All pregnant women and girls should have access to legal and safe abortion as it is a human rights issue. Various interpretations of the human rights laws by authoritative human rights bodies such as the United Nations show that denying women this right is a form of discrimination. Further, it jeopardizes other internationally protected human rights such as rights to life, equality, freedom from torture, deciding the number of children and how to space them, and privacy and bodily autonomy. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly outlines the need for abortion, which is then protected under numerous international treaties such as the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (Berer). Therefore, abortion is a human rights issue, and its legalization is the safest way to reduce maternal and mortality deaths.
Criminalizing abortion is patronizing to women and stands at odds with other fundamental principles. The 1967 Abortion Act provided several exemptions from prosecutions but failed to decriminalize abortion (Blazina). Under it, women have no right to decide for themselves without the permission of two doctors. This conflicts with all other clinical procedures provided under the healthcare guidelines regarding bodily autonomy. For instance, it is impossible to compel a pregnant woman to undergo any procedure against her wishes, even if the fetus may die if not done (Blazina). Another example is no doctor can force a mother to donate any of her body parts to her dying child against her will. It is, therefore, ironic how it still is legal to force a mother to keep a fetus against her will.
According to the pro-life arguments, decriminalizing abortion gives women the power to choose which life is more worthy than the other. They argue that life begins at conception hence making abortion murder both legally and ethically, even if by the time of death, it was a few growing cells. The fetus should be treated as equally valuable because each unborn child represents a person with potential. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark linked abortion to the throwaway culture, which means that human beings are considered disposable during their most vulnerable times (Blazina). It encourages a culture that fails to recognize the value of human life.
While I acknowledge the value of any human life, criminalizing abortion does not result in a reduced rate of abortions. Research indicates that these restrictions only increase the risks of women undergoing unsafe procedures and others being prosecuted for suspected abortions (Singh). This is because abortions are now done behind the backs of the authorities and in very unsafe ways. The rate of unsafe abortions is estimated at almost 4 times higher in countries where abortion laws are very restrictive compared to countries that have legalized abortion (Sigh). Restricting abortions only pushes pregnant women and girls away from the healthcare systems to unsafe clinics and rogue. This is because the people who are most affected are the ones living in poverty-stricken or rural areas.
In conclusion, pregnant women should have the liberty to decide for themselves, without judgment, what they would like to do with their pregnancy. It is unfair to think about the life of the fetus while neglecting that of the mother. Different women decide to abort for various reasons, and this should be considered when banning the act. There is no benefit to bringing a child into life and spending the rest of its life feeling unwanted and unloved. The same reasoning used in making it illegal to force a woman to donate a kidney to their undying child should be accorded to matters of abortion as well.
Berer M. Abortion Law and Policy Around the World: In Search of Decriminalization. Health Hum Rights. 2017. Web.
Blazina, Carrie. “Key Facts About the Abortion Debate in America.” Pew Research Center, Web.
Singh, Susheela. “Abortion Worldwide 2017: Uneven Progress and Unequal Access.” Guttmacher Institute, Web.