This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Sunday, January 8, 2017

El Salvador Has the World's Strictest Abortion Laws

An article on the Foreign Policy website this week reminded us that, among El Salvador's many issues, the country has the world's strictest abortion laws (albeit tied with five other).
Since 1998, El Salvador has been one of six countries where abortion is banned under all circumstances, regardless of whether the mother’s life is at risk, the fetus is viable, or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Under the guidance of the Catholic Church, legislators took the ban a step further the following year and changed the Salvadoran Constitution to state that life begins at conception — securing its legal standing and enshrining the strict interpretation in the country’s political DNA.
The point of the article is that women who have an abortion can wind up in jail, and any physician or other person who performs an abortion can wind up in jail. Nonetheless, there is an underground "economy" in which abortions are performed, thus saving the lives of women, especially young women, who have no other recourse. The article also points out that the measures to protect the life of an unborn child are somewhat hypocritical in a society whose capital, San Salvador, is widely regarded to be the murder capital of the world.

The Catholic Church is clearly indicted in the article as the prime mover behind the strict abortion laws, and this is a reminder that it is not religion per se, but religiosity (the way one practices a given religion), that makes a difference in matters of reproductive health. I pointed that out many years ago in a PRB Bulletin on the Demography of Islamic Nations, and it is still true today. You can visualize this in the global North-South divide in abortion laws, as put together by the Center for Reproductive Rights.



I should point out, however, that to its credit El Salvador does allow access to contraception and the PRB World Population Data Sheet shows that 68 percent of married women aged 15-49 are using some form of modern contraception--exactly the same percentage as in the U.S. 

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