Criminalizing Abortion Is Violence Against Women


November 25th marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. On December 10th the world celebrates Human Rights Day. Women’s rights advocates have leveraged the power of those two neighboring dates to create the 16 Days of Activism, an international campaign to put an end to the violence that women and girls face around the world every day.

Let’s be clear: criminalization and stigmatization of abortion is a form of violence against women and girls. It is a violation of the human right to health care, and it seriously jeopardizes the safety and wellbeing of millions of pregnant people every year.

Not totally convinced? How about we drop some statistics.

An estimated 56 million abortions occur around the world each year. That translates to roughly 1 termination in every 4 pregnancies. Abortion is an indisputably, undeniably common practice.

And yet, nearly half of all of these terminations will be done unsafely. 25 million abortions each year are performed by untrained providers or in unsanitary conditions that risk the health and well being of the pregnant person.

How, may we ask, is it even comprehensible that a health care service that is so commonly elected by women around the world is so poorly managed?

Okay, you got us, that question was rhetorical. We already know the answer : it’s because they are women. Gloria Steinem once said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” We couldn’t agree more.

But we digress. Let’s return to those statistics.

Perhaps you’re wondering, “If so many abortions happen unsafely around the world, why don’t we just ban the whole practice?” To that, we reply with research. Put simply, restrictive abortion laws do nothing to lower rates of abortion in a country. On the contrary, they drive up the number of unsafe abortions.

Take for example North America and Western Europe. These are areas where abortion is most legally accessible. They are also areas of the globe with the lowest rates of unsafe abortion. In contrast, south-central Asia, Africa, and Latin America, all of which are home to much more restrictive abortion laws, are the three regions of the world with highest unsafe abortion rates.

For this 16 Days of Activism, HowToUse and safe2choose are calling for an end to the criminalization of women’s health care. We demand a conversation about abortion that is rooted in research and is free from stigma. At least 22,800 women die each year from being denied access to safe, comprehensive reproductive options. It is time we put an end to this violence.