(Richard mentioned this as an intro to a post earlier this week, but I thought the event needed a post of its own).
Archibishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of the coastal city of Recife announced that the Vatican was excommunicating the family of a local girl who had been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, because they had chosen to have the girl undergo an abortion. The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well.[…]
The case has caused a furor. Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger, both of which apply in this case. (The girl’s immature hips would have made labor dangerous; the Catholic opinion was that she could have had a cesarean section.) When the incident came to light in local newspapers, the Church first asked a judge to halt the process and then condemned those involved, including the 9-year-old’s distraught mother. Even Catholic Brazilians were shocked at the harshness of the archbishop’s actions.
Cara says that as far as she can tell the rapist hasn’t been excommunicated.
Brazil is a pro-lifer’s paradise in many ways; the country, which is 75% Catholic, has strict abortion bans. So how well has that worked out for them? Has making abortion illegal caused it to become rare? Not exactly:
Although abortion is illegal, an estimated 1 million women each year have one. The poor are forced into clandestine clinics or take medication, while the better-off are treated by qualified physicians at well-appointed surgeries known to anyone with money and overlooked by colluding authorities.
That secrecy has a price. More than 200,000 women each year are treated in public hospitals for complications arising from illegal abortions, according to Health Ministry figures.
This is the dirty little secret of the pro-life movement: Their policies don’t reduce abortion much.
It’s not a secret which countries in the world have the lowest abortion rates — and it’s not Brazil, or any of the other countries where pro-lifers have gotten the laws they want. The exceptionally low abortion rates are in countries like Belgium, where demand for abortion has been driven down by a combination of a strong social welfare state for single mothers, excellent sex ed, and lots and lots and lots of contraception.
We could have it both ways. We can have the reproductive freedom pro-choicers want; and we can also have the low abortion rate pro-lifers say they want. (I once figured out, in a back-of-the-envelope calculation, that if the US’s abortion rates were as low as Belgium’s, that would mean 700,000 fewer abortions a year.) This is truly an issue where both sides could get what they want. But this grand compromise won’t work and will never happen, because although pro-lifers may want low abortion rates, they don’t want them nearly as much as they want to control women’s bodies — and the bodies of nine-year-old girls.
(The article also mentions a Protestant church which has been running pro-choice ads, by the way. So yay for them.)
UPDATE: From Elkins and others in comments:
The unrepentant archbishop said overnight the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the Church.
Although the man allegedly committed, “a heinous crime, the abortion – the elimination of an innocent life – was more serious.”
Thank goodness we have the Church to provide us with moral leadership. Otherwise we might think that raping a child was somehow worse than giving an 80-pound nine-year-old a possibly lifesaving abortion.