PRI Review

Abortion and Infanticide in Cuba

(Dr. Jose Marti (a pseudonym is a physician practicing in Cuba. He has asked Population Research Institute to withhold his real name for fear of reprisals. — Editor.)

Abortion and contraception are very common in Cuba, since they are promoted by the State through the media, the school system and the health care system, all of which are controlled by the State. Pro-contraceptive sex education is taught in the schools to our children from an early age.

Certain statements by Dr. Sosa Marin, President of the Cuban Society for the Development of the Family (SOCUDEF - an International Planned Parenthood Federation [IPPF] Affiliate) and of the National Commission for Family Planning, clearly indicate this:

Cuba accepts and supports since 1959, the sovereign right of women and their partners to freely decide their reproduction issues. The State guarantees, through our health system, the necessary attention before and after birth, in cases of infertility or when birth is not desired. In such cases, the State guarantees the right to decide, allowing recourse to contraceptives. Similarly, the right to abort is the right of women and their partners, and that is why they are offered this institutional service with a high level of medical safety. 1

It is important to remember that the “right to abortion” and “safe abortions” are terms which are used by anti-life organizations such as IPPF in its strategies. According to media reports, births in Cuba have decreased from 250,000 in 1963 to 192,000 in 1975 and 152,000 in 1993.2

The media have also informed us that the rate of reproduction (number of daughters born to women throughout their fertile life) in Cuba is lower than l.0 and this low fertility is reflected in the relative aging of the population. Fewer children grow up and live longer and this will create repercussions for the economy and society because the school-aged population is low and the working-age population is high. Today 69% of the population is older than 17 years of age and 10% is older than 60 years. And in the year 2025 this great mass of people will retire. However, the same media propose that, if we begin to do something about this today there will be plenty of time to deal with the socio-political and economic factors and continue toward the future. For example, the retirement age of laborers could be redefined. Yet, this simply acts upon the effects and not the real cause of the problem which is rooted in the actual demographics of the population.3

The completed fertility rate (total number of children women give birth to during their reproductive lives) is 1.9. This means Cuba is the Latin American country with the lowest rate. This decrease has been a product of the anti-life institutions and the strategies which they have established. According to the information given to the press by Dr. Farnos, a Cuban doctor and the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) official in Cuba, UNPFA has participated in and financed activities that concern Cuban population politics.

Abortion Keeps Cuban Infant Mortality “Low”

The Cuban government proudly proclaims its successful health care system, citing impressively low rates in child and maternal mortality. But the truth is that such rates are not based on a real effort to save mothers and their newborn children. Rather, they are based on the abortions performed on pre-born children diagnosed with certain types of defect which are considered life-threatening in later infant life. They are also based on the widespread use of contraceptives for those women who suffer from pathologies which otherwise might put their lives at risk should they become pregnant.

Abortion and contraceptive services, in all their forms, are given freely and without any requirements to the whole population through the institutions of the national health care system. These services are offered as a way of guaranteeing women's “re-productive health.” as well as their “right” to family planning. Today we read in the international press that Cuba is the Latin American country with the highest abortion rate (62% of all pregnancies). But we know that this figure is not accurate, because it is limited to D & C abortions. It does not include the thousands of suction abortions performed daily in ambulatory clinics under the fancy name of “menstrual regulation,” and which are not considered abortions.

Late abortions are also performed in Cuba using, as in China, the “Rivanol method.” Such procedures are limited in number, because they endanger the mother's life, and hence the low maternal mortality rate that the Cuban government wants to maintain. By means of this method the unborn baby is expelled alive from the uterus. Given her prematurity, the baby dies outside the womb without the medical assistance that could have saved her.

There have been even worse cases in which some doctors, on their own initiative and invoking “humanitarian” reasons for the sake of the baby, the baby's relatives and society, have killed newborns suffering from some type of defect or disease. These doctors have created a kind of “humanitarian” infanticide, perhaps without even realizing they are doing something wrong.

Abortion, Infanticide Corrupt Cuban Medicine

In Cuba, doctors work under great pressure exerted by the various health offices. They work also under the pressure of statistics. They unfortunately become so weary that they accept extreme solutions: in order to lower maternal/infant mortality, they increase the usage of contraception and abortion. Many children do not become part of the infant mortality statistics because they are killed before birth and not cared for after birth.

The alarmingly high pregnancy rate among adolescents is the result of widespread promiscuity, promoted by purely bio-logical and pro-contraceptive sex education, in which the values of chastity and virginity are omitted.

The lack of contraceptives does not cause the high rate of abortions. In a country where aspirin is given by quota and other medicines are controlled by medical prescriptions, the only products which are given out for free in the pharmacies are condoms and contraceptive pills. IUDs are inserted at no cost and without any conditions at health centers. Norplant and Depo-Provera are also administered free at any SOCUDEF office. Surgical sterilizations are also performed on any woman 30 years of age who has two living children. It is evident that contraceptives in Cuba are not lacking. Ignorance about Natural Family Planning methods is so common that not even graduating medical students know about them.

It is ironic that the U.S.-based Women's International Public Health Network praised in its Spring 1994 newsletter the so-called “Baby Friendly Hospitals Initiative in Cuba,” when infant mortality rates are lowered by pre-and post-natal infanticide in our country.

Dr. Carlos Ciro Machado, a doctor who arrived from Cuba as an immigrant just a few months ago, related to TV Marti last July a case he himself witnessed. Dr. Machado said he saw a premature baby in a bucket and called the doctor in charge. He was told to let the baby die because it might die in spite of medical care and raise the infant mortality rate. Dr, Machado then called the head nurse and she said the same thing. Despite their opposition Dr. Machado gave the baby medical care, but the baby died anyway six hours later. Cuba is more interested in its international image than in caring for the health of its people, said Dr. Machado.

Endnotes

1 Periodico Trabajadores, July 11, 1994.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

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