Monday, April 30, 2012

This Slut Votes

Since so much of the furor has died down, I just wanted to say that I ordered my bumper sticker and my t-shirt, and hey, "Republican Party Males Who Want to Roll Back Time to the 1900's, I Mean 1950's," I remember all that legislation you proposed, passed and have tabled until you think no one is watching anymore.

When it comes to the rights for my daughter and quasi-daughter-in-law, I think you'll find that my attention span is fecking infinite.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Palate Cleanser #179: Clematis Envy, Part 98

So, to enrich my weekend (which it did), Cynical Nymph sent me these. I mean, I mean... NYC, you inspire envy in soooooo many ways. But, after a week of giving myself blisters planting, planting, planting tropicals that I wish were temperates, this, this, makes my heart sing. I've got plenty of green grass people, but I don't have these...

Clematis on the Upper Eastside © Cynical Nymph

Still More Clematis on the Upper Eastside © Cynical Nymph

No, really people, this is growing on a fence near where she lives, on the streets of NYC. Sigh.

BTW- Personally, I'm thinking the Nymph isn't as cynical as she says she is, since she goes around photographing flowers and all. 

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Palate Cleanser #178

Image credit: Danis51

I mean, how could I be expected to pass this one up? It came in my Pixdaus Newsletter email.

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Cornell's Red-tailed Hawk Nest WebCam!

Watch live streaming video from cornellhawks at

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Vanishing of the Bees: What You Can Do

Honeybee Pollinating an Apple Blossom
(Image credit: Jasmina)

As my readers know, I love those bees. It's rather odd, given the whole allergy thing, but hey, I love their buzzing and flitting around and the feeling of life they add to a garden. I also happen to love a lot of what bees help me eat. Grains are not my friends, as you guys know (Celiac!), but fruits and vegetables have been a life-long passion. I can't imagine a world in which I couldn't afford to bite into a crisp apple, a lush ripe pear, or enjoy my favorite berries. And cooking a stew just wouldn't be the same without carrots, parsnips, onions, peppers. It's said that a third of every bite of food we eat in America is thanks to a pollinator. The list of things pollinated by bees, either to produce seeds (reseeding is so vital in agriculture it is impossible to overestimate it) or to grow from seed to produce fruit or vegetable, is incredibly long. You can take a quick look hereAnd that's not all... I don't know about you, but I rather like my cotton clothing. Thank you, bees.

Last year there was a quiet little documentary making a big splash at some of the environmental and wildlife festivals. Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Academy-Award nominated actress Ellen Page, takes a hard look at what the real causes are of Colony Collapse Disorder, the suspects, and how the different approach of the European governments- that of cautious appraisal (did you know that France saw CCD as early as 1994?) vs. that of the US- put it out there and get back to us if there's a problem- may have a lasting impact on our environment. Systemic pesticides last a long, long time. And bees are the sentinels of our food web. Their demise heralds problems with our food supply, with our environment and, potentially, with our survival. Presaging the now increasingly dire peer-reviewed findings on a class of systemic pesticides called neonicotinoids, Vanishing of the Bees lays it all out there in a lean 87 minutes. These recent findings in France and in Great Britain indicate that longterm exposure to pesticides decreases foraging and hive survival in honeybees and retards colony growth and birth of new queens in bumblebees. (While we're talking about bees here, one can wonder, as well, what it does to humans who are ingesting the food that came from these treated crops....) But bees face other perils, including the Varroa mites, Nosema apis fungus, and the Israeli paralytic virus. Put it all together, and it's a miracle that bees survive at all.

