September 28th in Latin America is the International Day for the Decriminalization and Legalization of Abortion. However, due to the strength of the struggle and the needs of women and pregnant people, the day has become global and the green handkerchiefs of the movement are waving on all 5 continents.
On this day of struggle we demand access to legal, safe, and free abortions in medical centers in order to protect our lives. We demand an end to all laws that imprison and prosecute women for abortion.
We are a year and a half into the health crisis generated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and while the expression of this movement in the streets will again be uneven, the need for this right not only remains but has become more necessary due to the drastic changes in this new situation.
Major triumphs drive the struggle forward with greater force
In the last year the world has witnessed great triumphs in abortion rights. After great efforts and massive mobilizations, Argentina has achieved the legalization of abortion throughout its national territory. The same happened in Mexico a few weeks ago, which has made a great leap forward in securing this right for the people of Latin America.
Although these laws have the limitation of conscientious objection by providers and health systems that are not adequate in terms of budget and professional training, they are nevertheless great advances produced by the struggle which give impetus to the rest of the world in the fight for this right.
These advances were preceded by Puerto Rico and Colombia where it is legal to terminate a pregnancy not only for physical reasons, but also for mental health and in case of rape, or Costa Rica which passed, in 2019, the Technical Standard that allows therapeutic abortion only when the mother’s life is at risk or for malformations incompatible with life.
In Chile in 2017, after much struggle, the legislation that has criminalized abortion since 1990 – in the final years of the Pinochet government – was partially reversed. In Ecuador in 2019 the Parliament refused to expand the conditions for legal abortion, but in April this year a ruling of the Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in all cases of rape.
In other countries such as Paraguay, Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala, and Dominica it is criminalized and is only allowed when there is a risk of death for the woman.
In six countries in the region (El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Nicaragua) abortion is not permitted under any circumstances.
In Spain, as in other European countries, abortion is legal within certain time limits. However, it is still subject to a series of restrictions in the Penal Code and is not guaranteed in the public health system.
Let us defend what has been won
The U.S. has been suffering for years from an anti-abortion crusade, which increased under Donald Trump’s administration. But it is only recently, under the Biden administration, that the right to terminate a pregnancy received a concrete, severe setback. In the state of Texas, one of the largest in the US, a law was passed that prohibits abortion after the 6th week, effectively ruling out abortions for many people, as it is common to pass six weeks before realizing that one is pregnant. The state of Florida is introducing a law along the same lines as the Texas law.
Brazil also enters the group of countries that must fight and resist measures against women’s lives since Bolsonaro’s government has sanctioned a decree that toughens the requirements to access the already limited right to abortion.
Poland is another example of the attack on reproductive rights. Since January 2021, unfortunately, women no longer have the right to legal abortion, not even in serious cases of fetal malformation or if there is danger to the health and life of the woman. But Polish women have not given up and took to the streets with large demonstrations.
The interference of religion – in particular of the churches – in sex education, as well as the opposition to the administration of contraceptives to women, and their anti-abortion militancy can no longer be tolerated. The separation of church and state, as well as the secularity of education, are fundamental demands for us.
Secular sex education and modern contraceptives
The fact that countries where abortion is criminalized have higher abortion rates can be explained by the lack of access to sex education and modern contraceptives. It is also a fact that shows that the prohibition of abortion does not prevent it, but causes deaths, and that those who call themselves “pro-life” are not really interested in it.
The struggle today is for access to legal, safe, and free abortion, but also to scientific and secular sex education in schools and health centers, free contraceptives, family planning programs, and other measures aimed at avoiding unwanted pregnancies.
The right to abortion in times of pandemic
The desperate pandemic situation in the world and the collapse of health systems make it even more difficult to access abortion where it is legal. In addition to the previous restrictions or underfunding of governments on the issue, it is now impossible to respond to the health of the world’s population.
In a special report, the Medical Group for the Right to Decide of Colombia estimates that the figures in this pandemic have worsened: “Although it is too early to have official statistics, in the context of this pandemic, almost fifty million women in 114 low- and middle-income countries will be unable to access modern contraceptives, which will result in seven million unplanned pregnancies worldwide as a result of prolonged confinement, interruption or dismantling of services, in addition to an increase in all types of gender-based violence, including sexual violence. On the other hand, a model calculation for 132 low- and middle-income countries estimated that, if one in ten women are forced to discontinue their contraception as a result of pandemic restrictions, there could be an excess of fifteen million unwanted pregnancies and more than three million unsafe abortions, which could cause a thousand maternal deaths.”
The need to terminate an unwanted pregnancy has not ceased with the coronavirus; on the contrary, it is on the rise. This personal and intimate decision, which is the woman’s alone, is often mediated by social and economic conditions.
However, governments show their true face and do not even guarantee the rights already won. The right to abortion has not been included as one of the emergency health practices in the pandemic and has been postponed even in countries where it is completely legal.
Legal abortion is a right so necessary to save the lives of women, girls, and other pregnant people, and even in times of pandemic this right must be conquered. There are no excuses for continuing to let us die or to imprison us.
The struggle, the only way
In Argentina, women gave an example of how to face this struggle. However, the feminist organizations that led that great “green tide” continue to place their hopes and expectations on the government of Fernandez, which despite having accepted legalization and calling itself “feminist” appoints as chief of cabinet Governor Manzur, who is openly anti-abortion and who in his province prevents the application of the law.
Under capitalism it is possible to obtain rights for us, with a lot of struggle and organization, however, the intrinsic inequality of exploitation leads to the fact that the workers without resources and the most oppressed (immigrants, refugees, blacks, lgbti, etc.) have no possibility of benefiting from such rights in real life.
Basically, this system imposes on us when, where, and how we have to bring babies into the world, but then denies us the resources to do so because it does not want to pay for the costs of reproducing the labor force that it exploits to death.
Under capitalism, the right of women to exercise motherhood in a dignified way is not guaranteed, and this in many cases is what forces them to resort to abortion, even against their own ideological and religious convictions. Just as the illegality of abortion forces those women who have no desire to be mothers into maternity.
On the other hand, the right to sexual education and free contraceptives is denied, in addition to denying or restricting the possibility of having a safe abortion; either by criminalization in legislation or by obstacles and cuts in health systems promoted by governments at the service of the bourgeoisie.
The struggle for the decriminalization and legalization of abortion is a struggle of the entire working class, men and women. This September 28 we have to remember all the women who have suffered and died because of clandestine abortions, but also organize the struggle so that the right to abortion is guaranteed by law.
So that no more women are persecuted, punished, or put their lives at risk for having an abortion. We will fight against the policies of the conservative sectors that want to impose themselves over the bodies of women and pregnant people. And we will fight against the hypocrisy of the capitalist bourgeois state that denies the right to abortion, while it is incapable of guaranteeing working women the possibility of exercising motherhood in a dignified way.
We will continue in the streets, without trusting the parliaments, the governments, or the bourgeois courts of justice; because only with our mobilization and struggle will we wrest this right for ourselves.
This September 28, let us fight all over the world to the cry of: Sexual education to decide for ourselves, contraceptives so we don’t have to abort, and legal, safe and free abortion so we don’t have to die!
International Women’s Secretariat