Staff member stands in front of MSI Mexico clinic

Abortion is healthcare, not a crime

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    Abortion is one of the world’s most safe and common medical procedures – and a human right. But from the UK to Malawi, women around the world still face prison for having an abortion.

    Everyone should have the power to make decisions about their body and their future. But without reproductive choice, millions around the world are denied that freedom.

    As one of the world’s leading reproductive health charities, we’re fighting to change this.

    Abortion should be treated as healthcare, not a crime. It’s time to decriminalise abortion.

    Safe abortion saves lives

    Globally, 40% of women live in countries where abortion is banned, restricted or inaccessible. They’re denied reproductive healthcare, and the right to decide if or when to proceed with a pregnancy. Sometimes abortion is heavily criminalised, often it’s just too difficult to access.

    These laws and restrictions drive women to difficult and dangerous decisions. Every year, 35 million people around the world are forced to have an unsafe abortion, also known as a backstreet abortion. 9 million women face medical complications, and 22,800 women die.

    With access to abortion care that is safe and legal, these lives could be saved. An important first step is to take abortion out of criminal law, so that people can access services without fear of prosecution.

    It’s time to reform Britain’s Victorian abortion law

    In the UK, one in three women will have an abortion by the age of 45 and 90% of the population is pro-choice. Abortion is recognised as a safe and common form of healthcare – but in Britain, access is still determined by a law passed in 1861, before women even had the right to vote.

    Abortion is one of the very few forms of healthcare still written into criminal law. The 1967 Abortion Act made abortion legal under specific circumstances, but if someone accesses an abortion outside of these parameters, they could face a police investigation or even jail time.

    There have been recent cases where women in the UK have suffered pregnancy loss and were then accused of having an abortion outside the legal limits. They deserved to be treated with compassion and care, but instead faced invasive police investigations, with some even separated from their children, until the charges were dropped.

    We believe it is never in the public interest to prosecute someone for ending their own pregnancy. Women should be treated with care, never criminalised.

    Access to abortion saves lives

    A global movement for abortion rights

    Several governments around the world have already made the move to remove abortion care from criminal law and at MSI, we’re proud to have been part of that progress.

    In Mexico, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled to remove sanctions for abortion from the Mexican criminal code, clearing a path to decriminalise abortion across Mexico.

    In Australia, our team helped build parliamentary support for the Abortion Law Reform Act in New South Wales in 2019, leading to abortion being decriminalised.

    But we can’t stop at incremental country wins. We need to decriminalise abortion everywhere, so we’re joining the World Health Organisation, the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in calling for that.

    What can you do to help?

    1. Write to your member of Parliament: If you’re based in England or Wales, please write to your Member of Parliament, and urge them to support abortion law reform.
    2. Donate to support reproductive rightsAcross 37 countries, we’re working to provide reproductive healthcare and advocate for reproductive rights, supporting over 90,000 people with their reproductive choices every single day. With your help, we can go further.