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Reproductive Healthcare Legislation Guide


Statement on “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Legislation” by states

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to life, liberty, security and privacy of person.

Sexual and reproductive health comprises all matters relating to sexuality and the reproductive system, and refers to a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.

All individuals have a right to make decisions governing their body and to access services that support that right.

Further, all individuals have the right to make their own choices about their sexual and reproductive health, the capability to reproduce and the freedom to determine if, when and how to do so.

The access to safe and legal abortion is a fundamental human right, protected in various international and regional human rights conventions and states’ constitutions globally. These instruments anchor safe abortion in a range of rights, including the right to life, liberty, privacy, equality, and non-discrimination, as well as the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Restrictive abortion laws have been repeatedly condemned by human rights organizations as incompatible with human rights framework in practices.

700 million women of reproductive age lack access to safe and legal abortion care. According to the World Health Organization, more than 20,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions and tens of thousands more suffer significant health complications.

Legal restrictions on abortion do not result in fewer abortions, but rather force women to risk their lives and health by seeking unsafe abortion care.

The legislation(s) on abortion thus not only provide information about where women and girls can have a legal abortion. They also provide information about the likelihood that a woman may die from an unsafe abortion, whether girls will complete their education, and how limited their opportunities are to participate in public and political life.

Hence, legislation(s) on abortion provide indication of where women and girls are treated equally and have the opportunity to self determine the course of their own lives.


  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (among others Article 3, Article 12)

  • Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Article 7, paragraph 1(g), paragraph 2(a),(f)) “For the purpose of this Statute, ‘crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”

  • Universal Jurisdiction for “Crimes against humanity”: The principle of universal jurisdiction provides for a state’s jurisdiction over crimes against international law even when the crimes did not occur on that state's territory, and neither the victim nor perpetrator is a national of that state.

Comment: “Is “Universal Jurisdiction” applicable for crimes against person viz violation of a and b above, endangering life and security of a “person” over a systematic framework of denial of “abortion”, specifically in the event of the procedures deemed necessary, when mother is at risk, as a consequence of “unviable” human pregnancies?”

  • Human Rights Framework in Practice: It is observed that pregnancy laws possibly fall within the purview of human rights framework in practice of international law, and are most likely a subject of universal jurisdiction (viz application of universality principle) and therefore an adjudicatory jurisdiction of a state in an international society of states. “Lack of access to safe, timely, affordable and respectful abortion care is a critical public health and human rights issue.”

    • Right to Reproductive Self Determination in accordance with “Self Determination of Peoples” in UN Charter

    • Rights to Privacy in accordance with Article 12 of UDHR

  • An example of the scope of Universal jurisdiction of “crimes against humanity” Comments from Kenya: THE SCOPE AND APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF UNIVERSAL JURISDICTION: THE REPORT OF THE SIXTH COMMITTEE A/64/452-RES 64/117

  1. Definition of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: United Nations Population Fund (2014). Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population Development. 20th anniversary edition. New York.; World Health Organization (2004). Reproductive Health Strategy. Geneva.

  2. An abortion is a medical intervention procedure to end a pregnancy. It's also sometimes known as a termination of pregnancy.

  3. Women’s Rights are human rights

  4. Concept of Jurisdiction in International Law, Utrecht University

  5. WHO: Abortion Facts

  6. HHR Journal, The President and Fellows of Harvard College


  8. Kenya: Report of the 6th Committee

  9. Read Information Series on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. OHCHR Information Series

Read more on Reproductive Rights:


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