A new special report from the UN argues, essentially and entirely logically, that countries should stop telling women what to do with their bodies - that countries that restrict access to abortion or contraception are violating a woman's human rights by interfering with her right to health. This advice is so contrary to the reality - a quarter of the world's women live in countries that ban or restrict abortion - that many see the report as a direct challenge of those governments.
Public morality cannot serve as a justification for enactment or enforcement of laws that may result in human rights violations, including those intended to regulate sexual and reproductive conduct and decisionmaking. Although securing particular public health outcomes is a legitimate State aim, measures taken to achieve this must be both evidence-based and proportionate to ensure respect of human rights. When criminal laws and legal restrictions used to regulate public health are neither evidence-based nor proportionate, States should refrain from using them to regulate sexual and reproductive health, as they not only violate the right to health of affected individuals, but also contradict their own public health justification.