I Am an Abortion Rights Activist, Ending Violence.
Oriana López Uribe, Guest Contributor
It is difficult to write about any type of violence, but gender-based violence (GBV) poses many challenges that are unique. Despite the prevalence of stories survivors of violence have found the courage to tell, GBV still remains largely invisible. Many people consider abusive actions to be acceptable, and feel contempt toward individuals who don't conform to the social "ideals" of femininity or gender identity.
Though it might not fit the definition you'll find in the dictionary, it is my belief that GBV includes any action that denies a woman bodily autonomy. Latin America and the Caribbean have some of the most restrictive laws against abortion in the world. The denial of a right to choose when and if to have children constitutes an act of violence against women; using the law to create structural barriers to health services, they create a system that is designed to control what women can and cannot do.
Laws that restrict or ban abortion entirely prevent women from being able to decide whether they want or need the procedure. The authority to make this critical decision lies with medical and psychological personnel, the judicial system, and/or government officials. This undermines and invalidates a woman’s right to choose, increases gender inequality, and normalizes violence against women that is exercised by the State.
Restricting access to abortion results in many women seeking out abortions that are unsafe or performed in dangerous conditions. It also prevents women from seeking medical attention if they have complications after an illegal abortion. No woman should have to risk her life in order to end a pregnancy. It is unconscionable to allow a woman to endure physical harm or death simply because she wants to make her own decisions.
Numerous international agreements affirm women’s right to bodily integrity, to live free from discrimination, and to have access to sexual health and reproductive services, including safe and legal abortion. Despite the leadership of the global community, Latin America has been slow to change unjust laws that perpetuate violence against women.
As sexual and reproductive health and rights activists, we need to defend the rights of women to freely and safely exercise our sexuality. The right to safe and legal abortion is a necessary tool in the struggle to eliminate violence against women.