Research – Chemia

Restrictive Abortion Laws, Suppressor of Human Life

Restrictive abortion laws, as venomous scorpions, sting the ones who are barefoot. For centuries, women who have the will to terminate their pregnancy have found access to abortion even if it means accessing to clandestine procedures and exposing themselves to death. Punitive abortion laws are among the most abstract, pure representations of economic exclusion that selfishly feeds on the vulnerability of women who belong to low socio-economic status.  Women who cannot afford to protect themselves are destined to die stabbed by the lethal and poisonous weapons of the arachnid predators, restrictive abortion laws.

In an attempt to protect the lives of unborn children, multiple political and legislative systems have adopted restrictive abortion laws. These laws are more common in developing countries than in industrialized nations. Most developed nations have liberal abortion laws that allow women to access legal and safe abortions under certain conditions that vary from nation to nation. On the other hand, many countries – mostly developing countries-  have stablished restrictive abortion laws in an attempt to reduce abortion rates and protect the lives of unborn children. Even though restrictive abortion laws seem to be a rational solution to protect the right to life, these laws tend to lead women to access unsafe abortions. The legislative systems that adopt restrictive abortion laws need to assess whether these laws are useful at the moment of dealing with social and ethical issues or not. Restrictive abortion laws are an abstract form of social injustice that affect society silently, degrade the integrity of women, and devaluates human life itself. If these laws fail to fulfill their fundamental goal of protecting human life and have negative effects on society, restrictive abortion laws might not be worth.

Abortion practices are often religiously and socially stigmatized. These procedures are often referred to as cruel practices that consist in taking away the lives of innocent unborn children. In the article “Why is abortion immoral,” Don Marquis, a professor of philosophy at the University of Kansas, states that what makes abortion wrong is that it deprives unborn children from enjoying future experiences of life. Legalizing abortion is often considered to be tremendously immoral because it allows people to legally kill their own specie. Human beings have the inherent right to life regardless of their stage of development. For that, it is argued that no one should be allowed to decide whether other deserves to live or not, especially when it comes to taking away the lives of unborn children that are unable to make decisions of their own. Human life should be respected by the law because there is nothing more valuable than experiencing life itself. However, when it comes to restrictive abortion laws, one should take into account human life in general instead of focusing only on the lives of the unborn children. Although abortion deprive unborn children from living, restrictive abortion laws suppress both the lives of unborn children and those of women.

Different from common belief, restrictive abortion laws are unable to reduce abortion rates. According to Susana Lerner and Agnès Guillaume, data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that around 19 million interrupted pregnancies were performed outside the legal system in the 2000s. Restrictive abortions laws do not ensure the disappearance of abortion practices in society. It is estimated that among the illegal abortions performed in the 2000s, around 4 million induced abortions were performed in Latin American countries, regions that present one of the higher abortion rates in the world and where restrictive abortion laws are more severe. Many women who want to terminate their pregnancies find access to these procedures regardless of its legal status in order to satisfy their needs. Abortions rates in nations with less restrictive abortion laws suggest that liberalizing abortion does not increase its demand. In an article published by the WHO, it is argued that the Netherlands, where abortion is free and legally permitted, has one of the lowest abortion rates worldwide – around 5 abortions per 1000 women. We need to get rid of the misconception that abortion rates are more likely to be higher in nations with liberal abortion laws than in those with restrictive laws. In the article “Unsafe Abortion: Unnecessary Maternal Mortality,” it is argued that in European nations where abortion is legal, abortions rates are lower than those in developing countries where abortion is legally restricted. Belgium and Germany, where abortion is legally available, have two of the lowest abortion rates in the world – less than 10 per 10000 women access legal abortion. On the other hand, in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, regions where abortion is severely penalized, around 39 per 1000 women access illegal abortion. If abortion rates are higher in countries where abortion is penalized than in those with more liberal laws, restrictive abortion laws seem to be unable to reduce abortion rates, which means that these laws are useless when it comes to protecting the lives of unborn children.

