In my previous article I quite possibly opened a Pandora’s Box by speaking my mind about the abortion debate. But that’s the thing with debates, sometimes you say things that might inconvenience others, no matter how truthful they may be. This article will be no different, because facts are facts, and when you look at the realities and statistics I’ll soon be mentioning, you’ll begin to realise how imperative it is to weigh out options to make a more educated decision or formulate a well-rounded argument.
Let’s gain some international perspective: the first abortion restriction in the US was passed in 1821, and consistent with CNN, further laws were legislated throughout the 1800s. Women still sought abortions, whether legal or not, with devastating consequences to their health. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading American research and policy organisation dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the US and globally, has done substantial research on the matter. In the time of the Great Depression, many women couldn’t afford the encumbrance of a mere child, let alone children, and hence the demand for abortion increased. Without safe, legal access to the procedure, nearly 2,700 women died from abortions in 1930 alone, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The advent of penicillin was crucial in lowering the death rate of abortion patients. In keeping with Guttmacher, abortion led to some 300 deaths in 1950, and less than 200 by 1965. Yet, just because women weren’t dying as often, it didn’t automatically mean that illegal abortions were safe. Picture the macabre scenes of women inserting coat hangers and knitting needles into their cervixes, drinking turpentine and bleach, and throwing themselves down flights of stairs.
Video from Doctors Without Borders
Fast-forward to more recent years, unsurprisingly, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion. And that’s a worldwide figure. Abortions happen whether we agree with them or not. So let’s not kid ourselves and live in the blinding cocoon of political or religious scruples.
Surprisingly, though, nearly half of these procedures are unsafe. The World Health Organization reports that 21.6 million women undergo unsafe abortions each year. Perhaps even more shocking is the figure of 68,000 women who die of unsafe abortion annually, which makes this statistic one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. WHO reported that every 8 minutes a woman in a developing country will die of complications arising from an unsafe abortion. Of the women who survive unsafe abortions, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications. So evidently, outlawing abortion doesn’t stop women from seeking it; it simply kills them in confounding numbers.
So what exactly constitutes in an unsafe abortion? WHO hit the nail on its head by defining it as “a procedure for terminating an unintended pregnancy carried out either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both.” It’s really no wonder that abortion is one of the easiest preventable causes of maternal mortality and a staggering public health issue within the global context.
The fact of the matter is, that being pro-choice isn’t being pro-abortion. There is a way to prevent them, but it’s not by making abortion illegal and inaccessible. It’s by educating the general public from a young age, preventing the unwanted pregnancies that lead to them in the first place. But if they do happen, providing a support system that’s non-judgemental and free from stigma. Otherwise, desperate women, facing the financial burdens and social shame of unintended pregnancy and believing they’ve got no other option, will continue to risk their lives by undergoing unsafe abortions. So let’s once and for all debunk this supposed evil of legalising abortion. After all, ‘pro-choice’ is really not a dirty word!