The Decriminalization of Abortion: A Human Rights Imperative


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This six-page position paper from the Sexual Rights Initiative lays out the fundamental right to abortion from an international legal perspective.

The paper also outlines the unintended effects of criminalization: the denial of women’s fundamental rights to life, to health, to bodily autonomy, to freedom from torture, and to freedom from discrimination.

The final section discusses the two levels of discrimination that occur when abortion is made illegal. The first, embedded in the laws themselves, is sex discrimination: the laws criminalize health services used exclusively by women. The second level of discrimination is de facto: the criminalization of abortion disproportionately harms women in poverty, adolescent girls, women living in rural areas, and women who are members of other disadvantaged groups (migrants, ethnic minorities, etc.)


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