28 September is International Safe Abortion Day, a day of action in support of the decriminalisation and destigmatisation of abortion everywhere. The campaign was launched in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1990 by the Campaña 28 Septiembre, a regional network of activist groups who have been organising activities in support of safe abortion around that date in the region ever since.
In 2011, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) declared 28 September as an international day and began to motivate activities in other regions.
In 2015, the name was changed to International Safe Abortion Day for two reasons. Firstly, there were two different names for the day used by two different international women’s groups, one from 1988 and the other from 2011. Both names were long and complicated and were being mixed up with each other on a regular basis. It seemed a good idea to drop them both and have a far simpler one that everyone could remember. Secondly, the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion had decided to apply for the action to become an official UN day and the new name was more appropriate for this purpose. There were 83 activities organised in 47 countries by national, regional and international NGOs and networks across the world. Even more importantly, three government ministries worked with NGOs in their countries to organise something for the day – Nepal, DR Congo and France.
In 2016, the priority theme was ‘Abortion is not a crime’ #notacriminal #nomoreprosecutions #trustwomen. The International Campaign called for abortion to be taken out of the criminal law, a moratorium on prosecutions, a release of all prisoners and universal access to safe abortion. They also asked the United Nations to recognise the day as an official UN day. In 2016 there was a range of activities in 55 countries globally. Importantly, UN human rights experts published a statement entitled “unsafe abortion is still killing tens of thousands of women around the world” and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa published a statement calling for abortion to be decriminalised in Africa in line with the Maputo protocol. (www.safeabortionwomensright.org)
In Australia, abortion remains a criminal offence in NSW and Queensland, although a new bill which decriminalises abortion and establishes safe zones around clinics is expected to be passed by Queensland Parliament by the end of this year. (www.sbs.com.au) Victoria, Tasmania, the NT, NSW and the ACT have all passed legislation establishing safe zones around clinics, although this is yet to happen in WA or SA. (theconversation.com)
We at Fremantle Women’s Health Centre believe that access to safe and affordable abortion is a necessary requirement for women in maintaining their reproductive health. Our Centre has been providing unplanned pregnancy counselling and medical termination of pregnancy at low cost since 2016. We are committed to ensuring our clients, and those who accompany them, feel safe in accessing the space and various services we provide at our Centre. We encourage people to recognise that reproductive health is a human right and we are proud of our provision of services and supports that promote improved health and wellbeing for women. The Centre supports the decriminalisation and destigmatization of abortion everywhere.
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Author: Jessie Marcotte