The Importance of Access to Safe and Legal Abortions


Abortion is generally defined as the elimination of pregnancy, thereby preventing the birth of a child. The termination of the pregnancy can occur naturally as a miscarriage or be handled practically. There are two types of abortions, induced and spontaneous abortions. If correctly conducted by a certified medical practitioner, abortion is regarded as one of the safest medical procedures. In many countries, abortion is criminalized, while it is legal and stated within the laws in some. When women are not entitled to safe and legal access to abortions, they engage in illegal abortion, which is unsafe in turn, causing maternal death. All over the world, the views about abortion vary depending on the laws and religious or cultural beliefs. Some are against this measure since they regard the fetus as a living thing with a right to life, while others support it as a public health measure. The rising cases of induced unsafe abortions need to be reduced, and this can be done by ensuring all women have access to safe and legal abortions.

Access to Safe and Legal Abortions

Abortion is a common health intervention that needs to be carried out by someone with the required skills to minimize the risks it might induce to the mother. In developing countries, unsafe abortions are majorly undertaken due to a lack of proper amendments to the laws which criminalize the act. In the World Health Organization’s 2021 report on abortion, around 73 million induced abortions are conducted annually (WHO). The organization also estimated that over 45 percent of the induced abortions were unsafe, leading to maternal health concerns and even death (WHO). One-third of this is believed to be undertaken by untrained persons who eventually use dangerous methods. Developing nations like those in Africa and Asia account for over 97 percent of unsafe abortions (WHO). Together with the already developed countries, these nations need to embrace and advocate for access to safe and legal abortions.

Government Policies

Each country’s respective government policies and laws are the significant directives that guide the criminalizing or legalizing of abortions. In Europe, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe member states passed several laws that guide the access to safe abortion for women in Europe. According to a 2018 report by the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, banning abortions does not reduce the practice, but rather it leads to secret abortions (PACE). These clandestine abortions are more dangerous and traumatic to the woman. In its plan to prevent the escalation of health issues and death caused by unsafe abortions, the parliamentary assembly urged the member states to decriminalize abortion if they had not yet done so.

In most European countries, the law permits abortion under specific conditions like economic and social reasons, in case of incest or rape, and mainly to preserve the mother’s mental and physical health. Governments need to have enough health care facilities and doctors well trained and equipped to undertake abortion procedures if dully required (PACE). The assembly notes that some member states of the Council of Europe lack doctors willing to perform the act, lack health care facilities, and where accessible, it is costly.

Legalizing Abortion

Abortion getting legalized will reduce the number of maternal deaths and health complications caused by the practice of unsafe abortions in secret. It is regarded to be a fundamental human right for women and girls. Criminalizing the procedure fuels stigma and is an act of discrimination against the female gender (Adair, and Lozano 3). Banning abortion did not reduce the practice, but instead, it made it more dangerous as the women now looked for alternative means, which were very unsafe. Legalizing abortion would ensure the health issues and death caused by unsafe abortions are reduced by at least 90 percent. When abortion is restricted, the untrained providers are given the green light to undertake unsafe procedures that are dangerous to the mother’s health and can even result in death (Qureshi et al.). Distress and stigma are caused when restrictions are put, thus limiting access to legal and safe abortion procedures by trained healthcare providers (Simkulet 911). The maternal injuries and death caused by unsafe and illegal abortion procedures are reduced significantly when access to legal and professionally performed abortions are conducted.

The restrictive abortion regulations constitute a violation of the human rights of girls and women, including the right to equality and non-discrimination. Additionally, restricting access to legal and safe abortions leads to the number of unsafe abortions increasing rapidly compared to where the procedures are legalized. Women who get denied abortions, especially those sexually abused, are more likely to suffer mental health issues than those who receive the act, hence the need to legalize abortion (Upadhyay et al. 48). In some cases, the fetus might be causing danger to the mothers’ health, and the only possible solution is to terminate the pregnancy. Without proper guidelines, the mother may end up dead since the doctors cannot conduct the procedure as it is against the country’s laws.

Restrictive laws on abortion hinder the operational performance of the medical personnel in providing primary quality care to the affected. The restrictions also prevent young girls and older women from seeking post-abortion care due to some complications due to unsafe and illegal abortions conducted before (Green 1). Lack of treatment, in this case, may lead to their death or make the conditions more severe. Fewer complications get experienced in places where abortion is criminalized compared to legal.

Women who require the procedure for personal reasons seek help from untrained personnel in secret since the government criminalizes the practice. More harm was caused to the women who sought unsafe abortion procedures, including severe bleeding, blood poisoning, severe damage to the genitals, and tearing of the cervix and uterine perforation (Green 3). Other long-term effects of this induced type of abortion include chronic pain and infertility, reproductive tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and miscarriages in subsequent pregnancies (Simkulet). The respective governments need to legalize this procedure and ensure safe and secure abortions, thus preventing the above issues from getting experienced by women. In Uruguay, the number of health complications and death caused by abortion was reduced to zero after the introduction of a law which made abortion legal, safe and accessible (Upadhyay et al. 54). Safe abortion, conducted by a professional, is not a danger to the woman; only unsafe procedures have severe consequences.

