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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #298 - The right to abortion between gains and setbacks (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Tue, 29 Oct 2019 09:00:11 +0200

In September, on the occasion of the International Day of the Right to Abortion, the question of voluntary interruption of pregnancy was put at the center of the debate. The moment to take stock of the abortion abroad, this right constantly questioned and unequal in its conditions of access. ---- Every year on 28 September, the International Day of the Right to Abortion, is a new opportunity for women around the world to demonstrate for this fundamental right to dispose of their bodies. The attacks of anti-choice are multiplying everywhere, including where abortion seemed definitively acquired. The right to abortion is not just a feminist issue, it is also a matter of class for the poorest women who can not afford to go abroad or to private clinics.

A disparate international situation
In the world, only about fifty countries allow abortion, without condition to fulfill (except legal deadlines). For other countries, the situation ranges from total prohibition to extremely restrictive legislation (in case of rape, danger to the health of women or fetal malformation).

Since the beginning of the year, in the United States, no less than 300 laws have been passed by the states. Among the most prominent are Alabama (where doctors performing abortions are up to 99 years in prison, except in cases of life-threatening maternal urgency or " lethal abnormality " of the fetus). Georgia, which now prohibits women from having an abortion beyond the sixth week of pregnancy. The arrival of Trump in power is not for nothing in these offensives. The US president has appointed many conservative judges in federal appeal courts to end anti-abortion laws. Their clear objective: to seize the Supreme Court and to question the 1973 decision ( Roe vs Wade ) authorizing the abortion.

In Latin America, very few countries allow abortion, and many demonstrations of women claim this right. They are particularly massive in Chile and Argentina. In the latter country, things are progressing (a decriminalization law has almost been passed in 2018) and it seems that it is only a matter of time in this conservative country and homeland of the Pope, who recently compared abortion to a mass murder. In Asia, the picture is a little more contrasted. Reversal of the situation in South Korea which prohibited since 1953 the abortion except in case of rape or incest. The Constitutional Court of South Korea invalidated last April the law penalizing voluntary abortions in force for more than 65 years. In North Korea, India, China, Nepal, Viet Nam and Taiwan,

In Africa, legislation can also be very different from one country to another, but with a majority of states totally or partially prohibiting abortion. However, the misuse of certain drugs (which cause miscarriages) allows Latin American women in particular, but also Asian, to have access to a more secure abortion despite the prohibitions.

A Europe moving forward but ...
The situation seems more favorable for European women. Thus Irish women now have the right to abort (following the referendum of 2018 which saw the "yes " Two-thirds), as well as the Cypriots. Nevertheless, abortion is still prohibited in Malta, Monaco and Andorra. In Monaco, the injunction contradictory with the announcement of the government last August that says that the principality will soon be ready to decriminalize abortion but without allowing it. Monegasque women who had been facing a prison sentence of six months to three years and a fine of 9,000 to 18,000 euros could go abroad to abort. As for Poland or Hungary, they are regularly on the point of completely banning this right. As in Spain a few years ago, it is the women's struggle that is pushing back reactionary governments. But until when? Especially since European MPs are unable to agree to have abortion included in the Constitution as a fundamental right.

For even in countries where it is legalized, abortion is often a path of combatants for those who would like to resort to it: lack of local structures, clause of conscience of the doctors, not taken in financial charge by the States, making them run the risk of ending up in outdated deadlines and no longer being able to abort according to the country's legislation.

Debate restarted in France
Recently, as part of the Health Bill, an amendment proposing longer delays (from 14 to 16 weeks of amenorrhea) was adopted by the Senate, before being put again to the vote (with the approval from the Government) and rejected. This episode has revived the debate in France, where deadlines have not changed since 2001. Certainly there have been some progress (deletion of the reflection period for the majors, supported 100% by the social security, possibility of abort out of hospital). However, all women can not abort in France: this is the case of those who discover their pregnancy beyond the twelfth week or who have not found a solution before this time. In this case, the only recourse is to go abroad (generally in Spain or the Netherlands, where the delays are much longer). But this solution has a cost (800 to 2000 € intervention) that only those who can afford it can afford. Exit therefore women in situations of precariousness (RSA, stay-at-home mothers, in an irregular situation ...) or victims of domestic violence who have a hard time justifying an absence of at least two days.

A fundamental right to defend
Whether legal or not, abortion has always been and is practiced all over the world. Each year, more than 50 million abortions take place, nearly 50% of which are insecure, with all the risks that this entails for women's health (risks of infections, bleeding, sterility), even on their lives (as was the case in France before 1975 and legalization). For if those who can afford to abort in expensive private clinics (even in countries where abortion is prohibited or severely restricted), the others find ways to abort anyway at their own risk. Thus, it is estimated that about 10% of maternal deaths can be attributed each year to unsafe abortions.

In countries that allow abortion, the battle is now around the resources allocated (places for abortion, doctors trained, financial support) but also on the delays to extend or even eliminate - as is the case in Canada (see insert). Such a measure would allow women to have abortions free of charge in their country of residence and eliminate inequalities of access between women of different backgrounds. On the other hand, it is necessary to put an end to the speeches that infantilize women, who would need laws to know when they can or can not abort. Women know what is good for them, they do not need lawmakers deciding in their place (and without any medical reason to come to support such or such delay) for moral, religious or philosophical questions.

It is also a date of international solidarity between all women, whatever the legislation of their country. Not one of us will be free until we all are free !

Canada, an example to follow ?
Since 1988, abortion has been decriminalized in Canada. It took many mobilizations and the relentlessness of a doctor practicing abortions for the Supreme Court to break the law prohibiting abortion. At the time, judges relied on section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guaranteed women's rights to "the life, liberty and security of their person" to arrive at the conclusion that the abortion provision of the Criminal Code conflicted. In 1989, the Supreme Court will rule that only one person has constitutional rights and that these rights only begin at the moment of birth.

For 30 years, Canadian women can therefore abort, without delay and without being able to oppose the primacy of the life of the embryo or the fetus on their will to interrupt a pregnancy. However, the vast majority of abortions take place during the first trimester, most often in early pregnancy. We are far from the images conveyed by the anti-choice of women aborting a few days of the term of pregnancy !

In addition, a 2019 study in Quebec showed that the number of abortions had dropped by 21% since 2003, with a historically low level of 2018. This decrease can be explained in part by better access to contraception among young people (with a large increase in the use of the IUD). These figures defeat the conventional wisdom that the lack of time would increase the number of abortions. However, the difficulties persist in rural areas in Canada where women sometimes have to travel thousands of kilometers to get to a clinic or hospital.

Gaëlle (UCL Saint-Denis)

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