The Campaign in 2016: Executive Summary

In 2016, membership of the Campaign increased by 25% to 1,132 members in 113 countries. We coordinated and promoted the biggest and most influential International Safe Abortion Day on 28 September to date, calling for decriminalisation of abortion, a moratorium on prosecutions, and universal access to safe abortion. We also gathered hundreds of signatures from all regions on an Open Letter to the UN Secretary-General and the heads of UN agencies asking them to make International Safe Abortion Day an official UN Day.
We shared statements by UN human rights bodies in the newsletter and on our website throughout the year, and included their public statements and reports of country visits in the Campaign newsletter. We supported calls for solidarity action for law reform or against legal restrictions almost every month, from Sierra Leone, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Papua New Guinea, Netherlands, and more than once each from El Salvador, Northern Ireland, and Poland. We re-launched a project begun in 2013 to carry out research and produce reports on people in prison for having or providing abortions, and published the first report on Argentina in November 2016 in English and Spanish.
We published the most informative international newsletter on abortion issues in the field 2-3 times each week with a broad range of news, resources and reports from members and what is happening at law and policy, health service, governmental and inter-governmental levels; built a strong and growing social media presence internationally, e.g. with some 20,400 Facebook fans; built an international press list with contacts in 32 countries and had regular contact with them and with other publications, including via eight press releases on major events; and created a new website packed with information and resources, which was launched in May 2016.
We published one of the first statements on the Zika virus and reproductive rights, and statements on World Cancer Day, World Health Day, International Safe Abortion Day,  and Human Rights Day. We created a social media teach-in on unsafe abortion as violence against women for the international days of action on violence against women,  We organised sessions, made presentations and participated in six international conferences and meetings, and were represented by the Asia Safe Abortion Partnership in another.
Lastly, we developed plans with experts in human rights litigation to hold a symbolic international tribunal, and developed an agenda for a conference on abortion advocacy, to be held in early 2018.
From early 2016, three part-time staff began working with the International Coordinator in London on research on trials and imprisonment, social media, website development, and communication with the press. This greatly increased our output and influence, our outreach to and interaction with members, and our ability to put a spotlight on their contributions to the field.
In our fourth year, we can say we have come a long way in building an international network whose activities are having an impact greater than the sum of its parts, which was the main reason why, since 2012, there was and continues to be support for the Campaign as an "umbrella" organisation.


The membership of the Campaign consists of local, national, regional and international NGOs and networks; feminist collectives and women's rights groups; youth organisations and networks; human rights experts; grassroots advocacy groups; researchers; policymakers; health professionals; academics; students; journalists; and people working in and for governments, human rights bodies, UN agencies and other international agencies.  Their geographical location, as the pie graph shows, is divided across all regions.
Membership of the Campaign grew by 25% to 1,132 in
113 countries by the end of December 2016, and is growing steadily. New members engage with us through social media, via our website, at meetings and conferences, during activities for International Safe Abortion Day, and as press. We send out regular invitations to join the Campaign.


In 2016, there were events in 55 countries; four OHCHR human rights experts made a joint statement on the need for safe abortion; the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa also made a statement; and four national government ministers made statements or participated in national events. The Campaign also made a
Themes for 2016 were: decriminalisation of abortion, a moratorium on prosecutions, and universal access to safe abortion. Social media activity was the biggest yet. International and regional NGOs and networks who participated included IPPF, Ipas, Women Help Women, Sexual Rights Initiative, Catholics for Choice, Women Deliver, Center for Reproductive Rights, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, ASTRA, ARROW, CLACAI. A major social media campaign called "Step into Our Shoes" was coordinated by WGNRR and Love Matters.

Call to make 28 September and official UN Day.

Early in 2016, it was agreed that the Campaign would write an Open Letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the heads of UN Women, UNDP, WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNAIDS, to ask them to declare 28 September, International Safe Abortion Day, an official UN Day. The letter was sent on 17 August 2016, with signatures from 73 countries in all regions.
We received a positive, informal collective response from all the agencies, agreeing that more needed to be done to make abortion safe as a public health issue.


Solidarity requests from members came in on average once a month. They were sent to members on social media, in the newsletter, on the website and on all the listserves we are on. They came from Sierra Leone, El Salvador, Chile, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Poland, Spain, Papua New Guinea, and Netherlands.