Vanishing of the Bees will also introduce you Chinese fake honey (what beekeepers call 'funny honey'), in case you missed the excellent Mother Jones article about it last year. In their article Honey Laundering, they follow the work of investigative reporter Anthony Schneider, who writes for Food Safety News. Cheap Chinese honey is what has made it look as if, in spite of this great collapse of the bee industry in the US, honey is still widely available and dirt cheap! So cheap. Only... it isn't honey in those cute little squeeze bears, or maybe not even on your honeyed cereal. Chinese honey might have some honey in it. But it may also have high fructose corn syrup, antibiotics like chloramphenicol (hello, aplastic anemia) or heavy metals like lead. China is not alone. Indian honey has also been identified with these contaminants and in fact, Asian honeys were banned in the 27 countries of the European Union in June of 2010. Our old friend Michael Pollan, also makes an appearance in this documentary, decrying monocultural crops and the ultimate impact of these crops on beneficial insects, food and agriculture. And the issue of a growing lack of diversity and terrible practices in bee breeding is explored as well.

Here's the video trailer for Vanishing of the Bees:

You can see the full 87 minutes on line with a streaming three-day rental of the film for only $3.99 (They use PayPal) by going to their pay per view site. Or, if you want to watch on DVD, you can email me about borrowing one of my copies of the DVD (I have two!), in exchange for making the modest contribution to the Save the Honeybee Foundation in Kilauea, Hawaii (on the island of Kauai!). Save the Honeybee and Vanishing of the Bees want to be able to make educational materials and copies of the DVD available in schools for children in grades 5-11, so that they can teach children about how to help rather than fear bees. This film is really worth your time.

I've written a fair amount on the blog about bees, but the issues involving colony collapse and bee health remain no less complicated than when I first started blogging on the topic. Colony Collapse Disorder remains a devastating problem in the agricultural industry. Yet there is so much that YOU can do to help, however. We talked about it before on this blog but there is more information and there are more resources than ever.

Don't use systemic neonicotinoids on your farm or urban landscape. Ask, if you have a contract for fertilizing, etc. with a tree or lawn service company, if they are using a systemic pesticide. Chances are that they are. I've cancelled my service because they were using Merit (imidacloprid). 

Buy local honey. That way, you're sure it's really honey, and you're helping bee keepers by supporting more than just their pollination services.

Buy organic produce whenever you can. Yes, it's expensive, but remember that the experiment of these pesticides on bees isn't going very well. Those same pesticides on plant products your eating constitute an experiment on you, as well. Can't afford organic? If you have the space, try growing some of your own vegetables, even if it's on your apartment's balcony or window sill.

Plant bee-friendly gardens. You can find suggestions for temperate zone plants here, and some for tropical plants here and here (pay special attention to plants that are bad for bees). Also, check out The Melissa Garden for additional things you can do to help bees in your home garden. (This sanctuary is literally a stone's throw from my father's stomping grounds, in Healdsburg, California!) And hey, don't forget The Great Sunflower Project, mentioned on this blog at least once before. Participate in the Backyard Bee Count with them!

Encourage solitary bees by making bee houses available. (Resources include Gardener's Supply and Kinsman Company, just two among many.) Especially if you have a garden with fruit trees, nut trees or a vegetable garden, consider ordering some mason bees. One resource is Crown Bees (sold out for the year, except in the West) or get information from their sister company, Hunter's Mason Bees about attracting more mason bees.

Speak up about bees. The more people talk about bees, the more people will care about bees. But be an informed source of information. Check out the Natural Resources Defense Council's info, for instance, in their downloadable PDF, Bee Facts: Why Do We Need Bees? The NRDC has been instrumental in protecting bees and pushing the US to identify the underlying causes of CCD. You can write to the USDA about your concerns through the NRDC here. And signify your interest to bee stories in the media by tuning in. For instance, check out the National Radio Project's half-hour long program explaining the intricacies of bee history, including an interview with Hannah Nordhaus, author of The Beekeepers Lament. (Really good discussion on fake honey, too.)

And finally, the next time you see a bee, even if you're allergic like me, don't panic. Move away, or if it was confused and got inside (bad sign....) try to get it out without swatting it. Remember these bees are what keep all the color (and a third of our food) on our dinner tables. Whatever you're eating, bees were there for you. Be there for them. Bees have rebounded in France and Germany. If we give them a chance, they will rebound here, too.

