Let’s march for abortion rights! We want to see you with your photographs and secular posters. This Saturday, Oct. 2, hundreds of thousands of women are mobilizing and marching to defend reproductive rights in the United States. The main Rally for Abortion is in the District of Columbia, but there are 600-plus sister marches near you. As the Supreme Court signals its willingness to allow draconian abortion bans and the Women’s Health Protection Act awaits action in the U.S. Senate, it is vital that we send a message to Congress and the high court that abortion rights are human rights. Please find a march near you so that we can make our secular voices heard. Let’s join in solidarity with the millions of women around the planet. Women across the world are demanding their right to an abortion in the face of religious-backed abortion restrictions. Earlier this week in Latin America, thousands of women held signs with slogans such as “It is my right to decide” and “Legal abortion for health and life.” The overwhelming majority of women in Latin America and the Caribbean, a heavily Roman Catholic region, live in countries with restrictive abortion legislation. And while abortion restrictions are loosening in nations such as Argentina, Chile and Mexico, countries such as El Salvador imprison women for up to 40 years for abortions and even miscarriages. However, abortion care isn’t only restricted in Latin America. While more than 95 percent of girls and women of reproductive age in Europe have access to abortion on demand, Poland, a strongly Catholic country, outlaws abortion in practically very instance. Malta, Monaco and Liechtenstein also have stringent abortion restrictions. In Asia, only 17 out of 50 countries and territories allow abortion care without restrictions, while countries such as Iraq, Laos, and the Philippines ban abortion for any reason. And nearly all African women live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. At home, abortion is in extreme peril after the Supreme Court refused to end a draconian ban in Texas that denies abortions after just six weeks of gestation, as well as deputizes ordinary citizens as abortion bounty hunters. This is in direct contrast with international and regional human rights treaties and national constitutions around the world that assert abortion is a fundamental human right. The U.N. Human Rights Committee has asserted that access to abortion and prevention of maternal mortality are human rights. However, anti-choice governments inspired by religiously rooted ideology have cruelly denied women their bodily autonomy to 41 percent of the world’s women. These restrictive abortion laws and the inability to access safe and legal abortion care have an impact on 700 million women of reproductive age. In fact, the World Health Organization has found that 23,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions, while tens of thousands more experience significant health complications. This is not because abortion is dangerous. Rather, abortion is an extremely safe procedure that results in less than one-fourth of 1 percent of major complications. However, when women are uneducated about their bodies, lack information about abortion access and care, as well as live in areas that shame, stigmatize and criminalize women for seeking reproductive health care, women may end up in life-threatening situations. Indeed, places with more abortion restrictions have higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. There is no medical or scientific reason to deny abortion care. Furthermore, women who are forced to carry their pregnancy are 14 times more likely to die during childbirth than those who receive an abortion. All this is why we need to mobilize in defense of abortion rights. If you attend a march, we would love to see photos of your secular posters! Send them to us by tagging @FFRF on twitter for possible inclusion in a future blog post. Whether you are able to march on Saturday or not, please call your senators now and demand that they support the Women’s Health Protection Act — a vital piece of legislation to protect abortion care, access and providers.
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BARBARA ALVAREZ is the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s inaugural Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern, a program set up to memorialize FFRF’s principal founder, who was an early abortion rights activist and author of the book Abortion is a Blessing. Barbara was a major winner in FFRF’s essay competition for graduate students, writing about the bible’s role in the abortion battle.
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