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Doctors to governments: Abortion is not a crime

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Staff writer ▼ | November 21, 2015
Doctors and health professionals from every region of the world added their voices to the growing pressure for the decriminalization of abortion.
Healthcare   Health professionals from every region of the world
838 health professionals from 44 countries signing an open letter to governments published today by Amnesty International.

The letter calls on governments to stop interfering with health professionals’ ability to provide care, warning that criminalizing abortion puts women and girls’ health and lives at risk.

“The criminalization of abortion prevents healthcare providers from delivering timely, medically indicated care in accordance with their patients' wishes,” the letter says.

“It impedes and disregards sound medical judgment and can undermine the professional duty of care and confidentiality that doctors bear towards their patients.”

Globally, 40% of women of childbearing age live in countries where abortion is banned, highly restricted or otherwise inaccessible. Unsafe abortion accounts for 13% of maternal deaths, resulting in 47,000 women and girls dying each year.

"So many respected health professionals speaking out reaffirms what women have been saying for years; governments can no longer claim that criminalizing abortion has no impact on the health care that women and girls receive," said Sara MacNeice, Manager of Amnesty International’s My Body My Rights campaign.

"Making criminals of women for abortion violates their human rights and can endanger their lives. In numerous countries around the world, Amnesty International has documented shocking cases of women forced to continue unviable pregnancies because of restrictive laws. We have seen women and girls pregnant as a result of rape forced to carry the foetus to term and give birth.

"International law is clear: at the very least women should have access to an abortion when the pregnancy poses a risk to the life or health of a pregnant woman or girl, in cases of severe or fatal foetal impairment, and in cases of rape or incest. International law is also says that under no circumstances should a woman be made a criminal for having an abortion."