Across the United States, lawmakers are pushing new abortion restrictions—even near-total bans. A new report by Planned Parenthood shows that in 2021, over 500 anti-abortion laws have been introduced across 44 states.
In Ohio, lawmakers are attempting to make abortion a felony. In Idaho, a proposed law would ban abortion as early as six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant. And a law passed last month in Arkansas allows abortion only if a woman’s life is at risk.
These laws are flagrantly unconstitutional. Those that have been signed into law have been immediately challenged in court. However, opponents of choice think they have reason for optimism.
Before he left office, former President Trump confirmed more than 200 federal judges, including two Supreme Court justices. Now, anti-choice advocates think these conservative judges will overturn Roe v. Wade and allow sweeping restrictions on abortion care. And Mitch McConnell has threatened to pass additional abortion restrictions if Republicans take back the Senate in 2022.
It's important to remember that right now, abortion is still legal in all 50 states. But while these laws make their way through the courts, let’s look at lessons from around the world on the impact restrictive abortion laws have on women.
Abortion bans don’t stop abortion
Women still want and get a abortions even when they are legally restricted. Where legal abortion care is unavailable, women are forced to turn to unsafe options or travel further for safe care. Abortion bans just put women’s lives at risk by driving them to less safe methods without doing anything to reduce the number of abortions performed.
The statistics show that there are more unintended pregnancies in countries that restrict abortion than in countries that don’t and the actual abortion rate in those countries is similar to or even higher than in countries where it’s legal.
Guttmacher research reports that in countries where abortion is restricted, the abortion rate has increased over the past 30 years, from 36% in 1990–1994 to 50% in 2015–2019. When women seek to control their own bodies, they are punished by these restrictive laws.
MSI team member Bárbara Pérez helps prevents unsafe abortion by educating rural midwives about contraception.
Abortion bans punish women for making their own choices
Many of the countries where MSI works restrict abortion. Mexico is one such country: While abortion is legal in Mexico City and Oaxaca, women from other parts of the country have few options. They’re forced to travel long distances to find safe care, carry pregnancies they don’t want—or seek out unsafe abortions.
Bárbara Pérez, an MSI team member from Mexico, sees the consequences every day. She works in Chiapas, a region of extreme poverty where women are often forced to turn to desperate measures.
“On many occasions women do practices like sticking wires to themselves to interrupt the pregnancy. We have had cases where women have taken a pesticide in the fields when they found out they were pregnant.”
Over the past decade, Bárbara has seen the culture start to change in Chiapas: While abortion was once entirely taboo, now, women are starting to discuss it openly. But restrictive laws mean they still have no safe options for controlling their own bodies and futures.
New state-level abortion bans would hurt women
No woman should have to go through the dangers of unsafe abortion. Not in Mexico, not in the United States, not anywhere. We see every day how unnecessary restrictions on abortion make it harder for women to control their own destinies
We urge the courts to take a stand against the new restrictions being proposed by states across the country. Safe, legal abortion gives women control over their own bodies and futures, and this essential right must be protected.