Many people advocate for the criminalisation of abortion, some going so far as to want it illegal even in cases of rape/incest, or health risks to the mother. Poland has those restrictions in place and rather than the abortion rate falling, it is “flourishing” in the private sector, by private physicians, who are more than happy to perform them for more money. There is so accountability when it comes to cost or quality of care. Or, these women elect to go abroad to a country which does permit abortion. Summary: criminalising abortion does not stop abortion. It does not stop women from finding people willing to perform them. It’s not the most effective route to stopping abortion.
“A new analysis published by the UK journal Reproductive Health Matters shows that the criminalisation of abortion in Poland has led to the development of a vast illegal private sector with no controls on price, quality of care or accountability. Since abortion became illegal in the late 1980s the number of abortions carried out in hospitals has fallen by 99%. The private trade in abortions is, however, flourishing, with abortion providers advertising openly in newspapers.
Women have been the biggest losers during this push of abortion provision into the clandestine private sector. The least privileged have been hardest hit: in 2009 the cost of a surgical abortion in Poland was greater than the average monthly income of a Polish citizen. Low-income groups are less able to protest against discrimination due to lack of political influence. Better-off women can pay for abortions generating millions in unregistered, tax-free income for doctors. Some women seek safe, legal abortions abroad in countries such as the UK and Germany.”
Now let’s look to Peru where similar restrictions are in place and are also ineffective according to a fairly comprehensive study.
“Despite abortion being severely legally restricted – and potentially unsafe – in Peru, the incidence of abortion is as high as or higher than the incidence in many countries where it is legal and safe, found researchers from Peru, the United Kingdom and the United States in an article published in CMAJ.
Clandestine induced abortion is a significant public health issue in many countries where access to abortion is severely legally restricted. Abortions are often available only in cases of rape or incest or when a pregnancy threatens the health or life of the woman, causing many women to pursue clandestine abortions, which are often unsafe. Forty percent of women live in countries where abortions are legally restricted.
As comprehensive official statistics are lacking, this study provides valuable public health data.
The researchers conducted a population-based survey of almost 8000 women aged 18-29 years in 20 Peruvian cities. They found that 11.6% of women reported having abortions and 7.5% of sexually experienced 18-year-olds – the youngest age surveyed – reported having had abortions.”
More than 10% of Peru’s female population, according to the study, have had abortions even though there are strict laws in place. Simply put, laws don’t work. Government intervention and prohibition don’t work. As soon as abortion is criminalised, black market abortions become available. It’s not much different than what you see happening with the continued illegal status of street drugs. There’s always going to be a market for abortion and when government butts their head into something they should not be concerned with, other alternatives become readily available – but with a twist. There is no stopping people under the legal age or the necessity of parental consent. There is no accountability for the quality care or even proof of a physician’s license. The cost is no longer controlled. Criminalising abortion is basically offering the public a chance for free-for-all abortions that will be available and likely lead to infections, death, permanent damage, and so forth. Statistics show those dangers aren’t enough to stop a woman from accessing illegal abortion.