Restrictive abortion laws lead women to access unsafe abortion. In the Article “Unsafe Abortion: The Preventable Pandemic,” it is stated that countries with the most restrictive abortion legislations have the highest unsafe abortion rates – around 23 clandestine procedures per 1000 women- while countries where abortion is legally allowed have a median unsafe abortion rate as low as two per 1000 women. The fact that restrictive abortion laws cause more unsafe abortions must be taken into account by legislative and political systems. Legal abortion involves public health policies.Liberalizing abortion is an important step to decrease unsafe abortion rates and provide dignified and hygienic medical procedures to women who seek to terminate their pregnancy. The governments in countries where abortion is restricted by law must understand that these laws put millions of women at risk during clandestine procedures. Unsafe abortion has to be treated with the seriousness it deserves by the different systems that assume commitments to legislative representation and public health. When thousands of women are forced into accessing clandestine abortions, the legal system is the one that fail. Women are the ones who pay the bill with their lives, their physical integrity, and their freedom.

Many women from nations with liberal abortion laws are unable to access legal, safe abortions because of the pressure that religion and society puts on them. In the article “Abortion in Italy, a Right Wronged,” it is stated that even though abortion is legal in Italy, many women find it difficult to access abortion as if they were in countries where abortion is restricted by law. The political proxy of Catholicism in this country has a great influence on the fact that most Italian gynecologists refuse to perform abortions even when it is allowed by the law. Women who are unable to access legal, safe abortion seek access to unsafe procedures in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Ilaria Maria Sala states that while an approximate of 100,000 abortions are performed inside the legal system, around 20,000 clandestine, unsafe abortions are performed annually in Italy. Unsafe abortionslead many women to risk their lives because these practices are usually performed by unskilled providers and under unsanitary settings. Even if it is allowed for gynecologists to decide whether to perform abortions or not, it is intolerable that women are exposed to death when it is completely unnecessary. In this case, the Church is the one that forces women to seek access to unsafe abortion. Otherwise, Liberal abortion laws would provide women with skilled providers and hygienic settings that would decrease the risks they take of losing their lives during clandestine abortions.

In this paper, we must forget about the myth that makes society believe that the legalization of abortion would cause more women to abort only because it is legal. The purpose of abolishing restrictive abortion laws is not to adopt the idea that abortion is ethical because it is legal, but to transform unsafe procedures into safe ones. The author of “The incidence of Unsafe Abortion: a global review” states that “unsafe abortion rates in developing regions with restrictive abortion laws are about twice as high as that in Western Europe, the region with one of the lowest rates of abortion in the world.” In developing nations where abortion laws are highly restrictive, women tend to look for clandestine providers despite the fact that unsafe abortion could lead them to suffer life-lasting health issues and death.Abortion is more likely to be safe when performed under medically recommended guidelines. However, when legal and safe procedures are not accessible, especially in developing countries where abortion is illegal, women are more likely to access clandestine procedures that expose them to undignified deaths. Women continue to die worldwide due to clandestine abortions fomented by these restrictive, harmful regulations, and by parliaments incapable of prioritizing women’s lives over the belief that restrictive abortion laws are useful when it comes to reducing abortion rates and protecting human life.

The fundamental question is not whether abortion should exist or not. Women have accessed illegal abortion and unfortunately will continue to do so regardless of its legality. The question is whether governments and legislative systems should impose laws that cause abortion-related maternal mortality rates to increase in an attempt to protect and highlight the value of human life. Maternal mortality and morbidity resulting from clandestine abortion is a public health concern that continues to cause havoc in nations with restrictive abortion laws. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), restrictive abortion laws lead women to access clandestine abortion. Unfortunately, around 20 million unsafe abortions are performed annually – most of them in developing countries. Clandestine procedures result inapproximately 80,000 maternal deaths per year. It is outrageous that the governments in developing countries where abortion is penalized adopt punitive laws that are ineffective in exterminating abortion and cause the death of millions of women. Abortion-related maternal mortality is unnecessary and could be prevented by more liberal abortion laws. According to Iqbal Shah, a Research Scientist in the Department of Global Health and Population in Harvard, and Elisabeth Ahman, a specialized researcher in human reproduction, the contemporary medical advances and the availability of manual vacuum aspiration make induced abortion one of the safest medical procedures available. They also argue that abortion-related complications can be reduced if women have legal access to safe abortion. We have the resources available to reduce abortion-related maternal mortality and morbidity, the question is why legislative systems legally forbid women to use these resources and let them die during unsafe abortions. If restrictive abortion laws fail to protect the lives of unborn children, governments still have the choice to adopt policies that protect the lives of women who access these procedures.

