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U.S. Policy Should Uphold Abortion as a Human Right

Policy Briefs

Denial of the right to access safe and legal abortion is a violation of women’s and girls’ human rights.

There are 218 million women of reproductive age in low- and middle-income countries who wish to delay pregnancy but are not using a modern contraceptive method. Everyone must have access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health care — no matter where they live. This includes their right to abortion care.

Abortion opponents have long sought to bar or limit that right, both in the United States and through U.S. foreign assistance, which puts essential health care out of reach for far too many people around the world.

Evidence shows that restricting the right to abortion does not eliminate the need for abortion care, instead it only prevents safe abortions. The majority of unsafe abortions occur in low- and middle-income countries where some of the strictest anti-abortion laws are in effect. When people are unable to seek abortion care from trained health professionals and fear prosecution, they must obtain the procedure in secret, often through “traditional or nonmedical” methods that can lead to severe complications. Many face long-term health consequences or even die as a result. In fact, unsafe abortion accounts for up to 13% of maternal deaths worldwide. Many of these deaths could be easily prevented, which would significantly decrease the global maternal mortality rate.

Read more in our policy brief.

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