South Africa has already set an example for the world by enacting a law that protects women’s rights, including their right to terminate a pregnancy. It now needs to make sure that women and girls can access these services, that they have information about their rights, and that they have access to other reproductive health care, such as family planning.
Four years ago, in 2007, a Brazilian judge prosecuted 1,500 women for procuring abortions. That same year, a twenty-year-old woman, Ana María Acevedo, died in Argentina of cancer-related complications because her doctors refused to treat her; she was pregnant and an abortion might have saved her life.
The UN Special Rapporteur’s report calls for decriminalization of and the removal of legal barriers related to human rights abuses around abortion, conduct during pregnancy, contraception, family planning, and provision of sexual and reproductive health education and information.
It will take our collective knowledge, experience, energy and expertise to hold governments accountable for their roles in violating women’s and girls’ rights to health.
In Nicaragua, after a total ban on abortion was passed, a woman with an ectopic pregnancy was allowed to languis in a hospital, waiting for her fallopian tube to rupture before a doctor agreed to operate even though there was no doubt regarding the outcome of her pregnancy. This is the world that Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) would like to bring to America with the passage of H.R. 358, the Let Women Die Act of 2011.
The human rights community understands that criminal and other restrictions on abortion are unacceptable and reflect a radical disregard for women’s lives.
Restrictions on abortions just don’t work. This is the predictable, yet bold, conclusion of a report to be presented at the United Nations on Monday by a UN-appointed independent expert on health.