For Manifesto text in Spanishclick here

For Manifesto text in French, click here


Our bodies, our future! Governments must provide the right to safe and legal abortion. This right must be recognised now AND enshrined within the Post-2015 Development Agenda!

On September 28, the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, sexual and reproductive rights activists call on governments around the world to end the discrimination against women[*] and girls and ensure their human right to access safe and legal abortion information and services


At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), governments from around the world affirmed that reproductive rights are human rights, and include the right to make decisions concerning reproduction free from coercion, discrimination and violence, which were reaffirmed again at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Yet 20 years on, while substantial progress has been made in the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA), such as the inclusion of reproductive rights in many national, regional and international policy frameworks, and the development of public policies allowing better access to sexual and reproductive health in various parts of the world, such progress has not been universal.

Many countries are still failing to meet targets set out in the original ICPD PoA. We continue to see a high correlation between poverty, child and maternal mortality and countries that have failed to fully implement the PoA. There is a lack of real commitment to ensure the right of women and girls to decide upon all aspects of their reproductive health, including the right to choose whether to continue or end a pregnancy. All efforts to curb high rates of maternal mortality will remain fruitless without addressing unsafe abortion. Unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality.  An estimated 47,000 women die each year due to unsafe abortion, which accounts for an estimated 13% of maternal deaths worldwide. Five million women are hospitalised each year for treatment of abortion-related complications, such as haemorrhage and sepsis. Almost all abortion-related deaths occur in developing countries, with the highest number in Africa followed by Asia and Latin America.

Access to safe and legal abortion is a HUMAN RIGHT. When governments deny this human right they endorse, tolerate and perpetuate institutional violence against women.

  • Since 1994, when 179 governments signed the ICPD PoA, and signalled their commitment to prevent unsafe abortion, more than 25 countries worldwide have liberalized their abortion laws. However, seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean – Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Suriname and Dominican Republic – still prohibit access to abortion under all circumstances even to save a woman’s life, and nearly eighty other countries maintain severely restrictive laws on abortion.
  • Most of the countries with severe abortion laws are in the Global South. However, even though access to safe and legal abortion was achieved in most of the industrialised countries in Europe and North America during the period of liberal reforms between 1950 and 1985, there are a number of worrying trends and challenges as a result of the ongoing rise of religious, political, and economic extremisms, resulting in the imposition of restrictive measures preventing women from accessing accessible and affordable abortion services. Ireland and Poland are the starkest examples of countries that maintain the most restrictive laws in Europe despite numerous calls by international human rights bodies to revise their national legislation. Meanwhile, other countries in the region such as Macedonia and Lithuania clearly demonstrate a tendency towards restricting access, thus leading to increased stigma and discrimination surrounding women who choose the procedure.

As a result of the lack of commitment by governments to create progressive legal frameworks to address unsafe abortion and as a result of restricting access to safe abortion because of pressure from conservative lobbies, women and girls suffer grave human rights violations. For example: 

  • Maternal mortality and morbidity: The criminalisation of abortion forces women to carry unwanted pregnancies, even in cases where it is the result of rape, or is a threat to their health and life, which equals the act of torture, as noted by international human rights bodies. In other cases illegality has pushed women to resort to unsafe services, putting their lives and personal integrity at risk.
  • Injustice: Women and girls are being regularly stigmatized, criminalized and many have lost their freedom. Such are the cases documented in El Salvador, Brazil and Mexico, where women and adolescent girls have been reported on suspicion of having an abortion, by healthcare providers who attended to them for either complications of unsafe abortions, spontaneous abortions, premature birth complications, stillbirth or other obstetric emergencies. In some cases, after facing a repressive and discriminatory justice system that violated the presumption of innocence, these women have been given the highest penalties ranging from 20 to 40 years in prison.
  • Stigma and Discrimination: Young, poor, unmarried and other women living in vulnerable situations are disproportionately affected by the criminalization of abortion. When they terminate a pregnancy they do it much in higher risk situations than women who are able to access and afford private healthcare services, making unsafe abortion an issue of social injustice deeply intertwined with economic, ethnic, racial, immigration status, and class factors, among other identity markers. The stigma that surrounds abortion and women human rights defenders who work for it—women, providers, pharmacists and advocates in our respective countries—contributes to abortion’s social, medical and legal marginalization. Entire communities stereotype, ostracize and discriminate against women who need and seek abortions, as well as women human rights defenders attempting to help women to access this human right. As a result, civil society networks, women’s organizations, feminists and advocates of abortion rights have been threatened, harassed, criminalized and assaulted all over the world, just because they have challenged a patriarchal system that suppresses women´s rights.

