Abortion must become a health-care issue, say campaigners.
The initiative sprung from Latin America in 1990 to highlight the inhumanity endured in countries where access to abortion is partially or totally prohibited.
Recently in El Salvador a global campaign was launched to demand the government allow ‘Beatriz’, a 22 year-old mother of one, pregnant with a foetus that could not live outside the womb, an abortion to save her life.
The Catholic Church and the current laws in El Salvador ban any type of abortion, even if this means that the woman will die. Given the poverty and the lack of adequate reproductive health care there, this means that many women resort to unsafe illegal abortions, with a frequent fatal result. Until ten years ago, over 80,000 women died worldwide from illegal abortions. Since the abortion pill became available, that number has almost halved, but it is estimated that 47,000 women worldwide still die every year due to unsafe abortions.
In Ireland, North and South, the situation is not much better. Last year Savita Halappanavar died in Galway hospital after she was refused a termination while she was miscarrying.
Her death sent shockwaves across the globe and exposed the strict anti-abortion laws in Ireland, where both women and medical staff are unable to get/provide basic reproductive health care without being threatened by jail terms, health complications, economica hardship or social stigma.
Present legislation both North and South does not comply with European Human Rights standards in ensuring that restrictive abortion laws do not violate the rights of women. On the contrary, the sexual rights of women have been consistently neglected and denied because women are put at risk as a consequence of being denied medical treatment when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
We need to decriminalise abortion and make it a health care issue. We must think of the effects that the current laws will have on women’s health if this issue is not properly addressed. We must ensure that no other Beatriz or Savita suffers or dies, and ensure that our sisters, mothers, aunts, friends receive the care they deserve instead of continuing to be criminalised for seeking a service they should be entitled to.
As Alliance for Choice we demand the right for women to control their own bodies, to be able to make the choices that are right for them and to have their human rights respected and upheld.