This article explains how the strategic use of public health evidence, showing that criminalisation of abortion does not result in lower abortion rates, is changing the way judges are confronting constitutional challenges to abortion regulations. The state may have a legitimate interest – and in some legal systems, a duty – to protect prenatal life. Nevertheless, courts are upholding regulations liberalising abortion and declaring criminalisation regimes unconstitutional. This is possible given that lower abortion rates are not achieved through criminalisation, but through preventive policies. In addition, courts uphold liberalisation when the infringement of women’s rights resulting from criminalisation outweighs its purported benefits. This new legal narrative has been developed during the last decades by a series of court decisions in Europe and Latin America, and may prove useful for legal advocacy in some countries in Africa. The narrative combines the use of an analytical framework called the proportionality principle with an interpretation of constitutional rights that draws from gender-sensitive international human rights standards and factual evidence about the effects of criminalisation on women’s lives and health.
In April 2019, Women’s Link Worldwide and the Commission for the Investigation of Violence against Women filed a complaint with the Spanish Ombudsman regarding the cases of six migrant women with irregular immigration status whose access to abortion was delayed by the Spanish public health system, particularly in Madrid. Doctors of the World Madrid, Centro de Atención Integral a Mujeres Concepción Arenal, and Yo Sí Sanidad Universal also assisted with the complaint. The women were … Continued
In 2012, throughout the European Union, the most traditionalist and reactionary networks, religious groups and movements decided to mobilise to collect more than one million signatures on a petition to the European Commission to demand the end of financing by the European Union of all activities related to gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights. These signatures were submitted to the European Commission who, in 2014, refused to bow to these demands. Now … Continued
Alongside Malta, Poland and Northern Ireland, European microstates are some of the richest countries on the continent, but access to abortion is curtailed. This includes the microstates of San Marino (in Italy), Liechtenstein (between Switzerland and Austria), Monaco (in France), and Andorra. These microstates are political relics of a bygone era. Since the 13th century, Andorra has been ruled as a co-principality between a Catholic bishop and the French head of state. Monaco and Liechtenstein … Continued
The buffer zone around the clinic was imposed by the London council of Ealing in April 2018, but the call to impose national buffer zones around all clinics was rejected by the Conservative government’s Home Secretary in September 2018, in spite of the existence of strong evidence presented to him for imposing them. This new judgment, handed down by Lady Justice Eleanor King and Lady Justice Nicola Davies is the first at appeal court level … Continued