All About Abortion
Writer: Banyu Bening
Editor: Adelyne Koe
Graphic Designer: Heidi Wong
The fight for women’s liberty over their bodies, especially their reproductive rights, is no easy task.
Abortion, also known as the termination of a pregnancy, is a procedure to end a pregnancy, according to NHS.UK. Oftentimes, abortions are carried out under the care of a hospital or a licensed clinic, either by undergoing a surgical procedure or by taking medicines.
In at least 26 countries globally, the right to abortion is strictly prohibited outside of several narrow circumstances. These circumstances range from prohibition altogether, in which abortion is under no circumstances permitted, even when the woman's life or health is at risk, to extremely narrow circumstances that limit abortions to just after 6 weeks following pregnancy. Most women are only aware of their pregnancies 10-12 weeks into their pregnancies, a period of time by which time they are prohibited to abort.
This brings us to the complex and diverse perspectives of pro-life and pro-choice stances with which abortion is commonly associated. Public debate regarding abortion rights is a heated topic that touches upon views of morality and justification.
In simple terms, pro-life arguments oppose abortion and tend to bear the mindset that taking the life of an unborn fetus violates its right to live. People taking the pro-choice stance argue that abortion should be legalized, and believe in the mother’s right over her own body (otherwise known as her bodily autonomy).
However, pro-life and pro-choice discourse are not monolith, and the two stances aren’t completely in black-white contrast. Moderate pro-lifers believe that abortion can be allowed in particular circumstances, such a rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is on the line. A vast amount of pro-choicers also still believe that an unborn fetus possesses the same value of human life as everyone else.
The first thing that has to be established is the fact that women’s lives have value. Women do not solely serve as carriers or vessels to bear a child; women have rights as all humans do.
Abortion laws in certain regions are contradictory and do little to nothing to protect women. Take Indonesia, for example. In July 2018, a 15-year old Indonesian girl from Jambi, Sumatera, was raped by her brother, and then sentenced to 6 months of jail for aborting the fetus subsequent to the 6-week time limitation. With a majority of male politicians behind the parliament, Indonesia’s abortion laws are seen as ineffectual and nearly impossible to access. “The limited opportunity for abortion under these two most dire circumstances contradicts the spirit of the Reproductive Health Law, which aims to protect women’s health,” says Tunggal Pawestri, a women’s rights activist based in Jakarta.
Following the Texas heartbeat bill, which similarly takes on a similar stance as Indonesia’s abortion laws, prohibits abortions as early as six weeks and grants private citizens the right to sue abortion providers. The Texas legislature was said to "work together … to pass a bill … that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” according to Governor Greg Abbott.
But despite all this, the good news is still prevalent. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a nonpartisan membership organization, the right to safe abortion has been acknowledged as a human right by numerous international frameworks. These include the UN Human Rights Committee and regional human rights courts.
Based on data from a 2015 Pew Research Center analysis, around 96% of nations permit abortion to save a woman's life. In this modern day, more and more countries are recognizing the significance of access to safe abortion services. Katherine Mayall, the global advocacy adviser for the Center for Women's Reproductive Rights says, "Over the last 20 years, over 30 countries have liberalized their abortion laws".
The increase in these progressive standards and the influence of these reforms in laws and policies could mean stronger protection towards abortion as a human right, and providing women with broader access to reproductive health services.