The global debate on legal and free abortion remains open, intensifying when initiatives emerge to decriminalize voluntary termination of pregnancy.
It is a controversial discussion, influenced by political, religious and cultural interests, in which two parties confront each other with clearly defined arguments.
Legal Abortion: Current Situation
In almost all countries in Europe and North America, as well as in some Asian countries, abortion is legal. Laws with the most restrictions on abortion are concentrated in developing countries, according to the Guttmacher Institute. There are 125 countries in the world where abortion is completely prohibited or allowed to save the life or protect the health of the woman.
During the 21st century, dozens of countries have changed their legislation on abortion, most expanding the reasons for allowing this practice. The most recent case, in 2018, was that of Ireland, which achieved the decriminalization of abortion through a referendum.
In Argentina, on the other hand, there was an intense debate on legal abortion, the bill reached the Senate, where it was rejected. However, the impact of the debate on legal abortion in the Latin American country has motivated other nations to re-drive this always pertinent discussion.
Supporters of free, safe and legal abortion, pro-choice, defend the right of women to choose whether to continue or terminate their pregnancy. Supporters of not legalizing abortion, anti-abortion, they defend the right to life from fertilization.
Each of the parties tries to influence the political spheres and decision centers, and convince the undecided public to join their cause.
In favor of the right to legal abortion
Those who defend the establishment of legal, safe and free abortion allege that this allows the pregnant person to decide about their own body. In this way, the human right based on the principle of physical autonomy is preserved. Respect is guaranteed to choose whether or not to have children and when to do so.
Pro-choice movements argue that there must be a legal framework that guarantees safe and free access to abortion. Public health services must provide specialized care to women who choose to abort.
According to this position, criminalizing abortion only makes this practice more dangerous to the lives of girls and women. Being illegal, the woman or girl is forced to resort to a clandestine center, probably lacking optimal sanitation conditions.
For supporters of legal abortion, death and injury from unsafe abortions would be prevented without penalty.
They base their claims on studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute. Only 1 in 4 abortions was safe in countries where it is completely prohibited or limited to preserving the life or health of the woman. In countries where abortion is legal, almost 9 out of 10 abortions were performed safely. The ban fails to reduce the number of abortions, according to both organisms.
Worldwide, between 2010 and 2014, 45% of all abortions performed were unsafe abortions. The vast majority (97%) of these procedures considered dangerous according to WHO standards, were performed in countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Pro-choice do not consider it enough to limit access to legal abortion to cases of rape or incest. Or allow it in cases of serious and fatal malformations of the fetus and when there is a risk to the life of the pregnant person.
They argue that with these restrictions the majority of women and girls are excluded from the law. The reason is that the percentage of abortions performed for these reasons is low. If they are vulnerable, and do not have the resources to pay for private care, they will be at even greater risk.
Another argument of the movements in favor of legal abortion is that as long as the practice is penalized, women and girls are stigmatized. If they choose to abort, they can be criminalized and branded immoral. Similarly, when they seek medical care after an abortion, they can be discriminated against and excluded.
The movements that promote legal abortion defend that the figures and consequences related to clandestine abortions are made visible. They also demand that more efforts be made to provide sex education and access to contraception.
Against legalizing abortion
The movements against the legalization of abortion argue that the embryo is a human life, whose rights must be respected. For supporters of this position, the value of life is above all.
According to the anti-abortion, legalizing this practice is discriminatory, depriving people who have not been wanted of the right to live. The pregnant person is not deciding on their own body, they are also deciding on that of another human being.
They defend that a person facing an unwanted pregnancy cannot have an abortion as the only way out. To do this, instead of establishing legal abortion, the State must pass laws to protect women and girls with unwanted pregnancies. Give them support and access to alternatives such as adoption.
According to this position, legislation should focus on ensuring sex education, family planning and access to contraceptive methods.
They allege that if an abortion is performed because the pregnancy is the product of rape, physical and psychological complications are added to the victim.
The anti-abortion are not in favor of interrupting pregnancies due to malformations in the fetus. They argue that the value of life cannot be measured by handicaps or defects. In addition, they argue that prenatal medical tests do not guarantee 100% that the fetus has malformations.
Another argument is that legalization does not ensure that clandestine abortions will disappear. If it is an unwanted pregnancy, even when it is legal to terminate it, the woman, adolescent or girl may feel ashamed. She could fear being singled out and discriminated against, which could lead her to hide her condition and go to an illegal center.