addition, access to condoms would go a long way to mitigating the spread of venereal diseases like AIDS, which cost millions their lives around the world.
The Catholic Church’s insistence on increased childbirth is a drain on natural resources, and on family financial resources, especially among the poor. The Church should be in the business of ensuring that their congregants are healthy, safe and adequately fed, not force unwanted pregnancies on them for a nebulous and unprovable religious precept.
Black women in particular are four times as likely to die from complications during pregnancy as their white counterparts, although deaths are rising among white. This is possibly due to increase morbidity, obesity and diabetes.
We should accept that any living individual ought to have the right to determine what they can do with their own bodies, and who they should allow to use their body for support. Just as we would not allow the government to order us to part with a kidney, or an eye, or a lung, since we have two of each, or allow ourselves to be connected physically to another human being, we should not allow the government to order us to support another, whether it is a fetus or anyone else against our wishes. We own our bodies, they do not belong to the state, or the church, or our employers and we should have the right to determine what to do with them.
If a fetus is allowed to have greater rights to life than any living person, all our human liberties, rights and freedoms will be in jeopardy. The state could use the fetus as a proxy and remove from us our right to property, to life, to our basic humanity. It is only when certain sectors of the population come to realize that a blastocyst is not a human that things will change for the better. A small clump of 100 cells cannot have the same rights as a human containing many billions of cells. The blastocyst and fetus do not have a complete set of organs, a nervous and circulatory system, a developed brain stem or any of the other requisites that make us human. We are human once we are independent of the mothers body and not before.
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