Honeybee Pollinating a Plum Blossom
(Image credit: Bosca78)

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© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Just Can't Ignore It

Yeah, I know I did the Bad Big Oil post yesterday. But this has been pissing me off since about 7:30 am and I finally decided I can't stand not saying something about it. I know this will shock my readers that I am not comforted by:

"The chance that any spill would hit the Keys beaches is low."

Really? No reason to worry? Of course not! Because it's not like there have been any problems with deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or anything. Or likely that oil can travel 77 miles from a spill. (NASA satellite imagery to the contrary.) And it's not like I don't trust recently Argentine Government-nationalized Repsol and embattled Spanish Repsol to be not distracted by their situation. Or that Cuba has any internal problems of concern that might take their focus off safe offshore drilling in their waters, which happen to be pretty much my waters, too. 

Oh, no. None of those things.

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Palate Cleanser #177: Comtesse-Related

This is for Personal Failure. She and I will eat all of these. Okay, GlamKitty might help, because technically, tomatoes are fruit.

(Hey, did I mention that our food supply needs bees?)

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day

Footage by NASA

Today, April 22, was Earth Day. It was also the two year and two day anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon spill, an event which will have changed my corner of the earth forever. The video above, a time-lapse sequence gathered by NASA, shows the evolution of the spill for the year following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, on April 20, 2010. Looking at the images at end, you might think, Oh, good, the oil is gone. Or... not as visible. Where did it go, I counter? Where. Did. It. Go?

It's still there.

As the NY Times' op-ed columnist Abrahm Lustgarten dubbed it the other day, the Deepwater Horizon spill is the stain that won't wash away. And that is in more ways than one. Because in addition to the obvious anniversary media coverage, there have been quieter articles, far more disturbing articles, for the past year. Actually, I would go back to that very unsettling piece in Mother Jones in the October/November 2010 issue, about the BP coverup and the hidden damage that was slowly to be revealed. Revealed by what was missing, what was dying and what was diseased. They had this chart, which I can't get out of my head:

Illustration by Nicholas Felton for Mother Jones 

How deep would the damage go they asked? How much would the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and food web be altered? The article talked about potential damage to krill, phytoplankton, and various keystone species, such as killifish, and what that might do to the entire marine food web. Damage some of these small species and you will potentially wipe out larger fish.

Deformed Gulf Shrimps On the left is a Gulf shrimp with growths, while on the right are a group of shrimps without either eyes or eye sockets. Left: Keath Ladner. Right: Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera
(Image from Popular Science)

From the little guys, like the mutant eyeless shrimp, covered with bizarre lesions that have resulted as of tomorrow in closure of shrimping in the Mississippi Sound, Mobile (Alabama) Bay, Bon Secour, Wolf Bay and Little Lagoon (all also in Alabama) to the giants of the Gulf, how bad is the damage in the Gulf? It is clear there has been widespread ecological damage, whether the government or BP are willing to admit it or not.* The Sarasota Herald-Tribune ran a long article in November, 2011, detailing a truly stunning level of problems in a diverse number of species, from hundreds of dead dolphin washing up on shore (500+ as of November, 2011 and how many more simply sank, I wonder?) to tiny plankton and deepwater coral. Small fish are overtly diseased and large fish, like whale sharks, are nowhere to be found. Let's not get into the cetacean situation, diseased dolphin or the sea turtle situation. Ditto on the human children, living, or should we say just barely getting by, at the water's edge in South Plaquemines Parish, LA. It is too depressing, right? 

This 2011 photo provided by Donald Waters shows a fish harvested from the Gulf of Mexico with unusual lesions and infections
(Would YOU eat this fish? I sure wouldn't...)

(Image credit: Donald Waters/AP)

I guess I should just focus on the being good, wise shepherds of our Earth, which is what Earth Day is supposed to make us think about. But that leads me right back to the Gulf of Mexico...

