In too many countries, women seeking post-abortion are denied care, imprisoned, or die unnecessarily from preventable medical complications. Access to safe post-abortion care is especially important for children, adolescents, and young adults, as 70% of hospitalizations for abortion are of women under the age of 20. Lack of post-abortion care is as deadly as it is widespread; worldwide, nearly half of the 21 million abortions that occur every year are unsafe, with 98% of unsafe abortions taking place in the developing world. In Latin America, where 95% of abortions are unsafe, lack of proper post-abortion care is responsible for one out of every eight maternal deaths. Such a large death toll does not simply cut short millions of women’s lives, but denies families their mothers, partners, daughters, aunts, and sisters.
Access to safe post-abortion care is under siege everywhere. Clinic closures are driving women in the US to seek unsupervised DIY abortions. Women in other countries may be incarcerated, handcuffed to beds, or targeted for violent retribution if they seek lifesaving medical assistance. When abortions and post-abortion care are illegal or inaccessible, women do not stop seeking abortions, they just die more frequently.
Mystifying and limiting information about reproductive health neither decreases the need for abortion nor women’s desire to learn about and care for their health. Among all of the materials on Hesperian’s HealthWiki, information about family planning, reproductive health, and complications of abortion are among the most frequently accessed (with a particularly large proportion of visitors from Mexico searching for this information). It is essential for women to know their medical options and understand what safe post-abortion looks like, whether alone or at a clinic. Without this crucial information, women and girls risk death, disability, and exploitation from unethical medical practitioners and misogynist legal systems.
This Sunday, September 28, join the Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Abortion. We encourage you to participate in local actions, educate yourself (perhaps by taking the first-ever online course about abortion), or join the movement of people who are sharing their personal stories about abortion. Together we can build a future where women and girls are safe, healthy, and in control of their reproductive health.