Unsafe abortions have killed 1 million and injured 100 million in the last two decades

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.”

After all, blocking access to both birth control and legal abortion is a sure-fire recipe for unsafe abortion. And here in the US, we seem to be doing a lot of that lately.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation