We know abortion rights are under siege here at home; it seems like everyday a new law is introduced to restrict access. It’s important to also take the global temperature on access to abortion. Progress or diminishment of women’s rights globally is important to keep track of—we need to fight at home, and support women around the world in their own battles for agency.
Roman Catholic countries, primarily in Latin America, are notorious for their strict abortion laws, if not outright bans. However, late 2017 in Chile brought about a loosening of their total abortion ban. The country’s constitutional court declared in a 6-4 ruling that abortion would be permitted after rape, if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus is not expected to survive the pregnancy. Previous to this a woman was not permitted to have an abortion at all—under no circumstance. Six Roman Catholic majority countries still hold a total ban: El Salvador, Nicaragua, Malta, The Vatican, and Dominican Republic.
In October, New Zealand saw the rise of Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern, 37, to be the new Prime Minister. Ardern has promised to decriminalize abortion laws in the country. Right now, under the Crimes Act of 1961, abortion is a crime except for the following cases: incest, the pregnant woman faces a danger to her life, physical or mental health, or if there is a risk of the fetus being handicapped in the event of the continuation of her pregnancy. The world will be watching to see if Ardern and the Labour Party keeps its promise to the women of New Zealand.
Ireland has a near total abortion ban, which forces women seeking abortion to travel internationally, sometimes taking to the waves for abortion access. On International Women’s Day in March of 2017, a new protest campaign called Strike 4 Repeal was begun. Pro-choice advocates around the country have been protesting for the repeal of the country’s 8th amendment, which bans abortion in nearly all cases. The campaign continues to this date, with supporters of the call for a referendum protesting all over the country on different organized dates. This is another country to keep our eyes on, and support the women and men there fighting hard to make a difference.
Hopefully, 2018 will show more legislative support for abortion access in all countries. It has been shown, time and time again, that the majority of people in nearly all nations support a woman’s right to access abortion. It’s time for those in government to heed these calls and stop putting barriers up and start taking them down.
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