The Airlie Declaration on Safe Legal Abortion

We believe in a world where every woman and girl has the right to make decisions about her body, her health and her future.  True gender equality cannot be achieved without access to safe, legal abortion.

Yet this vision is still far from reality, due in part to continued restrictions on safe, legal abortion in much of the world.  Criminalizing abortion does not eliminate abortion; it puts women’s lives and health at risk.  The consequences are dire:

  • In the last two decades, roughly 1 million women and girls have died and more than 100 million have suffered injuries—many of them lifelong—due to complications from unsafe abortion.
  • Close to half of those who die from unsafe abortion are younger than 25.
  • Many women and girls are forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will.
  • Women and health-care professionals are subject to heavy penalties, including imprisonment, for seeking or providing abortion.
  • Punitive and stigmatizing attitudes persist, exacerbated by some religious groups that exert undue pressure on governments to restrict women’s reproductive rights.
  • Access to safe abortion is unequal, with young, poor and marginalized women exposed to the greatest risks.
  • Health systems spend inordinate amounts each year to manage wholly preventable injuries, and economies suffer from diminished economic participation by women and girls.

These intolerable conditions violate women’s fundamental human rights.

We welcome important evidence of progress as indicated by liberalization of laws and policies in a number of countries; increased policy and financial support at global, regional, and national levels; increased use of effective contraceptive methods; improved technologies for safe abortion; and declining deaths and injuries in most countries.   However, we must build on this progress and accelerate our efforts as we define our priorities for the next two decades.

We therefore call on governments and policymakers to:

  • Repeal laws that criminalize abortion and remove barriers on women’s and girls’ access to safe abortion services.
  • Release all women and girls and health-care professionals who are incarcerated as a result of punitive abortion laws.
  • Make safe, legal abortion universally available, accessible and affordable for all women and girls.
  • Invest in effective preventive measures including comprehensive sexuality education, elimination of gender discrimination and sexual violence, and full access to all modern contraceptive methods.
  • Ensure that government and donor priorities for the post-2015 global development framework incorporate safe, legal and accessible abortion as an integral component of gender equality and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights.

As leaders in global health, human rights, government and policymaking from diverse countries and cultures, we pledge individually and collectively to mobilize our knowledge, resources and networks toward achieving these goals. We call on the global community to join us in holding governments, global institutions and donors accountable for respecting women’s rights to make choices when faced with unwanted pregnancies, and to fulfill their obligations to women.

We are united in saving women’s lives through access to safe legal abortion.

Elizabeth Maguire, USA, President and CEO, Ipas

Nafis Sadik, Pakistan/USA, Former Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Musimbi Kanyoro, Kenya, President and CEO, Global Fund for Women

Ivens Reis Reyner, Brazil, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Lilián Abracinskas, Uruguay, Executive Director, Mujer y Salud en Uruguay (MYSU)

John Paul Bagala, Uganda, President, Federation of African Medical Students’ Associations (FAMSA)

Rt. Hon. Henry Banda, Malawi, Speaker of Parliament

Carmen Barroso, Brazil/USA, Regional Director, International Planned Parenthood Federation

Tamara Braam, South Africa, Sexual and Reproductive Rights Consultant

Amb. Dr. Eunice Brookman-Amissah, Ghana/Kenya, Ipas Vice President for Africa

Luisa Cabal, USA, VP of Programs, Center for Reproductive Rights

Susan Cohen, USA, Acting VP for Public Policy, Guttmacher Institute

Rodica Comendant, Moldova, Reproductive Health Training Center and Coordinator, International Consortium on Medical Abortion

Barbara Crane, USA, Ipas Executive VP for Technical Leadership and Advocacy

Hon. Arzu Rana Deuba, Nepal, Member of Parliament

Oley Dibba-Wadda, The Gambia, Executive Director, Femmes Africa Solidarité

Cecilia Espinoza, Nicaragua, Ipas Advisor for Latin America, Youth and Global Policy

Maria Beatriz Galli, Brazil, Ipas Senior Advisor for Regional Policy and National Rapporteur on the Human Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health, Dhesca Brasil

Alexandra Garita, Mexico, Executive Coordinator, Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ)

Françoise Girard, USA, President, International Women’s Health Coalition

Jessica González-Rojas, USA, Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

Anuradha Gupta, India, Additional Secretary and National Health Mission Director, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Leila Hessini, USA, Ipas Community Access Director,

Jennifer Daw Holloway, USA, Ipas Communications Manager

Michael Holscher, UK, Senior VP and Director of International Programs, Marie Stopes International

Charlotte Hord Smith, USA, Ipas Policy Director

Inna Hudaya, Indonesia, Founder and Director, Samsara

Manuelle Hurwitz, UK, Senior Advisor, Abortion, International Planned Parenthood Federation

Rev. Kapya Kaoma, USA/Zambia, Rector of Christ Church, Hyde Park, Massachusetts

Kenneth Keng, Philippines, Reproductive Health Advocacy Director, Filipino Freethinkers

Saba Kidanemariam, Ethiopia, Ipas Country Director

Anu Kumar, USA, Ipas Executive VP for Development, Communications and Community Access

Ana Labandera, Uruguay, Executive Director, Iniciativas Sanitarias

Elly Leemhuis-De Regt, The Netherlands, Senior Advisor for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Hon. Nana Oye Lithur, Ghana, Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection

Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Mali, Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Women, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Vinoj Manning, India, Ipas Country Director

Camille Matson, USA, Global Fund for Women

Michael Mbizvo, Zimbabwe, University of Zimbabwe and former Director, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization

Tewodros Melesse, UK, Director-General, International Planned Parenthood Federation

Joško Miše, Croatia, President, International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations

Kathy Mulville, Executive Director, Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights

Hang Thi Bich Nguyen, Vietnam, Marie Stopes International Country Director

Annelise Nininger-Finch, Ipas Policy Associate and Founder, Carolina Abortion Fund

Hon. António Niquice, Mozambique, Member of Parliament

Nancy Northup, USA, President and CEO, Center for Reproductive Rights

Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for Choice

Sandeep Prasad, Canada, Executive Director, Action Canada for Population and Development and Member, High Level Task Force for ICPD

Tharinda Puth, Canada, Human Rights Consultant

Mónica Roa, Colombia/Spain, Vice President for Strategy and External Relations, Women’s Link Worldwide

Dorothy Shaw, Canada, Past President, International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO)

Hauwa Shekarau, Nigeria, President, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)-Nigeria

Nozer Sheriar, India, Secretary-General, Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India and Ipas Board Member

Kirsten Sherk, USA, Ipas Senior Advisor for Media Relations

Chrispine Sibande, Malawi, Ipas Senior Policy Advisor

Ann Starrs, USA, President, Family Care International

Regina Tamés, Mexico, Executive Director, Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (GIRE)

Jamila Taylor, USA, Ipas Senior Policy Advisor

Anna Tenuta, USA, Global Fund for Women


Affiliations are provided for identification purposes only

*Signatories gathered at Airlie Center, Warrenton, VA, for the World Leaders Consultation on Uniting for Safe Legal Abortion, March 24-25, 2014