Call for Action!
Why do we fight for access to safe abortion?
Ensuring universal access to safe abortion is a shared societal concern, we cannot view it as only a “women’s issue.” It is a fundamental human right, which intersects with and is integral to realizing social, economic and reproductive justice. When individuals are able to access safe abortion, along with comprehensive sexuality education and a range of contraceptives, the social good outcomes are numerous – including plummeting maternal mortality and morbidity, and significantly reduced rates of STIs and teenage pregnancy. Other positive ripple effects include an increase in women and girls’ ability to continue education; increased gender equity and women’s empowerment; and reduced intergenerational transfers of poverty, among many other integral benefits.
What is happening on the world stage?
We have been witnessing a number of alarming rollbacks regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Some of the most recent rollbacks include:
- the reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule, restricting nearly $9 billion in US global health funding, and resulting in projected estimates of 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths;
- funding cuts to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), severely hindering the UN body’s crucial work in preventing unintended pregnancies, women from dying during pregnancy & childbirth, and unsafe abortions;
- and new law proposals in a number of countries such as Poland and El Salvador, attempting to ban abortions or criminalize “suspicious” miscarriages.
Even in countries where abortion is legal or decriminalized, we are seeing on-going or renewed attempts to uphold obstructive barriers such as mandatory waiting periods, parental/marital consent requirements, prohibitive costs, and limited services in rural and remote areas. These barriers restrict access to timely and affordable safe abortion services, disproportionately affecting lower-income groups who are unable to afford private healthcare services, or travel to better-serviced areas.
These rollbacks, on top of already existing restrictions, pose very real threats to our communities. They exacerbate existing challenges to realizing SRHR, undermine progress, and violate human rights, among them the right to life, bodily integrity, health, information, and autonomy in reproductive decision-making. Those who stand to be the most affected are women, girls and communities who are already made vulnerable by intersecting forms of oppression, related to their race, nationality, sexual orientation and gender identities, class, income, ethnicity, disability, and/or immigration status, among other identity markers. Moreover, the recent rollbacks on SRHR are interrelated with other conservative, neoliberal and neo-imperial trends worldwide concerning immigration, indigenous sovereignty, communities of colour, the environment, and other social justice issues.
Why must we continue to fight?
While the current geopolitical context is often discouraging, the landscape for ensuring SRHR, particularly access to abortion, has never been easy. There have always been challenges, among them those stemming from systemic and structural barriers such as economic inequalities, restrictive abortion laws, patriarchal norms, gender stereotypes, stigma and religious fundamentalisms, among others. Fully dismantling these barriers, particularly from a reproductive justice approach, will take time and on-going collaborative efforts at both individual and collective levels. It will also take collaboration across social movements, in order to address deeper systemic issues. This on-going work is central to transforming current inequities, and ensuring that all people have the social, political, and economic power and resources to exercise full autonomy over their bodies, gender, and sexualities. And while there have always been threats to fully realizing SRHR, there have also been and continue to be amazing and powerful forms of collective resistance, fuelled by brave individuals and local organizations opposing injustices in a myriad of ways.
This year’s campaign
In light of the current context, it is all the more imperative that we tap into both past and present forms of ongoing collective resistance, reminding ourselves of important achievements, and the power of collective organizing and mobilizing, propelled by local and individual actions. Our aim this year is to thus highlight, promote, and support the many different ways activists are currently challenging the status quo and resisting in diverse contexts. These seemingly small actions add up, make waves and contribute to collective movements. When I resist, we persist.
In turn, collective mobilization also feeds and sustains individual mobilization, through motivating and inspiring individuals, activists, and allies to continue our important abortion advocacy.
The power of our collective movements, moreover, stems from our ability to stay focused, energized, reflective and motivated, for which taking care of ourselves and each other is essential. In this sense, and in this volatile and challenging global context, collective and individual self-care and holistic security are not just personal but political strategies, integral to the preservation, sustainability and resilience of our movements.
The current global context is a reminder of the “long-game,” vigilant, and intersectional nature of fighting for SRHR, and of ensuring transformative social change. As such, for this year’s September 28, we at WGNRR invite our members, partners, and allies worldwide to join us in resisting at individual and collective levels, and persisting in our fight towards ensuring universal access to safe and legal abortion!
Diverse Actions, Different Places, One Demand:
Access to Safe & Legal Abortion NOW!
September 28 has been a regional campaign for decriminalization of abortion in Latin America and Caribbean for nearly twenty years before being taken on by SRHR activists all over the world as a Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion in 2011. WGNRR undertakes September 28 annual campaigning activities in collaboration with its members, partners, and allies around the world, and as a member of the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion.
Guttmacher Institute, 2011 read here: https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2011/06/unsafe-abortion-missing-link-global-efforts-improve-maternal-health; https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2012/10/access-safe-abortion-developing-world-saving-lives-while-advancing-rights
Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA (2014), Adding it Up: The Costs and Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health 2014, p. 34.
 Fact sheet by CHANGE: Center for Health and Gender Equity find here: http://www.genderhealth.org/files/uploads/change/publications/GGR_Fact_Sheet_UPDATED_March_7_2017.pdf
 How U.S. Funding Cuts to the U.N. Population Fund Will Hurt Women in Guatemala and Beyond, Slate Magazine, 2017, read here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2017/04/06/how_u_s_funding_cuts_to_the_u_n_population_fund_will_hurt_women_in_guatemala.html
 Amnesty International, “Barriers to Safe and Legal Abortion”, 2016. Read here: https://www.amnestyusa.org/files/breifing_barriers_to_safe_and_legal_abortion_in_south_africa_final_003.pdf
)Siddiqui,Gambino & Laughland, “Trump travel ban: new order targeting six Muslim-majority countries signed” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/06/new-trump-travel-ban-muslim-majority-countries-refugees. The Guardian, March 6, 2017
Indigenous sovereignty is on the rise. Can it shape the course of history? Julian Brave NoiseCat, The Guardian, 2017 read here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/30/indigenous-sovereignty-growth-history-australia
 Fagbamila, Funmilola, The myth of meritocracy in the era of Black Lives Matter, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/06/new-trump-travel-ban-muslim-majority-countries-refugees, The Guardian, May 9, 2017.
 Environmental defenders: who are they and how do we decide if they have died in defence of their environment? The Guardian, 2017, read here https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/13/environmental-defenders-who-are-they-and-how-do-we-decide-if-they-have-died-in-defence-of-their-environment
 Making our movements sustainable: practicing holistic security every day, Deepa Ranganathan and María Diaz Ezquerro, Open Democracy, 2017, https://www.opendemocracy.net/deepa-ranganathan-mar-d-az-ezquerro/making-our-movements-sustainable-practicing-holistic-security-ev