The Importance of Safe and Legal Abortions in Healthcare – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology


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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms Fatima Farooq, a fourth-year medical student from Pakistan. It is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), a cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this article belong strictly to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IFMSA on the subject, nor that of The European Sting.


Abortion is the removal of pregnancy tissue, products of conception or the fetus and placenta (after birth) from the uterus. Abortion can be completed with medication or aspiration. A committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reviewed the available data and confirmed in its 2018 report that all forms of abortion, including medication and aspiration abortion, are safe and effective and that the only factors that decrease security are those that decrease access.

Comprehensive abortion care is included in the list of essential health services published by WHO in 2020. Comprehensive abortion care includes information provision, abortion management, and post-abortion care. Ensuring women and girls have access to evidence-based abortion care – which includes being safe, respectful and non-discriminatory – is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on good health and well-being and gender equality.

Many factors influence a woman’s decision to have an abortion. They include, but are not limited to:
• Contraceptive failure
• Barriers to contraceptive use and access
• Rape
• Incest
• Domestic violence
• Fetal abnormalities
• Illness during pregnancy
• Exposure to teratogenic drugs

Pregnancy complications, including placental abruption, bleeding placenta previa, preeclampsia or eclampsia, and heart or kidney conditions, can be so serious that abortion is the only measure to preserve the health of a child. a woman or to save her life.

Where abortion is illegal or highly restricted, women resort to dangerous means to end unwanted pregnancies, including self-inflicted abdominal and body trauma, ingestion of dangerous chemicals, self-medication with a variety of medications and the use of unqualified abortion providers. Today, around 21 million women worldwide obtain unsafe and illegal abortions each year, and complications from these unsafe procedures account for around 13% of all maternal deaths, or nearly 50,000 per year.

The physical health risks associated with an unsafe abortion include:

• Incomplete abortion (failure to remove or expel all pregnancy tissue from the uterus)
• Hemorrhage (heavy bleeding)
• Infection
• Uterine perforation (caused when the uterus is punctured by a sharp object)
• Damage to the genital tract and internal organs following the insertion of dangerous objects into the vagina or anus

Criminalization and restrictive abortion laws prevent health care providers from doing their jobs properly and providing the best care options to their patients, in accordance with good medical practice and their professional ethical responsibilities.

Access to safe abortion services is a human right. Under international human rights law, everyone has the right to life, to health and to freedom from violence, discrimination, torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Access to abortion is therefore fundamentally linked to the protection and respect of the human rights of women, girls and others likely to become pregnant, and therefore to the achievement of social and gender justice.

By facilitating access to safe abortion care, community-level workers can provide information about safe providers and provide referrals or escort women to safe and legal facilities.

References:
• https://www.health.harvard.edu/medical-tests-and-procedures/abortion-termination-of-pregnancy-a-to-z
• https://www.statpearls.com/ArticleLibrary/viewarticle/17038
• https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abortion
• https://www.who.int/health-topics/abortion#tab=tab_1
• https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/abortion-facts/
• https://www.acog.org/advocacy/facts-are-important/abortion-is-healthcare
• https://bmcwomenshealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12905-017-0391-1#:~:text=In%20facilitating%20access%20to%20safe%20abortion%20care%2C%20community%20level%20workers, facilities%20%5B14%2C%2015%5D.

About the Author

Mrs Fatima Farooq is a fourth year medical student from Pakistan.

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