25 SEP 2021

13.00 – 15.00


Regional Advocacy for Decriminalization of Abortion in Asia and Role of Pro-Bono Partners 

This session will focus on providing examples of added value of pro bono partnerships in advocacy of decriminalization of abortion in Asia.

 Criminal bans on abortion violate the fundamental rights of women and girls, including their rights to life, health, dignity and privacy. Abortion is fully or partially criminalized in many countries in Asia, and women, girls and service providers are exposed to detention and criminal penalties for abortion.
 The Center has built regional partnerships that support national networks advocating for abortion law reform, including decriminalization of abortion. The Center has led efforts to build evidence, supported strategic litigation, and led advocacy before the UN to promote decriminalization of abortion in countries in Asia. Law firms have provided invaluable support to many of these initiatives on a pro bono basis.
 This panel will discuss the regional initiatives and successes that Center and the partners including pro-bono partners have taken so far on decriminalization of abortion in Asia, and also highlight the work that is yet to be done to achieve the goal of decriminalization of abortion. Topics discussed include:
• The growth of the SARJAI network and SARJAI Working Group on abortion: advocacy on self-managed abortion. Even though medical abortion should expand access to safe abortion services, legal frameworks in South Asian countries still do not clearly permit self-managed abortions.
• PINSAN and advocacy for the decriminalization bill in the Philippines where abortion is criminalized with no clear exceptions.
• Legal advocacy including UN advocacy and litigation in Nepal to amend the Penal Code.
• Examples of support by pro bono law firms, such as research on existing laws and policies in countries in the region, support with advocacy before UN Treaty Monitoring bodies.
• Possible areas of future collaboration with pro bono law firms: support in litigation in Nepal; advocacy before Human Rights Council and Treaty Monitoring Bodies

 Objective of the session would be to:
• To highlight the harm of using criminal laws in restricting and regulating access to abortion and share about advocacy around decriminalization of abortion in various countries in Asia from restrictive to more liberal legal settings;
• To share on the added values of partnership between organizations, lawyers and pro-bono firms and also to explore potential future collaboration with more pro bono law firms in addressing criminalization of abortion in Asia.
In addition to the summary above, please elaborate briefly on each of the following:
Pro Bono Support for Reproductive Rights
The relevance of this proposal to the session theme listed above
Abortion is integral part of the Reproductive Rights. In many countries in Asia several legal and policy barriers continue to hinder access to abortion. Criminalization of abortion is the major legal barriers, given which pregnant persons continue to live under the risk of criminal prosecution, risk to their health and life by unsafe abortion they sought to given criminal ban.

Pro Bono partners play key role in supporting the global/regional and national organizations in their advocacy for decriminalization of abortion. Their support include providing legal research, creating reproductive rights lawyers group, research and drafting support for UN advocacy etc.
The Role of Pro Bono in Health Justice
The relevance of this proposal to the session theme listed above
As indicated above- abortion rights a integral part of reproductive health rights. Health Justice would not be complete if reproductive health rights issues are not included within
The relevance of this proposal to pro bono more generally.
Pro Bono firms have been active partners in advancing reproductive rights as human rights and ensuring access to justice for reproductive rights violations. In Asia too Pro Bono partners play significant roles.
Specific objectives your session will seek to accomplish at the Conference
With this session, we would like to highlight the major challenge of reproductive rights in Asia, and share experiences from our partnerships with Pro-Bobo firms on advancing reproductive rights in Asia. Both of the sharing will be very good learning and resource for the APBC participants. In addition. we would also like to explore to expanding our pro bono partnerships through APBC and explore potential collaborations.



Prabina Bajracharya| Center for Reproductive Rights

Claire Fourel | Ashurst 

Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla | EnGendeRights

Sabin Shrestha| Forum For Women Law and Development