04.15.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Last night the U.S. Senate approved a bill designed to change how Medicare reimburses physicians that includes harmful abortion coverage restrictions—despite laudable efforts by Senators who support women’s affordable access to reproductive health care.
The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015—known as the “doc fix” bill, which also extends critical funding for community health centers—passed the House of Representatives in late March with unnecessary restrictions on health care coverage for abortion, similar to the Hyde Amendment.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and several of her colleagues offered the Women's Access to Quality Health Care Act amendment to the measure, which would have removed the abortion coverage restrictions from the measure, provided $500 million for the Title X family planning program, extended enhanced Medicaid reimbursements for OB/GYNs, and supported training programs for women’s health nurse practitioners. The amendment failed by a vote of 43 to 57.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Despite the best efforts of the champions of women's rights and well-being in the Senate, yet another bill in Congress has been cynically used as an opportunity to score political points by denying women coverage for essential health care.
"We applaud the Members of Congress who have continued to stand strong against these attacks on affordable reproductive health care services. It’s long past time the rest of their colleagues join them in focusing on policies that would make a real difference in the lives of women and their families—not measures that put safe and legal abortion care out of reach for millions of women.”
Last night’s vote—and the failure to adopt Sen. Murray’s amendment—is yet another example of anti-choice Members of Congress hijacking legislation to insert harmful and politically-motivated abortion restrictions into any bill they can, including the recently stalled human trafficking bill.Senate Blocks Federal Bill That Would Have Denied Survivors of Human Trafficking Safe and Legal Abortion
04.14.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights released a new PSA featuring British artist and actress Jemima Kirke.
In the video, Jemima shares a powerful story about her own experience seeking an abortion as a college student in 2007. By sharing her personal story, Jemima hopes that women and men across the country will be inspired to share their own experiences as a way to urge more Americans to stand up for reproductive rights.
Jemima’s story is the fourth in a series of PSAs from the Center’s Draw the Line campaign. Previous videos have featured: actor and reproductive rights advocate Mark Ruffalo; model, author, and Bravo “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi; and Tony and multiple Grammy Award winner Dee Dee Bridgewater. Additional PSAs will be released in the months to come.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Jemima Kirke’s deeply moving and personal story highlights the role that shame and stigma play in preventing women from seeking the health care that is best for themselves and their families. Many women like Jemima will also forgo the health care that is best for them simply because they are unable to afford it.
“Instead of passing sham restrictions that only hurt women’s health and chip away at access to critical health care, it is time to focus on stories like Jemima’s and advocate for policies which truly support women and their families. Whether they live in New York, Texas, or Mississippi, all women are entitled to make the best decisions for their lives, their health, and their futures.”
Jemima has been a strong advocate for women’s rights, using her art and role as an actress to comment on the issue. This past January, Jemima participated in another Center for Reproductive Rights campaign, posting a photo of her daughter and declaring “War on Women Is Over! If You Want It.” The campaign, inspired by Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s 1969 “War Is Over” peace campaign, was created with personal permission from Yoko as a tool to educate and active individuals on the profound threats to women’s freedom. It has garnered tremendous celebrity support from the likes of: Taylor Schilling, Susan Sarandon, Martha Plimpton, Glenn Close, Michael Douglas, Sarah Paulson, Nanette Lepore, Bob Balaban, John Lithgow and Yoko herself.
To support the War on Women campaign, the Center for Reproductive Rights (@ReproRights) is urging individuals to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #WarOnWomen and to call on Congress to promote genuinely pro-woman policies like the recently reintroduced Women’s Health Protection Act—a federal bill that would prohibit states from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.Pro-Choice Champions in Congress Reintroduce Historic Women’s Health Protection Act
04.14.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a measure into law late yesterday which bans the safest and most commonly used method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester—a law that could force some women to either undergo additional invasive unnecessary procedures, incur additional costs, delay their care, or even lose access to abortion services entirely.
Fallin’s signing of HB 1721—which is scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2015—makes Oklahoma the second state with such a restriction; Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a similar measure into law last week over the objections of local and national medical experts, including over 20 area physicians. Both measures prohibit physicians from providing a safe, effective, and medically proven method of abortions to many women seeking care after 13 weeks of pregnancy, early in the second trimester.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“With this law, Oklahoma has joined Kansas in an alarming trend toward substituting politicians’ agendas for the judgment and expertise of doctors, and then threatening those doctors with criminal charges if they disagree.
“Women need to be able to trust their physicians to provide the very best care possible, tailored to their unique needs and circumstances and not dictated under threat of prosecution. It’s time politicians stop passing these dangerous laws and recognize that women’s reproductive health care is a necessity, not a crime.”
