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July 23, 2019 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Legalising Abortion Is Still Best Option, Even for Pro-Lifers


I don’t know how to convince anyone to be okay with abortion. If someone fundamentally believes that a foetus is a valuable, valid human life, I don’t know if my feminist rhetoric will change their mind. For my feminism to be truly intersectional, I have to understand that many cultures and belief systems view foetuses as undeniably human. That being said, I don’t believe this to be a sufficient argument against access to abortion. If saving lives is truly the aim of pro-life activists, banning abortion shouldn’t be their modus operandi.


This is largely because banning abortion doesn’t stop it from happening. It only makes it traumatic, unsafe, and expensive to access. A 2007 study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization showed that restrictive abortion laws don’t correlate with a decrease in abortion rates. The researchers also noted that illegal abortions are considerably more likely to be unregulated and unsafe. Additionally, it’s interesting to point out that the study showed that the incidence of abortion decreased significantly in regions where contraceptives were readily available.


The mortality rate from unsafe abortions globally sits at around 70,000 deaths per year, according to a study published in the British Medical Bulletin. The aforementioned Guttmacher Institute/WHO study demonstrated that up to seven million people survive unsafe abortions, but sustain long-term damage or disease as a result. An article published in the Journal of Injury and Violence Research discusses at length the link between unwanted pregnancy and suicide, and provides lack of access to abortion as a leading cause. Where abortion is illegal, not only do the numbers of abortions stay the same, but lives are put at great risk.


As well as the deaths of pregnant people resulting from a lack of access to abortion services, many nations have high rates of infanticide for the same reason. In an article published last year in the The Lancet, stories are told of Senegalese women murdering their unwanted babies. 20% of all incarcerated women in Senegal were convicted of infanticide. While this evidence is largely anecdotal, it reflects a strong global trend of people choosing to kill their newborns because they were unable to terminate their unwanted pregnancies.


I’m not here to convince anyone to be comfortable with abortion. I don’t believe I, or any other pro-choice activist, is able to. What I do believe to be possible, however, is to convince people that safe, free, and legal access to abortion services is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, we marginalise people who are already in a difficult and often traumatic position, and put their safety at risk without even lowering the number of terminations performed. If you truly believe in a world without abortion, I’d encourage you to set up comprehensive and realistic (ie. not abstinence-focussed) sex education programmes in your community—teach people what contraceptive options are available to them and how they can be accessed. Or assist in the development of a side effect-free contraceptive. If the wellbeing of babies is so important to you, help with the effort to decrease Aotearoa’s high family violence rates, donate to initiatives that equip new parents with the knowledge and resources needed to keep their babies healthy, or adopt a child whose parents are unable to raise them.


Sedgh, Gilda, et al. “Induced Abortion: Estimated Rates and Trends Worldwide” The Lancet, vol. 370, no. 9595, 2007, pp. 625-632.

Grimes, David A. “Unsafe abortion: the Silent Scourge” British Medical Bulletin, vol. 67, no 1, 2003, pp. 99-113.

Gentile, Salvatore. “Suicidal Mothers” Journal of Injury & Violence Research, vol. 3, no. 2, 2011, pp. 90-7.

Lee, Amy. “Access to Family Planning in Senegal” The Lancet, vol. 391, no. 10124, 2018, pp. 923-924.



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