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The right to safe abortion is a right of us all – that includes you

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24 June 2022 Tags: human rights, Roe v. Wade, Safe abortion, SheDecides, US

The United States is abolishing the right to abortion. This is outrageous: if the right to access a safe abortion falters, the door is opened to curtail other rights as well. Marieke van der Plas, executive director at Rutgers and SheDecides Champion: “Abortion is about more than terminating a pregnancy. Abortion is an indicator of a strong democracy. It depends on freedom of choice, self-determination, human rights. The right to abortion is therefore an issue for all of us.”

Roe v. Wade: right to privacy

In 1973, a single pregnant woman by the name of Jane Roe stepped into a courtroom to argue that the Texas abortion law was unconstitutional. At the time, abortion was legal only to save a person’s life and it was both a crime to have an abortion and to perform one. The case was won by Jane Roe with a 7-2 majority vote. Since then, American people were able access abortion (especially in the first trimester) by licensed physicians in medically safe conditions.

The right to privacy affirmed that this decision was between a woman and her doctor and not the state.

People who want to terminate their pregnancies find themselves in that situation for a variety of reasons that they should not have to explain or defend.

More than just abortion

Now the Supreme Court in the United States wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. The abolishment of the right to abortion in the US is a result of a global, well-coordinated and funded trend that limits people’s sexual rights and freedom.

Indeed, when abortion is challenged, it is never just about abortion.

Abortion may be the starting point, but when it is challenged, it is only a matter of time before the gaze is turned towards the access to contraception, basic health services, trans rights, marriage equality, and more. This must not and cannot happen.

Positive developments outside of the U.S.

Just because there will be stricter abortion laws in the U.S. does not mean that this will happen in the rest of the world.

If we look at what is going on in the world, we are fortunate to see that even in these times, abortion laws are still being expanded.

In nearly 50 countries, people are coming together to liberalise abortion laws. For example in: Argentina, India, France, Uruguay and Ireland and more recently Benin and Colombia.

Five day reflection period and abortion pill

Also in the Netherlands abortion laws have been liberalised. The freedom to choose whether to become a parent or carry a pregnancy to term, for personal or medical reasons has traditionally been supported by a large majority. However, when the Termination of Pregnancy Act came into force in 1984 after a nationwide strike among women, a five-day reflection period was put into place.  Many pregnant women perceived this as patronising. Just this year, a large majority in the Dutch parliament voted to abolish this reflection period. One of the reasons was that no other medical procedure had a reflection period. A big step forward.

Also, the parliament will soon vote on the abortion pill at the doctor’s office, making it easier for people to access if they do not live near an abortion clinic.

As Rutgers, we are advocating to ensure that in the future abortion is removed from the Criminal Code and treated with the same ethical standards as other medical procedures.

Safe abortion care anywhere in the world

Rutgers will continue to stand next to women and all people who may need an abortion in the U.S. and worldwide, no matter what. We work to preserve the gains made in freedom and laws, in particular those of people of color, women, LGBTQI+ people, immigrants and refugees. We applaud those countries that have put democratic principles and solidarity into practice, which gives people the right to decide whether or not they want to be parents.

You don’t leave the decision about a termination of pregnancy to anyone else. You alone decide that. Always. That is why everyone should have and keep access to good and safe abortion care without restrictions. Everywhere in the world. Also in the United States!

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