While the majority of women seeking abortion services do so in the first trimester, this measure will directly impact the only provider of safe, high-quality second trimester abortion care in the entire state.
From clinic shutdown laws—which have closed clinics in Texas and threaten to shutter abortion providers in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama—to outright bans on abortion, women in the South face innumerable hurdles when trying to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services. Oklahoma women face many of these challenges, with only two clinics providing safe and legal abortion services in the entire state. Rather than focusing onincreasing the number of policies that are known to support women and children, politicians in Oklahoma have spent their time enacting abortion restrictions that do nothing to improve women’s health and safety. In fact, Oklahoma has been brought to court at least six times since 2010 to defend restrictions on abortion and contraception, including unconstitutional attacks on medication abortion and a Texas-style clinic shutdown law.File Upload: Kansas physician letter in opposition to SB95 Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks Two Unconstitutional Measures Designed to Severely Restrict Access to Abortion Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Louisiana Law Threatening Women’s Access to Safe and Legal Abortion Mississippi Asks Supreme Court to Review State’s Clinic Shutdown Law Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Arkansas 12-Week Abortion Ban as Unconstitutional Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women’s and Children’s Health and Well-being against Abortion Restrictions in the States Nation’s Highest Court Dismisses Case Concerning Oklahoma’s Unconstitutional Medication Abortion Ban
04.08.15 - Last week, the state of Arizona further invaded the doctor-patient relationship when the governor signed a new law requiring abortion providers to inform their patients about a scientifically unproven intervention that claims to “reverse” medication abortion.
The state will now force providers to notify patients of the extremely dubious claim that if a woman changes her mind about having an abortion after taking the first dose of medication to induce it, she can be injected with the hormone progesterone to counteract the effects.
The safety and effectiveness of the technique has not yet been subjected to standard clinical studies. As a result, the law is largely opposed by the medical community.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that “claims of medication abortion reversal are not supported by the body of scientific evidence. This approach is not recommended in ACOG’s clinical guidance on medication abortion.”
“To suggest that women should submit to a medical procedure that has not been rigorously studied or tested is nothing short of unethical,” said Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in U.S. News & World Reports.
The law undermines physicians’ training and authority by compelling them to provide misleading information. Moreover, state-compelled biased counseling interferes in the essential trust relationship between a woman and her doctor.
Arizona’s law is the first of its kind to mandate “abortion reversal” consent, but the Arkansas legislature has also passed a similar bill, which is now awaiting the governor’s signature.
04.07.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a measure into law late last night that will force women to wait 48 hours and make two separate trips to her health provider before accessing safe and legal abortion services—putting the state on track to pass the highest number of restrictions on abortion in the U.S. in 2015 thus far.
HB 1578 also forces doctors to provide biased and medically unproven information about “reversing” the effects of a medication abortion —a provision which is very similar to a recently passed law in Arizona. This comes on the heels of the governor signing HB 1394, a measure that requires physicians to treat women seeking medication abortion according to a decade-old method that is less safe, less effective, and more expensive than the evidence-based methods most doctors currently use.
Said Nancy Northup, president & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Arkansas politicians are practically tripping over themselves to pass more laws than any other state to harm women.
“Arkansas now sits in the center of a region devastated by sham laws designed to shutter clinics and make it harder for women to get the full range of safe, legal reproductive health care they need.
“Women need ready access to reproductive health services, not interference in their personal lives and private decisions by politicians who presume to know better. It’s time for these politicians to check their priorities and start spending their time on policies that actually help Arkansans.”
This is the sixth abortion restriction signed into law by Governor Hutchinson this year. In addition to these six restrictions-- three of which severely limit the ability of women to access medication abortion, an extremely safe method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages—the Governor also signed a bill on Monday which strips funding from family planning providers like Planned Parenthood.
Altogether, Arkansas politicians have introduced 14 measures which would severely restrict access to reproductive health care in the state, including a Texas-style clinic shutdown law and additional restrictions on young women’s access to health care.
From clinic shutdown laws—which have closed clinics in Texas and threaten to shutter abortion providers in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama—to outright bans on abortion, women in the South face innumerable hurdles when trying to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services. Arkansas women face many of these challenges, with only three clinics providing safe and legal abortion services in the entire state. Rather than focusing on increasing the number of policies that are known to support women and children, politicians in Arkansas have spent their time enacting abortion restrictions that do nothing to improve women’s health and safety.Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Arkansas 12-Week Abortion Ban as Unconstitutional
04.06.15 - Last month, under the cover of night, a hooded intruder took a hatchet-like tool to the last abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi—smashing security cameras, damaging the generator, and attempting to cut the power lines.
