Abortion and the International Community

Box 15

At the International Conference on Population and Development the international community agreed in paragraph 8.25 of the ICPD Programme of Action on a common position regarding abortion:

8.25. In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. All Governments and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are urged to strengthen their commitment to women's health, to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion* as a major public health concern and to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family planning services. Prevention of unwanted pregnancies must always be given the highest priority and all attempts should be made to eliminate the need for abortion. Women who have unwanted pregnancies should have ready access to reliable information and compassionate counselling. Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process. In circumstances in which abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe. In all cases women should have access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Post-abortion counselling, education and family planning services should be offered promptly which will also help to avoid repeat abortions.

The Fourth World Conference on Women reaffirmed this agreement and in addition recommended that countries "consider reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortions." Coerced abortion is explicitly recognized as a violation of basic rights and principles.

*Unsafe abortion is defined as a procedure for terminating an unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking necessary skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical standards or both. (WHO/MSM/92.5).