Abortion took center stage as an issue women and men were interested in during this year's election cycle. A new report from the Guttmacher Institute, compiled based on data and policies from governments around the world, reports that the law is being used in several different ways to prevent women from making informed reproductive choices.
The United States is curtailing women's access to abortions at the same time that women in other nations are being compelled to have abortions against their will.
In China, a rural mother, Feng Jianmei, was photographed being forced into an abortion while seven months pregnant. Dissidents who have protested against the nation's policies of forced abortions, sterilizations, and even infanticide have been punished harshly—some have simply disappeared into the Chinese prison system.
China is not the first country to curtail people's reproductive freedoms by telling them that they could not have children. India and Peru have both had forced sterilization efforts on a massive scale. The United States also forcibly sterilized tens of thousands of women, often those with mental or physical disabilities or members of racial or ethnic minorities.
At the same time, according to the Guttmacher Institute, reproductive coercion has been occurring in other countries in a radically different direction. In Romania in the 1980s, government policies were so strict about forbidding abortion and encouraging reproduction that women were forced to schedule monthly gynecological examinations in order to ensure that they had not had an illegal abortion. Rates of illegal abortions still climbed, as did infant mortality and the number of children left in state care.
Turkey, Iran, and other culturally Muslim nations have also been spearheading efforts to curtail women's ability to get an abortion. Turkey almost made all abortions illegal earlier this year by allowing abortion only through 4 weeks of pregnancy—before most women even realize they are pregnant.
Iran, which had previously encouraged reproductive choice and family planning until it had become one of the Muslim nations with the highest rates of modern contraceptive use, has now begun to enact some anti-abortion legislation.
In the United States, too, abortion and contraception find themselves under intense scrutiny, particularly by conservative forces in federal and state legislatures. Evangelical Christians in the United States have led a “pro-life” movement dedicated to stamping out abortion, which they decry as murder. In many states, they have had a great deal of success limiting access to abortions and other reproductive health care by imposing waiting periods, notification requirements, and special building codes for abortion clinics.
One of the newest ways that conservatives have attempted to restrict abortion access is by requiring extensive abortion counseling, often with specific language to be used. In some cases, the language required by the state legislatures during abortion counseling contains misinformation, including information suggesting a correlation between abortions and breast cancer rates and infertility.
Sources: guttmacher.org, house.gov