It was an extreme act of violence, intended to disable the clinic and prevent women from obtaining essential care. Yet for the past few years, anti-choice forces all across the South have been inflicting comparable—if not more devastating—damage by relentlessly pushing disingenuous and often unconstitutional laws designed to do the very same thing.
The result is that in 2015, countless women are now stranded without access to safe, legal reproductive health services.
Right now in Florida, the latest bill limiting abortion access is snaking its way through the state legislature. HB 633 would impose a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking abortion care. The proposed law requires a woman to meet face to face with her physician the day before the procedure, thereby mandating at least two separate trips to the clinic.
For a woman with a car, job security, and some savings, this requirement is an inconvenience and an insult to her personal decision-making process.
But for a woman with little or no income, that extra trip is more insidious. The burden of additional child care, lost wages (or lost jobs), transportation, and a possible overnight stay can quickly turn a waiting period into an absolute barrier to obtaining an abortion at all.
Of course, from the perspective of anti-choice lawmakers, that is the goal.
If this latest mandatory delay bill passes, Florida will join 10 other states in the region that impose the intrusive and medically unwarranted restriction that disproportionately affects low-income women and women of color. A number of these policies have been enacted—or worsened—in the last four years as abortion restrictions have consumed the attention of legislators across the country.
Several states have even pushed to further extend the mandatory waiting periods from 24 to 48—and even 72—hours. Arkansas, which recently passed a law forcing women to wait 48 hours and make two separate trips before obtaining abortion services, is now on track to pass the highest number of restrictions of any state in the U.S. in 2015 so far.
“Since the 2010 midterm elections when anti-choice politicians took over so many state governments, we have seen a decimation of the landscape of abortion rights—particularly in the South,” says Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“From state-mandated waiting periods to requirements that providers have unnecessary admitting privileges to building requirements aimed at shutting down clinics,” she adds, “sham laws that pretend to protect women’s health while actually restricting their ability to obtain safe, comprehensive health care have created a genuine crisis of access from Texas to Mississippi to Florida to North Carolina.”
In recent years, Southern states have passed more than 60 bills that restrict access to reproductive health care.
A recent study showed that if an admitting privileges law enacted last year in Louisiana were to go into effect (it is currently blocked), it would force three quarters of the state’s women to travel 150 miles or more each way for services. This may actually underestimate the distance women would have to travel because three of the closest states to Louisiana (TX, MS, AL) have also passed admitting privileges laws and other restrictions that could close even more abortion facilities.
Without proper care and resources, women in the South—particularly those most marginalized—face overwhelming challenges in gaining access to their most basic and constitutionally guaranteed rights.
“More and more states are considering legislation along the lines of what we’ve seen in Texas, where sham laws have shut down approximately half of the state’s clinics, and in states like Oklahoma and Louisiana, clinics are hanging on by a court order,” says Allen. “The South is being ravaged, and it has to stop.”
One promising answer to the incessant attacks on abortion access is the Women’s Health Protection Act, a piece of federal legislation that would make state laws that single out abortion for restrictions that only pretend to ensure health and safety but actually only reduce access unlawful, and affirm that our constitutional rights should not vary by state or region.
The Women’s Health Protection Act was reintroduced in Congress in January and currently has 134 sponsors in the House and Senate.
03.30.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Key provisions of a law criminalizing the transmission of HIV in an effort to curb spread of the disease in Kenya are unconstitutional and violate fundamental human rights, according to a recent landmark ruling from the High Court of Kenya. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed an amicus brief in support of the case brought by AIDS Law Project in 2010.
While the “HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act, No.14 of 2006” (“HIV/AIDS Act”) codifies measures for treatment, counseling, care and support of people living with HIV—it contains troubling provisions that criminalize the transmission of HIV in certain instances and permit partner disclosure of HIV/AIDS status by health care workers. The law also discriminates against women, who are often subject to coercive practices and violations of informed consent and confidentiality when testing for HIV, particularly during pregnancy.
In its decision issued on March 18, the three-judge panel ruled Section 24 of the HIV/AIDS Act which criminalized transmission of HIV was unconstitutional under the Kenyan Constitution, as the provisions are too vague and that disclosing patients’ HIV status violates their rights to privacy and confidentiality. The judges also advised the State Law Office to review the HIV/AIDS Act to “avoid further litigation” surrounding the law.
Said Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“All people are entitled to quality health services—regardless of their HIV status or other health needs.
“This law has inflicted fear, shame, and punishment on countless Kenyans, especially pregnant women who desperately need and deserve quality maternal health care.
“We commend the High Court for finding the criminalization of HIV transmission as unconstitutional and a violation of Kenyans’ fundamental human rights. Now is the time for the Kenya government to immediately amend this legislation and ensure people living with HIV can get the care they need without fear of discrimination or criminalization.”
