Despite the tremendous pressure on the Republican party following Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) comments about “legitimate rape,” supposedly natural contraception and abortion, CNN reported last night that the Republican platform to be affirmed at the convention last week will contain a call for a so-called “personhood” amendment to the Constitution that is similar to Akin’s 2009 anti-abortion legislation with presumptive VP nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI). Like the Akin-Ryan bill, the “personhood” amendment envisioned by the GOP platform would contain no exceptions to its bans on abortion, even for rape or incest.
But, if it is similar to the Mississippi personhood amendment debated late last year, rape and incest will not be the only exceptions to the GOP’s anti-abortion amendment. Were it to pass, it could also criminalize everything from IUDs and oral contraceptives to IVF and stem cell research — and it wouldn’t have an exception for the life or health of the mother.
The draft language obtained by CNN reads:
“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” the draft platform declares. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
Personhood USA president Keith Mason confirmed to Raw Story that amendments like the one proposed by the GOP platform committee don’t contain any exceptions. “You don’t need any exceptions because it’s a principle,” he said, “You don’t need further clarification.” In states where they seek to pass such amendments, Mason acknowledged that there are statutory issues to work out after an amendment passes — much like in Mississippi where officials pushing the amendment acknowledged that “there are some things that will have to be worked out at a later date.”
But Mason said that Personhood USA does not support exceptions for women impregnated through rape or incest, and called the current constitutional exception for the health of the woman, “a broad exception that is sneaky terminology.” As for the life of the mother, Mason said, “The life of the mother would never be affected by a personhood amendment because she could always receive life-saving treatments,” adding “Our laws already protect women’s lives, it’s the Hippocratic Oath… you do what you can to save both lives.”
Of course, the law that allows abortion in the United States even in the third trimester for the life (or health) of the woman is the same one that would be overturned by the personhood amendment called for in the GOP platform.
So which countries provide no exceptions to their laws outlawing all abortion? There are currently only 5:
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
Even Saudi Arabia allows women to receive abortions for their own health or lives.
The list of countries that don’t allow women to receive abortions for health-related reasons (let alone rape or incest) is a bit longer, but it includes Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina, Andorra, Venezuela and (most famously for Americans) Ireland. Brazil, the Sudan, Mali and Bhutan don’t allow abortions to preserve the health of the mother, but they do allow rape and incest victims to receive abortions. Zimbabwe, Togo and Panama don’t allow women to have abortions to preserve their mental health, but they do allow rape and incest victims to do so.
But even if the GOP platform were amended to allow women to have abortions to preserve their own health or lives, by eliminating abortion access for rape and incest victims, the United States would join countries like Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Jamaica, Peru, Costa Rica and Liechtenstein.
A study published in The Lancet last January shows that the countries with the most stringent restrictions on abortion also have the highest rates of unsafe abortion.
The rate of unsafe abortion in Africa was 28 per 1,000 women of childbearing age and 31 per 1,000 in Latin America, regions where abortion is highly restricted in almost all countries, according to the study led by Gilda Sedgh at the Guttmacher Institute in New York, using the most recent data gathered in 2008. That compares with less than 0.5 per 1,000 in western Europe and North America.
Unsafe abortions result in 200 deaths for every 100,000 abortions performed globally, or 350 times the current rate in the United States, according to the study. Legalizing abortion in South Africa (1997) and Nepal (2002), resulted in a 91 percent reduction in abortion-related deaths in the former country and a 50 percent decline in the rate of abortion-related complications seen in hospitals in the latter.
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