Long Read

Access to legal and safe abortion

Every year approximately 42 million women worldwide choose to have an abortion. More than half of these, a staggering 22 million, are unsafe, and 97% of these unsafe abortions occur in the developing world.  Around 47,000 women die annually as a result of unsafe abortions, making it one of the major preventable causes of maternal mortality, while an additional 5 million women suffer from long-term health complications. These statistics underline that unsafe abortion is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed in order to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity around the world.

There are several methods that help prevent unsafe abortions – however there are just as many social, religious and political obstacles that prevent these methods being implemented. To begin to overcome these obstacles, women need to be empowered to make decisions about their own bodies and claim their rights to contraception, safe abortion and post-abortion services – otherwise they will continue to risk their lives by undergoing unsafe abortions.

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The Simavi Approach

Our work on increasing access to safe and legal abortion is based on the three pillars of our Theory of Change:

Pillar 1: Empower women and communities

The first step in preventing unsafe abortions is to ensure that women are empowered to make decisions about their own bodies and prevent unwanted pregnancies. Therefore, Simavi raises awareness with every member of a community – women, girls, men and boys – on their sexual and reproductive health and rights. This includes comprehensive sexuality education and information about contraceptive choice and reproductive rights. Moreover, we raise awareness about the health risks of unsafe abortion and the rights and options women have to access safe abortion services.

Pillar 2: Create an enabling environment

Together with our local partners, Simavi works at multiple levels to create a supportive environment in which women are able to access contraception and legal abortion services. At the community level, we work with men and traditional and religious leaders to increase their understanding of the consequences of unsafe abortion and create awareness of women’s rights to access safe and legal abortion services. At the institutional level we strive to influence policies and increase the legal space to make safe abortion services available to all women. We support local CSOs in their advocacy towards governments and policymakers to 1) ensure laws and policies protect women’s health and rights, and 2) remove barriers that hinder access to, and timely provision of, safe abortion.

Pillar 3: Ensure access to safe abortion services and contraceptives

It is essential that women have access to sustainable, affordable and high-quality contraceptives and safe abortion services. Simavi creates demand for these services by empowering women and simultaneously improving the delivery of quality services and strengthening health systems. We ensure that health workers are trained on national safe abortion guidelines and are able to provide safe abortion services (when it is legal to do so). We also train health workers in post-abortion care to treat women who have undergone incomplete or unsafe abortions.

For a more information on our work to stop unsafe abortion, download the factsheet here.

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3 Questions

September 28th 2015 is marked as Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. We talked to Mirawati (Mira) about this topic. Mira is Director of IHAP, one of Simavi’s local partners in Indonesia working on the improvement of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.