Unwanted pregnancy is a fact of life, so let’s make abortion safe and legal

one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime

Every day, everywhere women have abortions. In fact, one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Your sister, mother, daughter, partner, friend. Yourself.

However, many countries around the world continue to restrict access to safe and legal abortion. Globally, 66 countries either prohibit abortion entirely or permit it only to save a woman's life. Approximately one quarter of the world's population resides in these countries.

Too many women still do not have autonomy over their reproductive lives, and are not able to choose to end an unwanted pregnancy under safe conditions with the support of a trained provider. 

That is why on September 28, the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, IPPF will join with partners across the world to call for universal access for safe and legal abortion.

Criminalizing abortion does not reduce the number of abortions, all it does is push abortion underground and rates of unsafe abortion increase. In fact, the lowest abortion rates in the world are in regions with some of the most liberal legal frameworks for the provision of abortion services.

For example, in Latin America, a region in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries, the abortion rate is 32 per 1,000 women of child bearing age. This is compared to an abortion rate of 12 per 1,000 women in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds in the majority of countries. As a consequence of these restrictive laws, 95% of all abortions in Latin America are unsafe.

A woman’s right to safe, legal abortion is under threat in Europe too. The abandoning of a draconian anti-abortion bill in Spain is a step in a positive direction and an illustration of what can be achieved through the joint action of civil society organizations. But the fact remains it should never have been on the legislature’s books in the first place. It shows that rights can be rolled back at anytime, anywhere.

The women who suffer as a consequence of restrictive laws are not just numbers. Each woman who seeks an abortion does so under a unique set of circumstances. They are women like Michelle who had an abortion in relative secrecy in Cameroon – a country that criminalizes abortion under most circumstances – without the support of her family or friends.

Michelle said: “Many women here have abortions, but no one talks openly about it. I was sad, extremely sad, at having to keep a secret that I couldn’t share with anyone in my family. I felt isolated. I felt always lonely.”

Unwanted pregnancies will always be a fact of life and abortions will continue. So, join us on September 28 in calling for governments to make abortion safe and legal abortion everywhere.

To see Michelle’s story visit www.ippf.org/womens-voices. For more information on the September 28 Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion please visit www.september28.org. To follow all of the twitter chat or join in the tweetathon on the day, use the hashtags #sept28 and #abortionstigma.