Dear decision makers of the world, let women make their own decisions about their bodies, okay?
A new report from the United Nations says this, just in a lot more words. The UN Special Rapporteur on Health, Anand Grover, informed member states that states should be providing safe and legal abortion for all of their women, and that not doing so is messing with women’s rights.
His views are highly unpopular (surprise, surprise) within the UN. Many officials are going as far as to say Grover was overstepping his mandate as special rapporteur. In case you didn’t know what the heck a special rapporteur does, I’m here to inform you. They are appointed through the United Nations but operate independently to address human rights problems globally. They do research, write reports and make suggestions on how countries can improve their human rights.
Yes, abortion is a highly controversial issue, but it can’t be ignored. Globally, Grover estimate 44,000 women die as a result of illegal abortions each year. Some people are questioning this figure, but it’s really not that surprising. For as long as women have been getting pregnant, they have been finding ways to not be pregnant. Regardless of whether abortion is legal or not, if a women truly wants an abortion she will find a way to have one. When I was in Ghana (coincidentally Grover was touring the country while I was there), I talked to an NGO that educates women on safe abortions, and learned about the measures women go to to not be pregnant. Teenage girls take herbal concoctions until they bleed (thinking they’ve gotten their periods) and women sometimes resort to swallowing glass. It’s not a happy picture in any way. Here’s what the report says:
Criminal prohibition of abortion is a very clear expression of State interference with a woman’s sexual and reproductive health because it restricts a woman’s control over her body, possibly subjecting her to unnecessary health risks. Criminal prohibition also requires women to continue unplanned pregnancies and give birth when it is not their choice to do so.
Yeah, so you could have your women searching out back alley abortions, or you could protect them and provide safe, medical environments for them. Another point Grover makes, is the need for governments to fund family planning services. This can prevent women from needing abortions in the first place, because an abortion is not family planning.
I know there’s going to be a lot of comments agreeing with the countries who are arguing with Grover, many of which will be about morality. Well my man has a point for that too. He believes public morality shouldn’t trump human rights and public health shouldn’t be regulated by criminal law.