On September 28, reproductive rights activists around the world will commemorate past efforts in the fight for reproductive rights. International Safe Abortion Day started as a day of action within a select few countries, but it’s primary goal has evolved into bringing attention to the various obstacles and boundaries that still face modern women in relation to reproductive rights throughout the world.
Originally “Campaña 28 Septiembre” (or “Campaign of September 28”), the day of action was declared official in 2011 by the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, and renamed in 2015. The new name, “International Safe Abortion Day”, took aim at unifying the different participating organizations and their respective political aims.
The history of this day is rooted in slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean, specifically in the concept of the “free womb”. “Free womb” laws were enacted for slave women who had been killing their children after birth to spare them from a life of slavery. The law ensured that children born to slave women would be considered free from birth; before the law was put into place, children born to slave mothers were automatically considered the property of the slave owner. The day of action was adopted by many groups to promote universal access to safe abortions and education about reproductive health.
Every year this day focuses on a new theme relevant to the events happening around the world. For 2018 the theme is “Normalising abortion: it’s part of our lives”. This year’s theme aims to reduce the stigma surrounding safe abortion and the complications that occur from unsafe abortion procedures.To this day, almost half of all abortions are done in unsafe conditions. Many women who experience complications face added judgement while seeking medical attention for their complications.
The world is becoming increasingly hostile for reproductive rights. Since the last International Safe Abortion Day, there have been many major threats to the reproductive rights movement. For example, on the international scale, the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule has slowed the development of reproductive health care by cutting a major source of its funding. Another impending threat is the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, which hangs in the balance as a new Supreme Court Justice is up for confirmation.
This is not to say that there have not been wins. In May, Ireland voted to repeal the ban on abortion. Lawmakers in Ireland are already developing new laws and policies to increase access to safe procedures.
We should use this upcoming September 28th to not only celebrate the great progress this movement has made, but also to motivate us to work to improve reproductive care for women all over the world.