An abortion is a medical procedure that terminates pregnancy. For millions of women who become pregnant, it is a fundamental healthcare requirement. It is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in abortion every year worldwide. According to the United Nations Population Funds’ State of the World Population Report 2022 abortion is the third leading cause of maternal deaths and preventable disabilities worldwide. While the need for abortion is a necessity, access to safe and legal abortion services is far from guaranteed to those who need them.
Recently, a controversial new law has come into force in Hungary, which makes it mandatory for women seeking an abortion to listen to their unborn child’s heartbeat before going ahead with it. Similary, Roe Vs Wade judgment which enabled countless women in USA to access safe abortions was recently overturned by US Supreme Court. Over the last 25 years, more than 50 countries have changed their laws to allow for greater access to abortion. While developing countries like India are expanding their abortion laws to make it more inclusive for single mothers, while other countries like USA are moving decades backwards by overturning the law which provided pregnant women, and others who can get pregnant, the constitutional right to access safe and legal abortions.
Pratigya Campaign for Gender equality and Safe abortion came together and discussed the current abortion scenario in India for upcoming moment of International safe abortion day on 28th September 2022.
Debanjana Choudhuri, gender specialist, “There is a need to be holistic discussions and improved investment and programmes around comprehensive sexuality education, preventing child marriages, protecting women and girls from SGBV, and making contraception choices and safe abortions easily accessible to all those who need it. Women and girls should be empowered to be decision makers and have bodily autonomy to decide when and if, to have children.”
Dipika Jain, Professor of Law, Vice Dean & Director of the CJLS, Jindal Global Law School, said, “The fact that abortion has been legal since 1971 needs to be spread across cities and districts. Women from all classes, and not just middle-class women, should be made aware of their abortion and reproductive rights. The anti-abortion rhetoric needs to be changed and the media can play a big role in it. Regressive images, insensitive language and emphasis on legal rights will help abortion seekers in India.”
Criminalising abortions does not stop abortions, rather, it merely drives people to seek out risky procedures. Unsafe abortions may result in death, as opposed to a legal abortion performed by a qualified medical expert. A bigger concern is that these decision will not only impact women in the specific countries but will also have global repercussions as it reverses decades of gained in favour of gender equality and women’s bodily autonomy.
An essential component of a woman’s overall health is her reproductive health. Women’s reproductive health can only be guaranteed by having access to quality healthcare. In many cultures around the world, abortion is still frowned upon and is still illegal. This causes unintended pregnancies, miscarriages, and other severe long-term effects on women’s health. Women frequently turn to risky methods when abortion is not medically or legally permitted, as this prevents it from being done in the proper way. Their health is adversely affected by this over the long run. Abortion is a challenging procedure and if is not done in a proper manner, it may result in major psychological and physical stress.