International Safe Aborion Day

Today it’s the International Safe Abortion Day, and I wish it was not necessary to have such a day in the calendar, because safe abortion should be granted to every single woman in need of one. With that said, I hope putting focus on this will be for the good.

While progression has been made in some countries over the past few years, like in New Zealand, South-Korea, Argentina, Ecuador, Thailand and Ireland, other countries have taken a step backwards.

In Texas a new law, making abortion an act of crime, has been passed. Even if President Biden has promised to protect the clinics, this is a horrible development in one of the world’s most developed countries.

Religious and archaic cultural views should not dictate women’s right to control their own bodies and reproductive health. In line with the same outdated views, comes the lack of sexual education, education on reproductive health in general, and not the least, the lack of access to contraceptives.

On top of that, we can add a general lack of respect for women, and the fact that it’s the women who are punished to breaking the law by getting an abortion, while the perpetrator gets away unpunished.

The result of all this are tens of thousands of unsafe abortions every year. Women die during or after these procedures, approximately 22 000 every year! A lot more suffer from long term complications, and many are never able to get pregnant and have a child later.

This is not acceptable, it never was, and it certainly should not be acceptable in 2021!

We cannot keep silent about this. We have to keep fighting until every woman on this planet has the right, and the access to safe abortion and safe post-abortion care.

#InternationalSafeAbortionDay

For further reading:

https://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/news/international-safe-abortion-day-28-september-2021-first-call-to-action/

https://www.who.int/news/item/28-09-2020-international-safe-abortion-day

https://www.who.int/health-topics/abortion#tab=tab_2

International Women’s Day

As always, there are things to celebrate, and still battles to fight when it comes to women’s rights.

Let’s start with some good news:

Argentina changed its abortion laws in 2020, ending a total prohibition on abortion. Several other countries have also changed their abortion laws in recent years, like Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

In Kenya, 40 clan elders have decided to stop child marriages and to end female genital mutilation and other forms of gender-based violence. This is important, and progress is made in other countries as well.

In many African countries, education on women’s reproductive health, family planning and access to modern contraceptives are on the rise. This in turn will reduce the number of (unsafe) abortions, and allows the women to take control over their own bodies and their own reproductive health.

Further, more than 100 nations reignite the vision of the Beijing Platform for Action, the most comprehensive roadmap for advancing gender equality.

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna were awarded the Nobel’s Price in chemistry. Kamala Harris was appointed the first female vice-president in the USA, and Gitanjali Rao was selected TIME Magazine first ever “Kid-of-the-year”, for her use of science and technology to promote social change. And I tell you, what a girl this is!

But despite progress, there are still battles to fight.

Honour killings, in particular a threat to girls and women, are still a widespread problem especially in South-Asia and the Middle-East. As of late, an Indian 17-year old girl was beheaded by her own father after he discovered she had a relationship with a man.

In India, as in Pakistan and Afghanistan and several other countries, women are often married off to the man who raped her. This is a horrific practice, and something that needs to end immediately.

In Poland, a country at the heart of Europe, and member of the European Union (EU), abortion is now prohibited. The law passed in parliament in 2020, despite large protests.

Abortion is also prohibited in the following European countries: Malta (also member of EU), Andorra, the Vatican and San Marino. A complete overview of the situation worldwide can be found here.

Both access to healthcare and education are under pressure during the covid-19 pandemic, and we have to make an effort so we don’t take many steps backwards now that progress has been made in many countries.

But even in western societies we now see family life returning to old stereotypes, where women take on a greater toll of housework, whether they are still working during the pandemic or not, compared to their spouses. We have to make sure that the years of 2020 and 2021 will not be the new norm, but still work for equality both in the domestic and professional areas.

We need to work to put an end to the misconception that girls and women are the property of men, unable to act on their own. Girls and women are individuals, fully capable of making their own decisions. No girl should be raised solely to be married off and being treated as a slave of the household and a birthmachine. This is why it’s so important to make sure they are given access to education.

We also have to work to improve the balance of representation of power, both in parliaments, but also in business corporations. Even in developed countries, men earn more, they own more, and they more often climb “to the top”. We have to get rid of the stereotype that men are better at making money, while women are better at taking care of the family. Men can be good caretakers, and women can certainly be good leaders.

I would like to end with a quote of Barack Obama, even if it would have been more appropriate for the day to quote a woman. Still, this one sums up the way forward pretty well.

“You may live in the world as it is, but you can still work to create the world as it should be.”

