Teen casualties in the war on abortion
Devoutly Catholic El Salvador has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the world – and because of it desperate teens, many of whom have become pregnant through rape, feel they have no other option but to commit suicide.
According to this report, health officials working in the country have established a clear link between the country’s harsh abortion restrictions and an escalating suicide rate.
Last year, sexual crimes rose by 17 percent, and two thirds of reported rapes were committed against girls under the age of 18. Recent data shows that half of the teens who commit suicide are pregnant when they take their lives.
Mario Soriano, the head of the program for youth and adolescent development at El Salvador’s health ministry said:
There’s a correlation between sexual violence and the high rate of suicides among adolescents – that’s the reality. Pregnancy is a determining factor behind teenage suicides.
According to Soriano, despite El Salvador’s high rates of teenage pregnancy, the girls who become pregnant are typically seen as outcasts in their conservative Catholic communities. They are often kicked out of the house, dumped by their boyfriends, and even expelled from school to avoid setting a “bad example” for other students. Rather than risk this type of rejection, many girls choose to resort to desperate measures.
Since abortion is illegal under any circumstances in El Salvador, even girls who have been victims of rape or incest are forced to seek out an illegal procedure if they want to end their pregnancies.
According to estimates from El Salvador’s Ministry of Health, about 6,500 clandestine abortions take place every year, and about a quarter of those occur among girls under 18.
Advocacy groups like Amnesty International say the real numbers are likely much higher.
Even aside from the risk of – something that results from about 11 percent of the illegal procedures in El Salvador – it’s very dangerous to end a pregnancy there. The women who are convicted of having an abortion can land in jail for decades. Even the women who have miscarriages, and weren’t intentionally trying to end their pregnancies, can be charged with aggravated homicide.
This shocking state of affairs has not escaped international attention Earlier this week, twelve countries – including Canada, the Czech Republic, Spain, and Sweden, among others – called on El Salvador to fulfill its obligations to the United Nations Human Rights Council by decriminalising abortion.
Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said:
The chorus of countries worldwide calling for El Salvador to end its unjust abortion ban is growing ever larger and louder. The Salvadoran government cannot ignore the calls any longer, and must not be allowed to evade accountability for the human rights abuses that countless women continue to suffer.
Amnesty International, which has been pressuring El Salvador to amend its abortion ban for months, frequently criticises the country for killing its women and girls. The international organization says that the harsh abortion restrictions are akin to torture, particularly because even women in life-threatening situations aren’t always allowed to legally end their pregnancies.
The United Nations has also warned El Salvador that its draconian abortion laws are a violation of human rights.
Meanwhile, it is reported from the US that high school students this week took a stand against attempts by conservative elements in Nevada to restrict sex education lessons.
Clark County School District students are speaking up about why they deserve medically-accurate sex education classes, saying they don’t want their curriculum to be restricted by parents and legislators who are squeamish about important sexual health topics.
There’s been quite a bit of controversy over sexual education in Clark County School District over the past several weeks. Last month, a small group of vocal parents raised concerns about proposed comprehensive sex ed resources that included factual information about topics like masturbation, abortion, and sexual assault.
Following significant pressure from parents who said those subjects were inappropriate, district officials halted their plans to update the current curriculum — and instead instituted a series of school board meetings to solicit more feedback from the community about what to include in sex ed classes.
But this week’s public forum on the issue also included some push back from high school students who don’t like the direction the controversy is headed. A group of students pushing for comprehensive sex ed protested the meeting with signs reading “Knowledge Is Power”, “Our Health Matters”, and “Students for Sex Education”.
Those students told 8 News Now that they support serious reform because their current health classes are too vague, too conservative, and don’t prepare them for the real-world situations they encounter in their own lives. Junior Caitlyn Caruso – a survivor of sexual assault – said there needs to be more information imparted to students about healthy relationships and rape prevention.
The Nevada Teen Health and Safety Coalition encouraging people to sign a petition urging the Clark County School District to give teens:
The tools and information to lead healthy lives, make fully informed decisions, and prepare themselves to confront dating violence.
Although public school districts started moving toward comprehensive sex ed in the 1990s, the pendulum has recently swung back in the opposite direction.
Time Magazine reported this week that over the past 20 years, the number of states that require students to get some kind of sex ed in the classroom has been cut in half.
Outrage about so-called “X rated” materials in health classes — as well as a renewed focus on religiously-based abstinence messages driven by groups like the Southern Baptist Convention — has led school districts to back away from the issue. According to federal health officials, most US teens don’t receive formal sex ed until after they’ve already started having sex.
But teens across the country are fighting back. Caruso isn’t the first high schooler to speak up about the potentially damaging effects of inadequate sex ed materials.
Last year, a West Virginia high school student named Katelyn Campbell made national headlines after protesting against a “slut-shaming” abstinence education course. And over the summer, a Canadian teen convinced her school to drop a course on sexual purity after she filed a human rights complaint against it.