Abortion and Mental Health
Every year, between 2010 and 2014, there were about 55 million abortions, of which around 55%, that is, 25 million, were unsafe. These are a major contributor to maternal mortality and put women in risk of legal prosecution, stigmatization, and extreme morbidity.
According to the World Health Organization, abortion is the loss of the fetus before it is viable, and unsafe abortion is “a procedure for termination of a pregnancy done by an individual who does not have the necessary training or in an environment not conforming to minimal medical standards” (Ganatra et al., Bull World Health Organ 92:155, 2014). Around 97% of these occur in developing nations, located in Asia, Africa, or Latin America (WHO Worldwide, an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions occur each year. Press release: http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/28-09-2017-worldwide-an-estimated-25-million-unsafe-abortions-occur-each-year). Recently, a distinction between “less unsafe” and “unsafe” was introduced, to make way for a correct appraisal of medical abortion and manual vacuum aspiration the less unsafe alternatives (Ganatra et al., Lancet 390:2372–2381, 2017).
Pregnancy and postpartum have been recognized as periods when the well-being of the woman is challenged by several physical, social, and psychological demands. Even as maternity and motherhood have been romanticized in most cultures, it is currently understood nowadays that pregnancy does not protect from mental illnesses and that special attention must be paid to the woman’s health, both physical and mental, during the perinatal period in order to insure favorable outcomes for mother and child.
It is then only logical that women have demanded the access to safe and voluntary motherhood, since the days of the first population conferences. The Beijing Platform for Action recognized that equal access to the highest attainable level of health is a strategic need for women to attain equality. This level of health can only be achieved if there are information and services for women to “have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so” (Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Sept 1995. p. 95. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/pdf/BDPfA%20E.pdf).
KeywordsAbortion Gender Mental health Sexual and reproductive rights Social determinants of health Perinatal mental disorders
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