International human rights indicate that the decision involving one’s body is their alone, and no one has the right to decide for them. The woman needs to have the right to choose whether to undergo the abortion or not, thus exercising her rights. In some rare cases, the fetus may have some severe abnormalities like anencephaly, whereby the brain is missing, guaranteeing death before or immediately after birth (Simkulet 913). With abortion being accessible, legal, and safe, the mother can choose not to bring the fetus into the world by terminating it in the right and safest way. Having the right to choose abortion gives a woman the power to protect herself from financial disadvantage (Qureshi et al.). Most women below the poverty line opt to have abortions as they cannot support a child when born. There is no need for a child to be born and then suffer, hence the need for abortions to be legalized for such women who might not be ready to take care of kids. Figure 1 below shows the informal and formal abortion sector.

The informal and formal abortion sector
Figure 1: The informal and formal abortion sector

Criminalizing Abortion

Despite there being arguments for legalizing abortions, the plea faces some challenges. Some people advocate for the criminalization of abortion because of several reasons. Those who are for the legalization of abortion are referred to as pro-choice. Their argument is based on preventing women from seeking illegal and unsafe abortions by legalizing and providing safe abortions. The pro-life, on the other hand, oppose this motion and portray abortion as a way of committing murder (Adair, and Lozano 23). If the abortion does not pose any danger to the mother, it should not be practised. Abortion is murder as unborn babies are also considered human beings; hence abortion needs to be criminalized to prevent innocent souls from getting murdered. Another reason against the decriminalization of abortion is abortion may lead to future unforeseen medical issues for the mother, such as miscarriages and acquiring pelvic inflammatory diseases (PIV) (Qureshi et al.). With abortion getting legalized, the culture in which human life seems invaluable is cultivated. The only solution to ensuring human life is valued is by criminalizing abortion.

Pro-life Arguments

The pro-life are totally against legalizing abortions as it has devastating effects on the mother. In America, over 1.5 million families want to adopt a child hence the argument that there is an unwanted child seems vague (WHO). Adoption can accomplish the same result as abortion; thus, it is an option; thereby, illegalizing abortion is the proper procedure. Abortion cause pain and suffering to a creature that did not harm. In cases where the victim got raped, certain drugs are available and can prevent pregnancy; hence there is no justification for aborting since one had an option. Another reason for the illegalization of abortion is the resultant effect on the mother’s psychological health, causing stress and psychological pain (Qureshi et al.). In this modern society, one needs to get punished when taking another person’s life, and abortion is not much different.


Unsafe abortion practices lead to maternal health concerns and even death if the complications get more severe. The government policies and laws in any particular country give way forward on whether to legalize or illegalize abortions. In ensuring access to safe and legal abortions, the governments are responsible for formulating policies and laws that make the objective achievable. One most important step in ensuring there is access to safe abortion is the provision of qualified healthcare providers and equipping healthcare facilities with the necessary equipment.

Developing countries have most cases related to unsafe and illegal abortions due to the countries’ measures in criminalizing the procedure. With access to safe and legal abortion, maternal death and the emergence of health issues among women who went through unsafe and illegal abortions will be reduced. Women who risk and undergo unsafe abortions are risking getting future health problems like miscarriages. Although abortion is being advocated for, the pro-life are against it as the fetus has the right to live just like everybody else. Finally, if the government needs to increase access to safe and legal abortions and reduce the number of maternal deaths and health issues on the rise, abortion should be legalized.

Works Cited

Adair, Lora, and Nicole Lozano. “Adaptive Choice: Psychological Perspectives on Abortion and Reproductive Freedom.” Women’s Reproductive Health, vol 9, no. 1, 2022, pp. 1-26. Informa UK Limited, Web.

Chemlal, Sonia, and Giuliano Russo. “Why Do They Take The Risk? A Systematic Review of the Qualitative Literature on Informal Sector Abortions in Settings Where Abortion is Legal”. BMC Women’s Health, vol 19, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1-12. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. Web.

Green, Jaina. “Abortion Regulations: An Avenue for Abolishing Abortion?” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2021, pp. 2-5. Elsevier BV, Web.

PACE. “PACE – Resolution 1607 (2008) – Access To Safe and Legal Abortion in Europe”. Assembly.Coe.Int, 2008, Web.

Qureshi, Zahida et al. “Understanding Abortion-Related Complications in Health Facilities: Results from WHO Multicountry Survey On Abortion (MCS-A) Across 11 Sub-Saharan African Countries”. BMJ Global Health, vol 6, no. 1, 2021, p. e003702. BMJ, Web.

Simkulet, William. “Public Health, Induced Abortion, and Spontaneous Abortion.” Bioethics, vol 35, no. 9, 2021, p. 910-915. Wiley, Web.

Upadhyay, Ushma D. et al. “State Abortion Policies and Medicaid Coverage Of Abortion Are Associated with Pregnancy Outcomes among Individuals Seeking Abortion Recruited Using Google Ads: A National Cohort Study”. Social Science &Amp; Medicine, vol 274, 2021, pp. 47-55. Elsevier BV, Web.

WHO. “Abortion.” Who.Int, 2021, Web.

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