On November 24, 2023, Amnesty International published a new report, titled “An Unstoppable Movement: A Global Call to Recognize and Protect Those Who Defend the Right to Abortion” which highlighted women’s human rights defenders (WHRDs) and emphasized the need for “an end to the stigmatization of abortion rights defenders”, a mission that Channel has long supported.
The report is based on interviews and questionnaires conducted between August and November 2023 with 48 WHRDs from over 30 countries. These WHRDs include activists, educators, doulas, and healthcare workers among others. Some of the interviews utilized were originally conducted in 2022 by Dr. Victoria Boydell and her team with the support of several organizations, including Ipas, a previous Channel grantee partner. The report links to the Defending Frontline SRHR Defenders campaign, jointly organized by Ipas, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the International Confederation of Midwives, and MSI Reproductive Choices in April 2022.
The report found that legal criminalization of abortion has resulted in over 30 million unsafe abortions every year. In 22 countries, there is currently a total ban on abortion while in most other states abortion is heavily regulated. Even in states where progress towards reproductive healthcare has been made, there still remains large barriers to access particularly for marginalized communities. The report highlights the obstacles to safe abortion, how WHRDs continue to provide care despite these obstacles, and the challenges they face doing so.
The report references an international survey conducted by Ipas in 2021 with abortion healthcare providers to examine these challenges. The survey found that “over 13% of respondents had faced violence or aggression against them or their families due to their jobs, with peaks of over 28% in Africa, and over 20% in Asia and North America.” One fifth of the respondents frequently experienced stress due to their job or activities supporting abortion while a quarter felt discriminated against in their professional lives due to this support.”
The report also outlines State’s obligations to supporting abortion rights and recommendations for States in order to fulfill these obligations. These obligations include:
- “Guarantee [sexual and reproductive rights] SRR for all women, girls and all those who can become pregnant, including by ensuring timely, safe, and effective access to abortion.”
- “Publicly and unequivocally recognize that the work of WHRDs to defend the right to abortion is legitimate and integral to the promotion and realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
- “Ensure WHRDs working on the right to abortion, such as activists, advocates, educators, clinic escorts, accompaniers, doulas, and healthcare workers are not criminalized, intimidated, or attacked. Those who attack them must be held to account.”
- “Ensure that health-care providers are protected and fully supported in their workplaces, by developing specific protection protocols.”
- “Ensure that all WHRDs working for the right to abortion can access necessary support and resources, including funding for their activities.”
The Secretary General of Amnesty International Agnès Callamard states in the report that “those who defend the right to abortion are ensuring and enabling access to essential services” and must be protected. The work towards reproductive healthcare and rights is expansive and it is imperative to support and protect WHRDs in this work.