Women are being systematically denied their basic human rights

Call to Action

Governments around the world are currently involved in the process of evaluation of achievements under the present global development agenda expressed in eight visionary Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We cannot talk of sustainable development without the respect of human rights of women and girls in all their dimensions.

We need to hold governments accountable to their existing commitments, and continue to take action to ensure that national policies effectively guarantee access to safe, legal, affordable, accessible, high-quality, youth-friendly abortion services, along with information about how to locate and access such services. It is also vital that the existing commitments on access to safe and legal abortion be included in the outcomes and recommendations of the ICPD+20, MDG and Beijing+20 review processes that will inform the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post 2015 Development Agenda.

The new development agenda MUST firmly establish the right to access safe and legal abortion.

If one hopes to address the failures of the last 20 years and have a holistic, forward-looking, and relevant Post-2015 Development Agenda, we believe Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) must be central to the goals and targets and go beyond a very narrow reflection of SRHR as merely “maternal healthcare” or “reproductive health.”  A comprehensive understanding of SRHR must draw on existing international and regional human rights treaties such as CEDAW,[1] the Belem do Pará Convention,[2] and Maputo Protocol,[3] and the most progressive international and regional documents and consensuses such as the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration,[4] the Colombo Declaration on Youth,[5] the Stockholm Statement of Commitment,[6] the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development[7] and the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development.[8]

In doing so, SRHR should include abortion rights; sexual rights (including the right to pleasure); recognition of the SRHR of young people; access to contraceptives; and freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; particularly for the most vulnerable groups such as women, young people, sex workers, LGBTQI individuals and others. Human rights must be explicitly referenced, with the understanding that any meaningful efforts towards sustainable development must posit people as the drivers of development rather than passive receivers of aid priorities and programming.


On the occasion of September 28, the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, the undersigned organizations and individuals call upon States to ensure that SRHR, with an explicit reference to safe and legal abortion, become an integral part of the new development framework by committing to:

1. Prioritize the issue of safe and legal abortion in compliance with prior international commitments such as the ICPD PoA, international human rights treaties such as CEDAW, ICESCR[9], and Maputo Protocol and human rights bodies’ recommendations and standards.

2. Decriminalize abortion; remove all legal and implementation barriers to ensure access to safe, comprehensive, free and high-quality procedures for pregnancy termination, free of requirements for marital or parental consent.

3. Immediately release and bring an end to the criminalization of young people and women, due to the criminalization of abortion, especially in countries where the prohibition is absolute.

4. Provide accurate and scientifically sound information on access to safe and legal abortion to the entire population, without discrimination, and take steps to limit the stigma and misinformation relating to abortion.

5. Remove socio-cultural barriers that reinforce gender stereotypes about motherhood and stigmatize women and girls, preventing them from making free and informed decisions about their sexuality and their own bodies.

6. Ensure comprehensive SRHR in HIV related programming and services, providing women living with HIV a choice in treatment options including whether to continue a pregnancy or not. Within HIV endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, women should not be forced into prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programmes to deliver HIV negative babies, if they do not want to continue with their pregnancies.

7. Ensure access to comprehensive sexuality education that is gender sensitive, non-discriminatory and life-skills based, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacity of adolescents and young people.

8. Ensure universal access to a full range of voluntary contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception, which is of high quality and variety, is also user-friendly and appropriate to the needs of girls, adolescents and women, while ensuring their confidentiality.

9. End the harassment, criminalization and aggression aimed at civil society networks, organizations, feminists and advocates of sexual and reproductive rights. Ensure the security and integrity of women’s rights defenders threatened by repressive mechanisms of the State or by groups promoting hatred and fundamentalisms.


* NOTE: While we use the term ‘woman/women’ we do so with a critical reflexivity that recognizes the nuances and right to people’s unique sexual and gender identities and expressions.  We also recognize that ‘women’ are not a monolithic group and that they have diverse identities that vary due to their social location and the socio-economic, political, and multicultural contexts in which their lives are embedded.

[1]United Nations, General Assembly, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (18 December 1979) available from

[2]United Nations, General Assembly, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belem Do Para” (9 June 1994), available from

[3]African Union, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, (March 1995), available from

[4]Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration (December 2012) available from

[5] The Colombo Declaration on Youth, “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda,” (May 2014), available from

[6] The Stockholm Statement of Commitment (April 2014), available from

[7]Report of the Sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference,  Bangkok, 16-20 September 2013 available from

[8]United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development,LC/L.3697 (23 September 2013), available from

[9]United Nations, General Assembly, International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), (16 December 1966) available from