This post is part of our "What Does Choice Mean to You?" series commemorating the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
any woman in the United States currently of reproductive age, the Roe v. Wade decision
has meant that she has always had the ability to safely end a pregnancy that
was unintended or dangerous for her health.
events— the death of Dr. Tiller and the battle over healthcare reform—have
served as a constant reminder that even in the United States, protecting access
to safe abortion remains an ongoing struggle. Internationally, change is slow and incremental at best, and
access to safe abortion services remains limited: Each year, nearly 70,000
women die unnecessarily from complications related to unsafe abortions, with
97% occurring in developing countries.
Our partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America have
demonstrated courage, stamina, creativity, and resilience in the face of fierce
opposition, guided by the conviction that no woman is free unless she has the
right to make decisions about her own body. And, like any movement for social justice, the movement for
safe abortion internationally has seen its ups and downs.
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I look at the glass half-full, I recognize the tremendous victory of our
partners at Catholics
for the Right to Decide in Bolivia, who successfully advocated on behalf of
a new constitution that specifically entitles men and women to sexual and
reproductive rights, and states that life is not defined as “starting at
conception.” I think of Dr.
Boniface Oye-Adeniran, an obstetrician-gynecologist and one of the four
coordinators of the Nigerian
Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy, whose creativity has paved the way for
a new cadre of abortion rights advocates to demand change. And, I think of a little-known victory
won by our colleagues YKP
in Indonesia that has the potential to better the lives of millions of women
and girls by increasing access to safe abortion services in a country where a
woman can be imprisoned for up to 12 years for “suggestive behavior.”
When I look at the glass half- empty, I think of the thousands of
lives that unsafe abortions claim each year. Women’s rights advocates
are fiercely attacked and targeted by conservative groups, and continue to be
threatened, insulted, and physically assaulted. In the Dominican Republic, lawmakers ratified Article 30, effectively making abortion illegal in all cases,
despite the ongoing mobilization and demonstrations
by men and women throughout the country.
And in Mexico, a year after the
upheld a Mexico City law allowing abortion in the first trimester, the majority
of states have amended their constitutions to criminalize abortion, a trend that one advocate aptly calls “outrageous,
disappointing and very frustrating.”
as we lift our glasses to celebrate the 37th anniversary of Roe, and
the promise of future wins, we must all recognize the importance of the ongoing
movement for abortion rights worldwide, a movement that will require the
dedicated efforts and support of women and men for years to come.