In support of what is currently happening in Poland and in other countries, where abortion is not legal or restrictive, we stand by the protesters and share knowledge about what abortion is, why
it is necessary to be legal and the consequences of banning it. Worldwide, the legalization of abortion remains a highly controversial topic with many nuances, including political, social and economical ones.
In November, we are looking closely into abortion. Last week we talked about what abortion is and the legal methods that can be performed by physicians.
This week, we will focus on the unsafe and illegal abortion, why it is still happening and the consequences of it.
Let’s dive in!
So, what is unsafe and, consequently, illegal abortion?
The WHO (World Health Organization) defines unsafe abortion as procedures performed either by unskilled and unqualified doctors and/or in an environment that does not provide minimal medical standards. In 1967, unsafe abortion was declared as a serious public health concern and over the years WHO worked on developing guidelines on safe abortions for healthcare systems. As a result, in 2004 unsafe abortion was integrated as an main component of the Reproductive health strategy to accelerate progress towards the attainment of international development goals and targets.
Abortion around the world, how does it look?
Currently there are 26 countries that completely prohibit abortion under any circumstances
One the opposite side, 36 countries provide abortion by request (gestational age may vary)
Unsafe abortion statistics
The incidences of unsafe abortions have risen between 1990 and 2008, especially in countries where strict abortion laws were implemented
From 1970s onwards, a number of legal reforms have been implemented with a high impact on the health and life of women, children and families
Numbers of unsafe abortion are more than 4 times higher in countries with restrictive abortion laws than in countries with less restrictive ones
Restrictive laws are linked to 3 times higher levels of maternal mortality than in countries with less restrictive ones
Up to 50% of illegal abortion patients end up in hospital due to complications and even death (367 deaths per 100000 cases)
Numerous methods for contraception and sexual education have been promoted (with various degrees or at all in some countries) in the last decade. The purpose is lowering the number of unwanted pregnancies and induced abortion but this is still not enough to prevent illegal and unsafe abortions. The lack of access to safe and legal abortion increases the risk of performing unsafe abortion with serious health consequences. This is why it is important for abortion to be legalized as it leads to decreased maternal complications and maternal deaths. For examples, in countries such as Romania or Singapore, after abortion was legalized, the maternal mortality fell by 67% (Romania) and 40% (Singapore). Furthermore, legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures and is even twice as safe as a natural delivery.
Unfortunately, in countries where abortion is permitted but only under certain conditions, barriers still exist when it comes to safe abortion. Some examples are:
Legal and policy context of abortion, that limit abortion services to high-level clinical facilities
Lack of/ limited access to safe and affordable abortion services
Insufficient number of clinics that provide abortion services
Stigma and discrimination
Objections by health-care providers due to various reasons such as religion, tradition or social aspects
Requirements for third-party authorization: for minors, in some countries the parents approval is necessary
Unnecessary medical test, that may delay the abortion procedure until the pregnancy develops beyond the legally allowed gestational age
Mandatory waiting periods
When it comes to policies and human rights, the WHO has the following considerations on abortion:
Abortion laws and policies should protect women’s health and their human rights
Policies should offer an environment where women that are eligible for an abortion to have fast access to safe abortion care
Policies should be directed towards respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights of women, providing suitable contraceptives and meeting the needs of poor women, teenagers, rape survivors or women living with HIV
But why do unsafe abortion still happen in countries where it is permitted?
Because of the lack of awareness of women regarding abortion laws. Even though there are clear regulations about abortion in some countries, the lack of promoting them decreases the awareness amongst people. The incorrect knowledge of the local laws may influence the women in need for an abortion negatively and can have an impact on the woman’s access to safe and legal abortion services. Therefore, the lack of awareness and knowledge may prevent the woman in need to access services that are actually legal and provided by the country.
Consequences of unsafe abortion
Illegal abortions can affect women going through this experience on multiple levels, such as physical, psychological, socio-political or judicial ones.
An abortion realized in a healthcare facility uses skilled and qualified doctors and the suitable equipment in order to perform safely the procedure
If it is not performed in clean, sterilized environment with qualified physicians it can cause physical harm to patients
As in unsafe abortions, the patients are not informed about post-abortion care nor do they have access to it, these procedures may not end successfully and can cause severe uterine infections, bleeding, fever, septic shock that require further hospitalization. Severe symptoms can appear because of the use of inadequate and unsterilized instruments and illegal and expired drugs as well
Because of the lack of information received about possible complications, they may delay going to the hospital as they do not know the cause of their complications
Abortion itself is a procedure that the patients needs to be fully informed about it, the different possibilities and pre- and post-abortion care, in order to choose the suitable option for them
By performing the abortion in an unsafe and illegal environment, the experience may be traumatic for some women and can induce psychological disorders such as stress, anxiety and depression
Many women that undergo unsafe abortion are unmarried women, that do not have social support and are concerned about the effect of the abortion on their future marriage
In countries where abortion is banned, women who go to the hospital for post-abortion complications lie about the causes as they are afraid of the legal consequences
Healthcare personnel sometimes do not have an empathic attitude towards women that undergo unsafe abortions as they may judge and discriminate
Due to legal consequences of performing an unsafe and illegal abortion, statistics about abortions are not accurate as they are not reported by families (because of reputation) or by medical staff (because of potential prosecution)
In some countries where performing an abortion is completely banned, the ones that resort to illegal abortions are legally punished; for example in Cameroon, the punishment is 5 years in jail for the one performing the abortion, 1 year for the woman that has the abortion and 2 years for the person that prepares the instruments and drugs
Remember that abortion is a human right and the woman in question has the right to decide for her future. Legalizing abortion all over the world would lead to less mortality and to a fairer life. We stand by Poland and by the other countries that are fighting against banning abortion.
Be smart. Be (c)LIT. Fly with us!🌺🐝