Realising Rights at the Global Safe Abortion Conference

Realising Rights actively participated in the Marie Stopes International 'Global Safe Abortion Conference'.  As part of this participation they hosted a panel session entitled 'Experiences with abortion law reform'.


The panel considered the lessons that could be learnt from different forms of advocacy in pursuit of safe abortion in Latin America and Africa. The key question posed by the session was 'What are the conditions that give rise to successful efforts to change abortion legislation and to ensure that legislation is implemented on the ground?' The presentations covered different contexts; where abortion is currently illegal but is being seriously debated and a context that has successfully changed abortion policy.





Cynthia Mugo, Kenya Human Rights Commission, on behalf of Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance, Nairobi, Kenya

Cynthia has been working as a Media and Communications Program Officer at Kenya Human Rights Commission for the past 3 years.  As a member of the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance , she spearheaded the much-publicized Abortion Mock Tribunal. She has also been at the forefront in advocating for women’s and LGBTI rights especially in the mainstream media in Kenya.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication and a Minor in Women Studies from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Gilberta Soares, Brazilian Campaign for Safe Abortion

Gilberta is a sociologist and founder of the organization Cunha Feminist Collective. She is executive secretary of Journadas pelo Direito ao Aborto Legal e Seguro (the Brazilian campaign in favour of the right to legal and safe abortion) and representative of the Brazilian focal point of the 28th of September Campaign for the decriminalization of abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Patience Aniteye (Ghana), Doctoral student, LSHTM UK

Patience Aniteye is a Ghanaian Graduate Nurse and Lecturer in Community Health Nursing at the School of Nursing, University of Ghana. She is currently a full-time PhD student at the London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine. Her thesis is entitled 'Understanding the barriers and opportunities for improving access to safe abortion services in Ghana: A policy analysis'. She is a member of The Ghana Prevention of Maternal Mortality Team ; and an affiliate of The Regional Prevention of Maternal Mortality.

Susannah Mayhew, Lecturer, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Susannah is a lecturer in the Centre for Population Studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is engaged on research on reproductive and sexual health policies and programmes in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. She has published numerous papers and carried out teaching/training sessions internationally on sexual and reproductive health and policy research including violence against women and reproductive rights.



Content of the presentations

The presentation by Cynthia Mugo reflected on the experience of using a mock tribunal to raise the profile and quality of public debate about unsafe abortion and open the debate for changes in abortion policy.
>> View the presentation

The presentation by Gilberta Soares told us more about South American experiences of successful abortion-law change. It focussed on the key events and actors that were effective in different  contexts and the factors which led to a change in the policy.
>>View the presentation

The presentation by Patience Aniteye addressed the challenges of implementing an abortion policy in a context where some liberalisation of law has occurred but opposition remains and there is ambiguity of the law and moral/religious reluctance to support it openly. It identified what needs to be done to demystify abortion, open up public debate, and push for proper implementation.
>>View the presentation

Susannah Mayhew gave an overview and key messages
This drew out the overarching themes from presentations and how they highlight recent policy developments.

  • The presentations show that policy-change can be achieved in even highly hostile settings through engagement of key stakeholders including media, religious leaders 
  • Policy change alone, however, is not sufficient to decrease deaths from unsafe abortion, as the case of Ghana shows
  • Advocacy efforts such as those in Kenya are important both to trigger policy change but also to ensure any resulting policies are implemented.


A video recording of the panel can be viewed on the Global Safe Abortion Conference website.