A look at some countries where abortion
is illegal or difficult to obtain.
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Two Shocking Stories
The Republic of Ireland
'Miss X' was a fourteen year-old girl who lived in the Republic of
Ireland. In 1992, She was raped by her school-friend's father and became
pregnant. The Irish constitution forbids abortion, but every year thousands
of Irish women go to England, where abortions became legal in 1967.
Miss X pleaded with her parents to take her to London for an abortion
and they agreed. Because of the trial of the school-friend's father,
the family told the Irish police what they were going to do.
The result was a terrible legal argument in Ireland. Miss X's life
was a nightmare. The police telephoned her family in London and said
that they must return home without having the abortion. The girl said
she would kill herself.
The Irish public - and many other people around the world - watched
in horror as the lawyers continued to argue about the Irish constitution
and rights of a child who had been raped. After several weeks, Miss
X was finally allowed to leave Ireland again so that she could end her
RAPED: forced to have sex when you don't want
PREGNANT (adj): if a woman is pregnant, a new child is growing inside
CONSTITUTION: the rules and principles that
are the basis for a country's law and government
FORBIDS: does not allow
A similar story in Brazil has a different ending. M was an eleven-year-old
girl who was raped and became pregnant. At first M tried to hide her
pregnancy, but her father found out. He requested an abortion, which
was legal in this case because of the rape and because it is dangerous
for a young girl to give birth.
However, M's situation became national news. Anti-abortionists marched
to the town where M lived and held noisy protests. They shouted out
that the Pope (the head of the Roman Catholic church) had said abortion
is 'an abominable crime'. The anti-abortionists persuaded M's father
that M's life would not be in danger if she completed her pregnancy.
ANTI-ABORTIONISTS: people who want to stop abortions
ABOMINABLE: very, very bad
Campaigns against abortion
are dangerous for women.
Anti-abortion campaigners are active all over Brazil. One result is
that many state-funded hospitals refuse to give women abortions, even
when those abortions would be legal. Therefore, women have illegal abortions:
and these illegal abortion cause 20% of the deaths of young women in
CAMPAIGNERS: people who try to change a law,
often in a very public way
STATE-FUNDED: paid for by the government
The United States is another country with a fanatical anti-abortion
movement. This can make it difficult for women to have safe abortions.
A woman's right to have an early abortion is protected by the constitution
of the United States. However, individual states can introduce additional
laws. Therefore anti-abortionists campaign for new state laws that will
make it more difficult for women to get safe abortions. Now, in many
individual states there are laws that restrict access to abortions for
teenage girls. The result is that young girls who succeed in getting
abortions have them later in pregnancy, when the risks are greater.
FANATICAL: if you are fanatical about something,
your belief is stronger than logic or reason
RESTRICT ACCESS: make it difficult
for people to get something
Laws against abortion do not
Having an abortion is not an experience that women want. Women who
have abortions would prefer that they had never become pregnant. However,
these women feel very strongly (for many different reasons) that they
do not want to continue their pregnancy.
When women have an abortion, they know that they are stopping a new
life. But many decide to do this because they also know that, if the
pregnancy continues, they cannot meet other responsibilities: responsibilities
to the child who would be born; responsibilities to their other children;
even responsibilities to themselves.
Therefore, many women will try to have an abortion, even if it is not
legal or safe. Making abortions illegal does not stop them. Laws against
abortion only make abortion painful and dangerous.
RESPONSIBILITIES: duties; things you must take
FOETUS: unborn child
In the Philippines abortion is a crime and a foetus is protected by
the country's constitution. However, it is estimated that 17% of women
in Manila (the capital city of the Philippines) have had an abortion.
Medical problems that result from abortions are the most common reason
for women to go into hospital.
Now opponents of abortion have introduced a new bill. If it becomes
law, abortion will be the same kind of crime as rape or murder. People
who perform abortions and women who have abortions could be sentenced
When Poland was a communist country, it had very liberal abortion laws.
When communist rule ended in 1990, the situation changed. There were
large public demonstrations, both in favour of abortion and against
it. The Roman Catholic church played an active role in the campaign
against abortion: local priests said that they would refuse to give
religious sacraments to people who did not sign petitions against abortion.
Now, in Poland most abortions are crimes. Only 3% of the abortions
that were allowed before 1990 are still legal today. However, this has
not stopped abortions. A few months after abortion became a crime there
were signs that women could still find ways to end unwanted pregnancies.
LIBERAL ABORTION LAWS: it was easy to get
SACRAMENTS ceremonies that are very important
Women who had enough money travelled to Russia, Germany or Holland
for abortions. Women with less money tried to find other answers. Some
women had illegal abortions in Poland. Police began to receive bodies
of women who had died from abortions that went wrong. The number of
women who reported 'miscarriages' increased. People began to find the
bodies of newborn babies in fields and woods.
MISCARRIAGE: when a foetus 'dies' for natural reasons
Lack of medical care is another problem
Even where abortion is legal, there can be other problems that prevent
women from having safe and affordable abortions. In India, for example,
abortion has been legal since 1971. However, there are more illegal
abortions than legal ones. Why? Because there are not enough doctors
or medical facilities.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: places where people can
get medical care
The material on this page has been adapted from a longer
article, "A moral question," by Janet Hadley in the July 1998 New
Copyright New Internationalist Magazine 1998
Last Modified: 20 July 1999
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