Reproductive rights have been at the center of the political stage in the United States following the new abortion law in Texas. This law, drafted and approved by Republican politicians, prohibits abortions once the fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is around six weeks of pregnancy. Also, there are no exceptions to cases of sexual assault or incest.
The country has become sharply divided between those who see this abortion ban as an inconceivable assault on women’s rights and those who claim to see life itself as a precious and sacred right.
On Wednesday, a US federal judge, US District Judge Robert L. Pitman, issued an order blocking the law and appealed to the Biden Administration’s request to prevent any enforcement of the law while its legality is debated. Only two days later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the anti-abortion law, and it is on course to take effect in September. Still, the legal battle is not over, and the US and the rest of the world are sitting at the edge of their seats as the law makes its way through US federal courts.
At a moment when abortion laws are being scrutinized in 63 other countries, the fact that the United States is rethinking its legality sets back the fight for women’s reproductive rights all around the world.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, to this day there remain 37 countries where abortion is illegal with the exception of saving the mother’s life, and in some cases, to preserve her health. There are also 26 countries that do not permit abortion under any circumstances, including when the woman’s life or health is at risk. These last 26 countries translate to 90 million women of reproductive age or 5% of all women in the world.
As a woman, and as a person coming from a country with a universal ban on abortion, I am part of this 90 million women. I am part of these 90 million women who do not have the right to make certain choices over their own bodies, who are expected to sit back and comply as middle-aged men dictate what we can or cannot do on the basis of religion and politics.
In the US, the bill was authored by Phil King, Dan Flynn, Tan Parked, and Rick Miller, members of the Texas House of Representatives. Then, Governor Greg Abbott signed into the law as he stated “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” In the rest of the world where abortion is illegal, religion overpowers democracy. In the Dominican Republic, the fight for the ‘3 causales’ was shut down. This country also has a bible in the center of its national shield and flag. This is no coincidence.
Church and state should remain separate, but it seems as if religion is seeping into the democracy of the United States. And at the moment when religion seeps into the process of democracy, democracy stops seeking the well-being of all. Religious beliefs, such as that of our creators, cannot override the mother’s physical and mental health, which leads millions of women to unsafe abortions. This law is killing the women that find no solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancies, which can stagnate the women’s careers and lead them to poverty.
It has been proven that differences in the legal status of abortions over the world do not have an impact on the number of abortions performed each given year. However, it surely has an impact on the number of hazardous abortions women are having. According to the World Health Organization, ‘23,000 women die of unsafe abortions each year and tens of thousands more experience significant health complications’. Abortions will not cease with this law, only safe abortions will cease.
The same state that is ‘pro life’, also has no laws regarding possession of any firearm regardless of age. However, firearms are responsible for an average of 33,000 deaths a year. They are not protecting life, they are protecting their religious beliefs.
Remember, we are all connected. A decision that has erased 50 years of history, where a society came together to demand reproductive rights, will reach out of its hands and suffocate the future of 90 million women around the world. It is time for all of us to take charge.
Evidently, the topic on the legality of abortion is trending, the same way the fight against racism peaked with the Black Lives Matter movement. And the same way the fight against sexual assault peaked with the Me Too movement. These trending topics are indeed positively influential and the expression of democracy in its most beautiful form. Still, the issue of racism is just as important today as it was the day when millions of people posted a black square on Instagram. Thus, the issue of the legality of abortion, not only in the US but also in the rest of the world, should not stop here. We must take the momentum of a sparked debate on abortion to continue shaping our world for the better. This fight is not only for the 90 million women who do not have a right to decide on choices regarding reproductive rights; this fight- the fight to ensure safe abortions- is for everyone, and it is everywhere.