Friday, June 17, 2022

Poland's Abortion Ban Nightmare

Even though I have long been a liberal on the pro-choice side, I have been reluctant to weigh in on this issue until recently. Part of being pro-choice is acknowledging that some people believe that abortion is immoral while others believe it is a necessary evil to preserve the right of a woman to control her own body. Both sides have a right to their belief and to live their lives as they see fit. But when one side wants to legally impose their will on the other, this can lead to problems - some very serious!

Earlier this month, the New York Times had a story Poland Shows the Risks for Women When Abortion Is Banned that I believe most people would find to be disturbing whichever side of this issue they are on. 

The banning of abortion in many US states will become a reality if the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade as expected. It is understandable that some people who find abortion to be immoral want to make it go away by making it illegal. But as we know from countless past examples (most notably Prohibition and the War on Drugs) making something illegal doesn't make it go away! This is especially true with abortion since even with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many states will continue to make it legally available. So especially for women who have the financial means, they can easily travel to a neighboring state if needed to legally have the procedure done. Only the poor will be put into a bind and perhaps forced to have a pregnancy they don't want or can't afford - or even have their lives put at risk in the event of complications.

I hope all of you will read the complete article in the above link. For now, I wish to quote and comment on some of the passages in this article on what are some serious unintended consequences of the present abortion ban in Poland.

Let's start with the article's subheading:

Poland’s abortion ban has had many unintended consequences. One is that doctors are sometimes afraid to remove fetuses or administer cancer treatment to save women’s lives.

This is a tragic reminder that women in Poland have needlessly died - especially when the laws favor the unborn over the life of the mother.

The long battle over Poland’s 29-year-old ban on abortion has intensified over the past 17 months after the elimination of the last significant exception permitting the procedure: fetal abnormalities.

The most common pro-life position through the years in the US is to allow exceptions to any possible abortion ban when rape, incest or the life of the mother are to be considered. But Poland's ban most notably does not allow for exceptions. In the US where one conservative wants to prove they are more conservative than others, a frightening number of proposed laws along with conservative candidates are proudly in favor of the incredibly cruel 'no exceptions' form of abortion bans.

Only one in 10 Poles support the stricter ban, which was enabled by a decision by the country’s highest court, dominated by judges loyal to a deeply conservative government. 

Just like in the US, the majority of Poles are pro-choice. But each country has their own version of a Supreme Court where religious conservatives can impose their will on its people. In the US, the Evangelical Christians are the main political driver. In Poland, it is the Catholic Church.

Just this month, the government required Poland’s central health care system to log pregnancies. Opponents called it a “pregnancy register” that could be used to track down illegal terminations.

Now, we really have a slippery slope! About 1 out of 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Common sense says we can't prosecute a woman for an accidental miscarriage. But how does a government determine for sure if the miscarriage is accidental or from an abortion? This would involve incredible violations of privacy that at least in the US would be intolerable, especially when some of the same people consider Covid mask mandates to be an intolerable invasion of privacy!

Admittedly, there are few examples. But there are some women who have served time in prison for what was likely an accidental miscarriage. But this can be taken a step even further. A woman who suffers an accidental miscarriage can still be prosecuted if it is determined that they contributed to the miscarriage by lifestyle choices such as smoking or drugs. And yes, it has happened here! 

Since [Poland's] last year’s ban on abortions of fetuses with abnormalities, the demand for late-term abortions has surged, too.

A popular straw man argument by some on the pro-life side is that the pro-choice side wants abortion on demand until the day before the baby is born. Don't believe me? There was this gem from Donald Trump repeated often during his 2020 campaign rallies. 

"Virtually every Democrat candidate has declared their unlimited support for extreme late-term abortion, ripping babies straight from the mother’s womb, right up until the very moment of birth."

Demagoguery at its finest! But as the fact check article clarifies:

Most abortions are performed in the earlier stages of pregnancy. About 1 percent happen after the fetus reaches the point of viability. [Normally as a result of a serious fetal abnormality.] In short, the president is describing something that rarely happens and that no Democrat is calling for anyway.

It's easy for some to advocate abortion bans. But as the example of Poland shows, the unintended consequences can be tragic and the invasion of privacy these bans entail would make them almost unenforceable. And after all of these draconian measures, abortion rates are hardly affected - which was presumably the purpose of the bans in the first place.

Abortion has been constitutionally protected in the US for almost 50 years. So most of us, especially those of child-bearing age have never lived in a US where abortion has been banned. So the question must be asked, When it comes to abortion rights, do we want to become Poland?

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