democraciaAbierta

It’s time to talk about what a lack of access to safe abortion means

This year, something has changed about the way we talk about abortion. You can feel it on the street, on Twitter, in the media.... Something has changed, and there’s no turning back. Español

Viviana Waisman
18 October 2018
irelandmural.jpg

Mural in Ireland in favour of abortion. Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Reserved.

This year, something has changed about the way we talk about abortion. You can feel it on the street, on Twitter, in the media.... Something has changed, and there’s no turning back.

In May, the vote on the Irish referendum to legalize abortion filled me with hope. Thanks to the energy of young Irish people, a major victory was won for women’s rights.

The causes are many, but the effects are the same in countries where abortion is outlawed. Poor women die from unsafe clandestine abortions, while rich women go to clandestine abortion facilities or travel abroad to get abortions in private clinics. 

A few short months later, the decision by the Senate of Argentina, the country of origen of my family, plunged me into a state of mourning and disbelief. How could 38 senators fail to grasp the impact that a lack of access to safe and legal abortion has on the lives of women and their families? 

Women’s rights advocates know all too well the consequences of decisions like that of the Argentine Senate. We see it again and again in countries where abortion is outlawed or access to abortion services is limited. Simply put, when women lack access to safe and legal abortion, they die.

In Ireland, those who voted to overturn the ban understood that the choice is not between abortion and no abortion, but between safe abortion and unsafe abortion. Between life and death for thousands of women.

And yet there are still so many people, like those 38 Argentinian senators, who either don’t understand or don’t care, but still call themselves “pro-life.”

That’s why we have to talk more about what a lack of access to safe abortion means for women, their communities, and their families. We need to speak plainly, without mincing words, without taboos.

On Wednesday, August 8, while the Argentine Senate debated legalization of abortion, Romina was trying to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

She did it alone and told no one, not even her siblings. But she had complications and ended up in the hospital. A few days later, she died, leaving four children behind.

“She died because she was poor. She died because the poor do not exist,” said her brother Miguel to the Argentine newspaper Página 12. “I used to be against abortion, until now,” he added. Miguel found out what a lack of access to abortion means to women because it affected his life, and he lost his sister.

When a woman has an unwanted pregnancy, all she can think about is how to end it. It could be for any number of reasons: because her family will reject her, because she will lose her job, because she needs medical treatment that is incompatible with pregnancy, because the pregnancy poses a risk to her health, because she already has many children and can’t afford any more, because the pregnancy is the result of rape....

What truly reduces the number of abortions is when women have access to sex education, contraceptives, healthcare services, and sexual and reproductive rights. And when the rates of violence against women go down, so do abortion rates. 

The causes are many, but the effects are the same in countries where abortion is outlawed. Poor women die from unsafe clandestine abortions, while rich women go to clandestine abortion facilities or travel abroad to get abortions in private clinics. 

I think more and more people are beginning to understand that restrictions or total bans on abortion do not reduce the number of abortions. They just sweep them under the rug.

What truly reduces the number of abortions is when women have access to sex education, contraceptives, healthcare services, and sexual and reproductive rights. And when the rates of violence against women go down, so do abortion rates. 

Banning abortion does not reduce maternal deaths either. On the contrary, it increases them. In countries in which women are granted the authority to decide what is best for their lives and where abortion is broadly legalized, such as Uruguay and Spain, maternal deaths have dropped dramatically.

The debate has changed. Women are fighting for their lives. And we will never give up. We will take to the streets however many times we have to, whenever and wherever we need to, until not one more woman dies for lack of access to safe abortion.

Unete a nuestro boletín ¿Qué pasa con la democracia, la participación y derechos humanos en Latinoamérica? Entérate a través de nuestro boletín semanal. Suscríbeme al boletín.

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram