Resolution on access to safe and legal abortion services Underlag till styrelsemöte 1-2 december 2008

The International Council

RECOGNIZES that where a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion services is restricted, her fundamental human rights may be at grave risk. Abortion services should therefore be legal, safe and accessible to all women free from coercion, discrimination and violence.

RECOGNIZES that the woman’s access to abortion may be subject to reasonable restrictions (1).

INSTRUCTS the IEC to develop a policy consistent with such an approach, especially with regard s to States' obligation to provide legal, safe and accessible health services to all women.

Explanatory note

AI’s current policy statement on abortion (POL 39/004/2007) is an important but incomplete step towards a comprehensive position on women's sexual and reproductive rights.

Under our current policy, AI is able to act on some human rights violations relating to abortion, especially those linked to our work on violence against women. According to the policy AI would call on States to take all necessary measures to ensure that safe and legal abortion services are available, accessible, acceptable and of good quality for women who require them in cases of unwanted pregnancy as a result of rape, sexual assault or incest, and pregnancy which endangers the life of the woman (including risks of grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the woman).

However, we believe there is a need for a more inclusive approach. Our current policy does not take into account that an unwanted pregnancy may put at risk a woman's fundamental rights even if she has not been raped or if there is no proof of sexual abuse and if her life is not in direct danger because of the pregnancy. As the Decision 3 of ICM 2005 states: “the need for abortion in a large number of cases is a consequence of … a lack of empowerment of women as well as of a lack of access to education and health services like contraception”. All over the world, women and girls decide to undergo abortion as the only solution to their current situation, whether abortion is legal or not. Worldwide an estimated 70,000 women die as a consequence of unsafe abortion each year . In some countries up to 60% of all maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortions, and in addition, a vast number of women and girls are harmed for life as a result of unsafe abortions. Thus, when a woman is denied the right to make an independent and well-informed decision whether to continue or terminate her pregnancy, a wide range of her human rights are threatened.
Given the high number of maternal deaths that can be attributed to unsafe abortions, AI's current policy on SRR will not be sufficient in relation to our coming work on maternal mortality and the right to health, included in the global campaign on Human Dignity.

Amnesty International, Swedish Section

Background Documents:

ORG 52/003/2005: ICM Decision 3 Sexual and Reproductive Rights

POL 39/001/2006: SRR Consultation Paper 1: Policy statement and background information on sexual and reproductive rights

POL 39/002/2006: SRR Consultation Paper 2: possible AI policies on selected aspects of abortion.

POL 39/008/2006: Statement summarizing AI’s current policy on Sexual and Reproductive

POL 39/004/2007: AI and Sexual and reproductive rights: Recommended policy statement on selected aspects of abortion

ORG 52/001/2007: ICM Decision 3 Sexual and Reproductive Rights

(1) ”R easonable restrictions” refer to the restrictions mentioned in paragraph 4 and 5 in AI’s current policy statement on abortion (POL 39/004/2007) and include restrictions on gestational limits, some restrictions on sex-selective and disability-selective abortions, and restrictions that apply to the provision of all medical services .