This joint declaration on abortion for the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 (November 12-14, 2019) was developed by the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Center for Reproductive Rights, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Ipas, Marie Stopes International, Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ), SPECTRA and Vecinas Feministas por la Justicia Sexual y Reproductiva de America Latina y el Caribe. Safe abortion is critical to the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights commitments of the International Conference on Population and Development, and the continued commitments following ICPD+25.
Over the last 25 years, governments, health providers and civil society have taken major steps to advance women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights, in line with international human rights standards and public health guidance, including liberalizing abortion laws in over 50 countries. In addition, medical abortion has revolutionized access and improved safety of abortion around the world.
Yet more must be done. Globally, 1 in 4 women will access abortion care in their lifetime. Of the 56 million abortions that happen each year, 25 million are unsafe with a resulting 44,000 women and girls dying—roughly 8 percent of all global maternal deaths—and 7 million more women in developing countries suffering serious, often permanent, injuries. The vast majority of these deaths and injuries are preventable and occur where laws are most restrictive. Evidence shows that restricting access to abortion does not decrease women seeking abortion, it only makes it less safe, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable women and girls. The Sustainable Development Goals will not be met if access to safe abortion care is not urgently addressed.
We therefore urge governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations, health providers, the private sector and the donor community to:
- Make abortion, including abortion self-care, safe, legal, available, accessible and affordable by eliminating all laws and policies that restrict or criminalize access.
- Ensure that universal health coverage integrates–and makes accessible and affordable–an essential package of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, and services, including abortion, post-abortion and contraception, into national strategies, budgets and programs.
- Provide children and young people—both in and out of school—with comprehensive sexuality education that supports their right to informed choice and autonomy, including evidence-based information on contraception and abortion, and connects them with sexual and reproductive health services that are free, accessible, age-responsive, nondiscriminatory, and do not require third-party authorization.
- Increase access to early, quality medical abortion to make abortions safer, particularly in low-resource settings, by training providers at all levels, and by providing information, funding and resources for out of clinic access through hotlines, telemedicine and self-care referral systems.
- Meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of marginalized groups such as young women, indigenous women, women with disabilities, unmarried women and girls, and trans men by addressing the multiple barriers that prevent them from accessing services, by training and sensitizing providers, and by designing intersectional interventions that address social, cultural and economic needs, and help to improve equity and ensure their access to contraception and abortion.
- Promote gender equality and women’s and girls’ autonomy by implementing interventions at all levels to change harmful social and gender norms and stereotypes around sexuality, pregnancy and abortion; and by engaging partners, relatives and community members as supportive advocates for sexual and reproductive rights and abortion.
- Provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare to those affected by sexual and gender- based violence, including access to emergency contraception, safe abortion services and psycho-social support as defined under CEDAW, ICCPR and CAT.
- Guarantee sexual and reproductive health information and services, including comprehensive abortion care and contraception, in humanitarian settings, especially for all survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.