“We must ensure people living with HIV receive the proper medical care and support that they need,” said Jacinta Nyachae, Executive Director of the AIDS Law Project. “If we want to reduce the spread HIV and AIDS and put an end to the stigma, violence and discrimination surrounding the disease, our public policies must be based on medical evidence and grounded in human rights.”
In 2011, the Center for Reproductive Rights submitted an amicus brief in the AIDS Law Project v. Attorney General & Director of Public Prosecutions (Petition No. 97, 2010), challenging the constitutionality of the law. The Center claimed that the HIV law could be interpreted to criminalize women living with HIV who expose or transmit the virus to a child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. The Center argued that criminalizing HIV exposure and transmission does not protect women from transmission, but instead exacerbates existing stigma and discrimination against women, exposing them to risk of prosecution. The Center’s brief also recommended the law’s provisions permitting partner disclosure of HIV status be quashed.
A 2008 joint report by the Center and FIDA Kenya found that Kenyan women seeking maternal care in health care facilities were subjected to HIV testing without their knowledge or consent, or being forced to submit to an HIV test—actions that deepen the stigma of HIV and AIDS, and discriminate and discourage women from seeking essential health care.
Cases of discrimination against pregnant women living with HIV have occurred in many parts of the world, including Namibia where 15 women living with HIV were sterilized without their consent and brought a complaint against the government in 2012. Five women in Uganda were murdered in 2008 by their husbands after the men learned about their wives’ HIV-positive status. In 2009, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Vivo Positivo brought a case against Chile before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of F.S., a Chilean woman living with HIV who at age 20 was sterilized during delivery without her knowledge or consent. Her case is still pending before the Commission.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has been documenting reproductive rights violations against women in health care settings in Kenya for close to a decade. The Center and FIDA Kenya collaborated on two reports, Failure to Deliver and At Risk, which documented women’s experiences seeking reproductive health care and highlighted the need to strengthen the Kenyan health care system and ensure adequate protection of patients’ rights.Forcibly Sterilized Woman Files International Case against Chile Failure to Deliver: Violations of Women's Human Rights in Kenyan Health Facilities At Risk: Rights Violations of HIV-Positive Women in Kenyan Health Facilities
03.26.15 - On Monday, March 9, 2015, the forecast for the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas called for heavy rain and thundershowers—with dangerous flash flooding predicted in the string of border communities that stretch along the Rio Grande in the state’s southernmost tip.
Yet the threat of downpours and rising waters did nothing to deter hundreds of supporters and activists from the community and around the world who gathered to call out human rights violations taking place in the region.
This first-ever domestic women’s human rights hearing was sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), U.S. Human Rights Network, and ten Texas-based organizations. The day before, these same organizations and community members gathered in Brownsville, Texas, for the first International Women’s Day march in the Rio Grande Valley.
The severe weather was perhaps the most accurate mirror of the urgency of the occasion. Women in the Rio Grande Valley—a poor, rural, and predominantly immigrant and Latino area where over half the women of reproductive age lack basic health insurance—have organized in response to the crisis caused by systemic attacks by the state on reproductive health services over the past few years.
Numerous restrictions targeting abortion providers and the dismantling of the state’s reproductive health care safety net in 2011 have stranded millions of low-income women without access to basic care. High poverty rates and a lack of services such as public transportation have only compounded the crisis.
Now the women themselves are a rising tide.
They and their families—mothers, daughters, sisters—have been rocked to the core by the financial and emotional toll of unplanned pregnancies, devastating yet preventable cancers, inadequate pre- and postnatal care, and lack of access to safe abortion.
At the hearing, 20 women affected by the barriers to obtaining basic reproductive health services offered oral and written testimony before a panel of seven global human rights experts who specialize in issues of women’s rights, immigrant rights, and health rights.
One woman, Letitia, told of enduring months of severe pain and vaginal bleeding because she could not afford the $250 fee to be seen by a doctor. She subsequently discovered she had a uterine tumor, for which she was unable to afford any treatment. Letitia lives with crushing anxiety about what will happen to her children if she dies. “I just want to know how to get out of this situation,” she said.
Josefina explained that, with all the clinic closures in Texas, she now has to travel 50 miles to get her annual exam. But she does not have a car or any money. Each year, getting a mammogram, a Pap smear, and a basic exam presents an overwhelming hurdle. She said, “Being able to prevent illness should be within every woman’s reach because we want healthy women in our homes, in our communities, and in our Texas.”
Another woman, Julia, was so overcome with emotion when she came to the podium that she could hardly speak. But the room immediately embraced her—filling with applause and encouragement. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is hard because I have to remember.” She told of receiving a devastating colon cancer diagnosis and having no insurance or money to cover treatment. She was told she had three months to live, and she recalled her school-aged son offering to drop out and get a job to help pay for her treatment.
