Tuesday, November 7, 2017
thebmjopinion (Nov. 1, 2017): The global abortion policies database - legal knowledge as a health intervention, by Joanna Erdman:
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs have launched the Global Abortion Policies Database. The database is an open-access repository of abortion laws, policies, standards and guidelines from 197 countries. According to Joanna Erdman:
The breadth of abortion law captured in the database is one of its key innovations. Global abortion maps and other collections tend to focus on the legal grounds for abortion, classifying countries on this basis. The database provides a more comprehensive picture, capturing a range of “policy domains” (legal grounds, gestational limits, authorization and service delivery requirements), as well as, the complexities and subtleties of regulation in multiple and sometimes conflicting standards or sub-national variation. Moreover, while abortion was historically addressed in penal codes, these have been increasingly replaced or supplemented by health legislation, constitutional court decisions, and other forms of soft regulation such as clinical guidelines and medical ethics codes. The database captures these many sources of regulation, and thereby dispels the myth of a single “abortion law.”
Erdman also notes that the European Court and other human rights bodies and courts have recognized state obligations to create regulatory frameworks for lawful abortion. The database can help governments meet these obligations by linking country profiles with with human rights standards, allowing easier comparisons across countries and geographic regions and supporting "community actors to hold governments accountable for gaps between these entitlements and abortion practice on the ground."