Informal Feminism











{January 23, 2011}   Safe Abortion Now!

I had a topic all laid out this week, pre-planned and just waiting to be written. However, on Thursday night I went on-line and was confronted with a news story about a man called Kermit Gosnell. This man has been providing late term and very dangerous abortions in a clinic in Philadelphia. He has been running this clinic for over thirty years in the same location. The staff that he employed had no medical background and they were very involved in providing drugs to the women who came for an abortion, as well as performing the abortions themselves. His clinic had not had a health inspection since 1993 and he was operating as a legal abortion provider. The conditions that the clinic was found to be in were so shocking and disgusting that I will not relay them in this blog. The clientele of his clinic tended to be poor and minority women who were unable to access other avenues for abortion. This case led me to a new topic for this week safe, legal and accessible abortion.

            Many people do not agree but I stand strong in my belief that women have the right to access abortion and make decisions about their own reproductive health. The Gosnell case is a perfect example of a back alley abortionist, unfortunately he was legally sanctioned, who caters to minority women and what can happen to these women as a result of having to go to him for lack of a better option. Gosnell is being charged with the death of one woman and seven infants in his case but it is suspected that many other women died as a result of the unsafe abortion practices that he used. He also caused severe damage to many women in his abortion clinic that did not die. When I read about this case one very striking aspect about it is that this clinic was allowed to operate unchecked for thirty years. The department of health in Pennsylvania did nothing to follow-up on several complaints about Gosnell, one which was made directly from another doctor. The other scary point that was brought forth was that this was allowed to happen because the women that he was providing abortions for tended to be poor, minority women. This was allowed to happen because these women had no voice on their side. They were allowed to be mutilated for years because, as the grand jury report on the case stated, there was no media attention. No one cared that this was happening to these women, that terrifies me more then anything about this case.

            The final paper I wrote in university was on poor, minority women and their access to reproductive health services, including abortion. In Canada getting an abortion is not easily accessed. Abortion is legal and is provided in all provinces except PEI, however accessing that service is much harder then it looks. Ontario is one of the best providers of abortion services in Canada, with 17% of its hospitals providing abortions. 17% is not a high number. The reality is that women can be forced to wait up to six weeks in certain places, Peterborough, Sarnia, and Ottawa, Ontario are known for this wait time. While abortions can be provided up to 24 weeks, most legally accessible channels don’t offer the service past 12 weeks. This means that if a woman finds out that she is pregnant at six or eight weeks and there is a six week wait time she will not be able to get the abortion from certain doctors. This limits women’s ability to have control over their own reproductive decisions because they may be forced to keep the child they never intended to have or they have to go to another provider which can be either costly or illegal. This is one way that abortion is controlled by not being readily available/ accessible in most places. It also makes a statement about the need for more access to proper abortion clinics because if women are having to wait up to six weeks for an abortion there is obviously a need for an increase in the amount of safe providers.

            There are a lot of factors involved in getting an abortion and if a woman does not have an accessible clinic then that woman is forced to either keep the child, travel to get an abortion or go to an illegal provider. For example, if you are a woman in PEI who wants or needs to get an abortion you have to travel out of province. Immediately these women are forced to shell out travel costs, as well as losing time off work if they work. If a woman decides to get an abortion outside of province then she has to pay for it out of pocket and it is supposedly reimbursed by the province she is from. So these women need to have cash up front to pay for the service and then they have to factor in recovery time as well. So if you are a poor woman, who does not have access to a lump sum of money and you are in a location where you have to travel to get an abortion then it can be very difficult to access abortion through legal channels. This leaves women going to back alley abortion clinics where they are not monitored and can get quite hurt or they are forced to keep the child.

            When I listen to people talk about abortion from the anti-abortion stance I often get the impression that they think that these women are unaffected by the abortion. They view these women as heartless people, when the reality of it is that most women face both physical, it is hard on your body to abort a fetus, and emotional damage after an abortion. Not only that but they don’t see the factors that lead can lead getting an abortion. Sure one woman’s reason can be that she just did not want a child and that is perfectly viable. However, there are other reasons that women choose to access abortion such as, poverty, danger to the woman’s health, or the fetus is a result of rape as well as many others. What if you have no money and you can not afford to bring a child into the world? What if the doctor says that to give this fetus life you will give up your own? What if a woman is raped and decides she does not want to keep the fetus? These are some of the reasons that women can decide to get an abortion. Does that make them bad people, the answer is NO. If a woman wants to have an abortion then it seems more harmful to both the woman and the child if she has to keep it because that child may end up with parents who resent it or going into adoption services and foster homes, which are hard to grow up in. Women should have the right to make decisions affecting their own bodies. It is part of our rights to be able to have control over our own reproductive health. I am going to address one issue right away; I don’t think that the man should be left out of the decision. I think if the woman is in a position to consult with him then she should, unfortunately that is not always the case. However, the woman needs to do what is in her best interests.

            Abortion is already a hard process on the body when done under a licensed doctor in supervised and clean conditions but because it is something that can be hard for so many women to access it can become very dangerous because women turn to back alley abortionist. Women are prone to infection, the conditions are unsanitary and the women are either drugged at unhealthy levels or not at all. It is also something that is happening illegal or not, so it makes sense to provide these women with access to clean and safe conditions. The Gosnell case proves to me that these butchers masquerading as abortionists are still active and harming women, mainly poor, minority women with no other options. I have no doubt that this happens in our country as well. At the core of this post is the same as my post on cultural relativism, Women are human beings and as such should be afforded the same human rights. They deserve access to clean and safe abortion clinics. That women in 2011 are losing their lives in abortion clinics in our supposedly progressive and western society is terrifying and it only goes to show how backwards we still are to women’s health issues.

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Beth says:

I completely agree with you! Women will never be able to truly become equal citizens if they are not allowed to have reproductive control. It is a major factor in high percentage of women living in poverty. I think it’s totally uethical to take away a woman’s right to choose and not making safe abortions available to everyone does exactly that.



Daria says:

I also agree. It is terrifying that so many women are put in such a dangerous situation. We are supposed to have the right to choose, but what choice are we given if we are not provided with safe alternatives?



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