Abortion, health and gender stereotypes

May 21, 2019

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On 20 May 2019, Lucia Berro Pizzarossa obtained her PhD on the subject of abortion. Worldwide, countries have responded differently to abortion from a legal perspective, ranging from the complete criminalization of abortion to the regulation of the procedure as a health issue. What do these laws mean from a human rights perspective?

Berro Pizzarossa concludes that certain models for abortion law, which are widely praised and featured as liberal, often fail to comply with human rights. In her thesis, she compares the legal sitations in Uruguay and South Africa. By critically analysing the ‘requirements’ set by these laws, and the stereotypes that emerge from parliamentary debates, this thesis unveils the myriad of human rights violations that often go unseen, and are currently inadequately addressed under international human rights law.

Right to abortion

Berro Pizzarossa shows, among other things, the strong influence of various forces – religious entities and conservative states – that systematically obstruct the right to abortion within the framework of the UN. She also shows that when the topic of abortion was introduced into the international human rights framework, it was not intended to regulate fertility nor was seen as a legitimate aspect of reproductive healthcare, but as something to be prevented, something that should always be on the agenda. Something that was “wrong” somehow. A groundbreaking outcome of this research, according to Berro Pizzarossa.

The most important conclusion of the study is that the prevailing legal approach to abortion is fundamentally anti-abortion. Even in a liberal setting, women may only undergo abortion with the permission of the state apparatus, which requires the involvement of one or more doctors and other professionals. In a certain sense, abortion is always “wrong” in social discourse: abortion – both for parliamentarians who are for or against – is an exceptional decision that would be made out of despair or egoism. Sometimes it is even seen as a decision that women cannot make on their own because they are not adequately equipped to do so.

According to Berro Pizzarossa, the international human rights framework requires that this approach be abandoned. She argues for decriminalization, de-medicalization and de-stereotyping of abortion.

Thesis:  Berro Pizzarossa, L. (2019). Abortion, health and gender stereotypes: a critical analysis of the Uruguayan and South African abortion laws through the lens of human rights. [Groningen].

Source: University of Groningen website