What Pro-Life Countries May Reveal About Future Without Roe

I had a chance to see the world from a tiny home in Honduras a few years ago.

There, I met a woman in her early 20s, who for privacy I’ll call Alma. She lived with her family and a smattering of extremely cute animals – there were a few little dogs, a kitten or two, a hen and her chicks. Months earlier, Alma had had stillbirth – she hadn’t even known she was pregnant, she told me. However, doctors suspected she was using medication to induce an abortion. The police were called. Alma was in the midst of her trial at the time I met her.

Honduran law prohibits abortion and emergency contraception. In Honduras, sexual violence is common. After a rape, women are forbidden from having a basic method to avoid pregnancy. They can also be jailed for ending an unwanted pregnancy. Through both abortion restrictions and endemic violence, women hear one message: Your body isn’t yours.

Continue reading: Inside Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic—and the Biggest Fight for Abortion Rights in a Generation

Alma was far from the only woman I’ve met whose body has borne the weight of abortion bans. Sofia was also a Honduran girl who I wrote about, and she had to have a child because she was 12 years old raped. Anita was a pseudonym that was used to describe a South Sudanese woman who fled conflict and was made to have sex with her husband. She self-induced an abortion, and almost lost her life. There was Silvana, raped as a child during Colombia’s civil war, who starved herself into a miscarriage. There was a woman whose name I don’t know, but whose story I heard again and again in a Bangladeshi camp full of Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar – to end an unwanted pregnancy, she put a red-hot brick on her stomach, searing off her flesh.

Leaked Drafts of Supreme Court opinions suggest that the Court may overturn Roe v. WadeThe 1973 abortion case, which legalized it for American women. Those of us who have followed the long arc of reproductive-rights law in the U.S. aren’t surprised, although many of us are devastated and angry. Those of us who have reported on abortion rights and access, and women’s rights more broadly, know just how high the stakes are.

It is now clear that access to abortion has improved a great deal since pre-publication.Roe America. Orally taking a mixture of misoprostol + mifepristone is now possible to safely and effectively induce abortion. It does not have the potential fertility- or life-ending side effects of other methods, which would require something being inserted into your cervix. These medications can now be obtained by women even in countries where abortion is not legal or difficult to obtain. If RoeThese activist networks will continue to grow no matter what. Abortion won’t end, and activists will try to make sure that as many women as possible can access safe abortion-inducing medications. Again, the pro-choice movement will save women’s lives.

Continue reading: If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, the Battle for the Future of the Anti-Abortion Movement

But even though activists are trying to offer safe abortions under hostile legal conditions, they can’t reach every woman who needs them. Even though Roe is still in force, many American women are unable to get the abortions that they desire. The women with the most resources are the ones who can access safe abortions. This includes not only the financial means, but also education and connections to the internet. Women who are already vulnerable – who are poor, who are young, who live in rural areas, who don’t speak English well or at all, who are the least able to take on a child they haven’t planned for – are the most likely to fall through the cracks.

Criminalizing abortion will deter some women from seeking abortion. Women will also be forced to continue with their pregnancies against their will, increasing the likelihood that they will remain poor and be abused by men. Because they are unable to choose, some of these women might die. If abortion were banned in all 50 states, one study suggests that maternal death could increase as high as 21%.

Others, afraid of the law, yet desperate not to be pregnant, and scared or embarrassed to seek help from others, take matters into themselves. Others won’t know how to find help or where to look. Others may be just fine. Some might not.

Continue reading: Our Clinic will cease providing abortions immediately if Roe V. Wade is overturned. But We Won’t Shut Down

Women in America have been jailed for suspected abortions by overzealous US prosecutors. All indications are that abortion will be outlawed and more women and doctors will end up in prison.

The world’s most “pro-life” nations show us what could be in store. Women are subject to pervasive violence by men in countries that have the most restrictive anti-abortion laws. That isn’t to say that anti-abortion laws cause violence. This is not to suggest that violence against women is caused by misogynist dominance. It stems from the urge to force women to do your bidding, and the belief that women’s bodies and women’s lives should be under male control. It’s not a coincidence that the countries where women do the best – where they are the most economically prosperous, the safest, have the highest levels of education and employment, are the most supported in parenthood, and are the freest – are also countries where abortion is legal and contraception is easily accessible.

By curtailing abortion access, the U.S. is again making itself an outlier on women’s rights, and joining a small number of nations – Poland, Hungary, Brazil, Russia, China – that are moving ever rightward toward authoritarianism. While many countries have liberalized their abortion laws as they have become more democratic, just a handful have restricted reproductive rights – and those restrictions have gone hand-in-hand with shifts away from democratic traditions and toward autocracy.

According to the U.N., nearly 50,000 women’s lives could be saved each year simply by repealing anti-abortion laws. American has now restricted abortions even more. The United States has now banned abortion altogether. Roe would be the biggest blow in nearly 50 years to abortion rights in the U.S., and just the first step in a broader conservative effort to make abortion totally illegal – and if anti-abortion activists get their way, a national abortion law would have no exceptions for rape, incest, health, or the pregnant woman’s life.

These are the stakes if this draft opinion becomes law: Some women’s lives, many women’s futures, and all of our freedoms.

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