Safe and legal abortion

Abortion has long been at the heart of vivid debate. In all the regions of the world, some countries have tried, and still do, to make abortion disappear by adopting restrictive and repressive legislation. Attempts to step backwards are occurring, including in Europe. Hungary has introduced a constitutional article stating that the life of a fetus begins at “conception,” undercutting a woman’s right to abortion care regardless of circumstance. The Spanish government has approved a bill limiting abortion access to women who are survivors of rape or whose lives are at risk.

In the US, women’s reproductive right to access abortion is disappearing across the Southeast and Midwest. In 2014, Mississippi joins a list of six other states with only one abortion clinic to service all women. In Texas, over the course of one year, half of all clinics providing abortion services have shuttered. Women of the Rio Grande Valley, majority low-income women of color, are now forced to drive more than 300 miles to access to abortion services.

However, whatever the nature of the argument put forward, rendering abortion illegal has no dissuasive impact on resorting to abortion.

Half of all abortions in the world take place in poor sanitary conditions. Client testimonials show that in Latin America, some women try to abort using umbrella shafts or by swallowing non-prescribed pharmaceutical products. In Africa, it is commonplace to consume medicinal plant-based concoctions or overdose on drugs that are believed to induce uterine contractions. Statistics show that restricting access to safe, legal abortions does not eliminate the need for or rate of abortions. Countries that still restrict access to safe and legal abortion tacitly promote highly dangerous and painful underground procedures, claiming millions of victims every year. 

Today, four countries have implemented total abortion bans (Malta, Chili, Salvador and Nicaragua). 50,000 women die every year due to complications from unsafe abortions and 8 million women suffer permanent or temporary disabilities from botched procedures. Lacking resources and information, teenagers are particularly affected: in 2008, some 40% of women illegally aborting were aged between 15 and 24 years.

Abortion, when performed by a trained professional with adequate equipment, following industry procedures and sanitation protocol, is one of the safest medical interventions available (less than 1 death in 100,000 interventions).

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