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Is “pro-life” helping life?

Published 01st April 2010 - 8 comments - 2875 views -

I am not a Roman-Catholic and did not receive a religious education, but there are things you tend to get used to when you are raised in a country like Italy. This is why hearing about Pope Benedict XVI’s today’s attack to state laws allowing abortion did not really surprise me and it did not make me angry.

After all, women in Europe, as well as in most of the industrialized world, do have access to contraception and safe abortion. Even when they wish to terminate their pregnancy but decide against it due to social and cultural pressures, they and their children – in most cases –  will not face serious health threats and they are not likely to die from hunger or the consequences of extreme poverty. If, for the same reasons and fears, they decide to get abortion in secret, they will still be able to do it in a medical structure, avoiding life and health risks involved in unsafe practices.

Unfortunately, though, religious appeals, as well as some Western governments’ tendency to please religious authorities and voters, have a direct and strong impact on the lives of many women and children in the developing world.

Development assistance policies are no exception in this regard. Until up to about a year ago, two major donors such as the United States and Australia implemented a ban on foreign aid to organizations and projects performing or supporting abortions in developing countries where this was legal.

President Barack Obama reversed the ban in late January 2009, as one of his administration’s first acts, without too much publicity. The ban lifting, though, did raise debate even outside the U.S. It probably encouraged the long-sought reform of a similar 13-year old policy limiting the action of Australia’s government agency managing overseas aid programs, AusAID.

The lifting of both bans was welcomed by a great part of development organizations and aid workers worldwide, as access to safe abortion is crucial or at least worth-improving in areas where death in pregnancy or at childbirth, girls’ tendency to leave school – due to early marriages and teen-age pregnancies – and women’s scarce access to jobs are hampering the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Kenya’s Daily Nation’s columnist Cabral Pinto wrote some days ago about religious constraints on abortion in this East-African country, where both Christian and Muslim leaders keep opposing contraception and abortion.

“I have always wondered why people opposed to abortion call themselves pro-life. They are simply anti-choice,” Pinto wrote.  

“Do these people really care about the lives of the women who need safe abortions? Have they really listened carefully to the scientific medical evidence and not that which is simply religious?”

These questions, in my personal opinion, deserve prompt and direct answers from those who actively oppose pregnancy termination, both in the developing world and in industrialized countries.




Category: Health | Tags: kenya, barack obama, italy, religion,


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 01st April 2010:

    Thanks for this post, Tiziana. I’m planning to discuss the right to safe abortion and reproductive rights in general in my posts, too.
    I think the issue of religion that you raise is very important. This pope as well as other popes have spoken out against contraception and of course damned abortion as a deadly sin, putting even more pressure on religious women having that abortion. Your other point of governments trying to please religious institutions is also very insightful: in secular societies, this should not be happening. This damaging co-operation goes even further: for example, in my homeland Lithuania politicians use christian teachings to curse LGBT people… This is so sad.
    Pro-life is not pro-life at all.  It is just an echo of medieval “knowledge”.
    Thanks Tiziana.

  • Tiziana Cauli on 01st April 2010:

    Thank you for your comment, Giedre. I think religious powers may act in a very irresponsible way, considering the impact of their messages - of which they are well aware. Not all religious leaders are like that, luckily. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said that in his position as an Anglican cleric, he should have told people not to have sex. But he knew the world he lived in - and the impact of HIV/AIDS in his home country, South Africa - so he would urge people to use condoms. Sometimes Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded to people who really deserve them.

  • Daniel on 01st April 2010:

    Well written.. and I couldn’t agree more. I would also like to see the answers to those questions.

  • Jodi Bush on 02nd April 2010:

    An essential issue. I agree with the observation of Pinto i.e. often preventing abortion endangers the life of the mother in question. But not only that, it can endanger the life of the child in question. If I as a woman fell pregnant in a situation where I felt I’d be bringing my child into an unhappy, or unhealthy situation I would prefer to terminate that risk them suffering. Look at women suffering from AIDS - on one hand they are more likely to contract the virus because of opposition to contraception and then they are unable to terminate the pregnancy if they know it has a likelihood of being HIV positive. It’s a disaster.

  • Tiziana Cauli on 03rd April 2010:

    That is so true Jodi! I wish women and children’s lives were really given the attention they deserve. Using issues such as abortion in political campaings and religious statements just to gain votes and support is extremely unethical and irresponsible in my opinion.

    And yes, Daniel, it would be great to see those answers!

  • Tania Rabesandratana on 21st June 2010:

    Tiziana, I love your posts. Well-written and insightful.

    I am not surprised by the Pope’s statements either, but still angered by them. Anti-choice people don’t care about the lives of the women and children they pretend to protect. Religious dogma has double or triple standards, and seems comfortable with its own contradictions.
    Do you remember last year’s Brazilian sad, sad, sad story about the young girl who had been raped by her stepfather? Her doctors and mother were excommuniated by the Catholic church…!

    As for scientific evidence… this is about conviction, emotion and beliefs - not about evidence. Science wants to be neutral, but scientists don’t work in a vacuum. Anti-abortion groups have no trouble finding data and research that supports their claims. (See for instance, or

  • Tiziana Cauli on 23rd June 2010:

    Thank you for your comment Tania.
    I totally agree. Scientists - and doctors, I would add - are influenced by the social and political environment surrounding them, which sometimes allow them to act in a very unprofessional manner, violating the rights of women and of those who are traditionally discriminated and abused. Refusing to perform a legal abortion while you are working as a doctor in a public hospital is just one example, and I am not referring to something happening in a developing country.

  • Radka Lankašová on 23rd June 2010:


    great post. Any woman that decides for abortion for whatever reason knows two things for sure - she will kill her baby and she has to live with it for the rest of her life and abortion itself may result in her infertility. Both are big traumas. Can you imagine what she has to go through on top of that if she lives in an anti-choice country?

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