Advocacy statements

Statement for Safe Abortion Day 2022

  • Date / 2022
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 8: Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

 Oral statement

 International Humanist and Ethical Union

 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council (12 September – 7 October 2022)

General Debate on Item 8


Mr President,

International human rights law requires States to reduce maternal mortality and to prevent unsafe abortion as a core obligation of realising the right to sexual and reproductive health.[1]

Despite this, around 45% of all abortions are unsafe. Of those, 97% take place in developing countries.[2]

Whilst the past 12 months have seen some positive developments on abortion reforms which are to be greatly welcomed – for example, decriminalization in Colombia,[3] Mexico,[4] and Sierra Leone,[5] and liberalization in Ecuador,[6] Kenya,[7] and Thailand[8] – some countries are going backwards. This year saw: the US Supreme Court revoke the constitutional right to abortion; a law effectively banning abortion after five weeks of pregnancy unveiled in Turkmenistan;[9] and an agreed multinational statement on Gender and Freedom of Religion or Belief published on the UK Government’s website being edited to remove all references to ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and ‘bodily autonomy’.[10]

Ensuring legal and uncompromised access to abortion and post-abortion care on request is key to ending the deaths and severe health problems suffered by women and girls as a consequence of unsafe procedures. Currently an estimated 47,000 women die annually from unsafe abortions,[11] millions more are treated for serious complications arising from them.[12]

Little more evidence is needed; this Council must act urgently to protect the rights, health, and lives of women. The Vienna Declaration is clear:  “The human rights of women should form an integral part of the UN human rights activities;” and the removal of all legal, administrative, and social barriers to safe abortion globally is a crucial step to realising that.

Thank you


[1] General Comment No. 22: The right to sexual and reproductive health (Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). Geneva: United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; 2016 (E/C/12/GC/22), para 49;General Comment No. 4: Adolescent health and development in the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Geneva: United Nations Committee on the Rights of Child; 2003 (CRC/GC/2003/4),paras 6, 9, 24, 30-33

[2] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abortion#:~:text=Six%20out%20of%2010%20of,take%20place%20in%20developing%20countries

[3] https://reproductiverights.org/colombia-court-decriminalize-abortion/

[4] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-58482850

[5] https://www.africanews.com/2022/07/04/sierra-leone-government-backs-move-to-decriminalise-abortion//#:~:text=Sierra%20Leone’s%20current%20abortion%20law,be%20put%20to%20a%20referendum

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/17/ecuador-abortion-rape-cases-legal

[7] https://reproductiverights.org/malindi-kenya-court-affirms-abortion-right-pak/

[8] https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/2401710/elective-abortion-rule-to-be-eased

[9] https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-abortion-ban-bribery-restrictions/32039527.html

[10] https://humanists.uk/2022/07/19/abortion-deleted-from-uk-government-organised-international-human-rights-statement/

[11] https://www.ohchr.org/en/2016/09/unsafe-abortion-still-killing-tens-thousands-women-around-world-un-rights-experts-warn

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

Suggested academic reference

'Statement for Safe Abortion Day 2022', Humanists International

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