by Terry Bellamak

 2020 has seen some action on the reproductive rights front. Like decriminalisation:

  • In March New Zealand decriminalised abortion and aligned it with other health care.
  • Argentina just passed a law decriminalising abortion up to 14 weeks. It is widely expected to embolden activists all over Latin America to persuade their countries to do the same.
  • In South Korea, a Constitutional Court ruling from 2019 held that the 1953 criminal code ban on abortion was unconstitutional, if the legislature failed to revise it by 31 Dec 2020, then the provisions that criminalise abortion would become null and void. They failed. So as of today abortion is legal in South Korea.

Every time a nation decriminalises abortion, it makes it easier for other nations to do the same. The norms around reproductive rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQI rights are changing, and every time a nation moves in the direction of greater freedom and equality it shifts the balance further. Bit by bit, the world becomes a fairer place.

There have been other international stories around abortion laws:

  • In Poland, the constitutional tribunal, after being stacked with supporters of the far-right PiS party, ruled that abortion was illegal in cases of fatal fetal abnormality. This ruling created a huge backlash from civil society, the scope of which surprised only the PiS party. The ruling has not come into effect.
  • In Malta, civil society is calling for an end to the farce of Maltese women travelling to other countries and paying top dollar for safe, routine health care, because their laws strictly prohibit abortion care.
  • In the USA, the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris has put the brakes on what many horrified onlookers thought would be a forced march to Gilead. The first change is expected to be the demise of the Hyde amendment, which bars the use of federal money to fund abortions through Medicaid, the medical provider of last resort for people in poverty.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic forced places like New Zealand, the UK and some American states to make telemedicine abortions widely available for the first time.

So 2020 hasn’t been all bad. Even so, we look forward to more progress in 2021.