Under “natural” circumstances, the average woman would get 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 womenaround the world continue to use ancient, illegal or risky home methods: Every year, 47,000 women around the world die due to botched abortions.
Why do they take the risk?
Across countries and religions, millions of women are blocked from 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 criminalized for tryingto abort; in El Salvador, even women suffering a miscarriage are being chargedwith homicide, facing prison sentences of up to 40 years.”
“It was December 17, 2014. I took a pregnancy test and it came out positive. I am gay; I don’t want to talk about how I got pregnant. I don’t know for sure if my grief for the abortion is over. I think about it once in a while, and sometimes I cry. Not much, though, and not because I regret it. I don’t. I know I made the right choice, and the only possible one. It was the hardest experience in my life. I am a different person now. And I’m proud of myself.” —Magdalena, 32, Poland.
In violation of patient confidentiality codes, doctors and healthcare providers have been known 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 acountry where abortion is illegal can find themselves incarcerated. And even in countries where abortion is legal, medical staff may risk their lives to performthe operation.
In 2016, for the first time in history, the Pope has allowed Catholic women who’veaborted to be forgiven. But while this may seem like a step forward, it perpetuates the stigma of guilt that surrounds women’s choices. In the meantime, politiciansexploit abortion as campaign currency; making reproductive issues a political matter, rather than a question of rights.
Laia Abril’s new long-term project A History of Misogyny is a visual researchundertaken through historical and contemporary comparisons. In her first chapter On Abortion (2016) Abril 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 present-day. Her collection of visual, audio and textual evidence weaves a netof questions about ethics and morality, and reveals a staggering series of social triggers, stigmas, and taboos around abortion that have been invisible until now.