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Posted by Neelam Saleem Punjani

Working with women on some of the most stigmatised topics like women’s right to safe abortion is not a challenge that many people would welcome. It is sometimes difficult, often frustrating, and at times confrontational. But if you ask me, advocating for women’s right to safe abortion is simply the best job in the world!

I was motivated to work with women by my own experience of growing up in a patriarchal society, where speaking about women’s right has always been considered a taboo.

Young girls and women around the world face abortion stigma every day due to restrictive laws and policies. These young girls and women are humiliated for seeking abortion services regardless of the country laws on abortion. This prevents them from looking for timely help which results in 46% of unsafe abortion rate worldwide. Not only this, every year 47,000 women die due to unsafe abortion which increases the burden of maternal mortality.

The young girls and women are humiliated for seeking abortion services regardless of the country laws on abortion.

As an abortion advocate, I strongly believe that abortion should be legal and safe for every woman.

Based on human rights to equality and dignity, women should never be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy against their wishes. The consequences of stigma, silence, and shame around abortion end in life-threatening consequences for the women. It is high time that all governments acknowledge women’s reproductive rights to safe abortion and create a conducive environment for women to fulfil their rights.

Also read: Why We Need To Get Rid Of Abortion Stigma | #AbortionMeraHaq

As an abortion advocate, my motivation is always to give young girls and women the opportunity to access their sexual and reproductive health rights and providing them awareness, support, and opportunities which they may never have had before due to the taboo attached to such topics.

As an abortion advocate, my motivation is always to give young girls and women the opportunity to access their sexual and reproductive health rights

We need to start challenging the prevailing stereotypes about abortion for young girls and women in our societies.

I have noticed that people around me are extremely uncomfortable to even say the word ‘abortion’. Just the sound of it is shameful to them. However, after I have spoken up publicly at various forums about women’s rights to safe abortion, and have observed that many people around me feel less awkward discussing the topic. I believe that the younger generation does have the power and rights to speak up and be well-informed about decisions that determine their health and well-being, in order to protect themselves from harmful consequences.

Also read: Abortion In India: Changing Legal Contexts And Challenges | #AbortionMeraHaq

In order to make women empowered, governmental organisations along with private sectors should prioritise women’s sexual and reproductive health by scaling up the existing programs. This will ensure the protection of fundamental human rights which is a key to achieve sustainable development.

My message to young people is that if I can talk openly about abortion, so can you!

So let’s stand up together and speak out to ensure women’s right to safe and legal abortion!


Neelam Saleem Punjani is from Pakistan and is pursuing her PhD from the University of Alberta, Canada. Apart from being an old abortion rights activist with ASAP, she is also a Rise Up Youth Champion and has been a pioneer for abortion rights in Pakistan. You can also follow her on Facebook.

This article was originally published in the ASAP blog and has been republished here with permission.

Featured Image Source: Safe2Choose

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