Abortion & Reproductive Justice: The Unfinished Revolution 3

The Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction, Rhodes University, the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition (South Africa), and the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, in partnership with the Department of Social Development (South African government) and a range of international partners listed in the appendix, will co-host the Abortion & Reproductive Justice: The Unfinished Revolution III conference at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa in July 2018.

This interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together researchers, activists, policy makers, health professionals, artists and performers, drawn from social policy, criminology, sociology, law and policy, human rights, women's health and rights, medicine, psychology, history and the arts working for safe abortion from around the world. The conference will provide a platform for delegates to explore, identify, share and pursue learning and research opportunities on a range of issues relating to abortion and reproductive justice in context, including access to abortion, activism and abortion politics. The conference will significantly contribute to the vision of unfettered and universal access to safe abortion and reproductive justice for women the world over.

The conference builds on two previous conferences with the same name held in Canada in August 2014, and in Northern Ireland in July 2016. The aim of this third iteration is to bring the conversation, scholarship, and exploration of issues and activism to those living in jurisdictions where abortion access is highly restricted, while at the same time hearing from scholars, activists and service providers from across the globe.

The hosting of the conference in Africa is thus highly pertinent. The organizing committee consists of representatives from a range of southern African countries, each with varying challenges regarding access to abortion. While South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique have liberal abortion legislation, implementation has been lackluster at best. In contrast, Zimbabwean, Malawian, and Namibian legislation remains highly restrictive; legal abortions are rare, and women who obtain unsafe abortions frequently do not seek post-abortion care for fear of repercussions. Abortion is socially, culturally and religiously stigmatized. Malawi is currently reviewing a proposed revision to the abortion law. Mozambique recently (late 2014) implemented legal reforms on abortion despite strong opposition from religious groups in the country. The conference will have three parts:

Part 1 - Workshops

Prior to the official opening, there will be pre-conference workshops for students and early career professionals who wish to increase their skills in a range of issues relating to abortion.

Part 2 - Knowledge Sharing

The abstract-driven part of the conference will come next. This will be open to all who wish to register (whether they have submitted an abstract or not); a range of formats for presentations in this portion of the conference will be provided, including debates, roundtables, symposia, discussion groups, arts and drama presentations, and papers; keynote speakers with significant experience in research and/or advocacy in the area of reproductive justice and abortion will also be invited.

Part 3 - Action Discussions:

This part of the conference will be a participatory discussion primarily for advocates from across Africa, facilitated by the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion. Building on the more academic format of the second part of the conference, participants will engage in discussions from a public health and human rights perspective around the following topics – Decriminalizing abortion, success and failures at law reform, resistance to change, human rights standards, health systems, professionals and policymakers. The main aim will be to explore experiences, difficulties and successes in taking action on the ground.

A proportion of places will be reserved for young researchers and advocates. There will be a Youth Committee to propose sessions of particular value for young people, and to plan how to take what happens in the conference to the outside world as follow-up.

Opportunities for networking will be provided throughout the conference, including through several social events.