In Argentina, abortion is only permitted in cases where the mother’s life or health are at risk or the woman is considered “of feeble mind.” That puts Argentina two steps ahead of what some American states want. But now, please sit down Mr. Santorum, the Supreme Court of Argentina has decided that women who have been raped can have a legal abortion.
Yes, I’m picking on Rick Santorum, who said that rape victims should consider the pregnancy a gift of life, no matter how horribly achieved. I’m doing so because Argentina, like many Latin American countries, has struggled with the conflicting demands of a secular civil state and the powerful influence of the Catholic Church.
The case decided today by the Argentine Supreme Court involved a 15-year-old who was raped. Unfortunately, the case took so long to wend its way through the courts that she is now 20 weeks pregnant and an abortion is no longer an option.
It is estimated that a half-million illegal abortions are performed in Argentina every year. Now, you want some stunning statistics? The United States has 312 million residents, and an estimated 1.21 million abortions. Argentina has 40.1 million residents and a half million abortions. In the United States, 0.39% of our population have abortions. In Argentina, 1.25% of the population have abortions. In a nation where abortion is mostly illegal and where a church exerts enormous power over access to birth control, they have 3.2 times as many abortions as we do. As Melissa Harris-Perry has said repeatedly, criminalizing abortion does not stop abortions, it just makes them illegal.
Activists in Argentina are pushing for a decriminalization of abortions because of the country’s high maternal mortality rate. Campaigners have testified that the younger the girl having the illegal abortion, the greater the risk that she will die of complications of unsanitary and dangerous abortion methods.
America cannot provide solid numbers for illegal abortions and deaths before Roe v. Wade, but a contemporary country with an illegal abortion industry like Argentina’s can. Argentina has only allowed artificial contraception since 2003 and the government is deeply involved in trying to educate women and reach them with the free contraception that they offer. That offers very contemporary statistics on what contraception means for families, for reduction of poverty and for women. I just love it when someone comes up with the facts to support what I’ve been saying all along.