Maternal health and the demand for total control over it have long been debated. For millions of women, who go through an unwanted pregnancy, safe abortion is a fundamental healthcare requirement. While developing countries like India are expanding their abortion laws to make it more inclusive for single mothers, other countries like the 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.
Although courts worldwide are yet to figure out whether to make it legal, it is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in abortion every year. 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 abortion is necessary, 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. Similarly, Roe Vs Wade judgment which enabled countless women in the 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.
Dipika Jain, Director of the CJLS, Jindal Global Law School on the backdrop of International safe abortion day on 28th September at a session organised by Pratigya Campaign pointed out that the fact that abortion has been legal since 1971 needs to be spread across cities and districts. Women, irrespective of intersectionality, should be made aware of their abortion and reproductive rights. The media can play a significant role in changing narratives around abortion.
Why Are Safe Abortion Needed?
Criminalising abortions does not stop abortions. Rather, it merely drives people to seek out risky procedures. Unsafe abortions may result in death, unlike a legal abortion performed by a qualified medical expert. A more significant concern is that these decisions will not only impact women in specific countries but will also have global repercussions as it reverses decades of gain 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, which prevents it from being done correctly. Their health is adversely affected by this over the long run. Abortion is challenging; if it is not done correctly, it may result in significant psychological and physical stress.
Suggested Reading- Unmarried Indian Women Deserve Access To Safe Abortions
The view expressed are the author’s own.