The legislative systems of developing and industrialized countries where abortion is legally penalized treat women exclusively. In many cases, the socio-economic status of women who are willing to interrupt their pregnancy is one of the greatest determinants when accessing safe abortions outside the legal framework. Restrictive abortion laws cause an enormous, tacit discriminatory dilemma that tends to affect more women who belong to lower socio-economic classes than those belonging to higher socio-economic classes. According to Susana Lerner and Agnès Guillaume, a study conducted in the poorest rural areas of Latin America nations indicates that about 73% of women who are part of the most marginalized communities practice self-induced abortions or obtain abortions from non-professional medical personnel. Low-income women are more likely to risk their lives during unsafe abortions because abortion services performed outside the legal system are usually unaffordable for them. The social inequality suffered by low-income women who want to terminate their pregnancy is what creates the need to claim social justice. Punitive abortion laws implicitly deny the right to life to millions of women who lose their lives during barbarous clandestine abortions. The social injustice created by restrictive abortions laws represses society, destroys trust, and irremediably ruins the lives of women. We need to fight against social injustice through consistent political action in order to eliminate restrictive abortion laws that murder millions of women and devaluate human life itself. Women who belong to low socio-economic classes and women of high socio-economic status should have equal access to safe abortion.

Restrictive abortion laws, a form of economic discrimination in which low-income women have disadvantages when seeking access to illegal, safe abortion services. According to Ina Warriner,the possibility to access safe abortion services in countries with restrictive abortion laws highly depends on the capability of women to finance the access to safe, clandestine abortion. However, the author clarifies that many women of high socio-economic stills access unsafe abortions. The exclusion of low-income women from getting access to safe abortion results in a tremendous social injustice, one that puts their lives at risk in a demeaning manner. Susana Lerner and Agnès Guillaume state that studies in Peru, where abortion is legally allowed only under certain conditions, show that around 71% of the Peruvian women who experience fatal medical complications derived from clandestine abortions live in poor rural and urban areas while the remaining percentage, 29%, leads to women who belong to high socio-economic classes. Criminalizing abortion is putting life in the market so that those the more affluent population is the one that is able to finance safe abortions. The percent of Peruvian women who have health complications during unsafe abortions is surprisingly higher for women of low socio-economic status than for those of high socio-economic status. The lives of low-income women have to stop being devalued simply because of their socio-economic position.Restrictive abortion laws as an arbitrary power suppress the lives of women and their dignity. The value of human life is independent from the socio-economic hierarchy imposed in society. It is unacceptable for us to allow legislative and political systems to adopt punitive laws that implicitly put a price on human life.

Restrictive abortion laws illustrate social inequality in its maximum expression because they inevitably aggravate the social condition of women belonging to the most vulnerable communities by depriving them of their fundamental rights. Women should be equally protected by the legislative system regardless of their socio-economic status. In the article “Abortion and Maternal Mortality in the Developing World,” the author, Friday Okonofua, states that many women of low socio-economic status are unable to afford abortions services by skilled providers in countries where abortion is severely restricted by law. Criminalizing abortion makes access to safe abortion almost impossible for low-income women because the costs of abortions are more likely to increase when driven outside the legal system. The reason why the costs of abortion increase in regions where it is restricted by law is that skilled providers could face legal issues that put at risk their professional career when agreeing to perform abortion practices illegally. Because of that, these providers are likely to ask for a relatively great amount of money to make an agreement with women who need access to illegal, but safe abortions. In other words, women who are part of nations with restrictive abortion laws have access to safe procedures as long as they are able to afford these procedures.

