Chapter 2. Abortion regulation including relevant recommendations

As outlined in Chapter 1, section 1.3, one element of an enabling environment is that law and policy promote and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). A number of common approaches to law and policy on abortion mentioned in Chapter 1 (section 1.3.1) pose barriers to access to abortion, are inconsistent with international human rights legal instruments, and can have negative effects on the exercise of human rights. This chapter reflects evidence on the impacts of these law and policy approaches, considers their human rights implications, and presents evidence-based recommendations to improve law and policy relating to abortion as part of an enabling environment for universal access to quality abortion care. Box 2.1 summarizes the principles of abortion law and policy that would be consistent with key principles of human rights law.

Box 2.1: Abortion law and policy that are consistent with key principles of human rights law

States must respect, protect and fulfil abortion seekers’ rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

States should take positive steps to secure an enabling regulatory and policy environment that will ensure the universal availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality (AAAQ) of abortion and post-abortion care.

Abortion should be fully decriminalized. Regulatory, policy and programmatic barriers – as well as barriers in practice – that hinder access to and timely provision of quality abortion care should be removed. These include grounds-based approaches, gestational age limits, mandatory waiting periods, third-party authorization requirements and provider restrictions. States should also protect access to and continuity of abortion care against barriers created by conscientious objection (refer to Recommendations 1,2,3,6,7,21 and 22 in this guidance).

The regulation of abortion should have the objective of respecting, protecting and fulfilling the SRHR of women; achieving positive health outcomes for women; providing good-quality contraceptive information and services; and meeting the particular needs of marginalized persons, including women facing financial hardship, adolescents, women with disabilities, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, transgender and non-binary persons, women from ethnic, religious and racial minorities, migrant and displaced women, and women living with HIV, among others. The regulation of abortion should be grounded on and should promote equality and non-discrimination.

Source: Refer to Box 1.2 for references.