We can look at the complex interplay in the Gulf states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, between the oil industry and the seafood industry as posing the ultimate question. We hear again and again about how we need to be less dependent upon Middle Eastern oil and that our only option is our own limited oil (with a distressing number of years from actually availability, a in a distressingly small supply) or that we need to use our natural gas resources, in spite of its addition of CO2 upon burning it, and even if we know from ample evidence (watch that little Vimeo video on the upper right sidebar!) that fracking that gas may permanently spoil our water supply. 

On this Earth Day I contemplate what we will do with all that energy when we have less or no food to eat and no freshwater to drink? If it's so crucial for business that we have to use all this gas and oil, who will be buying stuff when they are too hungry and too thirsty to work and go to the mall? What is the plan then Big Oil?

Not long ago, I was surprised that several of my email correspondents knew of, or had read, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which I've mentioned on the blog before as presaging the world out of balance, driven so chemically, by pesticides and industry and cover-ups. Carson was concerned about DDT and it's terrible effects on birds (oh, gee, it's also rather bad for people...). September 27 will mark the 50th anniversary of Carson's book. 

Look how far we've come.

If you want to really think about our 42nd annual Earth Day, I encourage my readers to check out photographer Julie Dermansky's Flickr set Louisiana Wetlands with 249 exquisite photos of what delicate wetlands are supposed to look like. And then, take a look at her BP Oil Disaster series with 600 photos of everything that BP, and the oil industry as a whole, want you to forget. In these two photo sets Julie, whose photos have been featured many a time on this blog, has captured a beautiful world, sullied for a cause that I have a harder and harder time grasping these days.

There's more to come on this topic in the weeks ahead. For instance, what about bees being impacted by neonicotinoid pesticides like Merit, threatening our land-based food supply? (Readers of the blog know that in addition to our fruits and vegetables, much of our livestock feeds on bee pollinated fodder.) What will we do when all the insect pests are resistant to imidacloprid, except for bees, who were our friends?

Every day ought to be Earth Day. For a few posts more, it will be.

*Surprisingly, one of the loudest recent clarions has been that of Al Jazeera. The irony of a media outlet in the oil-rich Middle East featuring such evidently controversial material is rich...

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Two Years

Deepwater Horizon in flames, taken by a photographer who wished to remain anonymous.

Where are we, two years later? Where is the Gulf?

Stay tuned....

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Palate Cleanser: Hiding from Monday Version

Trees and Bluebells, Dockey Wood, Ashridge. 5 May 2005. Photo credit: CameraMan but found here.

"A little sunlight adds a sparkle to the greens and blues. Dockey Wood is one of the best places in the Chilterns to see masses of bluebells."

I need to see masses of bluebells. Really I do.

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Visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I Love You Judy, But Goodbye...

When I was a child, my parents regularly took me to concerts, the ballet, the theater and even the opera. Often I was the only child in the concert hall. It didn't feel odd to me, though. I was used to being the only kid around a bunch of adults. I was an only child, and a very, very nerdy child. I was already hot for Tudor history at age 8, after seeing Anne of a Thousand Days with my parents, spending allowance money on biographies of Katherine Parr or Jane Grey. (Don't even get me started on my lifelong Tudor love affair and how I loathe, hate and despise Showtime's The Tudors, and Shekhar Kapur for having turned my beloved Elizabeth into a foolish, romance-driven, ineffectual woman and belittling her rightful position as the only truly great Tudor...) I still remember when someone asked me in third grade who my favorite band was and I replied, without hesitation, the London Symphony Orchestra. It was 1969 and the anticipated answer was The Beatles