So let’s do that! In the spirit of all the women that has fought battles before us, and for all those coming after us.

Speak up, take action – and have a great day!

International Women's Day web banner illustration of woman hands holding each other in female symbol shape. Girl teamwork concept, modern flat cartoon outline arms.

It’s women’s right to make safe choises

We’re still in the middle of the pandemic, and most of us are probably more concerned about what we can do or not do these days, than we are concerned about things not directly related to our lives. I’m no exception, really, but in the end all I can do is live day by day and make the best of it.
But even if we are not so concerned about people far away these days, or concerned about other topics than the pandemic, things do happen around the world every day.

One of those things are unsafe abortions. Each year there’s an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions. That’s 68 493 abortions per day. 68 493 women and girls risking their lives.

As a matter of fact, unsafe abortions is one of the top five reasons why pregnant women die. And things haven’t become any better during the covid-pandemic. Estimates adds another 3 million unsafe abortions to the already high number, thereby adding several thousand women risking their lives because of an unwanted pregnancy.

The official number of girls and women who die from unsafe abortions is approximately 22 000 each year, but the number is probably larger. 7 million get complications after going through an unsafe abortion, many of these complications have severe impact on the women for the rest of their lives, and many will never be able to conceive again.

In the year of 2018, Doctors without Borders/Médecins sans Frontières treated 24 000 women for complications after unsafe abortions.

But what is an unsafe abortion? It is defined as an abortion without qualified, medical assistance, and/or in unhygienic and unsafe surroundings.

Some of the means used to end the pregnancies are herbs meant to provoke the body to reject the foetus, long and sharp objects, and chemicals injected into vagina to kill the foetus.

Why do women put themselves through this?

There’s no simple answer to be given, but most women seeking unsafe abortions are poor women. This should come as no surprise. Poor women do not have the means to seek professional help, or to go somewhere where abortion is legal and safe, if they live in a country where abortion is illegal. Neither are they given crucial and educative information about alternatives, family planning and prevention. As a consequence these women go through more unwanted pregnancies, and therefore more unsafe abortions.

In countries guided by strict religious legislation regarding abortion, but where abortion is still legal, many doctors refuse to perform abortions as they find it morally unacceptable.

In some countries, like El Salvador, abortion is illegal by law, even if the mother’s life is in danger. Women are given prison sentences, up to 50 years, if they are caught having had an abortion. Even if they lose their baby involuntarily after complications during the pregnancy, they risk several years in prison.

Another reason, is that professional medical aid is simply not available. In many countries, health clinics and hospitals are far away from where the women live, and when they do have access to them, the facilities are poorly structured. Having a safe abortion might seem impossible.

There is also the question of financing. Each time there’s a republican president elected in the USA, they usually impose the global gag rule, which means they cut of financial support to all organisations that informs, guides women and perform safe abortions. This has a huge impact of women’s reproductive health. The rule is usually reversed when there’s a democratic president elected. The global gag rule was last imposed by Trump, and then reversed as soon as Biden took office.

A lot of countries have very strict laws regarding abortion, making it practically impossible to have a safe and legal abortion, even if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or even if the girl is minor. But the thing is that strict laws do not prevent abortions! And these laws more often than not, go hand in hand with a lack of information about family planning and reproductive health in general. In the same countries we often also see high levels of gender based discrimination and violence against women. So the combination of lack of information, lack of access to prevention, lack of access to safe abortions and gender discrimination is a deadly cocktail for the women living here. It is also why the countries with the strictest laws regarding abortion have the highest abortion rates.

So what can we do about this?

First of all, we must never stop addressing the issue, and put pressure to grant women access to adequate information regarding their own reproductive health and family planning.

We must ensure that organisations and health facilities have the sufficient financial support to inform women, educate them and provide a safe environment to perform abortions.

We must support groups and organisations that work to improve women’s status, and to end gender based discrimination.

As individuals we often feel powerless, but we can raise our voices and speak up about this. And we can support various organisations financially. There are many organisations working within this area, and I’m sure you can find one that you see worthy of your support, whether it is UN supported organisations, or independent ones as Doctors without borders, Amnesty International, Red Cross etc.

Doctors without borders runs clinics and work with the issue on site in the field. Amnesty International puts pressure on governments to end unjust laws and to stop putting women in prison for a miscarriage or an abortion.

I have given just a very few examples of the organisations dealing with these problems, you are welcome to add to the list.