Report: Deaths, Unsafe Abortions In Latin America Hold Lessons For GOP Seeking To Outlaw Procedure

As Republicans move to outlaw abortion in the states and the GOP’s presidential candidates outdo themselves in opposing the procedure — promising to establish new federal restrictions and sign legislation prohibiting abortion in all circumstances — “Latin America, home to the world’s strictest abortion laws, may hold lessons” for conservatives hoping to ban the practice, Bloomberg’s Flavia Krause-Jackson and Caroline Alexander report.

“A consequence of the laws, whatever the moral arguments, is that Latin American women have more ‘unsafe’ abortions per capita than women in any other region, according to the World Health Organization,” and as a result, an estimated “900 women died in 2008 from unsafe abortions in Central and South America.” In some cases, the laws have stopped doctors from providing life-saving health care services to women:

In Nicaragua, where a complete ban was passed in 2006, psychologist Marta Maria Blandón recounts the case of a married young woman carrying her first child, who sought treatment for acute stomach pains. She died in a hospital bed because doctors, afraid to intervene, ordered more tests when a therapeutic abortion would have saved her life, according to Blandón.

Ipas, an international women’s advocacy group with an office in Managua, estimates that at least 100 women in Nicaragua have died in the past five years as a result of the law because health authorities didn’t perform abortion when atypical pregnancies put the mothers’ lives in danger.

Significantly, Republicans seek to limit access to abortion as they undermine funding for sex education, contraception and health care — what experts consistently identify as the “most effective ways of reducing abortions.” The health care piece is particularly galling, since the GOP would repeal the ACA without any concrete alternative for care to mothers and their newborn children.

Women contemplating an abortion are far less likely to seek one if they can afford health insurance for themselves and their babies, research finds. In fact, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, “the number of abortions in Massachusetts declined by 1.5 percent during the first two years of the new health care program (2007–2009) and the decline was 7.4 percent among teenagers — even though the percentage of non-elderly people receiving coverage went up nearly 6 percent.”