International Safe Abortion Day 2013

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Activities for 28 September in 2013 included calls for legislative change, clarification of the law, demands that existing law be implemented fully, and for increasing access to and improvement of services. Some activities took place in countries where the subject of abortion is routinely debated, others where it has barely been spoken of in public, and where simply promoting an event with abortion in the title was in and of itself a step towards destigmatisation of abortion and breaking the taboo that surrounds it.

The planning and coordination came through the efforts of members of the Campaign organising themselves. They developed messages, set up their group pages, planned, and communicated events. A hefty part of the actions were promoted or carried out via social media channels, e.g. via Facebook and Twitter, including a Tweetathon that caught on throughout the world like fire, photo campaigns, online petition signing, Flash mobs, or infographics. The organizers’ creativity overflowed, as their activities spanned a wide range of actions, such as silent marches, candlelight vigil, songs and dances, flock songs, forum theatre, radio programmes, and intimate roundtables.

Wherever the activities took place, they were underpinned by the knowledge that safe abortion saves the lives of women and girls, and with the overarching purpose of ensuring that women have access to safe abortion wherever they live in the world. It is significant that in many countries where legislative change is a long way off, many of the activities focused on how to make illegal abortion safer – disseminating information about how to access and use misoprostol, and promoting safe abortion hotlines. Others highlighted the availability of services to manage complications of unsafe abortion and called for more of these.

Many of the activities got press coverage in national newspapers – helping to reach a wide audience with the message that safe abortion is a necessity and a right. What is clear from the list of activities and the map of where in the world these took place is that people are no longer prepared to wait for the small incremental changes that their governments may have promised, but seem not to have materialised. Nor will they continue to sit by and watch as their rights are stripped away. They will not be silent as another woman dies, another girl – pregnant as a result of rape – is denied an abortion, or another woman, parent or doctor is imprisoned for breaking punitive anti-abortion laws. Despite the urgent need for change, and the seriousness with which we are campaigning, it is great to see the creativity, and humour of campaigners shining through.

The 28 September Day of Action is proving to be a fantastic focal point for campaigners. The International Campaign aims to encourage that energy all year long, to bring about real change at country level, where change needs to happen most.