Call for Action – September 28 International Safe Abortion Day
“No more smokescreens, no more labels, no more codes: let’s talk abortion”
It is estimated that 35 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 happen each year worldwide.(1) Abortion happens in Sweden, Greece and France, where it is legal, performed by medical professionals, and covered by the national health insurance. And it also takes place in Kenya, El Salvador, and the Philippines, where it is a crime and a woman who terminates a pregnancy risks going to jail or dying. According to anthropologists, abortion is found in virtually every society, going back at least 4,000 years.(2)
Yet, one thing that all countries have in common regardless of their laws and policies on abortion is that it is a stigmatized procedure. There are levels of stigma depending on each of the countries and contexts but for the most part, women who access abortions still fear being judged, arrested, persecuted, harassed or even killed. As a result, many women are forced to seek out this health service through clandestine and/or often unsafe means, and at the same time, activists are forced to navigate precarious contexts in the face of restraint and repression. Silence, fear, shame, and stigma: these are all elements that are reinforced and reproduced through misinformation and ignorance. The prevailing views on abortion around the globe produce, reproduce and reinforce stigma at individual, community, institutional, cultural, and legal levels. The stigma surrounding abortion shames and silences individuals seeking abortion, individuals who have had an abortion, and healthcare providers in this line of work. In some cases, abortion stigma justifies and upholds restrictive and coercive laws criminalizing abortion, thereby serving as a major contributor to unsafe abortions, and subjecting countless persons to grave human rights violations. The stigma surrounding abortion also intersects with pervasive power relations, patriarchal norms, wrongful gender stereotypes, and privileged identity markers.
Too often, rights to abortion are defended through reference to various tragic circumstances of pregnancy: life endangerment, rape, incest, and congenital malformation. But this silences and stigmatises the great majority of women whose reasons for obtaining an abortion do not fall into these categories.
In this time of eroding rights, we must renew our efforts to show that safe and accessible abortion is a social good that is inextricable from broader issues of social equality and justice. Abortion must be seen as a part of individuals lives. It should be discussed in our conversations in its full human setting: sex and sexuality, love, violence, privilege, class, race, school and work, men, the scarcity or inexistence in some countries of reproductive health care, of realistic, accurate information about sex and reproduction. It should be included in our demands for the right to bodily and psychological integrity, the right to autonomy, the right to health and the right to life free from harm. Conversations about abortion need to take place in our governments, in our classrooms, in our communities, in our homes if we are to realise, protect and fulfil the rights of women and girls. Let’s talk about abortion, let’s normalise abortion.
This September 28, join us in asking governments, policy makers, the international community, friends, families and allies: #Letstalkabortion and let’s normalise abortion.
Here is how you can contribute:
● Join the Bake-off for Safe Abortion!: To effect change, some people march, some sign petitions and some boycott. For this September 28 we are encouraging activists to bake a cake adorned with snappy protest slogans, like “Normalise abortion”, and “Abortion is healthcare.” Cake is normal, so is abortion. Share your cake photos via social media using the hashtag #letstalkabortion! Inspiration from @thesweetfeminist
● Join the “scarfazo”!: Using green bandanas, a symbol of abortion rights, Argentinian activists launched a “green wave” throughout the bill’s evaluation in their country and, in turn, have launched an international movement. Let’s join scarfs with them and wear green bandanas on September 28! Share your photos with the hashtag: #Letstalkabortion #greenwave
● Host an awareness raising activity: organise a forum, meeting, workshop/training, cultural event to discuss strategies and challenges to normalising abortion in your communities, talk about the role that media and community leaders play in this and what you can do to change the discourse and normalise abortion.
● Visit www.september28.org to download the campaign logo, campaign toolkit, campaign posters and for more suggested actions!
Diverse Actions, Different Places, One Demand: Access to Safe & Legal Abortion NOW! www.september28.org