Of course, as basically everyone in the US knows, abortion is a hot-button issue, especially among people of faith. Our United Methodist Social Principles (of which, of course, I almost always have a copy on hand, just in case I stumble upon an occasion like this) say a whole lot on abortion; here are some excerpts:
….Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.
But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.
We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures….
We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may cause them to consider abortion.
….a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by all parties involved, with medical, family, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel. – United Methodist Social Principles, ¶161J
…and that’s only a snippet. Needless to say, a lot of people have a lot to say on the subject of abortion. Last Wednesday, I went to a conference with one of the co-directors of my organization on unplanned pregnancy and abortion here in Colombia, and I must say, it was an informative event.
Each year there are about 20 million abortions globally in unsafe circumstances. There are about 4 million abortions in Latin America annually, almost all of them unsafe. About one-tenth, or specifically an estimated 400,412 of those are in Colombia, and the vast majority (approximately 98.92%) of those abortions performed in Colombia are illegal under the 2006 decision by the Colombian Constitutional Court (abortion is only allowed here in cases of risk to the life or health of the mother, fetal malformation incompatible with life, or violation/incest). And over a quarter of those women, an estimated 132,000 have complications due to abortions performed in unsafe conditions. Every year in Colombia, there are an estimated 911,897 unplanned pregnancies. Of the total of annual pregnancies in Colombia, planned pregnancies resulting in birth make up 27% and planned pregnancies resulting in miscarriage, 6%; unplanned pregnancies resulting in birth make up 29%, unplanned pregnancies resulting in miscarriage make up 9%, and unplanned pregnancies resulting in induced abortion make up 29%.
…But enough with the statistics already. What I found most interesting about the program were the commentaries on the statistics, not the statistics themselves. For instance, efforts must (here in Colombia) be focused, first and foremost, on the most at-risk populations (young women, rural women, displaced women, and women without access to medical care). Abortion (especially outside of legal means) and unplanned pregnancy are big public health problems, and they increase the vulnerability of women, especially the aforementioned at-risk women. We must also begin to break down the paradigm that says speaking about reproductive rights inherently promotes sex outside of marriage. Lastly, the institutions around reproductive rights and abortion are structured around a traditional family system that doesn’t exist any more in many cases, and this is an issue that lies behind the discussion of reproductive rights; realities other than the traditional family system require different institutions, and therefore we must shift the discussion to address present realities.
These were among the many commentaries made at the conference; I really appreciated hearing the insights of the various speakers, and think that they had some interesting things to say about the issue of reproductive rights here in Colombia. Of course, this is almost always a subject which will inevitably ruffle some feathers, but I believe that more often than not, little to no progress can be made without some feathers being ruffled. I request that if you choose to comment on this post, PLEASE be respectful, or else I will claim my authority as the owner of this blog to not approve your comment (nothing personal, but I wish for this to be a space of respectful discourse; feel free to disagree, just do it respectfully).