World is at risk if anti-abortion laws are made stronger in the US

The Alabama Human Life Protection Act was supported by more than 20 male senators in a state, where women make up 51.5 per cent of the population

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Thursday 16 May 2019

It is clear that women do not have a right over their bodies. The move in Alabama to ban all abortions, except in case where the pregnancy is a risk to the mothers’ health proves this. The bill criminalises the procedure, making abortion punishable by up to 99 years in prison for doctors.

The legislation — Alabama Human Life Protection Act — is not relaxed even for women who become pregnant due to rape or incest. The Bill was proposed by Republican Terri Collins, a woman, who believes that this is about protecting “the lives of the unborn, because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection". 

The Bill was supported by more than 20 male senators in a state, where according to the US Census projections for 2019 women make up 51.5 per cent of the population. Unfortunately, Alabama is not alone in favoring anti-abortion laws.

A few days ago, Georgia signed the “Foetal Heartbeat” Bill that prohibits abortions after a heartbeat is detected in an embryo. This happens after five to six weeks of pregnancy, when the woman is not even likely to be aware that she is pregnant.

Alabama is the sixth state to pass such a law and nine more states have introduced similar bills. At the centre of all this is a decision by the Supreme Court of 1973 which put down that women have a right to abortion without interference by the states.

These state laws do not have an impact immediately but they are setting the stage for overturning the Supreme Court order. According to the website of American Civil Liberties Union, a pro right non-profit, since 2011, states have enacted more restrictions to abortion than they did in the previous 10 years combined.

Extremist politicians continue to work to shut down women’s health centers, cut off access to affordable birth control, and shame women who have abortions, it says.

However, globally it has been observed and proved that restrictive abortion laws lead to unsafe abortions which put women’s health at risk. Such laws also lead to higher levels of maternal mortality and increase inequality as safe abortions become available only to the rich who can travel out of the state or the country. Poor women, who are more likely to have unwanted pregnancies are literally left holding the baby.  

Abortion is legal in India till 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, for long India too has been held hostage by funding agencies to restrict abortions. In 2017, US President Donald Trump barred funds to be given to any group that promotes abortion.

The ideology existed even in 1984, during Ronald Reagan’s regime and was called the Mexico City Policy. Under this, any non-governmental organisation that has received funds from the US is barred from providing women or couples with family planning information, including access to abortion.

“This global policy is a direct reflection of the decades-old political battle surrounding abortion in the United States. It is an example of US imperialism, in the way the government ties its foreign aid to domestic political controversies,” writes Ruth Macklin, professor emerita at the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in a paper published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics in April 2019.

Since 1984, every US government administration headed by a president from the Republican Party has followed the policy. Every administration headed by a president from the Democratic Party has annulled it.

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