Today, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures thanks to the dedicated work of abortion providers across the country. It is also available thanks to all those working to ensure safe, legal, and accessible abortion care to promote health and justice for women. Nonetheless, there are many who continue to attack abortion, women who have exercised the choice to have an abortion, and their medical providers.
It is important for those who understand the importance of keeping abortion safe, legal, and accessible to speak out about the importance of this critical reproductive health option for women across the world.
Over the years, abortion has been stigmatized by those who view it as the least desirable, or a completely unacceptable, reproductive option. It is critical not to give in to the pressure to stigmatize abortion as the one invalid reproductive choice among all the options facing a pregnant woman.
We all want to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, but there is no reason to single out abortion among all a woman's reproductive choices as the one choice which is somehow less valid or acceptable than childbirth, adoption, or other reproductive choices. Abortion is a valid personal decision within the continuum of health care.
Opponents of abortion often portray abortion as a negative problem that society should try to eliminate. While we work to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, abortion is a valid and acceptable reproductive choice. For most women who have made this choice, abortion is not the problem, but is a life-affirming solution to the problem of unplanned pregnancy.
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Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, abortion has become one of the safest medical procedures in the country. By keeping abortion legal, we help protect the lives and safety of women facing unplanned pregnancies.
While anti-abortion activists frequently claim that abortions are unsafe, in fact both surgical and medical abortion have extremely high rates of safety. 97% of women obtaining surgical abortion before 13 weeks report no complications; 2.5% have minor complications that can be handled at the medical office or abortion facility; and less than 0.5% have more serious complications that require some additional surgical procedure and/or hospitalization. Rates of adverse events for medical abortion are also very low.
In the back alley days of unsafe abortion in America before Roe v. Wade, the estimates of illegal abortions ranged as high as 1.2 million per year,1 although, of course, no accurate records could be kept of illegal procedures. What is known is that between the 1880s and 1973, many thousands of women died or suffered serious medical problems after attempting to self-induce their abortions or going to untrained practitioners who performed abortions with primitive methods or in unsanitary conditions. During this time, hospital emergency room staff treated thousands of women who either died or were suffering terrible effects of abortions provided without adequate skill and care. However, since the legalization of abortion, the risk of death resulting from abortion is many times less than a woman's risk of death during pregnancy and childbirth.
Countries that keep abortion legal keep abortion safe and, consequently, ensure the safety of women who choose to end their pregnancies. Unfortunately, abortion is not legal in every country. An estimated 68,000 women worldwide die each year from unsafe abortions.2
Women around the world are safer when governments recognize that the right to an abortion is a human right.
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Not only is abortion one of the safest medical procedures in the country, but it is also one of the most common. The belief that there's a certain "type" of woman who chooses abortion is as outdated as it is ignorant.
In fact, by age 45, over one-third of American women will have had an abortion. These women represent all racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, political, and religious backgrounds. They are women we know, and women we love. They are our sisters, our daughters, and our mothers.
Chances are, you either know and love a woman who has had an abortion... or you are one yourself. You are not alone, but are in the company of millions of women in this country who have had abortions and not regretted their choice.
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While those who oppose keeping abortion safe, legal, and accessible can be vocal and aggressive, they do not represent the majority of people in America.
National polls have consistently shown continued support for abortion rights over the years, with more people identifying as pro-choice than "pro-life." A strong majority (60%) of Americans have consistently and strongly voiced support of Roe v. Wade and keeping abortion legal over the past decade.
Most people support keeping abortion a choice for women, because most people understand the importance of respecting and protecting the lives of women.
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The abortion provider community is made up of medical professionals who are both highly skilled and uniquely dedicated to protecting the lives and health of women. Abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada treat patients with respect and provide women with the highest quality of care.
But abortion providers are much more than highly trained medical professionals: they are also heroes.
Abortion providers are on the front lines of the critical struggle to ensure that abortion is safe and accessible. They regularly defend women's lives and health against aggressive abortion opponents seeking to deprive women access to safe abortion care. Putting their lives on the line, abortion providers are the ones who make choice a reality for women.
In the face of past assassinations and ongoing violence and threats, abortion providers continue to display steadfast bravery and unwavering dedication to preserving women's lives and health.
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The ability to access safe and legal abortion has been critical for many women as they seek to define and live their lives with dignity. Honoring women means honoring their choices, including the choice of whether and when to have children.
Women are capable of making intelligent and conscientious decisions about their own lives and families. Women deserve the autonomy and dignity to act in accordance with their personal convictions, and to decide what is best for their own lives and families. Women should be trusted and respected to exercise the choices about their bodies and lives that are best for them, and not be forced by the government into personal reproductive decisions that are against their will.
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Abortion is a valid personal decision within the continuum of health care - a decision that ultimately belongs to each woman. It is more important than ever to honor, through words as well as through actions, the right of women to access their full reproductive health options with the autonomy and dignity they deserve.
Whether you are a woman who has had an abortion, know someone who has had an abortion, or you recognize the importance of keeping abortion safe, legal, and accessible, you can make a difference by speaking out for the importance of reproductive choice. Please share your story, join NAF's Patient Partnership, and sign up to receive Act for Choice Alerts to learn how you can speak out for abortion rights.
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1 Tietze C and Henshaw SK. Induced Abortion: A World Review, 1986. New York: The Guttmacher Institute, 1986.
2 The World Health Report 2005 - Make every mother and child count. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2005.