Well into my late teens and early twenties, concert-going meant seeing Pinky Zuckerman and Itzhak Perlman (playing together and telling jokes), Vladimir Horowitz or just going to hear chamber music and falling in love with Bach (J. S. not the other ones), Vivaldi and Scarlatti. My grandfather, before his big stints designing stuff for companies like IBM or working for NASA, or even just repairing everybody's TV in his free time for kicks, worked in the recording industry for a while back when Miami Beach was synonymous with the Rat Pack. I was schooled in all the great classical musicians of the 40's, 50's 60's and 70's, RCA Victor, Deustche Grammophon and why live recordings of Glenn Gould were better than studio ones (he hummed!). I could debate about whether the Bolshoi was better than the Kirov and why both made the American Ballet Theater look like a bunch of hacks in toe shoes. My first truly serious boyfriend/fianc√©/man, were we wrong for each other but man, did we both love all kinds of music, was an opera lighting designer and he loved the fact that I didn't think opera was a drag and actually liked German and French operas, not just Italian operas but thought opera sung in English was just... well... awkward. (Exception: Carlisle Floyd's Of Mice and Men

Anyway, my husband, who truly loves me, survived many a season subscription to opera, to concerts, etc. I may love Kate Bush and Florence + Machine and the Beatles, but he knows I love my classical music. I was raised on it and a very large portion of it has been provided by impresario Judy Drucker, whose Concert Association of Miami is presently reinventing itself with great performers as Judy Drucker Presents... (much history here of her ousting and the subsequent failure, without her, of the Concert Association- she hobnobs with the best classical performers in the world and really they had no interest in coming if Judy wasn't there anymore). I was so happy to think she'd taken back the reins and was bringing top-flight classical concerts back to Miami. When I first heard it mentioned on Classical South Florida, the excitement, my excitement, was palpable.

I really, really wanted to believe that I could go back to being a season ticket holder for something related to classical music in Miami and that it would be better than buying cold and sterile CDs/iTunes albums, and that I could recapture the thrill of more than a decade past, when going to concerts was something to dress up for and look forward to. 

I like supporting the arts. I love and believe in the arts. 

But I no longer believe in the unbelievable hassle of going to performances here in Miami-Dade County. From flamenco (that recent Paco de Lucia concert at the Fillmore still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth) to Evgeny Kissin, attending concerts has become so unpleasant, so downright impossible, that I do not even begin to see the point of spending money on a ticket.

I am writing this while I had anticipated attending a Evgeny Kissin concert on Sunday afternoon at the New World Center on South Beach.

My husband and I dressed up.

We left with plenty of time.

We got to the venue parking lot, after fording our way through a dense stream of traffic, only to find it was full (with a rude parking attendant, no less), while the Miami Beach Convention Center parking lot, across the street and behind the ill-fated Fillmore Theater, was locked and empty. We drove around. We drove around some more. You should note that about 90% of all street parking in this area of Miami Beach is for residents only, by permit. 

At 2:55 pm, five minutes before the Evgeny Kissin concert was to start, we gave up. $96 of matineé tickets down the drain.

I'm done with preformances in Miami. 

I'm back to thinking about seeing theater, ballet and classical, on occasion in NYC, where I can visit with beloved friends. Where I can do so retaining my SANITY.

I was already jarred last fall by the production of The House of Bernarda Alba (Frederico Lorca) in which the old lady sat next to her friend translating the entire dialog throughout the performance, even after vocal complaints. And then there have been all the other concerts with the hassle of getting to the Arsht Center (guess what, have a whole bunch of events there at once, and you know, there might be some traffic and parking problems...) or the inability to tolerate the atmosphere, like with Paco de Lucia concert and all the milling around, the latecomers (an hour?), the beverage deliveries.

So Judy, I'm very sorry. I really wanted to support your comeback as the rightful queen of South Florida classical music. But Miami is no longer a place where anyone who truly enjoys the arts can attend the arts. Going to a concert shouldn't have to be so hard. But it is! Either you can't hear it, or your view is obstructed by beverage delivery, or you simply can't even park to get in on time, before the concert starts. 

It's pointless. It's a waste of money. It makes potential patrons of the Arts angry.

Attending concerts can be truly uplifting.

All too often in Miami, all you're left with is feeling robbed.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Palate Cleanser #175

*sniffle*  But.... *sobs*  What do you mean it only goes to Zone 9?  *wails*

visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2012

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Protective Shield Palate Cleanser

Baby Sloth!!!!