Due to medical negligence and a lack of quality care, Alejandra gave birth to a daughter with cerebral palsy. At the hearing she spoke of telling her doctor she did not want to have any more children and asking to be sterilized. He refused—denying her a basic right.
Later the doctor told Alejandra he would do the procedure, but that she could never afford it. “I did not know about the existence of programs and clinics offering low-cost women’s reproductive health services that could have helped me. I also believed that because I am an immigrant, I did not have any rights.”
Alarmed and dismayed by their stories, the panel of human rights experts followed the testimony with promises to share the women’s experiences and highlight the crisis in the Valley in their respective spheres of influence.
Paula, a promotora—or community health advocate—in the Valley who testified at the hearing, was fortified by the response. “It gives us a sense of security that we’re not alone, and we’re not the forgotten border community,” she said afterwards. “We’re going to get mobilized and we’re going to get moving. If this is what it takes to make our voices heard, we’re going to do it.”
The Center and NLIRH have been documenting the impact of Texas family planning cuts and other threats to the health and human rights of Latinas and immigrant women in South Texas since late 2012. Last month, the Center and NLIRH released a policy blueprint called Nuestro Texas: A Reproductive Justice Agenda for Latinas which outlines proactive policies that state lawmakers should enact to end the current crisis and restore access to critical reproductive health services.
Katrina Anderson, the Center’s senior human rights counsel, notes that moving forward, all eyes will be on the Texas legislature: “We are watching closely to make sure that proposals to revamp women’s preventive health services do not cause further damage in areas like the Valley that cannot afford to lose more providers. With NLIRH, we’re also building support in the legislature for policies that affirm all women’s rights to affordable, high quality reproductive health care, regardless of where they live, how much money they make, or what their immigration status is.”
Despite the somberness of their stories and situations, the women of the Rio Grande Valley have embraced a symbol of hope and empowerment: the poderosa, the powerful woman. With chants demanding salud, dignidad, and justicia (health, dignity, justice), the clarity and resolve of the poderosas was in full force at this historic event.Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women's Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley Nuestro Texas Blueprint Endorsement
03.25.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Peggy Young, a former employee of the United Parcel Service (UPS), will be able to continue her case against the company for discriminating against her by refusing to accommodate her doctor’s orders that she avoid heavy lifting while pregnant—forcing her to take unpaid leave and lose her health benefits at the time she needed them most.
Today’s 6-3 decision vacates and remands Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Young argues she was denied the same light duty accommodations the company offered to other individuals—such as those with disabilities, on-the-job injuries, and even those who lost their driving privileges from DUI charges—in violation of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today the U.S. Supreme Court has rightfully sided with Peggy Young, ensuring the rights of pregnant women cannot simply be cast aside by their employers.
“No pregnant woman should be forced to choose between keeping her job and what’s best for her health. We commend Peggy Young for her courage to stand up for her rights and the rights of millions of workers across the U.S.”
In writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer noted “there is a genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young’s.” Breyer was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion.
Members of Congress plan to reintroduce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a bill that would provide additional protections for pregnant workers by preventing employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and helping ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who want to continue working and provide for their families.
The Center for Reproductive Rights opposes any discrimination against pregnant women and fights for the human rights of, and safe maternal health care for, women in the U.S. and around the globe. In recent years the Center has advocated for fair treatment of pregnant immigrant women in U.S. detention centers, exposed severe disparities Black women face when seeking quality maternal health care in the South, and fought for justice on behalf of women in Latin America and Africa who have received unfair and discriminatory treatment when accessing pregnancy care.United Nations Committee Examines U.S. Record On Torture Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care Brazil Takes Step to Implement Historic United Nations Ruling in Maternal Death Case Case Of Pregnant Woman Beaten And Denied Care At Local Hospital Brought To Kenyan High Court
03.23.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) North Carolina has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a state law that would force women to undergo a narrated ultrasound before receiving an abortion—a measure that has been blocked by both a district court and federal appeals court as unconstitutional.
Today’s filing follows the unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in December 2014 affirming that the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians by forcing them to deliver politically motivated communications to a patient even over the patient’s objection, declaring that "transforming the physician into the mouthpiece of the state undermines the trust that is necessary for facilitating healthy doctor-patient relationships and, through them, successful treatment outcomes."
The law was preliminarily blocked in October 2011 following a lawsuit filed on behalf of several North Carolina physicians and medical practices by the Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and the firm of O’Melveny & Myers. The measure was later permanently struck down as unconstitutional by a federal district court in January 2014.
“The only purpose for this intrusive and unconstitutional law is to shame and demean women who have made the very personal, private decision to end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the First Amendment and ensure doctors are never forced to serve as mouthpieces for politicians.”
