Theorizing time in abortion law and human rights.

Erdman J

Health and Human Rights
Jun 2017


The legal regulation of abortion by gestational age, or length of pregnancy, is a relatively undertheorized dimension of abortion and humanrights. Yet struggles over time in abortion law, and its competing representations and meanings, are ultimately struggles over ethical and political values, authority and power, the very stakes that human rights on abortion engage. This article focuses on three struggles over timein abortion and human rights law: those related to morality, health, and justice. With respect to morality, the article concludes that collective faith and trust should be placed in the moral judgment of those most affected by the passage of time in pregnancy and by later abortion-pregnant women. With respect to health, abortion law as health regulation should be evidence-based to counter the stigma of later abortion, which leads to overregulation and access barriers. With respect to justice, in recognizing that there will always be a need for abortion services later in pregnancy, such services should be safe, legal, and accessible without hardship or risk. At the same time, justice must address the structural conditions of women's capacity to make timely decisions about abortion, and to access abortion services early in pregnancy.