“No more smokescreens, no more labels, no more codes: let’s talk abortion”
It is estimated that 35 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 happen each year worldwide. Abortion happens in Sweden, Greece and France, where it is legal, performed by medical professionals, and covered by the national health insurance. And it also takes place in Kenya, El Salvador, and the Philippines, where it is a crime and a woman who terminates a pregnancy risks going to jail or dying. According to anthropologists, abortion is found in virtually every society, going back at least 4,000 years.
Yet, one thing that all countries have in common regardless of their laws and policies on abortion is that it is a stigmatized procedure. There are levels of stigma depending on each of the countries and contexts but for the most part, women who access abortions still fear being judged, arrested, persecuted, harassed or even killed. As a result, many women are forced to seek out this health service through clandestine and/or often unsafe means, and at the same time, activists are forced to navigate precarious contexts in the face of restraint and repression. Silence, fear, shame, and stigma: these are all elements that are reinforced and reproduced through misinformation and ignorance. The prevailing views on abortion around the globe produce, reproduce and reinforce stigma at individual, community, institutional, cultural, and legal levels. The stigma surrounding abortion shames and silences individuals seeking abortion, individuals who have had an abortion, and healthcare providers in this line of work. In some cases, abortion stigma justifies and upholds restrictive and coercive laws criminalizing abortion, thereby serving as a major contributor to unsafe abortions, and subjecting countless persons to grave human rights violations. The stigma surrounding abortion also intersects with pervasive power relations, patriarchal norms, wrongful gender stereotypes, and privileged identity markers.
Too often, rights to abortion are defended through reference to various tragic circumstances of pregnancy: life endangerment, rape, incest, and congenital malformation. But this silences and stigmatises the great majority of women whose reasons for obtaining an abortion do not fall into these categories.
In this time of eroding rights, we must renew our efforts to show that safe and accessible abortion is a social good that is inextricable from broader issues of social equality and justice. Abortion must be seen as a part of individuals lives. It should be discussed in our conversations in its full human setting: sex and sexuality, love, violence, privilege, class, race, school and work, men, the scarcity or inexistence in some countries of reproductive health care, of realistic, accurate information about sex and reproduction. It should be included in our demands for the right to bodily and psychological integrity, the right to autonomy, the right to health and the right to life free from harm. Conversations about abortion need to take place in our governments, in our classrooms, in our communities, in our homes if we are to realise, protect and fulfil the rights of women and girls. Let’s talk about abortion, let’s normalise abortion.
This September 28, join us in asking governments, policy makers, the international community, friends, families and allies: #Letstalkabortion and let’s normalise abortion.
Here is how you can contribute:
- Join the Bake-off for Safe Abortion!: To effect change, some people march, some sign petitions and some boycott. For this September 28 we are encouraging activists to bake a cake adorned with snappy protest slogans, like “Normalise abortion”, and “Abortion is healthcare.” Cake is normal, so is abortion. Share your cake photos via social media using the hashtag #letstalkabortion! Inspiration from @thesweetfeminist
- Join the “scarfazo”!: Using green bandanas, a symbol of abortion rights, Argentinian activists launched a “green wave” throughout the bill’s evaluation in their country and, in turn, have launched an international movement. Let’s join scarfs with them and wear green bandanas on September 28! Share your photos with the hashtag: #Letstalkabortion #greenwave
- Host an awareness raising activity: organise a forum, meeting, workshop/training, cultural event to discuss strategies and challenges to normalising abortion in your communities, talk about the role that media and community leaders play in this and what you can do to change the discourse and normalise abortion.
- Visit www.september28.org to download the campaign logo, campaign toolkit, campaign posters and for more suggested actions!
The International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion celebrates this year our successes and movements, e.g. in Chile, El Salvador, Macedonia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cyprus, Canada, UK, Mexico, Ireland, Jamaica, Argentina, Poland, Isle of Man, Côte d’Ivoire, Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, Australia, Dominican Republic, and Bolivia. At the same time, it stands in solidarity with those who have experienced setbacks, e.g. in Argentina, Morocco, Algeria, USA, Belgium, India, and Kenya, to find renewed energy for moving forward.
This year, the Campaign calls on abortion rights advocates to celebrate local, national and international heroes who have supported women’s right to safe abortion andcall for the creation of
a critical mass of support among women for abortion rights as a priority activity.
This year the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion invites women to: share their experiences of abortion, talk about why they or others they know have had abortions, and explain the difference it has made to their lives.
This year the Campaign invites all women to stand with those who have had abortions to say that: while most women who have abortions are mothers, and most others go on to have children later, we all have the right to decide whether and when to have children, or not to have children at all.
“This year, we call on our governments, parliamentarians and judges to reject anti-abortion bills and rescind anti-abortion laws and policies – because they kill women. They kill women! Lastly, we call on our governments, parliamentarians and judges to acknowledge women as full citizens with human rights, whose life choices command respect and support. We say: “Decriminalize abortion, because all women have a right to life and health.””