Journal Article


Unsafe Abortion: A Development Issue

Published on 1 July 2008

Abortion has become an ever more controversial issue, provoking strong reactions both ‘for’ and ‘against’. Language used in disputes over whether or not women should have access to safe and legal abortion indicates just how polarised debates have become: pro-choice versus pro-life; pro-abortion versus anti-choice.

As the anti-abortion agenda has become coupled with other conservative agendas, such as pro-abstinence, pro-chastity and anti-contraception, an increasingly assertive movement has evolved. The extension of these conservative forces to parts of the world where thousands of women die every year because they were unable to access safe abortion and protect themselves from HIV infection, has turned this polarised dispute into an urgent development issue.

Articles in this IDS Bulletin are unequivocal on the issues at stake: access to safe abortion is a matter of human rights, democracy and public health, and the denial of such access is a major cause of death and impairment, with significant costs to development. All contributors share a commitment to a woman’s right to have access to safe, affordable services for the termination of pregnancy for the widest range of reasons.

They bring perspectives from a range of contexts: countries where abortion is not guaranteed, or only under restrictive conditions, and countries where it is guaranteed but there are strong movements of counter-attack. Profound inequities of access globally and nationally are highlighted, and the importance of movements to address this. Contributors focus on policy reform and lessons learned from struggles to obtain or retain access to safe abortion services. They reflect on strategies contributing to successful outcomes or more constructive dialogue in countries where abortion is being debated.

Table of contents

Introduction: Putting Unsafe Abortion on the Development Agenda (pdf) Andrea Cornwall, Andrea Lynch and Hilary Standing

Advocating for Abortion Access: Lessons and Challenges Barbara Klugman

Islam and Abortion: The Diversity of Discourses and Practices Leila Hessini

Abortion and Human Rights: Examples from Latin America Janet Walsh, Marianne Mollmann and Angela Heimburger

Highlighting Human Rights Violations: The Mock Tribunal of Abortion Rights in Kenya Sarah Onyango and Cynthia Mugo

Unsafe Abortion and Development: A Strategic Approach Isaace F. Adewole, Boniface A. Oye-Adeniran

Campaigning for the Right to Legal and Safe Abortion in Brazil Gilberta Soares and Cecilia Sardenberg

Policy Analysis of Abortion in Indonesia: The Dynamic of State Power, Human Need and Women’s Right Claudia Surjadjaja

Social Consensus, Democratic Conflict The Debate on the Decriminalisation of Abortion in Uruguay Lilian Abracinskas and Alejandra Lopez Gomez

A Rights-based Model: Perspectives from Health Service Providers Giselle Carino, Jennifer Friedman, Marcela Rueda Gomez, Carrie Tatum and Leonel Briozzo

From Constitutional Court Success to Reality: Issues and Challenges in the Implementation of the New Abortion Law in Colombia Monica Road

Thirty-five Years of Legal Abortion: The US Experience Marlene Gerber Fried


Image of Hilary Standing

Hilary Standing

Emeritus Fellow

Andrea Cornwall

Honorary Associate

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Publication details

published by
Lynch, A., Standing, H. and Cornwall, A.
Andrea Lynch, Hilary Standing and Andrea Cornwall
IDS Bulletin, volume 39, issue 3


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