Toward an International Standard of Abortion Rights: Empirical Data from Africa


Chad M. Gerson


In the Fall of 2005 I published a brief Development in the Chicago Journal of International Law concerning the prospects for establishing the right to obtain an abortion as a fundamental human right. See 5 Chi. J. Int’l L. 753. In that article I argued that the right to choose and access to abortion services would greatly improve the health and status of women and children in the developing world.

In this article, I follow up with empirical data regarding the status of abortion rights in African countries. These data are compared to maternal and infant mortality and contraceptive use. The strong negative correlation between abortion rights and maternal and infant mortality suggests that the international community should work to ensure that all the world’s women are guaranteed this fundamental right.

I further examine the effects of the policies of aid-giving nations such as the United States on access to abortion in the developing world. I argue that the United States’ “Mexico City Policy” (or “gag rule”) has not only hampered women’s access to reproductive services but will impair initiatives to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS in those countries.


Human Rights Law | International Law | Law and Gender | Sexuality and the Law

Date of this Version

May 2006