On the occasion of September 28 International Safe Abortion Day – Global Day of Action, WGNRR together with partner organisations and networks demand the normalisation of abortion.
Although the legal status of abortion varies across regions, abortion is usually stigmatised and commonly thought of as a “rare” and “uncommon” procedure. We know the reality is much different: It is estimated that 35 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 happen each year worldwide. Abortion happens in Sweden, Greece and France, where it is legal, performed by medical professionals, and covered by the national health insurance. And it also takes place in Kenya, El Salvador, and the Philippines, where it is a crime and a woman who terminates a pregnancy risks going to jail or dying. The only thing that legal restrictions cause is that they further perpetuate abortion stigma and push women to seek clandestine/unsafe options.
Abortion stigma is complex, multi layered and affects both women and individuals seeking the procedure and the providers. It is a negative attribute ascribed to women who seek to terminate a pregnancy and marks them, internally or externally, as inferior to ideals of womanhood. At the legal and policy level it plays an important role in justifying restrictive abortion laws.
Working to promote access to abortion and normalising the procedure in all areas of our lives is therefore critical, access has to be ensured by tackling legal and social barriers simultaneously. Abortion stigma and myths about abortion have worked against the lives and dignity of women and girls, by preventing them from accessing available safe abortion services, and in many places justifying restrictive laws that seek to control women’s bodies and fertility. These patriarchal laws and norms have to be rejected, and along with them gender stereotypes that prevent women from gaining power in society and making informed choices about their bodies.
Across the Globe civil society organisations, feminists and advocates work to promote safe abortion as a human right. We at WGNRR will continue to work together and stand in solidarity with SRHR advocates and WHRDs all over the world who undertake the important work of advocating for women’s access to safe and legal abortion every September 28 and throughout the year, so that all women, girls and individuals live a life free from all forms of violence and discrimination.
- Normalise abortion in the law: Repeal all laws criminalising, penalising and/or restricting women and adolescents’ access to abortion services. Specifically repeal laws requiring parental or spousal consent for adolescents and young women’s access to safe abortion services.
- Normalise abortion in our societies: Work towards removing socio-cultural barriers that reinforce gender stereotypes about motherhood and stigmatise girls, adolescents and women, preventing them from making free and informed decisions about their sexuality and their own bodies, and empower women to act as agents of change by ensuring comprehensive sexuality education to all girls and women.
- Normalise the abortion movement: End the harassment, criminalisation and aggression aimed at networks, civil society organisations, feminists and advocates of sexual and reproductive rights.
- Normalise contraception and comprehensive sexual education: Ensure access to contraception, including emergency contraception, of high quality and variety, user friendly and appropriate to the needs of girls, adolescents and women, while ensuring their confidentiality.