And only legalizing abortion — everywhere — will change that. That’s why lawmakers and public health leaders from over 30 countries have released a new declaration calling for the world’s nations to repeal all criminal abortion laws and “make safe, legal abortion universally available and accessible to all women regardless of age, income, or where they live.”
In 1994, at the UN’s International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the global community declared that abortion should be made “safe where legal.” At the time, it was a groundbreaking commitment. But at a convening in Virginia this week, global leaders took stock of the progress that’s been made in the 20 years since and concluded that it isn’t good enough. Dr. Nafis Sadik, the secretary general of the Cairo conference, explained, “The agreement [in Cairo] approaches abortion as an outlier in the discussion of women’s reproductive health, whereas we know very well that it is an integral concern to many women.”
As everyone — except, of course, anti-choicers with their heads in the sand — knows, outlawing the procedure does not stop people from getting abortions — it just makes them less safe. 21 million people have an unsafe abortion every year because they can’t access safe care. Since 1994, about 1 million have died and more than 100 million have suffered often life-long injuries from complications.
Let’s hope the nations of the world take note — including the US. As Elizabeth Maguire, the president of Ipas, which convened the meeting, says, “This is an issue that knows no boundaries. Our focus has been on the developing world, but we’re very concerned about the regressive actions taking place in the United States and other countries that are currently installing barriers for women.”
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.