If current trends continue in the US, illegal abortion will be the last option for women who do not have access to safe and legal services, and such abortions will have dire consequences. For some people it will become a leading cause of death and serious health complications.
Equality, liberty and autonomy are important elements of all round development. But the unfortunate fact is that it is monopolized by the patriarchal system in most parts of the world. It is generally recognized that developed nations not only take a tolerant approach, but are also sensitive towards the protection of the rights of half the population. But while turning the pages of history, the present pages also negate this fact. A living example of this is the United States, which claims to be the world’s superpower, where the Supreme Court in one of its decisions recently overturned a five-decade-old decision to legalize abortion.
It is noteworthy that in 1971, a petition was filed in the US Supreme Court on behalf of a woman who had failed to get an abortion. This case is known as ‘Roe v Wade’. The petition had sought easy access to abortion facilities and said that the decision of pregnancy and abortion should be the jurisdiction of the woman and not the government. Women finally got the legal right to abortion in 1973. But this decision went awry to the fundamentalists. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party had differing views on this issue. By the 1980s, the issue began to become a cause of polarization and eventually led to the victory of the Republican Party and the Church ideology, which in reality is the biggest defeat of half the population.
But as shocking as this decision is, America has a strong conservative background. In 1979, the United Nations proposed a document titled ‘Convention on the Elimination of All Farms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW), which focused on women’s rights and their issues around the world. It was both an international bill of rights and an agenda for women. One hundred and ninety-seven of the one hundred and ninety-four member states of the United Nations ratified the treaty, but Sudan, Somalia, Iran as well as the United States did not ratify the treaty. Whatever the reason, the evasive approach to the proposal for ‘women’s equality’ exposes the deep rooted appeasement of inequality.
The latest decision of the US Supreme Court has taken away the autonomy of millions of women there, especially those women who have low incomes and who belong to racial and ethnic minority communities. This situation is also against their basic rights. It is noteworthy that abortion has been a routine and safe health care procedure in the US and is used by one in four women. According to a survey conducted in 2021, eighty percent of Americans supported abortion in all or most cases. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recognized in 2006 that ‘access to medical abortion is a universally accepted principle that transcends cultural differences, religious creeds and political ideologies’.
The important argument behind a legal ban on abortion is to stand against ‘killing of animals’. But if it is not a quirk, then what else is it to be called? For the protection of the life of the unborn, he who is alive should be put to death. There is no doubt that no woman decides to have an abortion without any reason. More important than discussing the reasons, it is important to know that while a legal ban on abortion may close the medical door to abortion, stopping illegal abortion will not be easy.
However, it will prove to be extremely dangerous for the lives of women. Stamping on this fact, Anna Langer, Harvard professor and coordinator of the Women’s and Public Health Initiative, says that if the current trend continues in the US, illegal abortion will be the last option for women without access to safe and legal services, and as such. Abortion would have dire consequences. For some people it will become a leading cause of death and serious health complications.
Figures from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) show that forty-five percent of all abortions worldwide are unsafe and women who have these procedures are at high risk of death. According to UN agencies, as sanctions are increased by national and regional governments, more women will die. The study of the impact of unwanted pregnancy on the lives of women also throws light on this topic. The study was conducted on one thousand pregnant women for five consecutive years. This study clearly highlighted the fact that being denied abortion has worse financial health and family outcomes.
Many other similar studies make it clear that abortion has been important for equal participation of women in society. This is directly related to their healthy life and ability to move forward. It becomes extremely important to understand that if women and their families are forced to accept and give birth to unwanted children, it will lead to a troubled life and a dark future that will hinder the pace of socio-economic development.
The studies titled ‘The Public Casts of Birth Resulting from Unintended Pregnancies’ and ‘National and State Level Estimates- 2011’ highlight two important facts. Firstly, unwanted children suffer from negative psychological and physical health problems and drop out of schooling by the time they reach secondary level. Also, delinquent behavior is seen in such children during adolescence. Second, it is highlighted that unintended pregnancy is one of the most important challenges facing the public health system and places a financial and social burden on society.
Research ‘Reproductive Governance in Latin America – 2012’ suggests that unwanted pregnancies cost the United States more than $12 billion every year. Even if an attempt is made to disregard the negative consequences of an unwanted pregnancy on the economy, how can one ignore the consequences that an unwanted pregnancy brings to the mother and child.
Ronnie Cohen in his research ‘Daniel of Abortion Leads to Economic Hardship for Low Income Women’ reveals the fact that a new mother and her child are twice as likely to live below the poverty line to end an unwanted pregnancy . Such women have higher rates of suicide and depression than normal women, as well as experience physical and psychological violence.
All the studies and research are clearly indicating that giving birth to an unwanted child is not in the interest of the birth mother, family, society and country, and the legal prohibition on abortion will create all those obstacles in the life of women, which will increase their socio-economic status. Development will lag behind. But will a nation be able to progress itself by pushing half the world back?