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Millennium Development Goal number 5 (MDG 5) aims to reduce maternal mortality. In this brief we argue that, in the current global context more rigorous research focusing on the legal battles around women’s sexual and reproductive rights – over who gets to control women’s bodies – is of critical importance if this goal is to be reached..

When Pope Francisco I was elected last week, his position on sexual and reproductive rights and his stand on abortion was one of the main topics in the media and on social networks all over the world. The debates surrounding the election of the new pope signal the close links between religion, conceptions of morality, public policies and sexual and reproductive rights. For many people in countries where the majority are Roman Catholic, these are key issues. Whether these countries are secular or non-secular states, the Catholic Church is seen as an authority with regard to sexual and reproductive rights (SSR), and on public policies and laws that regulate and define these rights.