Opinion: Abortion

POSTED: 01/28/14 12:06 PM

Abortion is one of those hot topics that will never fail to divide communities. The question is obviously not whether someone is for or against abortion. Nobody is for abortion. The question must be whether women have the right to decide about their own body, including their pregnancies.

Bonaire, Statia and Saba have opened themselves up to legalized abortion after they decided to become Dutch public entities. Curacao, St. Maarten and Aruba control their own destiny in this field, because they are able to write their own civil and penal codes. In other words: there is no one to tell St. Maarten what to do in this respect.

But how does the country deal with the responsibility that comes with this freedom of choice? For the time being, nothing much.

The stance of the churches is clear, and written in stone, cast in concrete, and not likely to change over the next three thousand years.

In the Netherlands, abortion was legalized more than thirty years ago, in 1981, after a seemingly endless and cumbersome social dialogue and conflicts with governments dominated by Christian Democrats.
So what gives? Worldwide there are around 28 abortions per 1,000 women. The Netherlands does a lot better. As a matter of fact the numbers keep going down and have now reached a level of 8.7 per 1,000.

In 2011 31,000 abortions were done, 1,000 below the 2010-figure. Compared to the whole of Europe (1.2 million) that’s peanuts.

There are 16 specialized abortion clinics in the Netherlands and they report all data about their treatments to the Inspectorate for Healthcare.

This is a stark difference with St. Maarten were, for the time being, nothing is regulated in the field of abortion, while teen-pregnancies are at the heart of many undesirable situations. And mind you: abortions do take place in St. Maarten, but these practices take place in the shadows.

That is bad for the girls and women who undergo the treatment and it is also bad for the physicians who help them. There is no control, there are no standards and there is no helpful information available for (mostly) young girls and women in distress.

Why this is sorely needed appears from international data about abortion. All these data point in one direction: abortion ain’t a pleasure cruise.

Research in California showed for instance that after an abortion women run a 160 percent higher risk to end up in psychiatric treatment than women who brought a child into the world. These risks are even higher for teenagers, single women and women that underwent more than one abortion.

Another dark aspect is that 60 percent of women who suffer from post-abortion side effects are thinking about suicide and 28 percent of this group makes an attempt at ending their life. Finnish researchers have established a causal link between suicide and abortion, especially among teenagers.

Even women who manage to rationalize an abortion are not out of the woods. They may experience persistent emotional and psychological problems.

Considering all this information it seems hardly a plea for legalizing abortion in St. Maarten. There is of course another side to the story. Teen pregnancies lead to “unwanted” children, to complicated family-circumstances that do not benefit the child, and in the end to miserable lives. There is a lot to be said for preventing teen pregnancies – nobody will argue that point – but what if that fails? We don’t have the data readily at hand, but we are confident that the number of teen pregnancies is high – too high.

That means that young girls see the life they could have had end before it even began. The relationship with the child will be cumbersome, often amplified by financial stress, and more often than not due to the fact that young mothers are rejected by their families while the father of the child is nowhere around.

All this indicates that it is time for country St. Maarten to consider a system that enables legalized abortions. That is only half of the story: given the fact that many girls and women suffer post-abortion effects there is also a need for after care.

Pro-life advocates may disagree – correction: they will disagree – but based on results they do not make enough of an effort to combat teen pregnancies and all the trouble that brings to our community.


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