Friday, July 20, 2007

Human Rights Watch- Human Rights Law and Access to Abortion


Q&A: Human Rights Law and Access to Abortion

Women’s ability to access safe and legal abortions is restricted in law or in practice in most countries in the world. In fact, even where abortion is permitted by law, women often have severely limited access to safe abortion services because of lack of proper regulation, health services, or political will.
At the same time, only a very small minority of countries prohibit all abortion. In most countries and jurisdictions, abortion is allowed at least to save the pregnant woman’s life, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Women’s organizations have fought for the right to access safe and legal abortion for decades, and increasingly international human rights law supports their claims.

On this page, we will answer the following essential questions related to human rights and abortion:

Why is abortion a human rights issue?
Right to life
Rights to health and health care
Rights to nondiscrimination and equality
Right to security of person
Right to liberty
Right to privacy
Right to information
Right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment
Right to decide the number and spacing of children
Right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress
Right to freedom of thought and religion
What are the health consequences of illegal and unsafe abortion?
Why are illegal abortions generally unsafe?
Does the right to life apply to a fetus?
What is Human Rights Watch’s position on abortion?

What is Human Rights Watch’s position on abortion?

Human Rights Watch believes that decisions about abortion belong to a pregnant woman without interference by the state or others.

The denial of a pregnant woman’s right to make an independent decision regarding abortion violates or poses a threat to a wide range of human rights. Any restriction on abortion that unreasonably interferes with a woman's exercise of her full range of human rights is unacceptable.

Governments should take all necessary steps, both immediate and incremental, to ensure that women have informed and free access to safe and legal abortion services as an element of women’s exercise of their reproductive and other human rights. Government responsibilities relating to women’s access to abortion that are founded on economic, social, and cultural rights must be implemented according to the principle of progressive realization to the maximum of available resources.

Abortion services should be in conformity with international human rights standards, including those on the adequacy of health services.

Governments have an obligation to protect the full range of human rights for all women.

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