Amnesty International releases updated policy on abortion

Access to safe abortion is an essential component of a fair and equal society, and is integral to realizing the full range of human rights, Amnesty International said today. The organization has published its updated policy on abortion that aligns with evolving human rights law and standards. The policy equips the organization to undertake stronger campaigning and advocacy around abortion and to better support local movements advancing sexual and reproductive rights.

The updated policy recognizes abortion, provided in a manner that respects human rights, autonomy, and dignity, as the right of anyone who can become pregnant. Amnesty International is also calling for universal access to safe abortion and related care and information, in addition to full decriminalization.

“Around 47,000 women die each year as a result of seeking unsafe abortions. This global tragedy will not end until abortion is fully decriminalized and made accessible and affordable to everyone. Abortion must be treated like any other health service, and anyone seeking an abortion must be treated with compassion and dignity and with respect for their human rights,” said Rajat Khosla, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research and Advocacy.

“Our updated policy was developed in consultation with human rights experts, medical providers and the Amnesty movement, and informed by years of research and engagement with women and girls whose lives have been shattered by restrictive laws. We will continue to demand that governments respect reproductive autonomy, and campaign for safe abortion access for anyone who seeks it, without discrimination, coercion or stigma.”

International legal norms and standards around abortion have undergone a substantial evolution in the past decade. In line with these changes, Amnesty International has updated its position to ensure it is better-placed to challenge the full range of human rights violations due to criminalization of abortion, to advocate for removal of all barriers to safe abortion and to promote reproductive, gender and economic justice.

Amnesty International’s updated policy:

  • Recognizes that anyone who can become pregnant has the right to an abortion
  • Calls for universal access to safe abortion, as early as possible and as late as necessary, and for provision of post-abortion care and evidence-based abortion-related information
  • Recognizes that decisions around pregnancy and abortion directly impact the full spectrum of human rights
  • Calls for removing abortion from criminal and other punitive laws and policies, and to stop punishing women, girls and all pregnant people, healthcare providers and others for obtaining, assisting with, or providing abortion services
  • Calls for reforming laws and policies that limit abortion access to specific circumstances
  • Confirms that human rights protections start at birth, in line with international law
  • Calls on states to fulfil economic and social rights by promoting policies that empower pregnant people to make free decisions about their reproductive lives – including through access to health care, social security and the means to obtain an adequate standard of living.

“Abortion is not an isolated issue. Denying people the right to make decisions about their own bodies perpetuates gender and economic inequality, and entrenches stigma and discrimination,” said Rajat Khosla.

“We recognize that abortion is a deeply complex subject, but punitive approaches do not address the many social, economic and personal issues that shape people’s decisions to end their pregnancies. Full decriminalization of abortion is essential to protect human rights and prevent further deaths and injuries due to unsafe abortions.”

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For more information please contact Lucy Scholey, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada (English branch), 613-853-2142,