Amnesty International released a report on Friday urging authorities to protect abortion rights defenders, including healthcare workers, more effectively. The group interviewed 48 abortion rights defenders globally and found that these defenders have experienced increasing difficulty in their work as they have been subject to stigmatization and unjust prosecutions.
According to Amnesty International, legal criminalization of abortion has contributed to about 35 million unsafe abortions every year. This is because fear of criminal liability has denied pregnant women lawful abortion treatments. Healthcare workers have also faced isolation, criminalization, actual violence and burnout from defending abortion rights.
The group has called for authorities globally to recognize that defending abortion rights is crucial to promoting sexual and reproductive rights and ensure abortion rights defenders are protected. Secretary General of Amnesty International Agnès Callamard said:
Those who defend the right to abortion are ensuring and enabling access to essential services. That they should be made to do so in the face of hostility is unacceptable. It is imperative that they be protected by authorities, so they are able to carry out their work without reprisals.
In addition, Dr. Guillermo Ortíz, an obstetrician from El Salvador, asserted:
I believe it is important for doctors to make abortion accessible in countries with restrictive laws. We are the ones providing care to the poorest women, those most likely to suffer harms. We are at the forefront of healthcare, and we must be part of the movement for safe access to abortion. Abortion is healthcare.
Reproductive health has been at the center of much litigation at both the federal and state level in the US since the country’s Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had previously enshrined the right to an abortion in the US. In one of the most recent cases, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overruled on October 30 a lower court’s judgment which found that doctors lacked standing to challenge an Arizona law which prohibited abortion in fetal abnormalities. Elsewhere, the Supreme Court of Mexico held on September 6, in a landmark decision, that federal regulations which criminalized abortions are unconstitutional as they constitute violence and gender discrimination.