If you're one of the many reading this in email subscription, on Easter Sunday no less, you really might want to read the post that follows this on a nice, empty stomach. But maybe with some caffeine on board, so that you are paying attention.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Preaching to the choir. ;)

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Unsafe Abortion (Warning Graphic Details, Graphic Imagery)

Russian Abortion Poster circa 1925, National Library of Medicine
Translation of text at top: "Miscarriages induced by either trained or self-taught midwives not only maim the woman, they also often lead to death." Caption for upper-left picture: "Visiting the self-taught midwife" Upper-right picture: "Consequences of miscarriage" Lower picture: "Death from miscarriage" Text at lower left: "Any miscarriage is harmful." Text at lower right: "Any trained or self-taught midwife who induces a miscarriage is committing a crime."

I have been shocked to learn that my youngest child, who is 16, did not fully understand the consequences of unsafe abortion. I hadn't really planned to talk much further on the matter right now because my piece on Submissiveness and Backsliding on women's reproductive rights is pretty much self-contained and it's not a piece that's just about abortion, but rather a piece about women's rights. (Although, I was very annoyed to find that I forgot to mention US Representative Richard Hanna, R-NY, speaking last month at an ERA anniversary rally on the Mall in Washington, D.C. telling women to contribute to Democrats, not Republicans, because their hard-won rights were under attack.)

Anyway, here's the deal. I'm now aware that there are at least a generation of young people out there who are so far removed from the days before legalization and Roe v. Wade (1973) that they haven't heard what it was like, what could happen to women who got desperate, to women who couldn't afford to be pregnant, either because of their social or financial or familial circumstances. That's a generation of people who don't understand what the image below represents to women of my age and older. So I'm going to post some info on unsafe abortion. It won't be pretty, people.

Unsafe Abortion- Here, There, Everywhere

The best source for examining what happens with unsafe abortions is to look at abortion in developing countries (think much of Africa), or even developed countries where abortion is largely illegal (think developed countries in Latin America).

First, let's deal with the basic and indisputable facts about abortion. Later, we'll get to the above mentioned graphic details.

Guttmacher Foundation is an organization whose stated mission is "advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education." They work in frequent collaboration with the World Health Organization. Directly from their policy brief, 


Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America—regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds. [1]

• Where abortion is permitted on broad legal grounds, it is generally safe, and where it is highly restricted, it is typically unsafe. In developing countries, relatively liberal abortion laws are associated with fewer negative health consequences from unsafe abortion than are highly restrictive laws. [2] [3]

• In South Africa, the annual number of abortion-related deaths fell by 91 % after the liberalization of the abortion law. [2]

• In Nepal, where abortion was made legal on broad grounds in 2002, it appears that abortion-related complications are on the decline: A recent study in eight districts found that abortion-related complications accounted for 54% of all facility-treated maternal illnesses in 1998, but for only 28% in 2008–2009. [3]

• Between 1997 and 2008, the grounds on which abortion may be legally performed were broadened in 17 countries: Benin, Bhutan, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guinea, Iran, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Swaziland, Switzerland, Thailand and Togo. Mexico City and parts of Australia (Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia) also liberalized their abortion laws. In contrast, El Salvador and Nicaragua changed their already restrictive laws to prohibit abortion entirely, while Poland withdrew socioeconomic reasons as a legal ground for abortion.


The World Health Organization defines unsafe abortion as a procedure for terminating a pregnancy that is performed by an individual lacking the necessary skills, or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both.

• Between 1995 and 2008, the rate of unsafe abortion worldwide remained essentially unchanged, at 14 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44. [1]

• During the same period, the proportion of all abortions that were unsafe increased from 44% to 49%. [1]

In 2008, more than 97% of abortions in Africa were unsafe. Southern Africa is the subregion with the lowest proportion of unsafe abortions (58%) [1]. Close to 90% of women in the subregion live in South Africa, where abortion was liberalized in 1997.

