Women's Reproductive Rights Are Fundamental Human Rights
A government with the power to prohibit abortions has an unwarranted level of power over the personal choices of its people
January 22, 2013
When abortion is illegal, women die.
Women have abortions whether legal or illegal, safe or unsafe, respectful or humiliating. The difference is that when abortion is illegal and unsafe, women will risk their lives as they take personal responsibility to end a pregnancy they have decided they cannot continue. Forcing women to take such a risk both ravages women's lives and is detrimental to society. Each year, worldwide, nearly 42 million women choose abortion. Half those performed are unsafe, resulting in the death of an estimated 68,000 women and making unsafe abortion one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13 percent).
The essential question is who should be empowered to make decisions about abortion. People who oppose legal abortion say it should be politicians and judges. People who support legal abortion believe a pregnant woman alone is capable of properly weighing the full implications of whether to continue or end her pregnancy. Lost in the political rhetoric is recognition that a government with the power to prohibit abortions has an unwarranted level of power over the personal choices of its people. A government that can prohibit abortions can mandate them as well, as has been the case in China, Romania, and other totalitarian countries.
If abortion was the concern of those who oppose legal abortion, that would be the beginning and the end of their legislative efforts. But it's not. They also want to limit or outlaw contraception, the only proven path to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. As a result, what we have is a political movement bent on legislating our bodies, not our rights. The concern is the control of a woman's body. And without control of her own body, a woman cannot participate fully in society as an equal member. Government must respect an individual's right to make personal decisions and as such, respect women's reproductive rights—a fundamental human right. Our ability to participate fully in society depends on it.