Where moral and religious issues are concerned, that of abortion is probably the most explosive one in the United States. Those who are against abortion are described as being pro-life, whereas those who are in favor of a woman’s right to abort, are called pro-choice.
In America there are abortion clinics which make these procedures conveniently available to women, and they have been the targets of violent crimes, including bombings, over the decades. This is how explosive the abortion issue is in the United States: people who are pro-life commit murders in pursuance of their cause. They believe that human life commences at conception, and that those women who abort fetuses and those who assist them in doing so, are themselves real murderers.
This is not an issue about which I know a lot, and no doubt I should have done some academic research before writing this column. My excuse for not doing research is that this column is about specific Belizean circumstances in colonial days, and the shadowy, fearful world in which some abortions were performed.
It is for sure that abortion was illegal under colonial law. I don’t know if that law has ever been changed. But if it is still on the books, it has not been enforced for many decades.
Not only did British Honduras have very few qualified doctors during colonial days, but the abortion law was also strictly enforced under the British. Women who got themselves into terrible predicaments had to turn to the underworld, so to speak, for a solution.
Here is what I would describe as such a “terrible predicament.” During colonial days many Belizean men had to travel abroad in search of work. In the first half of the twentieth century, Belizeans not only travelled to Panama for work on their canal, they went to Honduras to work in that republic’s banana industry, and they also crossed into Guatemala. Sometimes these men were away from their families for years.
Left at home, usually with children, were their wives and common-law mates. As the years went by and loneliness began to oppress them, some of these women became involved in relationships. There were cases where these women were in pregnancy when their husbands were coming home. These were terrible predicaments.
When you talk to the old people, they tell you of some frightening dramas which resulted from such situations. Women who decided they had to gamble on an illegal abortion, often became infected. Some died because they took too long to seek medical help, or because when they did do so, they refused to name the person who had performed the illegal procedure. Nurses who tried to assist women in terrible predicaments sometimes went to jail. That is a fact.
There are some anti-abortion advocates who want a complete ban on the procedure, even in rape cases. And there are some pro-choice militants who appear to support the abortion procedure’s being a routine, casual one – like going to the dentist. In between the extreme positions are many who are less hard-line with their opinions.
During colonial days there were no birth control pills and intra-uterine devices. Condoms were primitive, unpopular, and practically unavailable. It was more risky, back then, for women to enter into relationships when their mates were away.
With birth control having become as sophisticated as it is today, there should, theoretically, be less demand for “terrible predicament” abortions. Certainly a compromised lady who becomes lonely today and takes a chance with love, has more means at her disposal to avoid pregnancy. When I listen to some of the dramas which occurred in the colonial days, my heart is filled with sympathy for those unfortunate ladies. Modern circumstances are different from back then.
In my Tuesday column this week I said that my personal opinion on abortion is less hostile, less draconian than that of the Church. Abortion, nevertheless, is a most messy and undesirable procedure. The Church’s solution is abstinence. In Belize, that represents a drastic solution.
Because abortion does not abuse and endanger men’s bodies, although they were involved in the act which led to the pregnancy, women should have more say in this issue than men. That seems logical to me, but in matters of morality and religion, logic is often thrown out the door.
In conclusion and somewhat tangentially, I was always negative where us roots Belizeans’ practicing birth control was involved. All the studies were saying that this colony was underpopulated, yet major foreign money entered Belize to help our women to stop having babies. How you figure?