We shared statements by UN human rights bodies throughout the year in the newsletter and on our website, and summarised reports, General Comments and statements by OHCHR and its Committees and Special Rapporteurs in the newsletter. We covered work related to abortion of the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, the African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights' and the Peruvian government's decision to compensate two women denied legal abortions, whose cases had been taken up by CEDAW. We wrote and published and press released the statement "Confronting a new epidemic: Consequences of the Zika virus for public health and reproductive rights", which was translated into Spanish and Portuguese.
We responded to a call from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for suggested text related to abortion for their "General Comment on the Rights of the Child focusing on adolescents". We also summarised
reports and recommendations from various human rights bodies regarding the Philippines, Ireland, United Kingdom, Burkina Faso, Ecuador and Ghana, and information about Shadow Reports to Committees, e.g. a feature on the Shadow Report to the Committee against Torture on Sri Lanka's abortion law.
On the importance of International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2016, we were the first to publicise the
statement by four UN experts: “Unsafe abortion is still killing tens of thousands women around the world – UN rights experts warn" in the newsletter and a press release. We also published and press released a Campaign statement.



We developed plans with experts in human rights litigation for a symbolic international tribunal, based on paradigmatic cases, whose aim is to hold governments to account for failing to make abortion safe globally, and developed an agenda for a conference on abortion advocacy on three main themes: decriminalisation of abortion, how medical abortion is changing everything, and how to respond to anti-abortion activities, to be held at the end of 2017/early 2018.
We made agreements to publish two journal special editions in 2017, one on abortion law and policy and human rights with Health and Human Rights  and one on how medical abortion is changing everything with Contraception.

In 2016, we re-launched a project begun in 2013, to carry out research and produce reports that pull together existing information on people in prison for having or providing abortions. The reports are evidence-based; they summarise the legal status of abortion; recorded cases of charges, arrests, trials and imprisonment for abortion; the effects the law has on women with an intersectional focus that looks at issues of race, class and age; the status of abortion providers; the advocacy and legal approaches taken by lawyers and abortion rights advocates. They are being shared through our newsletter, social media and website. The
report on Argentina was completed in November 2016, translated into Spanish by CLACAI and disseminated. Reports on Kenya and Mexico were in process as the year ended, and a report on Senegal was in the early stages of preparation.

The Campaign organised a workshop at FP2020 in Bali in January 2016 on "What happens when contraception fails?", which was presented by members from Poland, USA and Malaysia. Marge Berer gave a lecture at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine on violence and the right to safe abortion, a presentation on decriminalisation of abortion in the Belfast reproductive justice conference in June, and a talk on 'Threats to abortion access internationally but also some good news' at Gynuity's Mifepristone Meeting in June. At FIAPAC in Lisbon in October she gave a presentation on abortion law internationally and decriminalisation. She did a session to introduce the Campaign at the Africa regional conference on "Abortion research into policy" in Addis Ababa, and participated in a meeting between donors and international NGOs working on abortion in Stockholm, both in December. The Asia Safe Abortion Partnership held a Youth Think Tank in Bangkok during the Bangkok abortion conference in January 2016 where they promoted the Campaign.

The Campaign is grateful for a grant from the Open Society Foundations in December 2016 for the work on the two journal special editions to be published in 2017.
No other donor offered funding in 2016.
Instead, our work was supported financially by contributions from seven Campaign members: Gynuity Health Projects, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International, DKT International, Catholics for Choice, International Women's Health Coalition, and Women Deliver. We are thankful to them not only for contributing the funds but also for the support for the Campaign's work and achievements which these contributions represent.


To PROMSEX, Peru for acting as the Campaign's fiscal agent, managing the Campaign's finances and translation of important texts into Spanish and dissemination across Latin America.
To Sonia Corrêa of Sexuality Policy Watch for translation of several Campaign statements into Portuguese and dissemination in Brazil.
To Mónica Roa, for developing the concept of a symbolic international tribunal and related conference, which we hope to bring to fruition.
To Corinne Whitaker, who advised on and helped to develop concept notes for our fundraising and a donor mapping of the USA and Europe.
To the Campaign staff and members, who are working with great commitment to promote safe abortion as a women's right around the world, and have helped to build and promote the Campaign and its work.

Editor: Marge Berer

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