“As the court has recognized, a doctor shouldn’t be forced to humiliate a patient just because some politicians disagree with her decision,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “It’s just mean-spirited for a politician to make a woman who has already decided to have an abortion feel bad because he doesn’t like her decision.”
“We all want a woman to have the information and support she needs to make the personal medical decisions that are best for her health and well being—and this cruel law does just the opposite. Politicians are not medical experts, yet politicians have written this law as part of a broader effort to end access to safe, legal abortion,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We are hopeful that the Court will reaffirm that it is unconstitutional for government to interfere in personal medical decisions about abortion that should be left to a woman and her doctor.”
The North Carolina mandatory ultrasound law, passed in 2011 by the General Assembly over the veto of then-Governor Bev Perdue, is one of the most extreme ultrasound laws in the country. In November 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a similar law from Oklahoma, allowing the ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocking the measure as unconstitutional to stand.
While the law would allow the woman to “avert her eyes” from the ultrasound screen and to “refuse to hear” the explanation of the images, the provider would still be required to place the images in front of her and describe them in detail over her objection. The North Carolina law applies even if a woman does not want to see the ultrasound, and makes no exception for rape, incest, serious health risks or severe fetal anomalies.
Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like North Carolina from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care p1roviders that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.File Upload: Walker-McGill v Stuart Petition for Certiorari Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law Federal Court Blocks Demeaning North Carolina Ultrasound Law Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law as Unconstitutional Supreme Court Declines to Review Oklahoma "Choose Life" License Plates Case
03.23.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Ignoring the current gridlock in the U.S. Senate over abortion coverage restrictions slipped into an anti-human trafficking bill, the House of Representatives is prepared to follow suit by adding similarly harmful language in a bill designed to change how Medicare reimburses physicians.
The bill, known as the “SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2015” or commonly the “doc fix” bill, would also extend funding for community health centers.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“This is nothing more than a political game for anti-choice politicians to find every nook and cranny they can to sneak in harmful restrictions on abortion care.
“Important policy decisions to expand health care services for Americans should not be held hostage to a relentless agenda to deprive women of essential reproductive health care services. It’s time our leaders in Congress put an end to these political games.”Senate Blocks Federal Bill That Would Have Denied Survivors of Human Trafficking Safe and Legal Abortion
03.18.15 - (Madrid, March 18, 2015)—Spain’s ruling Popular Party should withdraw a bill that would force 16 and 17-year-old girls to obtain the consent of their parents to terminate a pregnancy, 22 national and international rights groups said today in letters to the head of the party’s group of legislators in Congress and to UN bodies. The bill is under examination in Congress.
The rights groups said the draft legislation poses a serious threat to the health and sexual and reproductive rights of girls and creates unjustified barriers to safe and legal abortion.
The proposed legislative changes would obligate 16 and 17-year-olds to obtain consent from their parents or legal guardians before terminating a pregnancy, even in cases in which the requirement could place them at risk of serious conflict, violence, or abuse. Under the bill, a parent’s refusal to give consent could only be challenged in court, raising serious concerns about girls’ well-being and whether the courts would be able to make decisions in a timely manner.
International human rights law recognizes that access to safe and legal abortions is fundamental to women and girls’ exercise of their human rights, including the rights to life, freedom from discrimination, equality, health, and privacy. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has determined that in accordance with their evolving capacities, 16 and 17-year-old girls should be able to access sexual and reproductive health services without parental consent. The European Court of Human Rights has established that parents of teenaged girls do not necessarily have the right to make decisions concerning their reproductive choices.
The UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice noted in December 2014 that the bill “would further restrict girls’ access to safe and legal abortion” and would expose them to risk.
Current Spanish law requires 16 and 17-year-olds to inform their legal representatives, but does not require the consent of those representatives. The current law removes even the notification requirement when there is the possibility notification could provoke a serious conflict or family violence, threats, coercion, abuse, or abandonment.
In 2014, 3.6 percent of all abortions performed in Spain were for 16 and 17-year-olds. Of these, 12.37 percent --400 girls -- did not inform their parents, citing the above grounds.
The rights organizations have also sent the letter to the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and the UN special rapporteurs on violence against women and on the right to health to encourage them to raise concerns about the draft legislation with the Spanish authorities.
