The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) welcomes the unprecedented call to action on women’s rights by United Nations human rights experts marking International Safe Abortion Day.
In a statement, the independent experts, who cover areas of health, law, discrimination, human rights and extrajudicial killings, urged “all States to end the criminalization of abortion and to ensure that all women are able to access all necessary health services, including sexual and reproductive health care, in a manner that is safe, affordable and consistent with their human rights.”
The experts rightly denounced the denial of essential health services caused by criminalization and stigma as a violation of women’s human rights.
“Millions of women and girls still face deeply entrenched legal, cultural and economic barriers to safe abortion, and are subjected to other people’s moral or religious beliefs when they seek that vital medical service,” said Françoise Girard, President of IWHC. “We commend the Special Rapporteurs for standing with the millions of women who are forced to resort to illegal or unsafe abortions, resulting in dire physical and mental suffering, including death.”
To mark International Safe Abortion Day on September 28, IWHC has joined a global call to action on access to safe abortion as a human right. In 2016, organizations and advocates in 55 countries organized activities to observe the day.
Nearly 7 million women, mostly in developing countries, are treated for complications from unsafe abortion annually. Policymakers and family planning programs continue to turn a blind eye on the need for safe and legal abortion. As noted by the UN experts, abortion should be included as an essential component of the sexual and reproductive health services available to women and girls.
IWHC works with grantee partners in ten countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights and fight restrictive abortion laws. For a snapshot of the current state of abortion laws globally, click here.
The UN experts who issued the statement are: Kamala Chandrakirana, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Dubravka Simonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Dainius Pûras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
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