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24 May

USA Threat to Abortion Rights

A few months ago, I read an article on abortions by feminist Mona Eltahawy. I was completely shocked that at some point in time, certain countries granted death sentences to people who had chosen to have abortions. In the article, she states that, after the end of World War II, France outlawed the death penalty for abortions, but the heavily Catholic country continued to aggressively prosecute them. This made me realise just how far we as women, and feminists in particular, have come in the war on our reproductive rights and choices.

Well, it seems like the USA is on a plan to take us a few more steps backwards. At some point over the next few months, the United States Supreme Court will rule in a case poised to rewrite — even eliminate — abortion rights throughout much of the country. Read an article by, Clair Lampen. America is regarded as one of the most democratic countries in the world. One might wonder what this action might implicate for women’s reproductive rights around the world. Anti-abortion ideology in the US has already affected US foreign policy, and disrupted access to sexual and reproductive health services in Africa and globally.

Currently, states like Ohio are focused on abortion bans that will limit when women can seek out abortions. This indicates a trend towards greater restrictions on women’s reproductive rights in the future.

This means that we are about to venture into a new war as women across the globe. One we thought we were almost halfway through with. I say “halfway” because a lot of women across the globe still do not have access to their reproductive rights, either due to lack of knowledge or stigma attached to abortions. Even though South Africa is one of the few societies in which individuals’ sexual and reproductive health rights are protected, 30% of South African women still don’t know that they have a right to safe, legal reproductive health services, including abortion.

My Friends often joke that I’m the poster girl of Marie Stopes. However, the recent developments in the USA have really had me feeling fortunate, that as a woman living in South Africa, I live in a country where my reproductive rights are protected. The Constitution of South Africa protects the rights of all people to make their own decisions regarding reproduction (having children), and gives them security in, and control over, their bodies. This means it is every person’s own decision whether or not to have children.

However, fortunate as it may seem for me, many of my counterparts will not be able to escape these restrictions, many of whom are US citizens, most of whom are African women who largely depen on US aid for access to health services. The US is the largest bilateral funder for sexual and reproductive health. Countries that rely heavily on foreign aid to fund their health system look to donor countries for guidance. It is likely that countries may use the US abortion ban to further restrict abortion access out of fear that the US global health assistance on which they depend may be reduced.

The war on our bodies has been a long and hard one. We still have a long way to go. In her greeting tweet, feminist Mona Eltahawy, writes “Starting my day and sending love and solidarity to all”. And as this war on our bodies reignites, I send love and solidarity to women across the globe.

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