The groups that signed the letters are:
Alianza por la Solidaridad
Centro de Derechos Reproductivos
Human Rights Watch
Rights International Spain
Associació de Dones de les Illes Balears per a la Salut (ADIBS)
Asociación de Investigación y Especialización sobre Temas Iberoamericanos (AIETI)
Asociación Profesional de Agentes de Igualdad de Oportunidades entre Mujeres y Hombres de la Comunidad de Madrid (AMPLIA)
Associació de Planificació Familiar de Catalunya i Balears
Calala Fondo de Mujeres
Campanya pel Dret a l'Avortament
Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres
Federación de Planificación Familiar Estatal
Federación Mujeres Jóvenes
Forum de Política Feminista
Iniciativas de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (ICID)
Tertulia Feminista Alternativas Insólitas
Tertulia Feminista Les Comadres
03.17.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today 43 Senators stood up for women’s reproductive rights and blocked passage of legislation intended to help survivors of human trafficking that would have denied women access to safe and legal abortion.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S 178), introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), would have established a fund to help survivors by using fines levied against traffickers. However, the bill included a provision that restricted money from that fund from being used for abortion care.
This bill had originally received bipartisan support and unanimously passed out of the Judiciary Committee last month. While the legislation took critical steps to combat human trafficking and to support survivors, anti-women lawmakers politicized the bill by sneaking in a provision to restrict abortion care. In an attempt to codify language found in the Hyde Amendment—a provision banning federal funding for abortion services with limited exceptions—and restrict the use of funds for trafficking survivors, this bill harmed the very women it is intended to help.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
"Survivors of human trafficking have dealt with the unfathomable, yet politicians wanted to add insult to injury by passing a bill that would limit their access to safe and legal abortion care.
“Playing politics with women’s access to reproductive health care is simply reprehensible.
“We commend the Senators that blocked this bill and urge Congress to now work to pass legislation that supports and protects the rights of human trafficking survivors without limiting their reproductive health choices.”
16.03.15 - El 19 de febrero, Guadalupe pasó su primera noche en casa como una mujer libre después de haber pasado siete años en prisión. Gracias a la presión internacional y local, el Congreso de El Salvador aprobó el indulto de su caso y ella fue liberada.
A sus 25 años, Guadalupe ya ha pasado por más de lo que cualquier mujer ha de vivir en toda una vida. Ella fue violada y quedo embarazada como producto de la violación. Después de haber sufrido un aborto espontaneo fue injustamente encarcelada por homicidio y sentenciada a una pena de 30 años de cárcel.
El día después de su liberación, rodeada por defensores locales, Guadalupe emitió la siguiente declaración:
Buenas tardes, Mi nombre es Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez, y hoy estoy frente a ustedes con una emoción muy grande, y llena de alegría y alivio. Yo he estado esperando y orando por este día, por más de 7 años.
Yo tenía 18 años cuando sufrí una tragedia muy dolorosa. Quede embarazada después de haber sido violada, y perdí a mi hijo antes que naciera. Pero, cuando fui llevada al hospital, a pesar que yo no había hecho nada malo, fui tratada como una criminal.
Debido a que mi país, El Salvador, tiene unas leyes muy injustas de aborto yo fui acusada por aborto, después juzgada por homicidio y sentenciada a 30 años de cárcel; muy a pesar que no había ninguna prueba que yo hubiera cometido algún crimen. Ahora, he pasado la mayoría de mi vida como mujer adulta tras las rejas, acusada de algo que no hice.
Cuando estaba en el Centro Penal, conocí a otras mujeres como yo. Mujeres que habían sufrido tragedias similares a la mía con pérdidas muy dolorosas, pero que estaban siendo tratadas como criminales. Hoy quiero enviarles un mensaje de esperanza y de fuerza. Yo quiero que sepan que la atención del mundo está en sus casos y que muchas personas están luchando para que ustedes también puedan volver a la libertad.
Yo no estaría hoy acá frente a ustedes, sino no fuera por todas estas personas que trabajaron para ello. Quiero darles las gracias a todas las personas de La Agrupación Ciudadana y en especial a Morena Herrera, Sara Garcia, y a mis abogados Dennis Muños y Angelica Rivas. También siento una inmensa gratitud por todas las organizaciones locales, regionales e internacionales que han trabajado tan fuerte para lograr que pudiera volver a estar con mi familia y que recobrara mi libertad y mi vida.
Hoy es el día con el que había soñado por muchos años y el que nunca voy a olvidar. De ahora en adelante, simplemente pido que se respete mi vida privada y a mi familia, mientras yo intento reconstruir la vida que me robaron cuando fui injustamente enviada a prisión.
La historia de Guadalupe no es única. Durante más de 16 años El Salvador ha criminalizado el aborto en todas las circunstancias, aun en los casos en que es necesario para salvaguardar la vida y la salud de la mujer. La prohibición también se ha traducido en la detención ilegal de un sinnúmero de mujeres que han sufrido complicaciones relacionadas con el embarazo y abortos espontáneos.
