Today is the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, a day to promote universal access to safe, legal abortion as a women’s health and human rights issue.
Before 2011 this day has been a campaign for decriminalisation of abortion in Latin America and Caribbean for nearly twenty years before being taken on by SRHR activists all over the world.
Of course there are many countries, especially the developed countries, where abortion is legal and women have a save access to abortion. But let me tell you a few numbers, which show you the worldwide rate:
- 21.6 million women experience an unsafe abortion worldwide each year; 18.5 million of these occur in developing countries
- Each year, 6.9 million women in developing countries are treated for complications from unsafe abortion.
- Nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, and nearly all unsafe abortions (98%) occur in developing countries. In the developing world, 56% of all abortions are unsafe, compared with just 6% in the developed world.
- The proportion of abortions worldwide that take place in the developing world increased between 1995 and 2008 from 78% to 86%, in part because the proportion of all women who live in the developing world increased during this period.
- Since 2003, the number of abortions fell by 600,000 in the developed world but increased by 2.8 million in the developing world. In 2008, six million abortions were performed in developed countries and 38 million in developing countries, a disparity that largely reflects population distribution.
- 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.
Source: Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization: Unsafe abortion: global and regional estimates of incidence of unsafe abortion and associated mortality in 2008. à Karte UN Worldmap
- 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.
- In 2008, more than 97% of abortions in Africa were unsafe. Southern Africa is the subregion with the lowest proportion of unsafe abortions (58%). 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.
- 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
- Almost all abortion-related deaths occur in developing countries, with the highest number occurring in Africa.
- 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.
- Reducing unmet need for modern contraception is an effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies, abortions and unplanned births.
(Sources: WHO; Guttmacher (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html); Sedgh G et al., Induced abortion worldwide in 2008: levels and trends)
There are also many abortion myths, in developing and developed countries, which lead to wrong information and act and they have influence on public opinions, which also lead to stigmatization. For example: “it causes cancer”, “it is dangerous”, “it is traumatic and causes mental suffering”.
But the truth is:
- Abortion isn’t dangerous in safe and legal settings
- No evidence supports the existence of “Post-Abortions-Syndrome”.
- Recent studies on women seeking abortions showed that women who were able to obtain an abortion, 95% reported that they were relieved.
- Abortion is not immoral. Access to safe and legal abortion is a human right and a moral good.
- Criminalizing abortion doesn’t stop abortions: It only stops safe abortion
Those myths spread because of limited access to information or by people opposed to abortion and the myths are repeated often. Unfortunately they have a strong impact on women, society and politicians. People are forced to have unwanted pregnancies, there is no access to safe and legal abortions and abortion carries stigma and discrimination. So women won’t speak about it and fear the act. This is why such high numbers arise and the myths have an effect on women’s health, rights and lives.
So this day is a call for action to fight the myths, discrimination and stigmatization.
What can you do?
Inform your community, friends and family members, point it out to your environment in your country or just be there if a friend needs you in times before, during or after an abortion without stigmatizing her.
Spread your thoughts on the internet: Use #BustTheMyths or #AbortionStigma
Here you can find more information and materials: http://www.september28.org/
Without those myths, with sex education and awareness we can help women to gain access to safe and legal abortion.