Chapter 1. Introduction
Availability and accessibility of information (1.3.2)
An essential first step in improving access to and quality of abortion care is ensuring that all individuals can access relevant, accurate and evidence-based health information and counselling if and when desired. This is required by international human rights law – grounded in the right to information and the right to privacy (see Box 1.2) – and facilitates individual decision-making relating to SRH services, including abortion. Two different types of information about abortion must be available: (i) information of a general nature for the public (described below), and (ii) specific information tailored to be relevant to each person seeking abortion (see section 3.2.1) and underpinning free and informed consent, which was described in section 1.3.1(v).
States parties are to ensure that everyone has a right to receive accurate, non-biased and evidence-based information on SRH. Relatedly, as part of their obligation to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, States must ensure the provision of comprehensive, non-discriminatory, scientifically accurate and age-appropriate education on sexuality and reproduction, including information on abortion, both in and out of schools (46, 71 [Articles 10, 16], 72) and must ensure that comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is available to minors without the consent of their parents or guardians (45, para. 31). In an enabling environment all persons would be provided with all the necessary information to make an informed decision regarding the use of contraception, including information on where and how to obtain an abortion or contraception, the costs of services, and the specifics of any local laws. The growing use of self-management of abortion (see section 3.6.2) underlines the need to ensure that accurate information about abortion is available to all who may seek it.
As a matter of international human rights law, the provision of information on abortion should not be criminalized, even in contexts where the procedure itself may be illegal (see section 2.2.1: Criminalization of abortion). To ensure that accurate information is broadly accessible, including for those with low literacy, an enabling environment would provide that such information is shared using a variety of formats/media as appropriate for the intended audience (e.g. videos, social media). The United Nations CESCR has confirmed that “[t]he dissemination of misinformation and the imposition of restrictions on the right of individuals to access information about SRH also violates the duty to respect human rights. … Such restrictions impede access to information and services, and can fuel stigma and discrimination” (3, para. 41).