Joint civil society statement on Abortion at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council
Despite 30 years of the Vienna Declaration, universal access to sexual and reproductive health services for all women, girls, and pregnant people is still very far from reality. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are treated as a siloed issue – with limited relevance for the majority of people. However, the lack of access to SRH services and information, including contraception, comprehensive sexuality education,and abortion, violates human rights norms. This has an impact on millions of people everywhere in the world, disproportionately impacting historically marginalized people in the Global South and the Global North.
Some of the barriers states need to address are the criminalisation of providers, women, girls, pregnant people, and those people who, provided information or accompanied others to have abortions, abortion stigma, unavailability of the full range of option1, third-party authorisations, the requirement of multiple signatures from health workers, unrealistic gestational limits, mandatory waiting time and prohibitive costs. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the impact of consistent de-funding and de-prioritisation of health broadly and SRHR specifically, and resulted in further health budget cuts as states applied a business model to economic recovery. “For instance, more than 54% of the countries planning to cut their social protection budget in 2023 as part of new austerity measures already offer minimal to no maternity and child support.”2
Public health expenditure and universal healthcare systems cannot be deprioritised! In fact, several studies link them to higher well-being.3 Yet, externally imposed measures like austerity and fiscal consolidation for debt repayments have put health systems in extreme crisis and the lessons of the Pandemic are forgotten as countries face new crises exacerbating gender inequality.
As we commemorate international safe abortion day, we call on all states to fully decriminalize abortion, ensure the right to safe and legal abortion, through a robust and strengthened public health system, adopt progressive policies and laws that prioritize and uphold the right to bodily autonomy, and heed the voices of activists and human rights defenders.
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- Ensuring access to abortion care is enabled through a variety of delivery approaches, including self-management of abortion, for more details please see https://www.who.int/health-topics/abortion#tab=tab_3 ↩︎
- Oxfam 2023, The assault of austerity, available at https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/assault-austerity ↩︎
- Anderson 2010, Bokhari et al. 2007, Dekker & Wilms 2010, Oglobin 2011, Palmer 2014, Pfutze 2014 ↩︎