Abortion Rights Update: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but a little Good
by Kathryn Tullos
Laws regulating abortion have changed recently in several countries.
As of 24 January 2021, abortion is now available on demand in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. This development marks a substantial departure from previous Argentinian law, which allowed terminations in only cases of rape and danger to the woman’s life. Under the new law, abortions performed after 14 weeks will be subject to the same restrictions that were previously in place throughout the entire pregnancy.
This legislative change resulted from a combined effort by Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernández, and sustained grass roots pressure from the group Ni Una Menos, or Not One [Woman] Less. Ni Una Menos formed in 2015 to protest widespread violence against women. The organization has also lobbied and protested in favor of gender parity issues, marriage equality, and the rights of transgender persons.
Research indicates that thousands of illegal abortions have occurred in Argentina each year. In 2016, the last year for which data was available, roughly 40,000 of these procedures led to health complications requiring hospitalization.
On 25 January, the Thai Parliament passed legislation allowing abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The legislation now proceeds to a review by Thailand’s Constitutional Court. If the Court rules that the legislation comports with the country’s constitution, the King will sign and publish the bill, which then becomes a law.
Previously, abortion had been available in Thailand only in cases of rape or danger to the health of the woman. Cases of illegal abortion could result in the imprisonment of both providers and patients. Under the new law, women who have abortions after the prescribed 12-week period are still subject to fines, imprisonment, or both, unless the procedure is deemed necessary under Thai medical guidelines.
A near-total ban on abortions has taken effect as of 27 January in Poland. The country’s Constitutional Court ruled in October 2020 that abortion would no longer be allowed in cases of fetal abnormalities, even when those abnormalities were severe or fatal. Terminations because of fetal abnormalities make up 98% of the annual legal abortions in Poland. Facing the largest country’s largest protests since the fall of Communism, the socially-conservative government had delayed publishing the law, which puts the law into effect, until late in January.
Polish law still allows pregnancies to be terminated in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the woman’s life. However, such terminations are uncommon, and experts estimate that approximately 200,000 Polish women receive abortions illegally in country or abroad.
The Ugly and Some Good
United States of America
The United States has seen conflicting recent developments in the laws and judicial decisions governing abortion.
In a move restricting access to abortions, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal judge erred in overruling a Food and Drug Administration rule requiring women to pick up pills to end pregnancy in person. The lower court had ruled that, in light of the health risks and reduced access to hospitals and medical offices caused by the COVID pandemic, making a woman pick up pills in person placed an undue burden on her right to an abortion.
The 6-3 decision in Food and Drug Administration v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, came down on 12 January 2021. Justices Sotomeyor and Kagan dissented, and Justice Breyer voted against the majority without stating his reasons for doing so.
In contrast, on 28 January, President Biden rescinded the Mexico City Policy, commonly known as the Global Gag Rule. This measure had barred US funding to international medical groups that used non-US money to fund providing abortion information or services. Biden’s decision frees up approximately $7.3 billion in funding for health groups around the world.
President Biden also announced that he would restore $69 million in funding for the United Nations Population Fund. The Fund’s Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, estimated that the additional funding could prevent 1.4 million unintended pregnancies and 32,000 unsafe abortions. She also stated that the funds would be used to provide reproductive health services to 4.2 million people and counseling to over 75,000 victims of sexual violence.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Please help us fight for our reproductive freedom! All you need to do is join the Reproductive Justice Action Team. We had our first planning call on February 8, 2021 and will post the minutes.
If you are interested in working with us, please contact Salli Anne Swartz [email protected]