Reproductive justice

Article published at: Agora London Apr 16, 2024
Reproductive justice
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A Conversation on Health 

Can you believe it? Despite what many people think, abortion is still illegal in Britain, and incredibly, vulnerable women are still being criminalised for taking control of their own pregnancies.

You might be surprised to learn that the 1967 Abortion Act didn't actually legalise abortion entirely. It did make a significant step forward by partially decriminalising abortion in England, Scotland, and Wales. However, there were strict conditions in place. For instance, two medical practitioners had to confirm that the pregnancy hadn't gone beyond 28 weeks (later reduced to 24 weeks in 1990), or that the termination was crucial to prevent injury or mental harm. It's important to note that any abortion outside these criteria is still considered a criminal offence.

Decriminalisation of abortion across the UK.

In the UK today, abortion is still considered a criminal offence under the ancient 1861 Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA). Shockingly, this means that both women seeking abortions and those who assist them could potentially face life behind bars. But the tide is turning, with numerous organisations across the country rallying to remove abortion from the realm of criminal law.

Yet, it's astounding how little conversation there is around reproductive rights, especially within our educational institutions. While our educational system prioritises teaching sciences and enhancing students' mathematical knowledge, it appears less concerned about ensuring that young people, particularly women, are informed about their rights. Equipping young girls with knowledge about their rights is crucial for the development of our society and the achievement of women's well-being.

Reproductive rights encompass a spectrum of freedoms, including the right to abortion, access to contraception, protection from coerced sterilisation and access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare. Education is key to empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their reproductive choices.

Reproductive Health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines reproductive health as not just the absence of illness, but a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being regarding reproductive matters.

Reproductive justice advocates for the holistic well-being of women and girls, acknowledging the interplay of physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic factors, rooted in the full realisation and protection of women's human rights.

Gender equality

At the heart of achieving true gender equality lies women's autonomy over their own bodies. Limiting or denying women and girls' sexual and reproductive rights carries profound consequences for their individual lives, their families and communities. It's time to recognise and protect these fundamental rights.

In the UK and the US, the struggle for reproductive justice is ongoing. Despite some progress, such as the 1967 Abortion Act in the UK, outdated laws continue to undermine women's autonomy. Similarly, restrictive laws persist in the US.

Historically in the UK, convictions for illegal abortions have been rare, with only three women convicted between 1861 and November 2022 . However, the recent surge in convictions and pending trials is alarming. Since December 2022 in the UK, one woman has been convicted, and six individuals await trial. This increase signals a concerning regression in reproductive rights.

Global Data on Abortion Laws and Penalties.

An examination of 182 countries reveals that a significant number penalise various aspects of abortion. Specifically, 134 countries penalise individuals seeking abortions, 181 countries penalise abortion providers, and 159 countries penalise those assisting in abortions. While the maximum penalty typically ranges between 0 and 5 years of imprisonment in most countries, it can be substantially higher elsewhere. Additionally, some countries impose fines and professional sanctions on providers and assistants. Furthermore, 34 countries restrict the dissemination of information about abortion.

It's crucial that we continue to advocate for the protection of women's rights, remaining vigilant in the face of these challenges. Together, we can strive for a future where reproductive justice is upheld for all.

As I conclude, know that you are not alone on this path to better health and wellness. Your journey is unique but together we form a community of strength and support.

Let’s thrive together,

Cristina x


Sources and Data:

A global review of penalties for abortion-related offences in 182 countries-


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