Abortion is healthcare: what role can we play?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Bisma Naveed, a fourth year medical student from Pakistan. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Restrictions on abortion disproportionately disadvantage pregnant women and girls and put them in harm’s way. Some of the worst physical and mental injuries, forms of violence, and deprivations of liberty faced by women and girls worldwide are linked to unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion. 25 million unsafe abortions take place annually, resulting in approximately 47,000 deaths every year, primarily in developing countries and among members of socioeconomically disadvantaged and marginalized populations.

Abortion is essential health care and must be taken out of the realm of politics. The right to access safe abortion services must be codified in law in accordance with human rights standards that require ensuring the availability, accessibility, affordability, acceptability and quality of abortion services, free and informed decision-making and adequate financial investment.

As access to clinical abortion becomes increasingly restricted, more people are turning to self-managed or at-home measures to end a pregnancy.

Healthcare can play a very pivotal role in removing the stigma of abortion. They can tell the public about the problems that abortion can resolve like

• Timing births and controlling family size

The desire to postpone a birth or to stop childbearing is a very common reason given by women seeking abortion. In almost half of the 23 studies (in 20 countries) with this information, about 50% or more of women gave the birth-timing and family-size control cluster of reasons as their most important reason.

• Poverty and economic reasons

Economic reasons or women saying that they could not afford to properly care for a child come second overall in importance. Combining the data on the impact of a birth on a woman’s education and on her financial situation yields a broader, more inclusive category of socioeconomic reasons.

• Relationship problems.

Relationship problems, including the partner’s objection to carrying the pregnancy to term, are moderately important in explaining why women have abortions.

• Young and unmarried

Being too young or fearing that parents or others would object to the pregnancy is a fairly common reason for having an abortion

• Risk to maternal health

The category of maternal health risk may include risks to either physical or mental health; another area of uncertainty is whether the potential health problem has been identified by a doctor or by only the woman herself. Because a threat to maternal health is often an exception to the law in countries where abortion is illegal, many women may cite this reason because it is socially acceptable and provides a legal or moral justification for abortion. Nevertheless, pregnancy probably poses a real threat to many of these women, because at least a small proportion in almost every country cite it as their overriding reason, regardless of the legal status of abortion.

• Fetal defect.

This is more common with Indian women, the most likely to have given fetal defects as the most important reason. Sex selection is believed to play a role in abortion, and in such instances, some women may report that “fetal defect” was the main reason for their abortion

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