WAVE Statement: International Safe Abortion Day

On the International Safe Abortion Day, the Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) Network is taking a stance to reiterate the importance of tackling the increasing global pushback against women’s human rights, bodily autonomy, and reproductive choice disproportionally affecting women from marginalised and low-income communities.

The right to access affordable quality health care services including safe and legal access to abortion is instrumental to ensuring the right to freedom and bodily autonomy and upholding human rights.

Whereas the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that abortion is a common medical procedure considered safe when performed under the recommended WHO methods and guidelines[1], around 45% of all abortions are unsafe leading to “physical and mental health complications and social and financial burdens for women, communities and health systems”[2]. Furthermore, unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal deaths[3] and is considered an indirect form of femicide, as the WAVE Country Report 2021[4] notes.

The overturning of Roe vs. Wade in June 2022, ending 50 years of federal abortion rights in the United States of America, tightening of abortion regulations in Hungary, where health care providers must provide “a clearly identifiable indication of fetal vital signs” to the person requesting an abortion before proceeding with any abortion procedure, and Poland’s restrictive anti-abortion law, which led to massive protests after the death of a young woman in 2021, are only a few of the concerning developments from around the world that continue to subvert the right of every individual to reproductive choice and health.

Nonetheless, there is also a light at the end of the tunnel. San Marino, which has been one of the last European states to criminalise abortion under all circumstances, legalised abortion in September 2022 following last year’s landmark referendum. In Scotland, a petition calling for the decriminalisation of abortion has been accepted for consideration by the Scottish Parliament induced by an increase in calling for access to abortion to be fully protected under law. In Ireland, legislation to introduce abortion safe access zones around facilities that provide abortion services to ban protests outside hospitals, GP practices, and other healthcare facilities has been referred to the Oireachtas health committee for scrutiny.  

Promising steps that we hope to see more States take to counter restrictive abortion laws and a lack of access to safe and affordable health care services.

We are thus calling on decision-makers and policymakers as well as governments to ensure the protection of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights including affordable, safe, and legal access to abortion services, and to uphold their responsibility to ensure women’s and girls’ right to health.

Abortion Rights are Human Rights.

[1] It is safe when carried out using a method recommended by WHO, appropriate to the pregnancy duration and by someone with the necessary skills. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abortion

[2] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abortion

[3] https://www.unfpa.org/press/unfpa-statement-global-implications-new-restrictions-access-abortion

[4] https://wave-network.org/wp-content/uploads/WAVE_Country-Report.pdf, p.64

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