The denial of free, legal and safe abortion is an urgent global issue. Over 47,000 women die as a result of unsafe illegal abortion, making it the leading cause of maternal death internationally.
Women are driven to take the deadly risk of dangerous back street abortion for many reasons, mainly that abortion is outlawed in their country or where it is permitted they cannot afford to avail of one safely. When abortion rates of countries where the procedure is illegal are compared to those where it is legal, the figures are similar – banning abortion only forces women into seeking clandestine abortions (World Health Organisation). In Uganda where abortion is illegal, an estimated 1200 women die every year and thousands are left with fertility problems and cervical trauma.
In countries such as India where abortion is legal, most women living in poverty are denied access to certified clinics and resort to unsafe or self-induced methods.
The criminalisation of abortion is another aspect of the issue and a problem facing thousands of women. In Chile it is mandatory for hospitals to report any woman that presents with complications thought to result from abortion. Women found guilty face penalties of 3-5 years in jail.
In Nepal 2/3 of all female prisoners are incarcerated for undergoing the procedure where they are viewed and sentenced as murderers. Recently political and so called “prolife” organisations in the Philippines have called for the death penalty for any woman who is found to have undergone an abortion and already enforces prison sentences for women and family members or friends who assist them.
Abortion rights in “first world” countries are also being threatened. There have been increased incidents in the targeting of clinics in France and Canada by anti-choice groups using death threats and arson to prevent women entering. In the UK, vicious cuts to the NHS are preventing many hospitals from performing terminations, affecting many working class women. We are also seeing an attempt to claw back many abortion rights in the USA. The state of Mississippi is one of four which have a single remaining abortion clinic due to ever increasing restrictions.
By Emma Quinn