Make no mistake: Abortion bans violate human rights

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Alabama has banned abortions (screenshots via YouTube).

In the wake of the Alabama abortion ban, we have witnessed myriad women throughout the world come forward with their stories.

Personal reflections have flooded our feeds, alongside high-profile celebrities. The desire to have full autonomy of womens' own bodies, reproductive rights and the ability to curate our own futures has never been more prevalent in conversation.

And whilst this is much needed, it is also essential that we tackle the "pro-life" movement for what it stands for.

We may know a friend who terminated their pregnancy, or a family member, or perhaps you’ve been through it yourself. It’s not something you’d wish upon your worst enemy, but having the choice is a necessity that every woman should be entitled to.

And it’s with this initial divide that many pro-lifers' go wrong: when we speak of a desire of full autonomy over our reproductive rights, we don't want to desensitise terminations. Women do not "like" or "want" to have them.

It is not something that many women would "want" to undergo, but rather, may "need" to undergo — for multiple reasons.

Some have claimed that the laws do not impermissibly criminalise women's conduct or choices.

What of the thousands of women throughout the United States who were (and are) already subject to various sentences for their “criminality” with regards to their pregnancy.

Christine Taylor is an Iowa woman who was charged with attempted feticide after she had an accident in her home, by falling down her stairs. A Louisiana native who was also charged and subsequently jailed for second-degree murder for unexplained vaginal bleeding, after she appeared in hospital. it was revealed one year later that she had, in fact, had a miscarriage.

Governments that implement anti-abortion laws that impose criminal penalties for having them punish women for daring to choose their own path, or sadder yet, a wrongful conviction upon women for reasons unknown to her.

Such laws don't exist to "protect" the unborn. It is an attack on women who exercise their autonomy.

Working with women, I have encountered some who are incredibly broken, highly emotional, suicidal, victims of sexual assault and abuse, who have needed assistance in seeking a termination.

There is nothing more heart wrenching than subjecting these women to legislation that further vilifies them. 

Anti-abortion and pro-life movements are largely uninformed by the suffering of women who have abortions. They don't merely voice a differing opinion: they carry out an attack.

Perhaps if some of them were to see the impacts of such movements, face to face, they'd understand the ramifications that anti-abortion laws impose upon women. They'd witness the hardships of such women.

There is another world on the other side of this legislation. If some people were able to see that, they’d understand why the right to choose a termination is vital.

Engaging in debates about religion or science necessarily divert our attention away from the struggles of women having abortions. Human rights are not contingent on these factors, but rather the principle of respect for individuals in all circumstances. 

If pro-lifers believe that embryos and fetuses have a right to continue, regardless of the consequences, then what about the thousands of refugee and migrant children that have been turned away by your government and possibly died as a result? Where are their rights? 

What right does an embryo or fetus have over the very person who needs to carry it to full term? What about a woman's right?

Furthermore, if those embryos or fetuses are carried through and become women, where will their rights be when they grow up? Will they also lack the right to bodily autonomy?

This legislation that supposedly declares "human rights" for the unborn is a fallacy. Otherwise these women would have rights to freedom when they mature. 

Some persist in the belief that these laws aren't an attack on women. But it is only women who are penalised under these anti-abortion laws, representing unfair gender-based discrimination.

If a man has the right to abandon a pregnancy or support a woman's termination will he be subject to a trial as well? 

And just because a woman carries a foetus, or attends an appointment herself, or pays for the termination does not change the fact that there is another party involved. Thus, why should reproductive autonomy be granted to men, the right to choose — but not to women?

That is not to say men should face criminal penalties. Like women, men should reserve the right to forge their own futures, families and responsibilities. 

But it shows that anti-abortion legislation is a guise to oppress women. These laws, recently legislated in Alabama, are a matter of governing women and controlling their reproductive rights — and quite simply, it’s a matter of selective care to suit an archaic agenda.

Nessie is a writer, poet an activist. She can be contacted at @nessiexo.

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Make no mistake: Abortion bans violate human rights

In the wake of the Alabama abortion ban, we have witnessed myriad women throughout ...  
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