International Day of Action for the Decriminalisation of Abortion
The April 2012 advisory group meeting of the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion called on everyone who has endorsed the Campaign to celebrate 28 September – this year and every year.
1. Why 28 September?
This day of action has its origin in Latin America and the Caribbean, where women’s groups have been calling on their governments to decriminalize abortion around September 28 for many years. The date was chosen in commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Brazil, which is now remembered as the day of the “free womb”. The campaign has been coordinated in the region since 2010 by the Colectivo Mujer y Salud, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In 2011, WGNRR called for globalisation of the campaign, and the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network, Ipas and many others have also organised events for this day.
2. Why decriminalisation?
Because abortion is still subject to the criminal law or penal codes in almost every country in the world. On this date, we are saying with one voice around the world that it is time for this to change.
Abortion has been completely decriminalised in only one country in the world – Canada. In 1988, Canada’s highest court struck down the federal law on abortion and the parliament did not replace it. Although there are abortion regulations at the state level, any re-criminalisation of abortion would be a violation of that court ruling. This represents the most complete form of normalisation of abortion possible, bringing it in line with all other medical procedures, making good medical practice and quality of care in service provision the only “issues” involved. Any breaches of medical practice would be punishable under other existing laws.
In Victoria state in Australia, in 2008, abortion was decriminalised by both houses of the state parliament, but only up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Under the new law, terminations of pregnancy are now regulated like any other medical procedure up to 24 weeks. The law provides women and health practitioners with clarity about the circumstances in which the termination of pregnancy can be performed; it did not expand or restrict access to services. This is more akin to “legalisation” than to decriminalisation, which have two different meanings legally.
In almost every other country, providing abortions or the means to induce an abortion, having an induced abortion, and/or helping someone else to have an induced abortion are punishable in law in at least some instances. This is as true of Great Britain as it is of Brazil or Kenya.
Thus, decriminalisation of abortion aims to normalise induced abortion as a legitimate form of health care for women, and to ensure that there are no legal reasons why women cannot seek an abortion if they do not wish to continue a pregnancy.
3. Why organise action in every country?
Action in every country – and putting together and disseminating a report from every country of what we organised – is one way to show that there are groups everywhere in the world fighting for women’s right to safe abortion.
BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS – (1) IT’S UP TO YOU WHETHER YOU ORGANISE SOMETHING, AND WHAT YOU ORGANISE, and (2) THE MORE GROUPS AND COUNTRIES WHO DO ORGANISE SOMETHING, NOT ONLY FOR 28 SEPTEMBER BUT THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, THE STRONGER OUR MOVEMENT WILL BE.
OUR ROLE AS CAMPAIGN COORDINATORS IS TO ENCOURAGE YOU TO JOIN IN, WORK TOGETHER WITH US AND EACH OTHER, GIVE YOU IDEAS IN CASE YOU WANT THEM, COLLECT AND SHARE YOUR REPORTS OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING, AND DISSEMINATE THEM AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE.
by Marge Berer, on behalf of 1st advisory group meeting and coordination team,
International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion