This oral statement was delivered by ARROW at the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council Annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council and that of its mechanisms. Watch the intervention here.
Thank you, Chair. I am Karell Calpito from the Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, making this statement on behalf of ARROW and the Safe Abortion Advocacy Initiative Global South Engagement (SAIGE).
In 2015-2019, 73 million abortions occurred worldwide each year. Of these, 1/3 were carried out in dangerous conditions. In developing countries, about 7 million women are admitted every year as a result of unsafe abortion and each year, 5 to 13% of maternal deaths can be attributed to this.
Safe abortion rights advocates globally have articulated over and over that restrictive laws on abortion does not only have a negative impact on public health, but also on social justice. Rather than making abortion safer or improving health and lives, criminalisation of abortion leads to less safe abortions and worse health outcomes and thus perpetuates gender stereotypes and abortion stigma. The likelihood of ill-health and legal risk is greatly heightened for marginalised groups of pregnant persons.
Moreover, since the onset of the pandemic, access to safe abortion services were severely impeded in many countries in the Global South. These conditions unfairly impacted the most vulnerable groups. On the other hand, abortion was confirmed as an essential healthcare service by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020 and WHO has also recognised self-managed abortions as important to the optimal use of healthcare resources and to the empowering role it plays, which is vital during a period when pregnant persons are otherwise facing higher levels of discrimination.
As advocates, we call upon states and governments to recognise the reproductive rights and reproductive health services as essential and ensure universal access to quality safe abortion and post-abortion care services. We call for abortion decriminalisation and the adoption of legal frameworks that enable pregnant persons to exercise their right to bodily autonomy, health and life.
 WHO. Preventing unsafe abortion. <https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/preventing-unsafe-abortion>
 Self-managed abortions (SMA) occur when a person chooses to perform their own abortion outside a medical setting, wherein governments can support SMA via telemedicine.