The irony of purposeful and politically inspired myopia on abortion

By Donald A. Collins | 11 August 2018
Church and State

My wife, Sally and I were on a trip and staying in Buenos Aires on March 13, 2013 the day in Rome the Catholic Church announced the selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, to become the name he choose, namely Pope Francis, the first Francis since the more famous one of Assisi. We there were among many who hoped he could lead this archaic monotheistic hierarchy into a more liberal era.

Recall how the vast majority of the Vatican appointed review committee who voted in 1968 for a liberal view of contraception versus Pope Paul VI’s subsequent veto of that majority view. The Pope then producing Humanae Vitae, a setback for safety and reason for women’s reproductive health!

Now in Pope Francis’ own country, Argentina, after hours of debate the Argentine Senate voted this week 38 to 31 against a bill to legalize elective abortions up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. Talk about myopia! (Definition: Shortsightedness) Let me explain again.

As the 8/9/18 Wall Street article reports,

Both supporters and opponents of legal abortion believed the approval of the bill would have galvanized activists elsewhere in the region to pressure their governments to expand access to procedures to end a pregnancy. In Chile, supporters of legal abortion recently held a rally using green bandannas that have become the symbol for Argentine activists that backed the bill. In Brazil, the Supreme Court is currently hearing a case that could decriminalize abortions in the first trimester.

In Argentina, supporters of the bill said the vote outcome was a big setback, but they would continue a campaign to pressure authorities to legalize abortion.

I thought the senators were going to listen to the people,” said Sol Haro, a 19-year-old student who joined thousands of other Argentines in front of Congress, huddling together amid strong winds and cold rain as they awaited the vote. “We are going to keep on fighting for its approval.

You can read the entire WSJ article, “Argentina Rejects Bill to Ease Abortion Restrictions: Vote delivers a setback to activists in Latin America; politicians in favor of legal abortion vow to present legislation again next year” here.

Those who read my recent OP Eds on how abortion can now be accessed chemically will recall the extensive research findings of Michelle Oberman on how women in Chile and elsewhere in places where repressive anti-abortion laws prevail can now obtain misoprostol or the preferred 2 pill package of misoprostol and mifepristone (Cytotec, the so called French pill, RU 486). The latter 2 pill combination offers 98 percent way to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

These options hardly offer a fully satisfactory response to the Argentinian vote, but at least chemical access offers women a choice even in countries with most repressive legal laws.

Let me repeat the views contained in my June OP ED from 2 internationally esteemed experts on reproductive rights, Professor Malcolm Potts and Philp Harvey.

As Professor Potts (UC Berkeley) commented in his June 3, 2018 email to me: “I fully agree. Misoprostol is a miracle drug. Prior to misoprostol coming off patent in 2000 (it was previously only sold for stomach ulcers as Cytoec), the only way a traditional birth attendant could deal with postpartum hemorrhage was to watch the mother die in a pool of blood. Dr Ndola Prata showed how TBAs could use miso safely. Now of course many women are given the drug in the last trimester to pregnancy and dose themselves after delivery. The WO were obsessed that oxytocin (needs injection and a cold chain and only useful in a clinical facility) was better than miso and it took a long argument to get miso accepted. Once miso is available it will also be used for safe early abortion. As Don Collins says ‘clap your hands’.”

Another of my long time heroes, Phil Harvey, whose co-founding of Population Services International (PSI) and his role in helping revive Marie Stopes International along with the late Dr. Tim Black already mark both as major family planning heroes.

Phil now through DKT International assists in providing more needed family planning supplies to developing world women than any NGO I know about.

His June 4, 2018 email comment to me on the Obermann article reflects his solid research into the miso issue: “Agreed on all points. The attached paper makes a brave attempt to calculate the volume of miso sales in developing countries (“How much MA is sold?”). No matter how you slice it miso has made a huge contribution to women’s health and lives. (I’m not as worried as the author, though, about banning abortion in the US. Even if Roe v Wade is overturned (which I do not believe it will be), probably half the US states would legalize it.)”

His 2015 article “Medical abortion: the hidden revolution” cites the vast spread of miso as well as the famous French abortion pill, mifepristone, an antiprogesterone developed by Roussel Uclaf released in 1988. Both drugs are recommended for use in early abortion.”

It is not a question of whether that 7 vote margin can be reversed in the future in the Argentine Senate and many other jurisdictions where repressive abortion laws prevail, but when, as women and these powerful chemical options and economics have made these religiously biased laws unenforceable.

Family planning perfection has a long way to go. As is true of all desirable goals in life, perfection will never be obtained. Example: 50 percent of the annual pregnancies in the US are unplanned.

However, when a woman faces the heretofore often daunting and unpleasant task of not wanting to be pregnant, the option for her in her time of urgent need for a safe, economical method has now arrived for the majority of women worldwide.

As the Journal’s article reports, “Despite personally opposing abortion, President Mauricio Macri had said he would have signed the bill into law if Congress approved it.”

Yes, purposeful and politically inspired myopia exists widely, but it will not prevail.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
ASIN: B00MA40TVE
Kindle Store

Back in 1991, the NGO Don Collins founded in 1976, International Services Assistance Fund (ISAF), co-produced a TV quality 22-minute film called “Whose Choice?” which Ted Turner arranged to broadcast on September 21, 1992 in prime time on his then independent Turner Broadcast System (TBS). Other outlets such as PBS and several of its affiliates Collins and his colleagues contacted then refused to run it because of its forthright treatment of the abortion issue, arguing for all women’s right to choose not to have a baby. ISAF has made a new edition of that DVD. The purpose for reissuing this 3rd version of “Whose Choice?” was simply to show the historical urgency that attended those times, still blocked and attacked over 40 years after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. This video is available for public viewing for the first time.

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