In Latin America, 95% of abortions were unsafe, a proportion that did not change between 1995 and 2008. Nearly all safe abortions occurred in the Caribbean, primarily in Cuba and several other countries where the law is liberal and safe abortions are accessible. [1]

• In Asia, the proportion of abortions that are unsafe varies widely by subregion, from virtually none in Eastern Asia to 65% in South Central Asia. [1]

• In Western Asia, the proportion of abortions that are unsafe increased from 34% to 60% between 2003 and 2008. [1]This increase is likely due to improved measurement of unsafe abortions and to a steady decline in abortions (partly due to the increasingly widespread use of effective contraceptives) in countries where abortion is legal and safe.

• Worldwide, medication abortion (a technique using a combination of the drugs mifespristone and misoprostol, or misoprostol alone) has become more common in both legal and clandestine procedures. Increased use of medication abortion has likely contributed to declines in the proportion of clandestine abortions that result in severe morbidity and maternal death.


The estimated annual number of deaths from unsafe abortion declined from 56,000 in 2003 to 47,000 in 2008. Complications from unsafe abortion accounted for an estimated 13% of all maternal deaths worldwide in both years. [4]

• Declines since 2003 in the annual number of deaths from unsafe abortion, along with concurrent increases in the annual number of unsafe abortions performed, indicate that the risks associated with clandestine procedures may be decreasing.

In the United States, legal induced abortion results in 0.6 deaths per 100,000 procedures. Worldwide, unsafe abortion accounts for a death rate that is 350 times higher (220 per 100,000), and, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the rate is 800 times higher, at 460 per 100,000. [4]

• Almost all abortion-related deaths occur in developing countries, with the highest number occurring in Africa.

Unsafe abortion is a significant cause of ill-health among women in the developing world. Estimates for 2005 indicate that 8.5 million women annually experience complications from unsafe abortion that require medical attention, and three million do not receive the care they need. [5]

Treating medical complications from unsafe abortion places a significant financial burden on public health care systems in the developing world. According to a 2009 study, the minimum annual estimated cost of providing postabortion care in the developing world is $341 million. [6]

• In developing countries, poor women have the least access to family planning services and the fewest resources to pay for safe abortion procedures; they are also the most likely to experience complications related to unsafe abortion.

Unsafe abortion has significant negative consequences beyond its immediate effects on women’s health. For example, complications from unsafe abortion may reduce women’s productivity, increasing the economic burden on poor families; cause maternal deaths that leave children motherless; cause long-term health problems, such as infertility; and result in considerable costs to already struggling public health systems.


• The uptake of modern contraceptive methods worldwide has slowed in recent years, from an increase of 0.6 percentage points per year in 1990–1999 to an increase of only 0.1 percentage points per year in 2000–2009. In Africa, the annual increase in modern contraceptive use fell from 0.8 percentage points in 1990–1999 to 0.2 percentage points in 2000–2009. [7]

• An estimated 215 million women in the developing world have an unmet need for modern contraceptives, meaning they want to avoid a pregnancy but are using a low-efficacy traditional family planning method or no method. [8]

• Some 82% of unintended pregnancies in developing countries occur among women who have an unmet need for modern contraception. [8]

• In the developing world, women’s reasons for not using contraceptives most commonly include concerns about possible side-effects, the belief that they are not at risk of getting pregnant, poor access to family planning, and their partners’ opposition to contraception.

Reducing unmet need for modern contraception is an effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies, abortions and unplanned births.

References cited in this paper can be found in the article itself, at the bottom of the page.


Many Pro-Life supporters may likely say that if a woman is grievously harmed or dies as a result of an unsafe, prohibited abortion that she deserves what she gets. (I note for the umpteenth time that Pro-Choice women believe women should have a choice in pregnancy: keep their baby, keep their pregnancy and offer their baby for adoption, or terminate their pregnancy. Pro-Choice is about having those choices, not all about abortion. Many Pro-Choice women have never had an abortion and might never choose to have one but feel the right to control your body is every woman's right, just like it's every man's right.)

