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Amnesty International will be debating proposals to tackle the devastating human rights consequences of misguided attempts by countries to criminalize and restrict abortion and to punish people for using drugs.

Delegates from around the world will be gathering in Warsaw, Poland, over July 6-8 to hold crucial votes on the organization’s positions on safe and legal abortion and how States control the production, sale and use of drugs.

“We want to make sure we are well placed to fight for the human rights of millions of people whose lives are impacted by how governments criminalize or restrict access to abortion and by the prohibition of drugs. Both issues require a much more compassionate approach from governments to protect the rights of the people who are most at risk,” said Tawanda Mutasah, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Law and Policy.

Access to abortion 

Representatives will be asked to vote on adopting an updated position on abortion that will call on States not just to decriminalize abortion, but to guarantee access to safe and legal abortion in a broad way that fully respects the rights of all women, girls and people who can get pregnant.

Amnesty International’s current position on abortion, which calls for the decriminalization of abortion, and access to abortion in a limited set of  cases, was adopted in 2007. Unsafe abortions continue to be one of the leading causes of maternal death worldwide, with an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions estimated to take place each year.

Drug control 

Representatives will also be voting on what would be the organization’s first ever position on how States should address the challenges posed by drugs from a human rights perspective. The proposed policy would call for a shift away from the current “scorched-earth” approach of heavy-handed criminalization, to an approach where protection of people’s health and rights are at the centre.

Amnesty International has already conducted research in many countries that have been torn apart by drug prohibition, from Brazil to the Philippines and the USA, that shows the devastating human rights cost of current drug control methods.

The key points of what will form the policy positions will be voted on at Amnesty International’s governance and decision-making forum, the Global Assembly. Held annually, the meeting is an opportunity for Amnesty representatives from around the world to meet and democratically vote on the direction of Amnesty’s work.

The meeting will take place against the backdrop of ongoing efforts by the Polish government to undermine the independence of the judiciary and to further restrict access to abortion. Both have been met with overwhelming public opposition and protest.