• Cabbagetown Women's Clinic

In control: Why a woman's reproductive rights matter for everyone

When a woman has the freedom to fully exercise her sexual and reproductive rights, this brings with it important and lasting benefits for herself, her society, and the planet at large.



The biological fact that human life is created in the female body means that women carry the burden of pregnancy termination.


As an abortion care provider, I’ve witnessed how my patients negotiate this burden in their minds and bodies. I’ve seen their turmoil during counselling; the physical scars they may have; and the tears that come with self-forgiveness and gratitude.


However, when it comes to ensuring a woman’s reproductive rights, this should not be her burden to carry alone. Creating an open society that allows for a woman to govern her body and make decisions about her own reproductive health is a shared responsibility with benefits for society as a whole.


Human and reproductive rights affect us all

In 1945, the United Nations Charter began paving the road for human rights. Later, in 1968 the Proclamation of Tehran set the ideal to reproduction rights, stating,: “Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and the spacing of their children.” Since then, numerous charters, international conference documents and policies have been established to acknowledge and safeguard a woman’s freedoms, safety and sexual and reproductive rights.

Yet these rights are frequently threatened, contested or violated in various parts of the world. In the not so distant past, post-natalist policy in dictatorships like Romania, completely erased women’s reproductive rights, leading to catastrophic consequences such as soaring illegal abortion, overpopulation of orphanages and a neonatal HIV crisis. In present day Poland, its near-total abortion ban has sparked new rounds of protests. In future, one of the most feared effects of a Republican-dominated US Supreme Court is the partial or full reversal of Rowe vs. Wade, which will bring with it a regression in abortion rights across all states.

There is some good news, however. Argentina recently became the largest Latin American country to legalize elective abortion. And in the US, the Biden administration has so far been able to claw back on restrictions to abortion access domestically and abroad, set in place by the former President Donald Trump.

Improving reproductive rights is a marker of a nation’s progress and development. Of all countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, 93% lie within the developing world. [1] This is in contrast to almost all countries in Europe and North America, as well as in several countries in Asia, most of whom have liberal laws.


More developed nations, along with having greater wealth production, take better care of their citizens. Letting women have control over their life-giving bodies helps their societies produce healthier, more functional future generations.

Allowing women to control their reproduction also helps our planet

Never have we been more connected in our human experience as we are now in the COVID era. But the global pandemic isn’t our biggest problem.

With the world’s population at 7.6 billion and growing, our capacity to destroy the Earth through over-farming, deforestation, water pollution, global warming and eutrophication, is outpacing our capacity to sustain it, despite our accelerating technological progress.

Our population growth is projected to reach over 8 billion by 2025, then 9 billion by 2040, and 11 billion by 2100. [2][3] Any solution for humanity’s looming existential crisis that does not address this issue is bound to fail.

Sir David Attenborough, in a 2012 interview with the Independent on the world’s surging population and the implications for the environment, said: “The only ray of hope I can see – and it's not much – is that wherever women are put in control of their lives, both politically and socially; where medical facilities allow them to deal with birth control and where their husbands allow them to make those decisions, birth rate falls. Women don't want to have 12 kids of whom nine will die."

Managing population growth is vital to our survival, despite the economic implications that a decreasing percentage of young people may bring. Population control has to be just fast enough to avoid environmental catastrophe and slow enough to allow for a working-age population to care for its elderly.

Access to contraception, abortion and prenatal care is the best strategy to gradually reduce human population growth, allowing for a voluntary decline in birth rate. In the developed world, reproductive rights have already led to a decrease in population growth. In Canada, for example, the fertility rate is approximately 1.53 children per couple (below the rate required to maintain population) but the rate of immigration is maintaining population growth. [4]

Even in the US, where population growth is ongoing due to both immigration and fertility rate, the population growth rate is declining (reaching 0.6% in 2019 which is the lowest rate in a century). [5]

As individuals practice more control over their reproduction, their society can optimize the health of the next generation as well as gradually decrease its burden on the environment.

Reproductive rights offer many benefits to us all

Upholding and optimizing reproductive rights is essential for a woman’s health and happiness. By ensuring she has access to the full range of reproductive care, from contraception to abortion, a society affirms her freedoms, equality and ability to chart the course of her own future.

  • Improving access to contraception avoids unwanted pregancies and results in a decrease in abortion rates.

  • Legalized, accessible abortion is safer, resulting in less infections, less scars, and decreased risk of death, and healthier subsequent pregnancies.

  • Improving access to abortion decreases the emotional and physical suffering of women, allows them greater independence from abusive partners, and closer attachments with their existing or future children.[6]

  • Access to high-quality prenatal care improves the health of mothers and newborns, allowing them both to contribute to our economy.

It also advances a society’s development, which brings with it a limitless array of benefits for all its citizens. Finally, reproductive rights decrease society’s burden on the planet, paving the way for humanity’s survival.


#reproductiverights #womensrights #humanrights #sexualhealth #abortionaccess

References

  1. Susheela Singh, Lisa Remez, Gilda Sedgh, Lorraine Kwok and Tsuyoshi Onda. Abortion Worldwide 2017: Uneven Progress and Unequal Access, Guttmacher Institute.

  2. The Balance Small Business. The Environmental Impacts of Overpopulation

  3. United Nations. World Population Prospects 2019

  4. World Population Review. Canada Population 2021

  5. World Population Review. United States Population 2021

  6. The Turnaway Study

Additional reading

  1. In the age of climate crisis, childbearing has become a fraught question for couples around the globe, BBC.com

  2. To Have or Not to Have Children in the Age of Climate Change: Dispatches from one millennial's uterus, Sierra


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302 Gerrard St. East, Toronto

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