Abortion Facts

We are fighting for womens rights to a safe and legal choice. In many countries, women die as a result of abortion being criminalised. The facts are are often gruesome and always humiliating violations of human rights.

Impact of abortion pills on material mortality. 

The abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol became available at the end of the 1980's and beginning of the 1990's. Misoprostol was registered only in countries where abortion was legal. Misoprostol, which was registered for use for the prevention of gastric ulcers,  became available around the world except for Africa. Globally, the unsafe abortion mortality ratio (the number of deaths due to unsafe abortion per 100 000 live births) declined from 50 in 1990 to 30 in 2008; for developing countries the decline was from 60 to 40, because of this the reduction in the unsafe abortion mortality ratio between 1990 and 2008 for the Africa Region was relatively low compared to the Asia Region declined by more than 50% and that in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region by nearly 70%., where misoprostol became  available.


Human right to safe Abortion care

As early as 1967 the World Health Assembly identified unsafe abortion as a serious public health problem threatening women in many countries (1).

The World Health Organization’s definition of health is: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (2).

The right to health has been recognized in numerous international human rights treaties, such as: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 25.1 in 1948; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: Article 5 (e) (iv) in 1965; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Article 12.1 in 1966; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Articles 11 (1) (f), 12 and 14 (2) (b) in 1979; the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child: Article 24; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families: Articles 28, 43 (e) and 45 (c) in 1990, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Article 25 in 2006 (3).

In 1994, the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development was the first major international agreement to make recommendations to reduce unsafe abortion, by stating the following:

“All governments and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are urged to strengthen their commitment to women’s health, to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern” and “In circumstances where abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe. In all cases, women should have access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion” (4). In 2009, the United Nations Human Right Council  (UN) accepted a resolution on the recognition of maternal mortality as a violation of human rights (5).

In October 2011, Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, submitted a report to the UN General Assembly which stated: “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” (6).

In March 2016, UN experts released an authoritative new legal commentary that stated again that the right to sexual and reproductive health is not only an integral part of the general right to health but fundamentally linked to the enjoyment of many other human rights, including the rights to education, work and equality, as well as the rights to life, privacy and freedom from torture, and individual autonomy.

Governments have an obligation to ensure universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health care, including maternal health care, contraceptive information and services, safe abortion care; prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infertility, reproductive cancers, sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.  Also essential medicines should be available, including a wide range of contraceptive methods, such as condoms and emergency contraception, medicines for abortion and for post-abortion care, and medicines, including generic medicines, for the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV. (7)


  1. Van Look PF, Cottingham. The World Health Organization's safe abortion guidance document. Am J Public Health. 2013 Apr;103(4):593-6.
  2. http://www.who.int/about/definition/en/print.html, accessed 2-1-2014
  3. Shaw D. Abortion and Post-abortion Care - Volume II Abortion and human rights. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology Volume 24, Issue 5, October 2010. Pages 633–646 .
  4. Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, para. 8.25.1 http://www.un.org/popin/icpd/conference/offeng/poa.html accessed 2-1-2014
  5. Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights. Human Rights Council Eleventh Session Resolution 11/8 http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/resolutions/A_HRC_RES_11_8.pdf[accessed 2-1-2014])
  6. United Nations Right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. A/66/254 http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/gashc4018.doc.htm accesses 2-1-2014
  7. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 22 (2016) on the Right to sexual and reproductive health (article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)


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