Criminalising Abortion Is An Act Of Violence Against Women

abortion rights women
Photo by Giacomo Ferroni - Unsplash

Abortion rights for women aren’t just needed. They are a requirement when it comes to women’s basic human rights.

I’ve never had an abortion, and I don’t know if I ever will. But I have had to take the morning after pill following a condom ripping.

After that incident, I felt forced into taking the contraceptive pill, because I didn’t see any other options open to me. And living in the U.K. in the 21st century meant I was one of the lucky ones. Because I had that choice.

Better still, the contraceptive pill is free here. In many other countries, it’s not. And many women’s access to it is still widely restricted. The same goes for the morning after pill, and clinical abortions.

Countries including Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile and Dominican Republic, prohibit abortion in all circumstances.

In Senegal, Ivory Coast and Bangladesh, extremely restrictive laws only allow abortion to save a woman’s life.

Malta is the only country in the E.U. where abortion is entirely illegal, even in cases of rape and incest. The morning-after pill was legalised here in 2016, but pharmacists often refuse to sell it based on their “moral stance.”

While abortion is legal in certain circumstances in India, there is no accountability for the quality of abortion care, or for refusals made. And abortion is widely stigmatised, in an attempt to keep people from talking about it, and maintain control over women’s bodies.

What’s moral about shaming, terrorising, and stigmatising women for wanting the freedom to do something other than give birth, and raise a child?

It might be shocking for some people to hear. But some women aren’t ready to be mothers, or don’t ever want to be mothers. Some women want to finish school or college, or go further in their career. Some women have suffered horrific experiences like rape or find themselves in abusive relationships. And some women are in extreme poverty, unable to provide a secure and stable environment for another human being.

Many women aren’t even given proper access to contraception or sex education. Do we just expect them to resign themselves to a life they don’t want, because other people believe that’s their moral burden to bear?

According to a 2012 report, over 90 percent of abortions are the result of unintended pregnancy. So providing free birth control to women is an obvious solution to reduce unplanned pregnancies and therefore, abortions.

So, why is it that anti-choice protesters – who claim to believe in saving lives at all costs – do not support agendas like better sex education, and wider access to birth control?

Some even argue that wider access to birth control will have negative consequences.

A perennial argument put forth by abortion opponents at the federal and state levels holds that contraception does not reduce unintended pregnancy—nor the incidence of abortion—and may actually increase it by leading to more sexual activity and, therefore, more risk. – Guttmacher Institute

Why?

Because their goal isn’t to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Their goal is to prevent women from having a choice. Their goal is to control women, and our bodies, and reverse the rights we’ve fought so hard to gain over the past 60 years.

We only have to look at Alabama to see this unfolding. Women’s status remains incredibly low here, and they have some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the U.S. Alabama is one of the states trying to pass abortion restrictions and bans – including a ban on abortion in the case of rape. Yet this law allows in-vitro fertilisation. A procedure which will often include discarding fertilised eggs.

“The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”

– Clyde Chambliss (the abortion bill’s chief sponsor in the state senate)

I understand the reservations many people might have when it comes to ending a potential human life. But it seems the pro-life argument that life begins at conception, only applies when there’s a woman’s body to control.

Abortion was legal in most states until the second half of the 19th century. Medical experts believe that abortion was not only widely available, but also widely sought out by women.

Then attitudes began to gradually shift, and opposition to abortion emerged and strengthened – along with the patriarchy. Abortion was labelled “race suicide” by white Americans; who feared becoming outnumbered by immigrants. While others feared that wide access to abortion would encourage women to stray from the roles society favoured them to take, as wives and mothers. So by the end of the 19th century, every state had criminalised abortion.

With no access to birth control or abortions, the average age of a first time mother in America in 1970 was 22. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalised abortion, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.

Women were no longer forced to continue with an unwanted pregnancy, get married, and give birth. Or risk their lives by seeking out an illegal abortion.

An estimated 8,000 – 17,000 women’s deaths occurred each year as a result of women seeking illegal abortions. Women were forced to put themselves at risk of severe health implications. Perforations of the uterus, cervical wounds, serious bleeding, infections, poisoning, and the risk of death. But after abortion was legalised again, deaths declined.

Today, only one death occurs in every 167,000 legal abortions, compared with one in every 30,000 in 1973. Abortion is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures. And it’s estimated to be ten times safer than completing a full-term pregnancy.

Easy access to birth control, combined with access to legal abortion, means that women – like men – have a choice.

Women have a choice to enjoy sex, without worrying about getting pregnant.

Women have a choice to delay pregnancy and/or marriage, for when they’re truly ready for it.

And women have a choice to continue on with their education and career. And not be forced to give up their future or their dreams, because society says they have to.

Criminalising abortion is an act of violence against women.

Legal abortion gives women choice. Freedom. Liberation. Equality. All of the things that men have enjoyed, abused, and taken for granted for centuries.

Our advancement as a gender over the past 50 years is no accident. Women’s access to safe, legal abortion has contributed to huge social, economic, and political leaps for us.

We must remember that it is an act of violence to force an unwilling woman to bear an unwanted child. We must cultivate respect for women as moral actors who make their childbearing decisions based on profound concerns about their own lives and the lives of their families. Women make these decisions within the framework of their own religious beliefs, conscience, and values. We must stress that abortion is a responsible choice for a woman who is both unwilling to continue a pregnancy and unprepared to care for a child. – ACLU

Restriction on abortion is about control. Control of women’s sexuality, and women’s bodies. And control of the population. Ensuring we always have a surplus of cheap human labour to fill the workforce.

But what women?

What about our wants, our needs, and our rights?

We think we’re progressive in western countries like America. But even here, women continue to be dehumanised and violated on a daily basis.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
How could a man possibly understand what it means to be a woman, carry a child for nine months, or give birth to one?

They don’t understand how our bodies work. They don’t understand how pregnancy works. And they clearly don’t understand the severity of rape or incest. They can’t possibly understand what it’s like to have a man rape you, and then be forced to carry his child in your belly for nine months.

What kind of a world are we living in where a women is going to be given a life sentence in prison for deciding she isn’t ready to have or raise a child? For choosing her health and her life, over her potential baby’s? For not wanting to have to re-live being raped, for nine months and beyond?

Why should an embryo be considered as a life, while a woman is seen as a mere carrier of life? How can something that is yet to exist have more rights than a living, breathing woman?

Why would any woman want to bring a child into a world like this?
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Former Congressman Todd Akin once claimed that women can’t get pregnant if they’ve been raped. Because, “the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down.”

John Becker on ectopic pregnancies (when the fertilised egg implants outside the uterus). “That treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus,” he said. Oblivious to the fact that this procedure isn’t medically possible.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And Senator Clyde Chambliss was asked if the proposed anti-abortion law would allow for incest victims to obtain abortions. He responded: “Yes, until she knows she’s pregnant.” But he did not elaborate on how someone would have an abortion before she knows she’s pregnant.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
That’s just a glimpse of the archaic, patriarchal attitudes and beliefs that run our world today.

How dare you try and tell us how our bodies function.

How dare you belittle an act of war like rape.

And how dare you tell us what choices we can and can’t make. Choices that directly impact our entire futures.

Women’s bodies do not exist as meat bags for your pleasure, that you can pick up and drop as you please. And we are not reproductive machines that exist to continue your family name, or fill your army.

If you believe in gender equality. If you believe in freedom, and liberation. And if you believe in a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body; then you believe in giving every woman legal access to an abortion.

More from Shani Jay

This Is The Kind Of Man You Deserve

You deserve a man who listens. A man who puts his phone...
Read More