What are some of these complications of unsafe abortions? Pretty Horrifying.


Abortion I. F. Noel from the National Library of Medicine

Complications of Unsafe Abortion.

Well, I'm sure any woman who can envision sticking something inappropriate into her  vagina, trying to get it through a tight cervical opening and neck and then swirlingly that object around a bit to scrape her uterine walls as if she was getting a nice D&C, can envision a myriad of things going wrong with an unsafe abortion. Cynical Nymph found this article by Dr. Jenny Gunter to describe an experience with a woman who came into an ER with a perforation that ruptured the uterine artery, an often fatal complication in which the woman bleeds out. (You can read further about the severity and fiscal cost of unsafe abortions at Guttmacher Foundation, here.) 

Taking a nice, neutral British source, we find the following, from an Education for Choice Fact Sheet for British Teens:

(Figures sourced from the World Health Organization, 2008)
  • Between two million and seven million women (worldwide) each year survive unsafe abortion, but sustain long-term damage or disease.
  • The most frequent complications are incomplete abortion, infection (sepsis), haemorrhage and injury to the internal organs, such as puncturing or tearing of the uterus.
  • Long-term health problems include chronic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
  • About 95% of unsafe abortions take place in developing countries.
  • In many African countries, up to 70% of women treated for abortion complications are under 20 years old.
  • Unsafe abortion is responsible for one in eight maternal deaths.

It is rather startling to read these figures and remember that they are largely talking about developing countries, and are not contemplating countries that are among the largest and most successful in the history of this planet. Should they be? Hmmm. Go back and read that first fact from Guttmacher on Abortion Law:

Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates.

This is because women who are desperate not to have a child do desperate things. How does it go when things really go wrong? You can die. You can be maimed. And you can end up in situations in which what the physician delivers is something like this: (Don't you DARE look away!)

Resected gangrenous intestinal segment that escaped through perforated uterus.
(Source: Journal of Family and Community Medicine)
Caution is strongly advised before following the link!

The 30 year old Indian mother of 6 children, who formerly was attached to this  intestine, miraculously survived, after major surgery to remove three feet of small intestine, two days on a ventilator, 3 units of packed RBCs, and 14 days in the hospital on broad spectrum antibiotics. What a hale and hearty soul. Most women would have died. Still, I wonder how she absorbs nutrients, since I'm more than passingly familiar with the damaged small intestine nutritional problems. (Celiac issue) Her desperation not to have a seventh child may yet claim her life.

Let's think about how much that same level of botched-abortion healthcare would cost in the USA, shall we? 

Of course, it's possibly cheaper than a state raising a child given up at birth. Not betting on it, though. A woman may have further, long-term complications, beyond just the acute ones of an unsafe abortion. Or she may die. But hey, it's only a woman, and if she dies having a backstreet abortion, she probably deserved it. She was wrong for having sex (even if raped or victim of incest) if she didn't want to get pregnant and wrong for not wanting to stay pregnant if she got pregnant, and wrong for not having enough money to pay for all the expenses of her legal abortion even if you made it as expensive as possible for her to get, and finally wrong for not having enough wherewithal to just get herself to some state or country where she could get an affordable abortion. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

So I'm going to close this entirely wrong post now. With a few very wrong links. I know it's almost as wrong of me as the wrongness of wanting control over my body (which is so very wrong of me...) and wishing the same for my wrong-headed daughter.

Support Planned Parenthood. Last I checked, affordable and accesible contraception prevents abortions.

Join Emily's List and support women for elected office who promote women's reproductive rights and choices, and legislation that improves the lives of women and families nationwide. Even if you're a man, you can join. Know who you're voting for.

And know what's going on out there. Track legislative proposals that infringe on women's reproductive rights at Trust Women. It's a PAC. When I find other women's rights PACs, I'm going to contribute to them, too.

But that's because I'm am irredeemably wrong.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012