Access to safe abortion options has constantly been a challenge all over the world. It’s hard to tell when women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights started being threatened and denied, or if even our body autonomy was ever respected. However, history is cyclical and we definitely have some things to learn from the pro-choice movement background.
To honor International Women’s Day (March 8th) and Abortion Providers Day (March 10th), safe2choose has developed a virtual campaign that traces significant episodes of the reproductive justice movement over the last ten decades. This campaign invites readers to learn more about safe abortion access in the world, from the 1910’s to this day.
The “100 years for safe abortion access” campaign has started this week and the materials are available on safe2choose social media pages including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, always in English, Spanish, Portuguese or French.
The content can also be found under the hashtags #100AñosPorElAccesoAlAbortoSeguro, #100YearsForSafeAbortionAccess, #100AnosPeloAcessoAoAbortoSeguro and #100AnsPourlAccèsàlAvortementSûr.
Come with us and take a trip through the history of women’s abortion rights!
United States – Abortion is outlawed, except in the state of Kentucky. Surgeons had a lot of competition with midwives, homeopaths and apothecaries, so they established that abortion was immoral and only they could decide whether to carry it out or not. Once again, women’s rights over their bodies were taken away from them.
The Soviet Union – For the first time in history, a government legalizes abortion under any circumstances during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Unfortunately, Stalin would declare abortion ilegal once again in 1936.
Mexico, Poland, Iceland and Sweden – Abortion becomes legal, but only under some specific circumstances and during a certain period of time.
Egypt – The penal code of 1937 bans the procedure, except in cases of “imperative need”. A physician approval was required, as it still is now, for a woman to have an abortion, as well as the husband’s consent.
Democratic Republic of the Congo – The law interdits selling, buying, importing, distributing and promoting abortion drugs. The country’s scenarium is still very conservative and even today, abortions are only allowed to save a woman’s life.
Chile – Therapeutic abortions are allowed to be performed by doctors, at their discretion. In 1989, a more restrictive law would pass and forbid the procedure under any circumstances. It wasn’t until 2017 that the legislation was updated to authorize the procedure in some conditions, although definitely not enough.
Nigeria – Because of the Rex v. Bourne decision in England, abortion becomes legal when necessary to protect the mental or physical health of a woman. However, laws lack implementation and generate confusion because of Nigeria’s different states policies, according to each region’s religious majority.
Russia – After Stalin’s ban, abortion became legal again on November 23rd, 1955.
Thailand – The Penal Code of 1956 brings an ambiguous legislation, that authorizes medical experts to perform abortions in cases of rape and in order to protect a woman’s health. However, they don’t specify their understanding of “health”.
UK – The “Abortion Act” legalizes abortions all over the United Kingdom, except in Northern Ireland, where it remains illegal.
Canada – Therapeutic abortions are allowed under some circumstances, at the doctors criteria.
Poland – During the communist years, abortion is available under the woman’s request. However, with the fall of communism, Poland starts adopting more conservative policies and is now considered one of the most restrictive countries in Europe.
United States – After the famous case “Roe vs. Wade”, the Supreme Court of the United States decides that most of the states laws against abortion in that country violated the constitutional and fundamental right to privacy. The decision forced the amendment of laws that prohibited or restricted abortion. It was the first step to improving women’s access to safe abortion.
Malaysia – Since 1971, abortion is allowed to save a woman’s life. From 1989 on, protecting the woman’s physical and mental health becomes another circumstance, as long as the request is made until the 120th day of the pregnancy.
Vietnam – Abortion becomes legal under any circumstance after the country’s reunification, in 1975, if performed until the 22nd week of the pregnancy.
India – Women are allowed to have an abortion until 20 weeks of the pregnancy. However, lack of real access to safe procedures result in persistent high mortality rates. Also, after the 12th week of a pregnancy, a second opinion from a doctor is required to approve it, except in extremely rare and urgent cases.
Guatemala – The country is notified by the United Nations, which is concerned about the high rates of unsafe abortions in the country. Since 1973, the country doesn’t allow the procedure except to save a woman’s life.
China – According to the Criminal Code of China from 1979, abortion is legal during the first six months of the pregnancy.
Turkey – In 1983, the government approves the right to abortions by request, within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. However, since 2012 the goverment has been imposing new barriers to the procedure.
Singapore – For local citizens and residents who have been in the country for at least 4 months, abortion becomes legal during the first 24 weeks of the pregnancy. After this period, it’s only allowed to save the life of a woman. Physicians are required to have a lot of experience on the field to perform abortions.
Philippines – The Constitution of 1987 says that the State “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”. From that, all abortions are forbidden except to save the woman’s life.
Ghana – A new abortion law is created in 1985 to punish people that perform abortions to women with and without their consent. It wasn’t until 2006 that the Ghana Health Service started to work on a better proposal, more focused on ensuring the safety of the procedure rather than on punishments.
South Africa – The Safe Interruption law legalizes safe abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After the 13th week, it is only allowed in some circumstances. Passing the 20th week, the decision will be made by a medical practitioner.
Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Chad and Benin – From 1996 to 2003, more progressive laws on abortion are approved, making the procedure legal under some circumstances and during specific timeframes.
Pakistan – Since 1997, abortions are prohibited by Islamic Law Principles, but it’s accepted if the pregnancy affects the health or life of a woman.
Portugal, Mexico City and Spain – Abortion is completely decriminalized during the first 10, 12 or 14 weeks of the pregnancy, respectively. After that, only under some circumstances.
The African Union – In 2003, additions are made to the “African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”, defending the rights of women to have a safe abortion.
Nepal – Because of the 11th Amendment to the Civil Code, abortion becomes legal on request during the first 12 weeks and it can also be performed until the 18th week in case of rape or incest.
Colombia – Abortion becomes legal to save the life of the woman or to protect her mental or physical health, when there’s risk of fatal fetal malformations and in cases of rape, incest or non-consensual insemination. The opinion on whether or not the health of the mother is at risk becomes a doctors decision.
Honduras, El Salvador, Malta, Vatican, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua – According to the law, abortion is completely forbidden in these countries. Some exceptions can be made to save a woman’s life. Despite this, abortions are still performed, even if under risky settings.
Brazil and Poland – Conservative politicians are fighting to restrict even more the access to safe abortion through the law.
Latin America – Catholic and Christian groups start a battle against a so-called “gender ideology”, as a mask to attack the rights of women and LGBT.
USA – Donald Trump gets elected and passes the Global Gag Rule to threaten organizations that support safe abortion around the world.
Japan – Abortion with pills is not available and only surgical procedures can be performed, limiting women’s choice over their procedures. It is legal up to 24 weeks, but only if it’s meant to save a woman’s life, procure their physical health or due to economic reasons.
Look at our complete version here and stay tuned for each update at our social media accounts!