What did Donald Trump say about abortion? In 1999 he was «very pro-choice». In 2011 he was «pro-life». In March 2016 he said women should be punished. An hour later he meant it should be up to each state to decide. A couple of hours after that: Doctors, not women, should be punished. Two days later: The laws should remain the same.
No wonder, then, that «abortion» was the most-searched word on Google in the US on the day of the election.
When he finally won, one could therefore hope that the issue had simply been a rhetorical stunt, aimed at a conservative electorate – and would be forgotten as soon as he took office.
Unfortunately, that hope is lost.
It didn’t take many days before the new president signed his first anti-abortion executive order. He was sitting in the Oval office, surrounded by men, and only men, and ensured that the United States no longer will fund international NGOs who provide information on reproductive health, if this information includes abortion. The measure is legitimized by «the right to life»-slogan; and certainly it will mean life or death for a number of women: The World Health Organization estimates that 21 million women have unsafe abortions each year.
47 000 die annually from the complications.
And for our sisters in the US: Will those do-it-yourself-abortions from the past become their main option in the future?
For many they already are. A 2015-study revealed that between 100 000 and 240 000 women in Texas, in the age group 18-49, have tried to perform a self-induced miscarriage. In many states this is illegal, and women are prosecuted. They get punished for buying pills on the black marked or for sticking coat hangers into their vaginas.
This happens even though a Supreme Court ruling from the 1970’s, the famous Roe vs Wade, has secured women the right to terminate their pregnancies (until the fetus is considered «viable» – meaning: until it can survive for a prolonged period outside the uterus, usually sometime in the beginning of the third trimester).
With Trump, this Supreme Court decision is threatened. Not to mention, Republicans all over the country are grabbing the opportunity. 46 anti-abortion bills have been introduced or are pending in 14 different states. Clinics are closing. Women often have to travel far. There are now seven states with only one abortion provider.
But while we are morally outraged over Trump’s victory across the Atlantic, it is important to remember this: The same authoritarian and uterus-grabbing trend is taking place in Europe.
The French presidential candidate Francois Fillon is openly against abortion (to be fair: He has said he will respect the country’s secular ways). Polish women recently managed – at the very end – to stop a draconian law that would mean an almost total ban in Poland, even with pregnancies caused by rape. In Italy, abortion is technically legal, but in reality, often not accessible: With the law in their hand, 70 percent of the country’s gynecologists refuse to offer the procedure. Many countries introduce, or frequently discuss introducing, forced reflection periods and forced (biased) counseling. In my home country, Norway, abortion after week 12 requires the authorization of a committee – which basically means that someone else is making the decision for you. And let's not forget: As recently as last year, a 21 year old Northern Irish woman got a suspended sentence for having swallowed mifepristone and misopristol (the most commonly used abortion pills), which she had ordered online.
Yet again, it’s a crime to be poor. She got pregnant at 19. Planned to travel to England to safely, and legally, end her pregnancy there.
But she couldn’t afford the trip.