Use of art to defend women’s right to choose

The question of abortion is still a topic at the heart of debates in society. In 2023, there are 21 countries in the world where abortion is strictly not allowed. In 14 other countries like Bangladesh, Iraq, or Paraguay, abortion is allowed just in case of risk to the health of the mother. And finally, in Brazil, Bolivia, Indonesia, Poland, and Thailand abortion is allowed in cases of risk for the mother as well as in case of rape. In a lot of countries that allowed abortion, there are regularly politics debates about this subject, like in the United States for example. Around the world, a lot of engaged artists are taking on this topic to normalize it, aware people, and open up a discussion with public opinion. 

Access to abortion is a human right even if it depends on the law of every country. According to World Health Organization, there are around 73 million abortions every year in the world. The topic of abortion is still taboo, even in countries that allowed it, and it causes a lot of problems. Firstly, abortion depends on the choice of the mother, every woman should have the right to make decisions about their own body, including whether and when to have children. The right to access safe and legal abortion helps ensure that individuals can make informed and autonomous decisions. For years, women were not listening, they were not free, and women’s rights weren’t respected, but In 2023, women have more power and can manage their own life. The right to abortion is also one more step toward gender equality. The safety of the process of abortion is very important because it can be a dangerous procedure without the appropriate equipment and professionals. This is one of the main arguments for protestants in countries that don’t allow abortion: when the right to abort doesn’t exist, it allowed a lot of illegal abortions which can have serious consequences on the woman’s health. The right to have access to abortion is also very important for the equality of every people; all individuals should have the choice of their way of life, whatever their income, familial situation, geographic location, etc. Today with medical progress, it exists different ways to abort and permit women to have different options according to their pregnancy stage. Even if a lot of people are still unwilling about this topic, abortion is an important woman’s right that should be respected in all countries in the world, and it is a real societal fact. 

To stop the taboo about the topic of abortion, a lot of engaged artists try to feature it in the general public. Barbara Pravi, a popular French singer who represented France in Eurovision in 2021, made a song about the topic of abortion and the life of women post-abortion; how they have to rebuild themselves after this traumatic experience. Barbara Pravi is a very engaged singer, and for 3 years, every 8 March she’s publishing a new engaged and feminist single for the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day. For her, music is at the same time a way to express herself about some experiences that she has lived but also a way to talk about topics that outraged her in society and that she wants to share with her public to try to involve the minded. 

Ernest Pignon-Ernest is also a famous engaged French artist, a pioneer of street art in France, he’s like Banksy’s ancestor. He did a lot of engaged work that he put on the wall, on the street to denounce society’s problems. In 1975, he made in Paris a series of works with the main subject of abortion; an audacious bet for these years when abortion was still very taboo. One famous slogan in his work about abortion is: « Every year, one million women have abortions, and 5,000 die because of that.». It was especially impactful and audacious for him to denounce the consequences of abortion in 1975 as a man because unfortunately, not many men dare to talk about this kind of topic. 

These two examples of engaged artists are French but it’s important to know that today the topic of abortion is taking more and more place in the artistic environment. In the United States, in France, or also in some occidental countries, the subject of abortion and engaged subjects, in general, are more represented. Arts can be a real lever in the way to think of people and help to change mentalities and politics. 

These artists show their activism to the general public and even if sometimes there is a personal reason behind that, the first goal is to use « their power » of famous people to try to change minded of people and improve human rights in general. So finally, there is a kind of real political message in their works, these artists want to cause a reaction in people, push them to reflect on these engaged topics, and maybe act for these causes. Sometimes artists are kind of opinion influencers in life of people and that’s very important that they are using their work as a way to try to give them an objective opinion about « taboo topics » like abortion. 

Camélia Sghayare 

Sources :, “L’avortement, un sujet majeur pour les artistes d’aujourd’hui”, “Ernest Pignon-Ernest : le pionnier humaniste du street-art”, interview of Barbara Pravi, World Health Organization, Abortion

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