It’s high time women are afforded access to abortion globally

1 July 2022
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After the stunning body blow delivered by the US Supreme Court in depriving women of their constitutional right to seek an abortion, many institutions have sat back to take stock and look at options and avenues to overcome the desperate plight that millions of women will now face.

Many individuals and organisations directly or indirectly involved with actual or potential abortion procedures, or their ramifications, will wrestle with moral dilemmas. Most interestingly, we see a joint statement by a number of prosecutors in US states that are now criminalising abortion, stating that these prosecutors will not charge women in relation to abortion as they intend to expend their resources on more serious crimes.

The call is not just about opposing the criminalisation of abortions but going further and affirmatively stating, loudly and clearly, that no basic human right is more fundamental to a woman than the right to decide for herself if and when she should bear children.

The UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls has declared: “As an essential reproductive healthcare service for women and girls, access to safe and legal abortion is critical to ensure their fundamental right to autonomy, equality and to physical and mental health.”

This declaration is regrettably not borne out in far too many places. In countries such as India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Bangladesh, it is feared that the change in the USA will fuel local opposition and negative sentiments towards abortion.

In Australia, Canada, and the UK, where abortion is legal, there has been much discussion in recent days in the media as to accessibility to abortion even where it is technically lawful—whether women are being treated fairly and equitably if their access to abortion depends on their social circumstances, the place where they live, or other extraneous circumstances.

Access to abortion and giving women the financial and other means or assistance to make use of this vital health procedure will surely become an item of increasing focus.

Accepting their responsibilities, many companies in the USA which do business in the states about to impose restrictions have been quick off the mark in announcing strategies to assist female employees to access abortions (Rhia Ventures quickly put together a database to track corporate statements and commitments on this topic).

We at Symmetra hope that these moves become a groundswell reverberating across the public and private sectors in the USA to mitigate some of the worst consequences of upending Roe v Wade.

At the same time, it should be a stimulus to companies in other countries to ensure that women have ready access to safe and inexpensive abortions.