When analyzing global legislation, we see that abortion laws have become more liberal through the rise of feminism over the past few decades. Though nearly all countries differentiate on the technicalities of when abortion is allowed, the world as a whole has become more progressive about women’s rights and with that, the right of privacy to an abortion.
Extreme flips such as prohibiting abortion all together to legalizing it on request — with technical conditions — were made in countries like Nepal and Sao Tome and Principe in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s. Portugal, Mozambique, Uruguay, South Africa and many others made the jump from initially only permitting abortion for health reasons to restricting abortion based on only duration of pregnancy. Even Latin America, a region with some of the strictest abortion laws, is starting to expand liberties regarding abortion. An article from Ajezeera includes an example: “Chile’s lower house of Congress has approved a plan to debate a bill that would expand women’s access to legal abortions,” following a growing number of Latin American countries.
However, the sporadic change in abortion bans across the United States tells a different story than the progressive model the rest of the world has been gradually emulating. The conservative agenda over-politicized birth and dehumanizes American women when compared to similar restrictive abortion policies in Eastern Europe.
While the rest of the globe is taking steps forward, states in the United States and countries in Eastern Europe have recently passed legislation that increase restrictions on abortion. Granted, they were more liberal to begin with. Bans in Eastern Europe, most intensely by Poland, are in-part a reaction to declining birth-rates and also a rise in conservative party support since the end of communism.
According to a recent report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty, “Russia's government has approved measures aimed at halving the number of abortions carried out in the country before 2025” in an effort to control the country’s decreasing population crisis, similar to much of Eastern Europe.
“Simply convincing a woman not to have an abortion is obviously important, but what’s more important is creating conditions to help the woman and her family in raising the child, placing the child on its feet, and giving the child the possibility to receive a decent education,” President Putin says.
This quote from Putin’s State-of-the-Nation Address is consistent with Russia’s policies to expand family, mental health and child services to aid women and families hurt most by the limitation on abortion. Though this does not solve all the problems many women face when carrying out a pregnancy and raising a child under different unwanted conditions, the prioritization of livelihood is something that has been lost in the eyes of the United States Republican Party.
Many state policies developed under American conservatives are called “pro-birth” by pro-choice activists. The “pro-birth” name comes from the practice of legislating solely on the lives of unborn children, and not to aid mothers and the unwanted children after they are born. These states lack action on implementing social services offered to women and children that suffer in consequence of the law in their region as well as failure to legislate preventive policy concerning unwanted pregnancy.
Congresspeople have also introduced anti-abortion legislation not for population control reasons but rather to gain support for their party. The most recent abortion ban in the United States made by Texas lawmakers took effect just last month. The law criminalizes anyone helping a woman get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy through civil lawsuits of $10,000.
Peer policing is used to enforce the law. Tennessee is likely to follow in its footsteps, as they’ve done in the past with gun laws, signing a lawsuit to challenge election results and voter registration laws.
Anti-abortion policies are most common throughout the south and midwest with legislators that are in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood, a key service in preventing unwanted pregnancy and providing comprehensive sexual education that lowers abortion rates.
Making abortion a choice for the individual is integral in maintaining rights for women’s bodily autonomy, safety, health and opportunity to live their lives with the same freedoms as men. The United Nations and other global humanitarian groups have all recognized the importance of a safe and accessible abortion to women and girls, as research shows that bans on abortion services increase unsafe and often harmful alternatives, the Global Justice Center stating, “Abortion as protected medical care under international humanitarian law has increasingly been recognized by states, international policy makers and legal experts on international humanitarian law.”
Global recognition of the necessity of freedom of choice regarding reproduction should prompt a country with nearly 170 million women to nationally protect women’s rights.
Abortion ethics are still a dilemma to the individual and state. There is a large populous in the United States who believe it should be illegal to take away life at any stage, no matter how small. However widely believed those opinions may be, the facts still stand that banning abortion increases unsafe abortion among women and girls and takes away their freedom of choice and bodily autonomy, directly oppressing women’s rights.
The element of personal controversy should be reason to leave the decision up to personal choice and not the state. The state is elected to protect the rights of the people who elect them and ensure security of all groups, no matter gender, race or socioeconomic class.
Women fall under these demographics, unborn fetuses do not.
Humanity does not change based on where you live, and autonomy over that humanity should not change either, especially within one country. One of the most effective ways in ensuring that the rights, health and safety of women are not used as political tools to gain power is to federalize the issue under one unitary law, most likely following suit of other countries by legalizing abortion per request with some restrictions on duration of pregnancy such as early in the second trimester in France, Spain and Norway.
The Women’s Health Protection Act was recently passed in the House of Representatives. This act would “codify abortion rights into law” federally, and is a solid step toward moving the power away from politicians and back to those who the law will affect: individual women.
Erin Gwydir is a freshman at UTK this year studying global studies and political science. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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