by Jane Gabriel
Legal barriers, sheer physical pain, stigma and fear are not reducing women's demand for abortion, and the number of unsafe abortions is still rising. What is driving this need and this demand by women?
The conference was the world's first international conference on safe abortion, and at the plenary session declared that it had broken the silence of this "preventable pandemic" (Lancet).
But there was another silence throughout the conference: a silence about what causes women to seek abortions. In even the most restrictive legislation permitting a woman to have an abortion, being raped entitles a woman to an abortion. Why? Because women experience sexual violence and rape day in, day out, in peace and in war and regardless of culture, geography or wealth. No matter how restrictive the legislation is, rape is written in as a reason a woman may qualify for an abortion. Rape and abortion go together.
Only once in the two day, 700 delegate conference of men and women from 60 countries, did a delegate raise the subject of men's role in unsafe abortion, Elnora Mann, a mother of four boys, raised the lone voice when she asked in the final session of the conference "what about the boys? What about the sperm providers?". Throughout the conference the global phenomenon of sexual violence against women, the unequal power between men and men and the widespread culture of impunity for rapists that fuel the demand by women for abortion were barely mentioned.
Like Professor Sai, Professor Malcolm
Potts from the University of California Berkeley, has worked
all over the world for more than sixty years for safe abortion. Speaking
at the final session called "Breaking from the Past: Looking to the
Future" it was left to him to raise the issue of gender and power
clearly and loudly when he said that he believed that "the abortion
battle is as much about the male desire to control women as it is about
abortion. It is about patriarchy, not the sanctity of life".
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