A clarion call for abortion decriminalisation

By Kate Donald

This week, the UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Anand Grover, presented his latest thematic report to the General Assembly. The report is especially significant because it makes a clear statement from within the international human rights system, that laws criminalising or restricting abortion have a hugely negative impact on not only women’s health, but also their autonomy, freedom, agency and their reproductive and sexual rights. As a result, the report argues, such laws are inappropriate, ineffective and disproportionate and discriminate against women. The SR makes an urgent call to all governments to completely decriminalise abortion.
Criminal laws penalizing and restricting induced abortion are the paradigmatic examples of impermissible barriers to the realization of women’s right to health and must be eliminated. These laws infringe women’s dignity and autonomy by severely restricting decision-making by women in respect of their sexual and reproductive health. (Par 21)

Hopefully, the report will serve as a powerful tool for change. Meanwhile, to bring home the sad reality of the current situation, the Center for Reproductive Rights recently published its updated version of The World’s Abortion Laws map.

N.B. Another important Special Rapporteur’s report was also submitted to the General Assembly this week: that of the SR on extreme poverty and human rights. The report tackles the penalisation of people living in poverty, intersecting with the ICHRP’s own work and drawing from the expert meeting convened by the ICHRP in March 2011.

Further reading:

ICHRP (2009).
Sexuality and Human Rights: Discussion Paper

- Report available in english and spanish

About the Author:

 Kate Donald is Research Fellow at the International Council on Human Rights Policy.

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