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 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
In February 2019, we reported that the cost of an abortion in Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH) was two times lower than in Croatia, and that some women from Croatia were consequently deciding to have an abortion in BiH. Now, a recent investigation has found that Croatian women who live near the border with Slovenia are crossing that border for abortions too, in spite of the fact that both countries have a similar abortion law. The … Continued
Anna (a pseudonym), aged 39, qualified for a legal termination under Polish law, but a woman needs a doctor to write a referral: “Many won’t,” she said, “either because they signed a conscience clause that they won’t perform abortions, or don’t want any trouble. There was a real chance of going one hospital to another, passing banners with chopped up foetuses on my way, hoping someone would take pity on me. Hoping that the nurses … Continued