Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sure Enough...

Just a couple of weeks ago, I did a post on the logical consequences of taking the pro-life position seriously on its own terms. I made the point that do-it-yourself abortions would look like miscarriages, the pro-lifers would figure this out, and miscarriages would necessarily prompt invasive and humiliating criminal investigations.

Turns out I was right. According to this story in the Sunday New York Times, these very consequences have come to pass in El Salvador since it passed a strict pro-life law. A few key excerpts from the story:

Today, Article 1 of El Salvador's constitution declares that the prime directive of government is to protect life from the "very moment of conception." The penal code detailing the Crimes Against the Life of Human Beings in the First Stages of Development provides stiff penalties: the abortion provider, whether a medical doctor or a back-alley practitioner, faces 6 to 12 years in prison. The woman herself can get 2 to 8 years. Anyone who helps her can get 2 to 5 years. Additionally, judges have ruled that if the fetus was viable, a charge of aggravated homicide can be brought, and the penalty for the woman can be 30 to 50 years in prison...

To begin with, when a woman might face jail time for an abortion, she's less likely to discuss her pregnancy at all. According to a study on attempted suicide and teen pregnancy published last year by academics at the University of El Salvador, some girls who poison their wombs with agricultural pesticide (its efficacy being a Salvadoran urban legend) would rather report the cause of their resulting hospital visit as "attempted suicide," which is not as felonious a crime nor as socially unbearable as abortion...

Most women with some education or access to the Internet quickly learn about misoprostol, she said. It is an ulcer drug that, when inserted in the vagina, can provoke contractions and cause bleeding that looks, in an emergency room, just like a miscarriage.
"I show people how to put the misoprostol in and tell them that when they go to the hospital just to say, 'I started bleeding,"' this doctor explained. "There is no way that can be detected..."

As they do in any investigation, the police collect evidence by interviewing everyone who knows the accused and by seizing her medical records. But they must also visit the scene of the crime, which, following the logic of the law, often means the woman's vagina.
"Yes, we sometimes call doctors from the Forensic Institute to do a pelvic exam," Tópez said, referring to the nation's main forensic lab, "and we ask them to document lacerations or any evidence such as cuts or a perforated uterus." In other words, if the suspicions of the patient's doctor are not conclusive enough, then in that initial 72-hour period, a forensic doctor can legally conduct a separate search of the crime scene. Tópez said, however, that vaginal searches can take place only with "a judge's permission." Tópez frequently turned the pages of a thick law book she kept at hand. "The prosecutor can order a medical exam on a woman, because that's within the prosecutor's authority," she said.
In the event that the woman's illegal abortion went badly and the doctors have to perform a hysterectomy, then the uterus is sent to the Forensic Institute, where the government's doctors analyze it and retain custody of her uterus as evidence against her...

The physical evidence in a case can be supported by other clues. Vargas said that in medical school she read in a gynecological textbook, published in the late 1990's in Chile, that the doctor should listen carefully to the patient's story. If the woman is "confused in her narrative," Vargas said, that could well indicate that she'd had an abortion.

This is horrifying, inhuman, and utterly predictable.

Enough is enough. Anybody who advocates a legal ban on abortion must answer for this. It is a necessary, unavoidable, inevitable, and inherent consequence of the pro-life position. It cannot be evaded.