13 May 2022

On the 3rd of May, like many others, I woke up to a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now, if I had a nickel every time I woke up to terrible news since the beginning of the year, I would probably be able to pay my energy bill this summer with it. But the U.S. on the road to outlaw abortion? Was I really surprised? No. Probably not. But am I thoroughly disappointed? Yes. Absolutely.

The debate surrounding abortions isn’t an American one. Poland largely outlaws abortions. In Italy, abortions are technically legal, but practically, accessibility is difficult. And Germany has legalised doctors informing their patients about abortion procedures only recently. It often seems like one step towards more autonomy when it comes to women’s reproductive rights – and two steps back right away. And this back and forth – as a quick Google search reveals – has been going on for a long time.

The first written record referencing an abortion is a more than 3,500-year-old Egyptian papyrus. The Stoics had an opinion on abortion and so did Aristotle. The ancient Greeks permitted – sometimes citing the mother’s levels of emotional immaturity as a reason – and outlawed abortions at different times. As did the Romans and the Christians later on. In Japan of the 17th century, abortion started to become more common among working class people for economic reasons. And in communist China, abortion was used to control population numbers.

Abortions have been happening for a very long time. And they have always been an immensely personal decision involving a mother’s wellbeing, readiness and safety. Abortions have also always been debated. Characteristically not by the women affected, but by men with a lot of audacity thinking that whether an abortion would be induced or not was ever their decision to make.

Whether women have used belts or herbs or hot coconuts or exercise or blood-letting or fasting or surgical procedures to abort foetuses over the centuries, abortions have happened. Whether men have outlawed them or not, abortions have happened. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to Handmaid’s Tale women’s reproductive rights, our bodies and our lives, abortions will happen. But the fact that self-proclaimed civilized countries choose to infringe on these rights in the first place and willingly endanger women through inaccessibility to safe procedures ­– well, that’s just heart-breaking.


  1. A.D. wrote on 14 mei 2022 at 11:18

    Leise makes the valid point that abortion has always happened, and that it therefore will always happen – whether or not it is legally forbidden.

    However, I beg to differ with Leise’s claim that it is the men who are against abortion. In the context of the current USA, the situation is way more nuanced. Gallup concluded that there is no gender gap in negative attitudes towards abortion. 19% of women and 19% of men hold the opinion that abortion should be illegal under all circumstances – exactly the same percentage.

    It is often thought that men want to control the bodies of women by law, custrom or even violence. However, reality is more complex than that. For instance, surveys in Guinea and Sierra Leone show that the percentage of men that is against the continuation of Female Genital Mutilation is actually higher than the percentage of women.

    So not only men, but also women want to control the bodies of other women, it seems. You could argue that pro life women adopted some kind of Marxist ‘false consciousness’ because of patriarchy, but that is a way more complex argument to make.

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