Ingriane was a Brazilian woman who lived in a poor region of Rio de Janeiro. After already having birthed three children – whose fathers did not pay for childcare and did not participate in their upraise- Ingrained had no income and indebted herself to pay for an illegal procedure to end her pregnancy. In order to do so, Ingrained used a tree stalk to provoke uterine contraction, thus expelling the fetus. She agonized for four days before passing away. Ingriane is unfortunately one of many women that are driven to execute these brutal terminations. Studies indicate that in Brazil, black, poor, and uneducated women are at a disproportionately higher risk of experiencing complications due to illegal abortion practices. There is also a racial factor in these statistics: for white women in the country, there are three deaths as a consequence of abortion for every 100 thousand born children, while for black women that risk rises to 5 in 100 thousand.
Ingriane’s heart-rending reality is common for millions of women. The Stork has recently touched upon how the new abortion laws in Texas prove that the link between religion and the State is a big reason why reproductive rights are denied around the world. This article intends to show how women from low-income backgrounds are especially vulnerable due to restrictive abortion laws, yet paradoxically, poor countries have the most restrictive legislation regarding reproductive rights.
In Brazil, abortion is illegal except for very specific situations, such as rape or when the mother’s life is at risk. Unfortunately, the laws in Texas opened doors to the voices of ‘pro-life’ conservatives in the Brazilian government who want these laws to be even harsher. The Social Security and Family Commission, and (ironically) the Commission for the Rights of Women conducted a seminar to hear supporters of the ‘Statute of the Unborn’. This statute, if passed, would be a piece of legislation that completely forbids abortions, even in the cases where it’s currently legal in the country. As stated by one of the Congresswomen: “What we want is that no woman, in fact, performs an abortion”.
The wish voiced by the Congresswomen, however, is not achieved by passing more restrictive abortion laws. In fact, the regions with more restrictive abortion laws are actually the ones that perform more of those procedures. Such a statement may also be backed if seen through the lens of rationality theory. This theory assumes that political actors are going to act rationally i.e. they will take measures that will rationally lead towards their desired goal. However, if the main goal of political leaders in underdeveloped countries is to stop people from getting abortions, then the evidence presented in this article shows that they’re not taking the right measures – if their goal really is to decrease the rate of abortions, they should alleviate abortion laws, because it is in the countries which have more ‘relaxed’ abortion laws that the rates of abortion have dropped. Globally, between 1990-1994 and 2010-2014, the rate of abortion dropped 19 percentage points, however, it only declined by 3 percentage points in developing nations.
Poorer countries (or the so-called global south) are also the ones which have the most restrictive abortion laws (as shown in the map above). There is no correlation between restrictive laws and lower aboriton rates. However, there is a corelation between illegal abortions and higher rates of unsafe procedures and health complications.This data strengthens the argument that the motivation behind restrictive abortion laws is purely ideological. This is especially detrimental for underdeveloped nations as they tend to be more conservative, thus decreasing the chances abortion is legalized.
Therefore, one must consider, on the other hand, the possibility that these politicians’ main goal is not to prevent abortions from happening, but rather to back up their ideological stance of conservativism i.e. to preserve the ideological and political image that those politicians wish to have in the country, to continue being seen as people who are “pro-life”, even though the results of their actions don’t actually lead to that result.
Regardless of the root cause of the promotion of restrictive abortion laws, those measures are extremely detrimental to women all around the world. Those who are confined to the legislation of underdeveloped countries are even more vulnerable as conducting unsafe abortions, like in Ingriane’s case, where such leads to higher rates of health complications and even deaths. Politicians are guided by their ideological agenda rather than by genuine concern for female reproductive rights – or even for human rights. If leaders truly don’t want the destiny of millions of women to be the same as Ingriane’s, they must put aside their outdated political agenda and start truly acting rationally. And while they don’t do that, we – women all over the world – will fight back.