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Abortion, health and gender stereotypes

A critical analysis of the Uruguayan and South African abortion laws through the lens of human rights
PhD ceremony:Ms L. (Lucia) Berro Pizzarossa
When:May 20, 2019
Supervisors:prof. mr. dr. B.C.A. (Brigit) Toebes, prof. dr. M.M.T.A. (Marcel) Brus
Where:Academy building RUG
Abortion, health and gender stereotypes

Despite being a very common and relatively safe procedure, abortion is subjected to extensive regulation, worldwide. Using the framework of human rights, this thesis critically engages with national legislative responses—considered to be ‘good abortion laws’—, to assess the extent to which they comply with states’ international obligations. 

This study grapples with the instrumental and constructive approach of the law, insofar as the law impacts both the enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health (by restricting access to abortion), and the regulation of the procedure in ways that foster stereotyped ideas about women’s roles in society. It also engages with human rights in their dual role: as a regulation of states’ powers (as a limit to, and framework for, states’ legislative choices on abortion), and as a challenge to the structures of thought that drive inequalities (the eradication of gender stereotypes, reflected in and perpetuated by the abortion laws).

This dissertation concludes that certain models for abortion law, which are widely praised and featured as liberal, often fail to comply with human rights. By critically analysing the ‘requirements’ set by these laws, and the stereotypes that emerge from parliamentary debates, this thesis unveils the myriad of human rights violations that often go unseen, and are currently inadequately addressed under international human rights law.