Written by: Yasmine Luhandjula

Growing up Catholic has made conversations about abortion rather uncomfortable for me. Surprisingly, the discomfort isn’t necessarily from the catholic church’s perspective on abortion laws but rather the fact that I consider myself a prominent human rights scholar who is avoiding an issue that clearly incites human rights violations. Truth is, I think I am scared of choosing a side. What if people from my church judge me for being on one side? What if my progressive feminist friends judge me for being on the other side? And what if I choose a side and end up regretting my decision?

These questions or rather fears pushed me to conduct research to consolidate my views on this topic, and the research made it so evident that whether I decide to choose a side or not, women and girls all over the world are, and will continuously be treated less than a human because they are not afforded abortion rights.

According to international human rights laws, denying women and girls access to abortion can amount to human rights violations such as the right to health, privacy and, in certain instances, the right to be free from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Research also shows that preventing women and girls from accessing abortion has only increased the rates of unsafe abortions. Those who resort to unsafe abortions risk prosecution and punishment, including imprisonment, and some may face cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment such as the exclusion from vital post-abortion health care. Moreover, international human rights laws clearly indicate that decisions about your body are yours and yours alone. Therefore, forcing someone to carry an unwanted pregnancy or forcing them to undergo an unsafe abortion is a violation of their human rights, and it inevitably intensifies social and gender inequalities.

I don’t really want to give my final stance on abortion laws because I think my views are still evolving. However, I cannot deny, or rather continue to avoid, the fact that abortion bans are against the basic principles of international human rights laws. Essentially, governments should, as obligated by international law, create and develop domestic laws that respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of pregnant persons.