How can I get access to safe abortion

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When a woman is faced with an unwanted pregnancy, she should be able to get a safe and legal abortion. But laws about abortion differ from one country to another:

Legal abortion: If abortion is legal a woman can walk into a health center or hospital, pay a fee, and have a safe abortion. In countries where this happens, almost no women get sick or die from complications of abortion.

Legal abortion in some cases: In some countries an abortion is only legal for certain reasons, such as:

  • if a woman becomes pregnant from rape or incest (sex with a close family member).
  • if a doctor says pregnancy would be a danger to a woman’s health.

But abortion is often difficult to get, even for those reasons. Doctors and health workers may not be sure what the law really says. They may be unwilling to do abortions openly, or they may charge a lot of money. Women may not know if abortion is legal or available in their country.

Legal or not, it can be hard to get a safe abortion because it is too costly, too far away, or because there are confusing rules, or papers to fill out. These reasons often make it especially difficult for women who are poor, or who are not familiar with the medical system, to get safe abortions. Unfortunately, in many places, the only women who can easily get a safe abortion are women who can afford to pay a private doctor.

Illegal abortion: If abortion is not legal, both the women who get abortions and those who perform them can be arrested. In most places this does not happen. But where abortion is against the law, more women die from unsafe abortion and unsafe pregnancies. Money that could be spent on women’s health services is spent instead on treating complications of unsafe abortion.

IMPORTANT: Never assume abortion is illegal. Try to find out about the laws in your own country. It may be easier to work around the laws than to try and change them. Even if abortion is illegal, there may be people providing safe abortions. Finding a safe abortion may mean the difference between staying alive and dying.

  • Burns, A. A., Niemann, S., Lovich, R., Maxwell, J., & Shapiro, K. (2014). Where women have no doctor: A health guide for women. Hesperian Foundation.
  • Audiopedia ID: en020206