Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Cuban Abortion Scheme Debunked (Part 7)

Women in the US, like women in Latin America and the Caribbean, give similar reasons for having an abortion: economic reasons that would disrupt the care of dependents, to care for a child, or be a single mother. Most likely, these reasons also contribute to Cuba's abortion rate, not a government scheme.

In her Havana study, Stephanie Bernal pointed out that "[a]s a result of the economic crisis that occurred in the early 1990s, the number of abortions increased." She quotes a Cuban doctor, Dr. Urrusuno-Carbajal, saying that, at the time, Cuban women "just did not want to give birth." Yet, overall abortion rates have dropped since the early 90's. Bernal writes that "[t]o discourage abortion as a means of contraception, doctors educate their populations about family planning and contraceptive methods... these educational campaigns seemed to be successful. The abortion rate decreased from 70.0 per 100 deliveries in 1992, to 59.4 in 1996."

Interestingly, an abortion study from Cuba last year provided additonal support to Bernal's observations and pointed out a peculiar phenomenon on the island. Miriam Gran, a biostatistics expert, last year conducted a study of more that 4000 Cuban women titled: "Voluntary termination of pregnancy and contraception: two methods of fertility control."

She found that the Cuban abortion rate has been declining since 1986, when 93,649 abortions were reported, in contrast to 67,277 in 2004. Gran says that "[o]ver decades, the rate has indeed declined, which reflects well on family planning, health education and sex education. It has to be taken into account that whenever the birth rate falls, as has been happening in Cuba, abortions nearly always decline as well." Gran's study found 43% of respondents had used abortion in the past, 52.2% of those who had abortions gave reasons due to abandonment of other birth control methods, 30.1% due to "lack of knowledge," and 7.3% out of preference. The remaining women cited health-related issues and unwanted pregnancies.

These findings are quite unique in a country where abortion is permitted (with legal notification) at request to women. Dr. Leticia Artiles, coordinator of the Cuban Gender and Collective Health Network, believes that "[i]n Cuba, terminating a pregnancy is not charged with negative symbolism, it isn't seen as a crime... [or loaded with] social taboos against single women seeking contraceptive methods."

These findings do not support a scheme by the Cuban government, but rather a complex social preference, over time, for the procedure of abortion, a legitimate reproductive right, as a response to an environment where women's health is crucial in the developing world.

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Epilogue]

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