|If there’s one thing that women from all walks of life have in common, it is society’s expectation of them to bear a child at some point in their lives / Photo by: Africa Studio via Shutterstock|
If there’s one thing that women from all walks of life have in common, it is society’s expectation of them to bear a child at some point in their lives. Getting pregnant and raising a child seem mandatory for a lot of women because they are made to believe that this is their role in society. But has it ever crossed your mind how many of these pregnancies every year are not intentional? And that there are a lot of women who are forced to raise a child when they don’t want to?
In the US alone, 45 percent of the six million pregnancies each year are unintended. This means millions of women—married, unmarried, or young—are getting pregnant, which they didn’t plan or desire. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the US, reported that unintended pregnancy rates are highest among low-income women, while rates are lowest among higher-income women.
Between 2009 and 2013, about 42 percent of unintended pregnancies ended in abortion, which is almost similar to the rate of 40 percent between 2006 and 2010. Unfortunately, women who are using birth control can still get pregnant. According to The Washington Post, a major American daily newspaper, a report showed that nine get pregnant for every 100 women who rely on the pill for one year. About 20 get pregnant for every 100 women who rely on condoms for one year.
The Right to Reject Pregnancy
Women have been forced to conform to societal norms and standards, even if it means compromising their rights and personal decisions. This patriarchal society has been deciding what to do to a woman’s body without considering their plight for many decades. Denying them the right to decide for their own is a violation of their human rights.
Forcing women to get pregnant, both intentionally and unintentionally, has great impacts not only on themselves but also on the people around them, especially their child. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics showed the impacts on children whose mothers were denied abortions. It reported that 72 percent of the children have a greater chance of living below the poverty level, while 87 percent of them are forced to live in a household without enough money to cover food, housing, and transportation.
Women and children are more likely to live in households where there isn’t enough money to pay for basic living expenses. Also, women reportedly feel trapped as a mother, resenting their baby or longing for the old days before they had the baby.
|Forcing women to get pregnant, both intentionally and unintentionally, has great impacts not only on themselves but also on the people around them, especially their child / Photo by: fizkes via Shutterstock|
Another 2018 study conducted by researchers from the Queensland University of Technology concluded that women shouldn’t be forced by law to risk death and injury by having a baby. They argue that the issue of morality should be taken out of conversations about abortion. Lawmakers should start recognizing pregnancy is a risk for any woman and that women should have the legal right to reject that risk.
In their study published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the researchers shared their belief that the law “should adopt a minimalist, morally neutral position by not imposing criminal sanctions for abortion.” According to Science Daily, an American website that aggregates press releases and publishes lightly edited press releases about science, moral debates often neglect the fact that pregnancies risk the lives of women and pose significant permanent changes and injuries to their bodies.
"We emphasize that to accept that abortion should be decriminalized for this reason is not to adopt the view that abortion is morally acceptable, but rather to recognize that there is no basis for the law to criminalize abortion as an act which has not conclusively been demonstrated to be morally unacceptable,” the authors wrote.
The government of Northern Ireland recently decriminalized abortion. According to DW.com, a German state-owned public international broadcaster, Westminster politicians earlier this year voted in favor of an amended version of a bill that will no longer label abortion as a criminal offense. It has been known that the country’s abortion legislation is some of the most restrictive in the world and comes from the Victorian era of history. For decades, pro-choice campaigners pursued legal challenges for it to be changed to respect women's human rights.
While this is great news for women in Northern Ireland, millions of women across the world are still restricted access to abortion. They are being denied to decide for their bodies and when they will get pregnant. Decriminalizing abortion is extremely important to women as this will ensure that they can end their pregnancies without fear of shame, blame, or prosecution. This will fulfill women’s autonomy and human rights pertaining to self-administered abortion pills and their availability.
Criminalizing abortion will not stop women to terminate their pregnancy. They are more likely to engage in unsafe pregnancies that may harm their bodies. They may do something that could end up causing a terrible, life-threatening infection. And this isn’t progressive. Nancy Stanwood, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine, said, "Saying abortion isn't available doesn’t make it stop. Women will always need abortions, and women will always have abortions. It's about how much they will risk and potentially suffer to get those abortions.”
When we deny women this right, we are denying them protection. As state laws curtailing abortion aim to limit women’s reproductive rights, we must recognize the importance of this not only to women but also to our society. Women should have every right to decide what they will do with their bodies and decide whether or not they wanted to get pregnant. After all, it’s their body.
|The government of Northern Ireland recently decriminalized abortion / Photo by: Andrii Yalanskyi via Shutterstock|