Abortion is Healthcare
Legislators in the state of Texas recently voted to make abortion illegal from six weeks – a point when many women do not know they are pregnant.
In the same month, and in stark contrast, Mexico’s Supreme Court unanimously ‘ordered the northern state of Coahuila to remove sanctions for abortion from its criminal code’ – effectively decriminalising abortion.
Several justices argued that ‘prohibitions on voluntarily interrupting a pregnancy violated women’s rights to control their own bodies’ and justice Luis María Aguilar, stated that “It is not about the right to abortion…it’s rather the right to decide of women and persons able to gestate to make decisions.”
In the UK, and more recently in Northern Ireland, abortion is legally available in certain circumstances. However it is not decriminalised and multiple restrictions and barriers to accessing an abortion remain in place.
We believe in women’s rights to make decisions about our own sexual and reproductive health and well-being, and trust in women to make choices that are right for them. Access to safe and free abortions is a vital part of women’s healthcare, which should be universally available to women in every country around the world. Here’s why!
- Because it helps challenge male and institutionalised violence.
Violence and misogyny is rooted in male entitlement, power and control. This power is felt in many different ways by women and girls and includes forcing people to carry pregnancies that they do not want – or physically, culturally, mentally, emotionally or financially cannot have.
Access to safe and free allows us to say what we want from our bodies so we can live in the way we choose, without the fear of harm or criminalisation.
Speaking up for the right to access, free and safe abortions, and loudly, is one the many ways we can break the silence, challenge these forms of violence and recognise that our bodies belong to no one but ourselves.
- Because everyone who needs an abortion deserves to live without fear of breaking the law.
Statistically one in three women in the UK will have an abortion in their lifetime, and yet abortion is only legal if two doctors agree that a pregnant person’s mental or physical health would suffer if they were forced to continue their pregnancy.
Most abortions in England, Wales and Scotland are carried out before 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, they can be carried out after 24 weeks in very limited circumstances – for example, if the mother’s life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.
The NHS is not required by law to perform abortions, and nearly a quarter of those seeking abortions in England pay up to £1400 for terminations because of NHS service restrictions.
In a world where women’s reproductive rights are constantly at risk of being rolled back, it is vital to speak up however possible to ensure our reproductive choices remain free of restrictions and criminalisation.
- Because of the intersectional impacts that restrictive abortion policies have.
Restrictive abortion laws have rippling effects; particularly for people already affected by multiple inequalities such as racism, homophobia, classism and ableism. For those already marginalised, the impacts of restrictive abortion laws and policies can often exasperate existing inequalities.
Anyone who has an unwanted pregnancy deserves to live without shame and fear, and one way to ensure this is to ensure the provision of free, safe, decriminalised abortions is accessible for everyone.
- Because having no choices kills.
Unsafe and illegal abortions kill. Currently around half of all abortions performed across the world are what is termed “back-street” abortions. These are illegal, unsafe and/or unhygienic abortions often performed by individuals who are not medical professionals.
Consequently around 70,000 women world-wide die each year from unsafe abortions, although the number is likely to be far higher.
- Because there is strength in solidarity.
The ongoing fight for abortion rights continues on with the incredible efforts by campaigners and activists at home and across the world. Their tireless work proves that real change is indeed possible. With an ever-growing movement our solidarity is now more important than ever.
You can take action with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) to campaign for telemedical abortion care to remain available to women beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can march from Trafalgar Square to the American Embassy, with Abortion Rights, in solidarity with women in Texas and with pro-choice marches taking place across US on 2nd October.
Below, you can find more about the organisations leading the campaign to move women’s reproductive rights forwards, not backwards.
For anyone in England who has recently been subjected to rape and are worried the impacts on your sexual health or about the possibility of being pregnant, you can find your nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) here.
For specialist emotional support in the aftermath of surviving sexual violence, you can speak to someone over the phone on the National Rape Crisis Helpline, or online through Rape Crisis Live Chat Helpline.
This blog was updated on 23rd September 2021