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Opinion: If Ireland had a Roe v. Wade
Demonstrators hold placards and candles in memory of Savita Halappanavar on November 17 in Dublin, Ireland.
November 26th, 2012
04:39 PM ET

Opinion: If Ireland had a Roe v. Wade

Editor's note: Latanya Mapp Frett is a vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and leads its international arm, Planned Parenthood Global.

By Latanya Mapp Frett, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Savita Halappanavar died last month in Ireland after being denied a lifesaving abortion. If she had lived in the United States - where in two months we will mark four decades of safe and legal abortion on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling - she likely would be alive today.

I was a little girl when this decision overturned state bans across the country that prevented women from access to medically safe procedures. Unlike my mother's generation - when women often died from self-induced abortions or back-alley abortions performed by a person with no skills or training, often under unsanitary conditions - my siblings, friends, classmates and I grew up with the ability to make informed decisions when faced with an unintended or medically problematic pregnancy.

Worldwide, many women are unable to make personal health decisions. The consequences are grave. According to a World Health Organization report, about 47,000 women die each year around the world from unsafe abortions. This accounts for about 13% of all maternal deaths. Most of these women die in developing countries, where severe legal restrictions and lack of access to modern medical care drive women to seek unsafe procedures. By contrast, abortion in the United States is incredibly safe: Fewer than 0.3% of women experience complications that require hospitalization.

Read Latanya Mapp Frett's full column
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Filed under: Gender • Health • What we think • Women