Congratulations to Patty Skuster, Senior Policy Advisor at Ipas and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Public Health Initiatives; her recently published article is now publicly available through SSRN. We thank her for abstracting this article for Reprohealthlaw subscribers:
Patty Skuster, “How Laws Fail the Promise of Medical Abortion: A Global Look,” Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law 18.379, 2017. Article online at SSRN
Abortion law has not kept pace with abortion practice, namely the rising use of abortion with pills. Evidence is growing that women can safely use misoprostol without the involvement of a healthcare professional. And researchers have attributed abortion with pills outside formal health care settings to a worldwide decrease in abortion mortality.
Meanwhile, abortion law globally and nationally remains rooted in outdated abortion methods that do require a healthcare professional. Global human rights experts recommend governments decriminalize women who seek abortion to meet human rights treaty obligations and reduce unsafe abortion deaths. However, the vast majority of abortion laws—even recently liberalized ones—still require a health-care professional to perform or approve legal abortion. More recent laws have progressed to allow mid-level providers (instead of medical doctors) to provide legal abortion. But even in liberal settings, women who end their abortion with pills and without a provider face imprisonment.
This article includes a summary of treaty body recommendations on abortion and the right to life and health. While treaty bodies call for governments to change laws to make abortion more accessible, treaty bodies have failed to address the nearly universal criminalization of women’s self-abortion with pills. It offers examples of laws that criminalize women’s self-use: newer laws in Uruguay and Uganda, and Zambia which, like many other former British Colonies, follows the model of the United Kingdom and requires provider involvement.
To make real progress toward upholding women’s rights to health and life, human rights authorities and governments must examine provider involvement requirements in abortion laws. We must work toward laws that permit all women to realize the promise of medical abortion.
“Access to safe abortion in Uganda: Leveraging Opportunities through the Harm Reduction Model” by Moses Mulumba, Charles Kiggundu, Jacqueline Nassimbwa and Noor Musisi Nakibuuka, International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 138 (August 2017): 231–236. doi:10.1002/ijgo.12190 PDF at Wiley Online. Submitted text.
“Updated WHO Guidance on Safe Abortion: Health and Human Rights” by J.N. Erdman, T. DePiñeres, and E. Kismödi, International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 120 (2013): 200-203. Article online”
“Applying Human Rights to Improve Access to Reproductive Health Services,” by Dorothy Shaw and Rebecca J. Cook, International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 119 (2012) S55–S59. Article online,
Ethical and Legal Issues in Reproductive and Sexual Health – 80+ brief articles
Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here. TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.