Women's Human Rights

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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.

Abortion is a highly emotional subject and one that excites deeply held opinions. However, equitable access to safe abortion services is first and foremost a human right. Where abortion is safe and legal, no one is forced to have one. Where abortion is illegal and unsafe, women are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term or suffer serious health consequences and even death. Approximately 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide are attributable to unsafe abortion—between 68,000 and 78,000 deaths annually.

Women’s organizations across the world have fought for the right to access safe and legal abortion for decades, and increasingly international human rights law supports their claims. In fact, international human rights legal instruments and authoritative interpretations of those instruments compel the conclusion that women have a right to decide independently in all matters related to reproduction, including the issue of abortion.

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More information on abortion and women's reproductive rights in general:

The organizations listed may or may not support legal reform to make abortion safer and more accessible. The opinions voiced
by these organizations do not necessarily reflect the position of Human Rights Watch.
  • Black Women's Health Imperative
  • Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action
  • Catholics for Free Choice
  • Center for Reproductive Rights
  • Genre en Action
  • International Planned Parenthood Federation
  • International Women's Health Coalition
  • Ipas
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America
  • National Association of Women and the Law
  • National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
  • National Organization for Women
  • Women's Liberation Birth Control Project
  • Women on Waves