Statement: Special Rapporteur on Torture

posted in: public statement | 0

Harsh abortion laws are torture

Special Rapporteur, Juan Méndez: UN Photo
Special Rapporteur, Juan Méndez: UN Photo

In the Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment presented to the Human Rights Council’s 31st session (Agenda item 3 , A/HRC/31/57, page 12, January 2016) the following paragraphs on unsafe abortion were included:

“Access to abortion and related care
43. Unsafe abortion is the third leading cause of maternal death globally. Where access to abortion is restricted by law, maternal mortality increases as women are forced to undergo clandestine abortions in unsafe and unhygienic conditions. Short- and long-term physical and psychological consequences also arise due to unsafe abortions and when women are forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will (A/66/254). Such restrictive policies disproportionately impact marginalized and disadvantaged women and girls. Highly restrictive abortion laws that prohibit abortions even in cases of incest, rape or fetal impairment or to safeguard the life or health of the woman violate women’s right to be free from torture and ill-treatment (A/HRC/22/53, CEDAW/C/OP.8/PHL/1). Nevertheless, some States continue to restrict women’s right to safe and legal abortion services with absolute bans on abortions. Restrictive access to voluntary abortion results in the unnecessary deaths of women (CAT/C/PER/CO/4).

44. In other cases, women and girls face significant difficulties in accessing legal abortion services due to administrative and bureaucratic hurdles, refusal on the part of health care workers to adhere to medical protocols that guarantee legal rights, negative attitudes, official incompetence or disinterest (A/HRC/22/53). The denial of safe abortions and subjecting women and girls to humiliating and judgmental attitudes in such contexts of extreme vulnerability and where timely health care is essential amount to torture or ill-treatment. States have an affirmative obligation to reform restrictive abortion legislation that perpetuates torture and ill-treatment by denying women safe access and care. Limited and conditional access to abortion-related care, especially where this care is withheld for the impermissible purpose of punishing or eliciting a confession, remains of concern (A/HRC/22/53). The practice of extracting, for prosecution purposes, confessions from women seeking emergency medical care as a result of illegal abortion in particular amounts to torture or ill-treatment.”

SOURCE: Special Rapporteur on Torture, 5 January 2016

“Special Rapporteur, Juan Méndez, called on all nations to decriminalize abortion and to ensure access to safe and legal abortion, at least in circumstances of rape, incest, severe fetal impairment, and when the woman’s life, physical or mental health are at risk. He said abortion restrictions can amount to torture because they compel women to seek unsafe abortions, which are the third leading cause of maternal deaths around the globe. “Where access to abortion is restricted by law, maternal mortality increases as women are forced to undergo clandestine abortions in unsafe and unhygienic conditions,” he said in the report. “Short- and long-term physical and psychological consequences can also arise due to unsafe abortions and when women are forced to carry pregnancies against their will.”

SOURCE: Huffington Post, 11 March 2016