Abortion-related maternal mortality and morbidity are implicit consequences of restrictive abortion laws that has to stop being invisible for governments that criminalize abortion. The legality of abortion should be handled politically because of its implications, from putting the lives of women at risk to social inequality. According to Iqbal Shah and Elisabeth Ahman, around 192 women die every day due to medical difficulties that arise from clandestine abortion in developing countries. Because restrictive abortion laws make it unnecessarily difficult for women to access safe abortion, an approximate of eight women die every hour in an attempt to terminate their pregnancy. High priority of the legislative and political system should be given to the access to a decent and affordable health system instead of implicitly compelling women to decide between life and death. Even though legal access to abortion might be unable to completely exterminate unsafe abortion, it is a step to reduce unsafe abortion rates, which would result in improvements in the quality of the medical services available. The negative effects of unsafe abortion on the public health system has progressively been recognized internationally. Iqbal Shah and Elisabeth Ahman state that the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) defined unsafe abortion as “a major public health concern” that requires all governments and organizations to “strengthen their commitment to women’s health.” It is important to take into consideration abortion-related maternal mortality and morbidity so that governments and international organizations can establish new possible policies that protect the lives of women who risk their lives during clandestine abortion.

To be in favor of the legalization of abortion is different from accepting abortion an ethical choice. The problem with restrictive abortion laws is that they lead women to access unsafe abortion instead of reducing abortion rates. Restrictive abortion laws are unnecessary causes of abortion-related maternal mortality and morbidity. Women in developed countries where abortion is legally allowed access these procedures without increasing their demand. If the fundamental problem is that women access abortion, restrictive abortion laws are unable to prevent the access to these procedures regardless of its legality. Criminalizing abortion is an abstract form of economic exclusion in which women of low socio-economic status are more likely to access unsafe abortions because most of them are unable to finance illegal, safe abortions. It is unnecessary for governments to adopt punitive abortion laws that fail to protect the lives of unborn children while putting at risk the lives of women. Those ineffective punitive laws urge to be replaced by policies that actually work as preventive causes of abortion. Until such policies are available, legal systems should abolish restrictive abortion laws in order to protect the lives of women who risk their lives during clandestine, unsafe abortions.


  1. Lerner, Susana., and Agnès Guillaume. “Las Adversas Consecuencias De La Legislación Restrictiva Sobre El Aborto: Argumentos y Evidencias Empíricas En La Literatura Latinoamericana.”Alapop,  2008.
  2. World Health Organization.  “World Health Day: Safe Motherhood, Unsafe Abortion.” Geneva: World Health Organization, 1998.
  3. Haddad, Lissa B., and Nawal M. Nour. “Unsafe Abortion: Unnecessary Maternal Mortality.”  Ostet. Gynecol, 2009, 2(2): 122-126.
  4. Grimes, David A. et al. “Unsafe Abortion: the preventable pandemic.” Lancet,2006; 368: 1908-19.
  5. Okonofua, F. “Abortion and Maternal Mortality in the Developing World“.J Obstet Gynaecol Can, 2006;28(11):974–979
  6. Don Marquis . “Why abortion is immoral,”The Journal of Philosophy, 1989, pp. 183-202.
  7. Shah, I., and Elisabeth Ahman. “Unsafe Abortion: Global and Regional Incidence, Trends, Consequences, and Challenges.” Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 
  8. Singh, S. “The Incidence of Unsafe Abortion: A Global Review.Guttmacher Institute, 2006.
  9. Sala, Ilaria Maria. “Abortion in Italy, a Right Wronged.”The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Nov. 201710
  10. Warriner IK and Shah IH, eds., Preventing Unsafe Abortion and its Consequences: Priorities for Research and Action, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2006. pp. 1-14.


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