Elective or Essential?
Each year, 56 million women around the world choose to end a pregnancy. This corresponds to over 150,000 abortions a day. Access to safe and legal abortions is important for many reasons. It allows a woman an option for recourse if she falls pregnant as a result of being raped. It means doctors cannot deny treatment to women who might otherwise die from life-threatening pregnancy complications, such as ectopic pregnancies or amniotic fluid embolisms. Unrestricted access to abortion means women can choose not to have their life plans derailed by unwanted pregnancies. Women with unwanted pregnancies resort to unsafe self-managed termination practices when their access to safe abortion is curtailed, resulting in high levels of deaths and disabilities.
Despite these arguments, access to abortion remains difficult in many parts of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an oversaturation of healthcare systems globally, to which some jurisdictions have responded by delaying or canceling abortions. In the United States, eleven states have taken steps to defer abortions indefinitely, deeming them ‘non-essential’. While these are being challenged in court, a growing number of conservative states are questioning whether abortions should be allowed to continue.[2,3]