A 10-Year-Old Rape Victim Who’s Pregnant With Twins Is Being Denied An Abortion In Senegal
A 10-year old Senegalese girl who became pregnant with twins after being raped by a neighbor is being forced to continue with her pregnancy, thanks to her country’s stringent restrictions on abortion. Human rights advocates have been trying to pressure the government to allow the girl to seek abortion care, but they’ve been unsuccessful so far.
“She is going to have to go through with the pregnancy. The best we can do is keep up pressure on the authorities to ensure the girl gets regular scans and free medical care,” Fatou Kiné Camara, the president of the Senegalese women lawyers’ association, told the Guardian.
Camara explained that under Senegal’s current abortion law, which is one of the harshest among African nations, requires three doctors to certify that a woman will die immediately unless she ends her pregnancy. But poor women in the country are hardly ever able to visit a doctor, let alone three in quick succession.
The country’s abortion ban is based on an archaic penal code that dates back to 1810. The U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has expressed concern about the draconian law, pointing out that it’s leading to a particularly high rates of illegal abortions and maternal deaths. Doctors who perform abortions, and women who seek them, can be thrown in jail for years. Hundreds of women die from unsafe abortion procedures in Senegal every year.
Camara’s organization is pressuring the Senegalese government to bring its abortion law in line with the African charter on women’s rights, which calls for legal abortion services in cases when a woman has been a victim of rape or incest, when a woman’s life is in danger, or when a woman’s mental health is in jeopardy. Although Senegal ratified that charter a decade ago, those changes to its total abortion ban haven’t been implemented. That disproportionately impacts the poor residents of the country, who can’t afford to seek out illegal services at a private clinic.
The 10-year-old rape victim is an example of this type of economic stratification, too. “Senegal must legalize medicalized abortion so that we never see any more cases like hers,” Camara told the Guardian. “Had we had time and had the girl’s parents been willing, we could have asked a judge to consider guaranteeing immunity from prosecution to an [abortion] doctor. However, the family is poor; the process is difficult enough for them. They were just pleased when the rapist was arrested.”
This issue is certainly not specific to Senegal. A similar situation sparked considerable controversy in Chile last year, when an 11-year-old rape victim was not permitted to end her pregnancy. And there was a massive outcry when a dying Salvadoran woman was initially denied the abortion she needed to save her life, despite the fact that her fetus wasn’t viable. Ireland was recently pressured to slightly loosen its laws in this area after a 31-year-old woman died as a result of being denied an emergency abortion. Across the entire globe, an estimated 47,000 women die each year because they lack access to safe, legal abortion care.
Harsh bans on reproductive health services are out of step with the international community’s stance on women’s rights. Just last week, public health and human rights leaders from over 30 countries issued a new resolution on abortion rights, calling on governments to decriminalize the procedure to prevent women from dying. And earlier this year, the United Nations encouraged countries to remove unnecessary restrictions on abortion to help safeguard women’s fundamental human rights.
The thing about being anti-abortion is that for most people, it is about making easy choices.
Once you’ve defined terminating a pregnancy (which is, by the way, the most likely natural outcome of a pregnancy) as “killing a child”, it really is a no0brainer. “Should I be for baby killing, or against baby killing?” is not a question most people need to ask themselves, or stop and think about.
Even better, this bit of mental gymnastics inexplicably leaves millions of people and the laws of many countries in favor of “baby killing”, which means there are that many million people you can feel better than.
You haven’t done anything. You have not improved anyone’s life. You have not made the world a better place. You have not helped any living soul on the planet, but already, you are better than millions of people.
And if you decide to “do something” about abortion?
Carry a sign.
Put some pennies in a box somewhere.
Reblog out of context, mislabeled, or misleading pictures of babies, fetuses, and parts of pregnant bodies.
Now you’re a superhero. Now you’re a crusader. Now you’re fighting the neverending battle for truth, justice, and precious little babies at Christmas.
Of course, if you really believed deep down inside that millions of actual babies are literally being murdered all the time, you wouldn’t be putting pennies in boxes, would you? It’s convenient to your self-esteem to be able to tell yourself that the stakes are as high as the lives of babies and the soul of a nation, but it’s convenient to your lifestyle that you know, deep down inside, that they really aren’t.
If you’ve got a lot of time and passion, you can go down to a reproductive health clinic (where there may or not actually even be any abortions performed, and where there are certainly a myriad of other necessary health care services being performed) and scream misogynistic insults at anybody who braves your gauntlet .
Maybe she’s getting a pap smear.
Maybe she’s getting an ultrasound for the baby she plans on carrying to term.
Maybe she’s going to terminate a pregnancy she really wanted, but can’t have.
Maybe she’s going to have an already dead fetus removed from her body.
Maybe she’s going to have an abortion because she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to be.
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to you. All that matters is sides: you’re on the right side, she’s on the wrong side. And you get to engage in the most vile impulses that wrack the human brain: shouting, screaming epithets, hurling accusations, attacking the vulnerable, reducing another human being to a mass of tears and convulsions and you can do it guilt-free because you have constructed a reality where this person in front of you, whatever might actually be going through in their life, is a proxy responsible for the deaths of millions of tiny precious little babies and you, you are the fearless Soldier of Good who will save them.
Being anti-abortion is all about the easy choices.
That’s why you don’t hear about many “pro-lifer” who decides to bravely die rather than terminate a life-endangering pregnancy, trusting in God to decide whether parent and/or baby shall life.
Oh, yes, they’ll find people who make the decision to carry on with pregnancies that are high-risk, and they laud these people as proof of the lies of the pro-choice movement… never mind that there are many pro-choice people who make the same decision. That’s the nature of choice.
I’m not talking about high-risk pregnancies. I’m talking about situations where it’s not even a risk any more. Where are the martyrs to life? I can show you pro-life women who went and had an abortion when it was convenient for them, not even medically necessary. And it’s not hard to find pro-lifers demanding that other people carry a diagnosed dead or fatal-to-the-parent fetus to term because “doctors can be wrong”. Where are the pro-lifers who make this choice for themselves?
When the wives of conservative politicians have an abortion to end an ectopic pregnancy or other similar condition, it gets reduced to “a medically necessary procedure” that’s certainly not an abortion, no, don’t call it that because if there are two things the pro-life movement is sure about it’s that abortion isn’t a medical procedure and that it is never necessary.
But anyone else undergoing the same procedure? That’s an abortion. And it’s wrong.
Because the pro-life movement is about making easy choices and easy judgments. It’s convenient crusading. Invent an enemy so unconscionably horrific that you can’t help but look good and feel good opposing them, so widespread and close to home that you don’t have to give up your life at home to combat them, and so ultimately harmless that there is literally no risk to you in standing up to these horrible, bloodthirsty monsters.
But if it happens that you need an abortion, you’ll have one. Because you’ve been making the easy choices all along. And if you get pregnant and choose to keep it, in spite of… whatever… you tell yourself that’s a triumph against choice, when in fact it’s a triumph of choice.