Humanists UK defends women’s reproductive rights at UN Human Rights Council

14 March, 2018

The rights of women are being severely threatened around the world by restrictive abortion legislation and the inhumane punishments that accompany them, Humanists UK has told the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

In an oral statement at the 37th regular session of the UNHRC, Humanists UK representative Dr David Harvey noted limited access to legal abortions forces many women to undergo unsafe abortions, accounting for as many as 13% of maternal deaths worldwide each year. The statement also noted that:

‘In other parts of the world, even being seen to be breaching abortion laws can lead to extremely severe punishment. In El Salvador, for instance, Teodora Vásquez was released from prison on 15th February this year having served 10 years of a 30 year sentence for aggravated murder after suffering a stillbirth. This is cruel, senseless, gender-based violence, and it must end.’

Turning attention to the referendum on abortion due to be held in the Republic of Ireland this May, Humanists UK called for the abolition of its Eighth Amendment, which currently prohibits abortion on nearly all grounds, even in cases of rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormality. Dr Harvey also pointed to the similar state of affairs in Northern Ireland, noting that ‘Humanists UK and the UNHRC itself are currently seeking to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion law at the Supreme Court’.

The statement concluded by recommending that ‘the Council supports efforts to enable women to access safe, legal abortions across the globe and continues to challenge restrictive abortion laws wherever they are found.’


For further information please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan on

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At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.