The Global Abortion Policies Database (GAPD), launched in June 2017, provides a verifiable, comprehensive, nuanced approach to information and data sources on abortion law and policy. Abortion laws, policies, and guidelines from United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) Member States are juxtaposed to information and recommendations from WHO safe abortion guidance, national sexual and reproductive health indicators, and relevant UN human rights bodies’ concluding observations to countries.
The Global Abortion Policies Database aims to increase transparency of information and accountability of states for the protection of individuals’ health and human rights. The database presents current information on abortion laws and policies that goes beyond categories of lawful abortion to include information on additional access requirements, service provision, conscientious objection, and penalties. Wide-ranging variations among countries’ legal requirements and criminal penalties raise questions about the evidentiary and human rights basis for abortion laws and policies. Source documents found in the database highlight that in many jurisdictions legal and policy guidance is either non-existent, not clear, or conflicting. By juxtaposing a jurisdiction’s abortion laws and policies to relevant WHO guidance and by facilitating comparisons of countries’ sexual and reproductive health indicators, the database can enable deep policy analysis of states’ obligations to meet the health needs and human rights of individuals in the context of abortion. Policy analysis in the context of authoritative guidance on human rights standards can enable health and rights advocates to hold governments accountable for respecting, protecting, and fulfilling individuals’ human rights.
The GAPD is a comprehensive tool that can be used to strengthen knowledge, inform law and policy research to generate evidence on the impact of laws and policies in practice, and facilitate greater awareness of the many challenges to creating enabling policy environments for safe abortion.