Redesigning the legal framework on abortion – lessons from the Danish case

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The WHO has called for an elimination of all non-medically indicated restrictions in access to abortion in a recent guideline.
In 1973 Denmark became one of the first countries in the Western world to make abortion available on demand and free of charge. We review the historical path of the abortion regulation, with its gradual move away from severe punishment towards legal abortion, and show how this liberalization was a by-product of other movements. Autonomy was, surprisingly perhaps, not a strong driver of progressive abortion law reform. Hence, if the aim is a liberal abortion regulation, which avoids scrutiny of women’s decisions for termination and is based on scientific data, the most passable route appears not to argue in terms of women’s autonomy but instead through other accepted societal problems for which, by happenstance, the extension of women’s right to abortion is a solution. Yet, such an approach not only weakens the focus on women’s reproductive right to decide ‘freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children’ (which is central to the CEDAW Convention and the Cairo Platform of Action), but also means that many contemporary reproductive issues are inconsistently, conflictingly, or inadequately addressed. Our analysis of the Danish case shows that conceptualizing a reproductive right in ways other than through autonomy makes it difficult to follow suit downstream with regard to medical developments and new grounds for women’s decision-making about their own reproductive lives.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date3 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2023
EventWorld Congress on Medical Law - Mykolas Romeris University, Vilnius, Lithuania
Duration: 1 Aug 20234 Aug 2023
Conference number: 27th


ConferenceWorld Congress on Medical Law
LocationMykolas Romeris University

ID: 361249454