The Huffington Post
Gloria Feldt and Maria Luisa Sanchez Fuentes| BIO | I'M A FAN OF THIS BLOGGER
Appeasement is LethalPosted October 3, 2007 | 02:20 PM (EST)
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Rosaura "Rosie" Jiménez died bleeding and doubled over in excruciating pain from infection caused by the botched illegal abortion she sought in desperation. She was 27, a scholarship student in McAllen, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border, six months shy of getting her teaching credential and struggling to make a better life for herself and her 5-year-old daughter when she was caught in a vise called the Hyde Amendment [PDF]. This law denied her, as it has denied millions of low income women who depend on Medicaid for their health care, financial access to a safe abortion.
Rosie's life was sacrificed on the altar of politically expedient appeasement.
Pro-choice members of Congress, it seems, hadn't fought the bill, so sure were they that the courts would find such discrimination unconstitutional.
Once the Hyde amendment of 1977 put the anti-woman camel's nose under the tent, and pro-choice forces were in part unwilling and in part unable to wrestle the beast to the ground, increasingly draconian restrictions became the norm. Abortion opponents learned that while they were unsuccessful in making abortion illegal, they could lull the public to inaction by switching to a slow, incremental strategy of making abortion inaccessible, one restriction at a time. So barriers to access are increasing for all U.S. women, but especially the young, the poor, and those living in the 87 percent of counties without an abortion provider.
Rosie's Sisters in the U.S. and Mexico
We speak together as Rosie's sisters. For women are all sisters in the slow march toward full equality and simple justice. And no where are we more connected in that march than across the U.S.-Mexico border.
In Mexico, where abortion has been largely illegal for many years, unsafe abortion is the third to fourth highest cause of maternal mortality, and has caused many thousands of women's deaths through the years. Approximately 1,000 women die and over 100,000 have been hospitalized every year from the ravages of illegal abortion.
In the U.S. today, where abortion has been legal since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973, such deaths are exceedingly rare. That Rosie's death -- the first known to be a consequence of Hyde -- is unusual is evidence that safe, legal, and accessible abortion care is truly a blessing for the lives and health of women everywhere.
On April 24 of this year, a woman-made miracle occurred in Mexico City. The capital city decriminalized abortion to the twelfth week of pregnancy -- an enormous victory for women's health, rights, and dignity, and one that has set a precedent not only for Mexico, but for all of Latin America. Since then, more than 2,500 women have received safe abortion care with zero complications.
In Mexico, unlike the U.S., the right to health is protected by the constitution. So, the law's constitutionality will almost certainly be upheld by the federal Supreme Court. In turn pro-choice activists are working to guarantee that these new freedoms will soon be expanded to other Mexican states.
The Mexico City Ministry of Health has also put forward clear guidelines to ensure access to legal abortion services, while reinforcing access to sexuality education (that actually talks about sex) and contraception. They understand that the way to make abortion rare is not to deny access but to make unintended pregnancy rare by making access to reliable contraception and medically accurate sex education universal, and trusting women to use their minds and moral frameworks.
Without access, rights mean nothing
Yet, while Mexico and many other countries from Colombia to Portugal to Ethiopia move forward toward respecting women's legal and moral autonomy to make decisions about their own lives, shamefully, the U.S. is sliding backward.
The U.S. Supreme Court's recent Gonzales v Carhart decision overturning almost 35 years of precedent that made women's health the primary value in the law must be itself overturned by new laws such as the Freedom of Choice Act [PDF] that guarantee women the human and civil right to make their own childbearing decisions.
To start the long road back to full access, biased counseling mandates, required delays, denial of insurance coverage, forced involvement by parents, violence and harassment of providers and patients, and travel burdens -- all part of the U.S. landscape -- must be replaced with laws and services that respect women's desire for motherhood and freedom.
No, appeasing is not the middle ground that allows restrictions on women's consciences; the middle ground is prevention [PDF].
Rosie Jiménez was everyone's sister -- or daughter, mother, aunt, wife, cousin, friend.
In her memory, October is designated Abortion Access Month in the U.S. The reproductive health crime perpetrated against Rosie is symbolic of the 68,000 women and girls who die every year globally as a result of oppressive laws and lack of access to safe abortions. But these deaths are a miniscule part of the story of illness, misery, and suffering that can be averted by guaranteeing that abortion is safe, legal and accessible.
Appeasement is lethal to women and the pro-choice movement!