Abortion still heavily criminalized and regulated across the world, says Amnesty report

A new report by Amnesty International looks into the different forms of violence that safe abortion providers and advocates around the world are exposed to

November 25, 2023 by Peoples Health Dispatch
"Legal abortion: for women's lives". Photo: Midia Ninja

Health workers and activists defending access to abortion continue to face attacks, as shown in a new report by Amnesty International. While previous years have witnessed improvements in the standards of human rights, progressive legislature, and access to medication abortion, many women and girls still encounter insurmountable obstacles in seeking abortion care.

According to the report, abortion “remains criminalized and heavily regulated in most countries.” This disproportionately affects poor and working-class women, as well as those residing in remote areas where healthcare is less accessible. Regardless of whether abortion is criminalized or not, one activist interviewed for the report emphasized, “Women who have money are able to get abortion services, women without money die.”

In this context, activists supporting women in accessing safe abortion services play a crucial role in defending women’s right to health. However, many of them are exposed to various forms of violence and threats due to their work. From the United States to Nigeria, activists must counter disinformation campaigns, a shrinking space for their work, and targeted attacks.

Among them, health workers providing abortions in settings where it is heavily regulated or prohibited are particularly at risk. According to data quoted in the report, more than 28% of health workers advocating for better abortion care faced violence or threats to themselves or their families. The same was true for over 20% of health workers with a similar profile in Asia and North America.

All profiles of health workers, from gynecologists to midwives, are exposed to different forms of abuse if involved in safe abortion advocacy, even though this type of care formally falls under their purview. Sally Pairman, Chief Executive of the International Confederation of Midwives, stated during the report’s announcement: “A midwife’s duty of care includes supporting access to abortion care and upholding the right of women to freely make decisions about their reproductive health.”

Sarah Shaw, MSI Reproductive Choices’ Head of Advocacy, stressed, “For many sexual and reproductive health providers this harassment and abuse has come to feel like just part of the job, but we cannot allow this to become the new normal.”

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