This weekend I watched an incredible movie. It was a foreign film called 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days about two college-aged women in Romania who seek an illegal abortion for one of them in the last days of communism there (spoilers to follow). The movie was chilling and very emotional. Not only did the plot lend itself to such a riveting plot, but the film was crafted beautifully -- shot composition and cinematography was incredible.
The abortion scene was cringe-inducing, especially considering that the abortionist negotiated sex with both the woman having the abortion and her college roommate as part of the payment. To me this became a huge message for why abortion shouldn't carry legal consequences. It's not as if abortion would just cease to exist if it were illegal -- instead abortions would turn to the black market and all that goes with it. Suddenly women are subject to terrible conditions when they are desperate to get an abortion. They were expensive, risky, and terrifying. It's not something I'd be eager to see return here in America.
Interestingly enough, I wondered why a communist state would outlaw abortion, since presumably it wouldn't do so for religious reasons. A quick search into the New York Times archives points to the fact that Nicolae Ceausescu, communist leader of Romania for nearly two decades, strictly outlawed abortion and contraception as means of population promotion. This is the ugly side of anti-abortion laws -- ones that promoted population growth at any means. Although the Times article from the 1990s says that Romania still had an alarmingly high abortion rate, especially when compared with other European countries, an updated statistic from the United Nations Population fund shows that the rate has been dropping dramatically in the last several years (from 7,185 cases in 1999 to 2,892 in 2004). Romania does this by promoting the use of contraception through it's public health system.
An interesting aspect of the film was that it told the story not through the woman seeking the abortion or the abortion provider, but rather through centering on the woman's companion. By doing this, the film showed that the woman was fearful about needing an abortion of her own one day, even getting in a terrible fight with her boyfriend (who seemed to care for her, but was unable to understand the risks). It also focused on the struggles of the role of a caretaker for someone who is going through such a risky and terrifying illegal abortion.
Ultimately, abortion isn't going anywhere, even if it should become illegal. Instead it becomes more about the barriers the law places on a woman who is desperate to obtain one. It will be the marginalized women that will suffer the most.