Reproductive freedom in the United States is slowly being pulled back in states with majority conservative legislatures. Six states have passed laws prohibiting abortion after six weeks of a pregnancy, and restrictions stretch further than just that time limit, as rape, incest, and even health issues are all no longer considered legitimate reasons to terminate a pregnancy in many of these states.
While the US abortion policies differ depending on the state, there are many nations with laws that seem to be set in stone across their borders.
Many nations in Latin America hold incredibly strict abortion laws, including Argentina, which was called to global attention when an 11-year old girl that was raped was denied an abortion after finding out that she was pregnant. In six countries in Latin America, abortion is not permitted for any reason, and in nine others it is limited severely to cases of life threatening pregnancies, and. very rarely, rape. According to Guttmacher Institute, only 3% of Latina women in the region live in nations where abortion is legal to a broader extent.
Across Asia, reproductive laws vary widely; in China and India policies are incredibly liberal, while in Laos, Iraq, and the Philippines it is not allowed for any reason whatsoever. The issue in many Asian nations, however, comes with accessibility, and with the fact that many people struggle to find safe practitioners and facilities, and face stigmatization when seeking help.
Europe holds many nations with liberal policies as well, Malta, Northern Ireland and Poland being three nations with restrictions limiting abortion severely. Ireland recently called attention when it voted to end its ban on abortion a year ago, after the death of Savita Halappanavar, a woman who died from an infection after being denied an abortion in 2012, set off thousands of protestors.
Only four of the 54 African nations have relatively liberal abortion laws, and 10 African nations do not permit termination for any reason. The other 40 nations have limited abortion to cases in which it preserves the person’s health or saves their life, but lack of access compiled with social stigma has led to about 75% of abortions being performed unsafely.
While abortion is regarded as a very controversial issue in terms of morality and access, birth control and contraception are viewed less controversially--but controversially nonetheless.
In the United States, the same states that recently passed restrictions on abortion have extended those limits to birth control as well, but the residents of those states are not the only ones limited. The president of the United States recently released regulations attempting to interfere with the free birth control provided by the Affordable Care Act and making it easier for employers to stop covering birth control, though a federal court issued an injunction preventing him from doing so in early January.
It is not only legality that limits people’s access to contraception, but social stigma and economic status combined with a lack of access to sex education as well. Nations like Uganda and Nepal have rising pregnancy rates among adolescents, and they lack in proper access to safe birth control methods, regardless of the type. The healthcare budgets of many developing nations do not include birth control, stemming from the lack of economic stability in which money is either put to use in defense or used for the profit of government officials. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, India, South Korea, and even nations with restrictive abortion laws like Brazil and Turkey offer birth control pills without a prescription. People in developing nations are put into a position of systematic deprivation when it comes to reproductive health, and the strengthening of the anti-choice movement only does them a disservice.
When the global treatment of reproductive healthcare is examined, it becomes clear that--while it may remain a controversial issue--restrictions will not stop the distribution of abortions. 48% of abortions worldwide are unsafe, and the lesson that must be taken from that is that the global community must stop the prohibition of abortion and birth control and, in doing so, take a step towards ending the global health crisis that ensues from restrictive policies.