Under ‘natural’ circumstances, the average woman would become pregnant about 15 times in her life, resulting in ten births. Seven of those babies would survive childhood.
For centuries, people have searched for ways to delay or terminate pregnancy. Today, safe and efficient means of abortion finally exist, yet women around the world continue to use ancient, illegal, and risky home methods. Every year, 47,000 women die due to botched abortions. Why?
Across countries and religions, millions of women are denied access to abortion technologies, by law and social coercion, and are forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will. Some are minors and rape victims. For many, the pregnancy is not viable or poses a health risk. But all can be criminalised for trying to abort; in El Salvador, even women suffering a miscarriage are charged with homicide, facing prison sentences of up to 40 years.
In violation of patient confidentiality codes, doctors and healthcare providers have been known to report women seeking illegal abortions, even when abortion is medically necessary to save the patient’s life. On the other hand, anyone who helps a woman abort in a country where abortion is illegal can find themselves incarcerated. And even in countries where abortion is legal, medical staff may risk their lives to perform the operation.
This year, for the first time in history, the Pope has allowed Catholic women who’ve aborted to be forgiven by any priest, anywhere. But while this may seem like a step forward, it perpetuates the stigma of guilt that surrounds women’s choices. In the meantime, politicians exploit abortion as campaign currency, making reproductive issues a political matter, rather than a question of rights.
Laia Abril’s project On Abortion documents and conceptualises the dangers and damages caused by women’s lack of legal, safe, and free access to abortion. Continuing with her painstaking research methodology, Abril draws on the past to highlight the long, continuous erosion of women’s reproductive rights to the present day. Her collection of visual, audio, and textual evidence weaves a net of questions about ethics and morality, and reveals a staggering series of social triggers, stigmas, and taboos around abortion that have been invisible until now.