September 28: Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion
Today marks the annual International Decriminalisation of Abortion Day, an event dedicated to raising awareness about the right to have access to safe, free and legal abortions. The theme this year is #StepIntoOurShoes which aims to challenge the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds abortion worldwide. At Abortion Rights, we are so passionate about destigmatising and decriminalising abortions not just in the UK but across the globe and we campaign to do this every day.
The link between countries where abortion is illegal or restricted and unsafe abortions is clear – if women cannot access abortion, they will be driven to take certain measures in order to undergo the procedure. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics 21.6 million unsafe abortions are performed annually, predominantly in the Global South, and 6.9 million are treated for unsafe abortion-related complications. This number would be decreased if women were given the right to access safe abortion legally, and WHO have confirmed that highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates.
You might wonder how a stigma can correlate to unsafe abortions, but when you are faced with the decision of whether to have an abortion and the word abortion itself is associated with other words such as shame, silence and abnormal, it is easy to see why young women feel they cannot go to a medical practitioner for this procedure. Even if abortions can be accessed legally, women can feel socially criminalised forcing them to seek unsafe abortions or put themselves in a situation where they no longer have the freedom to make a decision. If women do decide to have an abortion, they then may feel the pressure from the stigma to not talk about it which only enforces the stigma about silence and shame, and so the vicious cycle begins again.
It is important to acknowledge what is happening right now on our very doorstep with women in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland still being denied access to safe and legal abortions. This means that on average 12 women a day travel to (mostly) England in order to have the procedure. They have to travel to access something that is a human right and should be available to them in their own country. The March for Choice held this past weekend shows that the attitude towards abortion rights in Ireland has changed and that the laws need to reflect this. We stand in solidarity with Irish and Northern Irish women in their call to repeal the 8th amendment. We also stand by women in Poland who are currently facing an amendment to abortion law which will criminalise those who have had a termination and subjecting them to a prison sentence. It is unacceptable that women are being punished for making decisions regarding their own body and we stand with all women faced with this situation across the world. You can help us in our campaign to decriminalise abortion and break the stigma by donating to our cause – be it a #prochoicepound or your #firstfiver, every little helps!