Safe Abortion: States must ensure that safe abortion is available and accessible to everyone who needs it
Delivered at the UN Human Rights Council
Forty-eighth Regular Session
13 September – 8 October 2021
by Ms Kristina Castell
RFSU delivers this statement on behalf of a group of NGOs, most of them in consultative
status with ECOSOC, members of the European Safe Abortion Networking Group. The
full list of co-sponsors will be available at the extranet.
Abortion is essential healthcare and a human right. Access to abortion is key for achieving gender equality and social justice. The Covid-19 pandemic affected disproportionately women and girls, and marginalised populations. It highlighted that societies still must address gender and intersectional discrimination and other structural factors that underscore social inequalities to ensure everyone can fully exercise their human rights.
The pandemic highlighted the highly unequal access to safe abortion across countries. States responded in different ways to the challenges posed by the pandemic with regards to access to safe abortion. While some countries introduced measures such as telemedicine and access to abortion pills at home to facilitate access, others have put services on hold or delayed implementation of new laws allowing for their provision.
Some countries took advantage of the situation to further restrict access to abortion in law.
This unequal picture across countries shows the urgency of States taking steps to make safe abortion available and accessible to all women, girls, and everyone else who needs it. The time is up for governments to address gender and other intersecting forms of inequality and ensure everyone can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights and have control over their bodies and lives through access to safe abortion. This is particularly important in the post-Covid recovery period when women and girls are the driving force as they were in the response to the pandemic.
We, the undersigned organisations, are calling on the States to ensure safe abortion is available and accessible to anyone who needs it in accordance with the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO). We are especially calling on States to:
1. Recognise abortion as essential, time-sensitive healthcare and fully decriminalise abortion.
2. Guarantee access to safe, legal abortion, with particular attention to under-served and marginalised populations, and with as little disruption as possible in times of crisis.
3. Simplify abortion regulations, removing all medically unnecessary requirements and other barriers to facilitate access to abortion without delay.
4. Allow telemedicine and use of abortion pills at home to facilitate access.
5. Ensure there is a sufficient number of trained and willing providers to meet demand.
Denial of care by healthcare professionals due to their personal beliefs, must not delay or restrict access to abortion care for everyone who needs it.
Thank you, Madam President.
1. Amnesty International (ECOSOC status)
2. International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion (ECOSOC status)
3. Ipas (ECOSOC status)
4. IPPF EN (ECOSOC status)
5. Federation for Women and Family Planning, Poland (ECOSOC status)
6. FOKUS, Forum for Women and Development, Norway (ECOSOC status)
7. Le Planning Familial, France
8. MSI (ECOSOC)
9. Médecins du Monde, France (ECOSOC status)
10. RFSU, Sweden (ECOSOC Status)
11. Rutgers NL, Netherlands (ECOSOC status)
12. Women’s Link Worldwide, Spain