Earlier this month, Mexico’s Supreme Court declared criminalizing abortion as unconstitutional, following a series of individual States removing criminal sanctions for those seeking or providing abortion care. Years of sustained advocacy from feminist groups really did lead to a majority Catholic country not only removing abortion from the criminal code, but also requiring public health institutions to offer abortion services. In its public statement, the Supreme Court used welcome, albeit surprisingly progressive, language:
“Criminalization of abortion constitutes an act of gender-based violence and discrimination, as it perpetuates the stereotype that women and people with the capacity to get pregnant can only freely exercise their sexuality to procreate and reinforces the gender role that imposes motherhood as a compulsory destiny.”
This rights-based, gender inclusive language is no happy accident. This is the result of numerous conversations with feminist activists, who have not shied away from demanding recognition and respect of their rights.
Abortion activists also work around oppressive legal systems
Abortions continue to happen, even in the most difficult contexts, because enough brave and committed people decide to take action for what’s right.
In the face of potential legal sanctions, insults, threats, ostracisation and more, Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) grantee partners around the world are speaking up and providing routes to safe abortion care.
In 2019, when abortion was not yet legalised in Argentina, Socorristas En Red accompanied 12,575 people for safe abortions and advised them on doctors who can prescribe medication abortion. In Malawi, journalist Brian Ligomeka, who leads the Centre for Solutions Journalism, hopes to save lives by advocating for abortion law reform, after his niece died from an unsafe abortion. And the RAWSA network has recently launched an innovative mobile app to provide information, guidance and legal advice for people seeking safe abortion care in the Middle East and North Africa, where many countries heavily restrict access to abortion.
Even in the most restrictive legal contexts, committed activists and health care providers find ways to support people to end their pregnancies safely. In the U.S, abortion funds continue to help people to travel outside of their state to access services, or to gain access to quality abortion medication.
As the collective Shout Your Abortion stated:
“They cannot stop us, and we will never stop. Abortion access was never guaranteed by the courts, and it cannot be broadly eliminated by legal decisions either. Abortion pills are now widely available by mail. Abortion funds and practical support networks have been building systems to help get people the care they need, no matter what.”