Access to Abortion is a Human Right

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sadia Khalid, early-stage researcher (ESRs) at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Estonia. 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.

Abortion access remains the most hotly debated topic worldwide. In 2022, we are still arguing over this basic health care intervention, the dire need to decriminalize reproductive health rights, the elimination of discrimination against women, and the surety of women’s right to health as well as other fundamental human rights.

Each year, 73 million abortions are induced worldwide. Abortion is a common and safe health intervention. Six out of 10 of all unintended pregnancies end in induced abortion. It can become a critical public health and human right issue if access to safe, timely, affordable, and respectful abortion care is restricted or taken away entirely. Denying women safe access to abortion can have serious consequences in society. It threatens the status quo and amounts to violations of health rights, privacy, and, in certain cases, the right to be free from cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. Abortion discussion in the era of the internet is clouded by a sea of misinformation about the actual consequences of restricting access to this basic healthcare service.

Restricting or banning abortion will only lead to unsafe abortion which is a leading – but preventable – cause of maternal deaths and morbidities. But the true ramification of denying abortion care, the physical and mental health complications and social and financial challenges, women’s burden, communities, and health systems have been simply disregarded. Religion and politics should not substitute science in the abortion debate. And we must not forget abortion is safe when carried out using a recommended method by WHO, appropriate to the pregnancy duration, and by someone with the necessary skills.

An estimated one-third of women have an abortion during their reproductive years. Although women routinely choose abortion in response to difficult circumstances, many encounter social stigma because of their decision. To live in a country where religious values are often intertwined with social and public policy but abortion should be a right and option available to all regardless of women’s religious or political affiliation and individual religious or not religious choosing to have an abortion must decipher from a myriad of messages whether abortion is the right option for them and manage the implications of their decision within their own religious and moral frameworks and if women seeking abortion experience pregnancy and post-abortion crisis they should be given adequate social and psychological help within a healthcare system.

The concept of Heritability of a need to nurture is still debatable in evolutionary psychology.
The imminent underlying psychological mechanisms of fertility decisions in humans remain poorly understood in evolutionary biology while human reproductive biology fertility behaviors are a complex interplay of cultural, ecological, familial, and physiological factors.

Literature suggests the need to nurture is indeed strongest in women and it varies throughout the life course. Whether a woman’s need to nurture is biologically programmed and human children need to be nurtured to become successful adults, and adults need to nurture to grow up and accomplish a full life cycle of experiences. Yet we can’t dismiss the current uncertain global economy, personal, social, and demographic predictors that have threatened our security and have an impact on our reproductive behaviours, and under these circumstances, our nurturing instinct is less likely to be triggered. Understanding the psychological mechanisms underlying human fertility behaviours may also explicate the myriad of psychological factors alone or cumulatively with current known social and demographic predictors influencing the reasons why women seek an abortion.

Our goal should be to understand and eliminate the stigma surrounding abortion while working on expanding quality abortion care.
Women need an enabling environment for quality comprehensive abortion care, and a supportive framework of law and policy we need respect for our human rights. Our reproductive rights. The availability and accessibility of information; and a supportive, universally accessible, affordable, and well-functioning health system.

A health care system where access to abortion is impeded by restrictive laws and requirements that are not medically justified is threatening to global public health.
A system that is designed to create barriers to accessing safe abortion care, a system that believes in the criminalization of abortion, mandatory waiting periods, provision of biased information or counselling, third-party authorization policies, permission requirements from one spouse/partner about their reproductive rights and the bureaucracy of restrictions around the type of health care providers or facilities that can provide abortion services is a system which doesn’t recognize sexual and reproductive health services as a women’s basic right.

Further reading/useful resources:

About the author

Sadia Khalid, early-stage researcher (ESRs) at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Estonia. She has been working on her PhD research project “The role of Helicobacter pylori intestinal microbiota in the development of liver diseases. under supervision of Dr. Pirjo Spuul at Faculty of Science, Institute of Chemistry and Biotechnology.,TalTech. Previously, she has worked as a research specialist in the institute of biomedicine and translational medicine, University of Tartu (UT), Estonia. She obtained her MD in emergency medicine in 2017 from the Dalian Medical university, China and MBChB in 2013 from the Weifang Medical university, China. Her current research interests include infectious diseases, bacteriology, hepatology, and gastroenterology.

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