Guadalupe es una de “Las 17”, un grupo de 17 mujeres quienes, han sufrido tragedias similares, han sido denunciadas por aborto, sentenciadas por homicidio y condenadas a pagar penas entre 30 y 40 años de cárcel. Actualmente, 15 de ellas siguen en prisión, muchas en las mismas condiciones de hacinamiento en las que Guadalupe estuvo detenida.
El mismo día que Guadalupe fue liberada, La Agrupación Ciudadana— una organización local de derechos humanos que ha luchado por la liberación de Las 17—confirmó que el gobierno de El Salvador no emitirá más indultos al resto de mujeres que se encuentran en circunstancias similares.
El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos ha trabajado durante más de 12 años para exponer las consecuencias de la prohibición absoluta del aborto, en la vida de las mujeres en El Salvador. El indulto de Guadalupe ha sido la respuesta más significativa hasta ahora por parte del gobierno Salvadoreño a nuestros esfuerzos.
Ayúdanos a mantener la presión, dile a las 17 que los ojos del mundo están en sus casos y que las estamos apoyando.
Insta al Secretario de Estado de los EE.UU. para que haga un llamado a El Salvador para la liberación a Las 17. Firma aquí la petición.
03.10.15 - This semester, the Center is pleased to honor the North Carolina Central University chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) with the Center for Reproductive Rights Student Policy and Advocacy Award.
The CRR Student Policy Advocacy Award recognizes policy advocacy by students within their schools and communities that advances the principle that reproductive rights are human rights which those in power must respect, protect, and fulfill. The award, a cash prize of $250, is given on an ad hoc basis to student groups that are doing the hard work of supporting and advancing policies that reinforce reproductive rights.
NCCU LSRJ was founded in 2014 and has shown dedication to the promotion of reproductive rights and social justice within the law school community and beyond. They’ve hosted programming on a range of reproductive justice issues including access to abortion, sex trafficking, and women’s health policy. Working with Ipas, NARAL, the Carolina Abortion Fund, and local abortion providers, NCCU LSRJ are passionate advocates contributing to the conversations around access to reproductive health care in North Carolina.
We at the Center for Reproductive Rights believe that reproductive rights policy advocacy, including the work happening on the NCCU campus, deserves to be recognized and encouraged. For these reasons, we commend the NCCU chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice and are pleased to present them with the CRR Student Policy Advocacy Award.
03.10.15 - We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 10th annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship co-sponsored by Law Students for Reproductive Justice and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
"Racism, Sexism, and Abortion: How Race-Selective and
Sex-Selective Bans on Abortion Make Visible the Color-Coded Dimensions of
the Right to Abortion and the Deficiencies of Constitutional Protections
for Women of Color" by April Shaw, University of Arizona James
E. Rogers College of Law (2015)
"Constitutionality of the Death Penalty for Fetal Homicide:
Connecting Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence with Fourteenth Amendment
Substantive Due Process" by Alix Noureddine, Case Western Reserve
University School of Law (2014)
"A 'Velvet Hammer': Criminalizing Motherhood and New Maternalism" by Eliza Duggan, University of California Berkeley School of Law (2016)
The Sarah Weddington Prize is awarded each spring. Winning authors will receive cash prizes: $750 (1st place), $500 (2nd place), or $250 (3rd place). The first place winner will also have a chance at publication with the NYU Review of Law and Social Change. Papers should have a domestic focus, but may draw on international and comparative materials. Authors are asked to apply a reproductive justice and/or human rights framework to their analyses of the issues. We encourage writing that amplifies lesser heard voices, applies an intersectional approach to legal thinking, suggests innovative solutions, and/or takes into account the practical realities and the lived experiences of the people affected.
03.10.15 - The Law School Initiative at the Center for Reproductive rights is excited to announce the 2015 Innovation in Scholarship Awardee, David S. Cohen.
David Cohen is an Associate Professor of Law at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law. His work explores the intersection of constitutional law and gender, emphasizing sex segregation, masculinity, and violence against abortion providers.
Professor Cohen's publications include articles in the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, George Washington Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, Boston University Law Review and the South Carolina Law Review. A recent article, "Still Unconstitutional: Our Nation's Experiment with State Sponsored Sex Segregation in Education," was published in the Seton Hall Law Review in 2014. We are particularly excited about his forthcoming book tentatively titled “Anti-Abortion Terrorism” which he is co-authoring to be published by Oxford University Press.
Professor Cohen received his J.D. from Columbia University School of Law, where he was named a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and received the Public Interest Commitment Award and two Columbia Human Rights Fellowships. He was managing editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. After clerking for Justice Alan B. Handler of the New Jersey Supreme Court and Judge Warren J. Ferguson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Professor Cohen worked as a fellow and staff attorney for the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia where he handled a range of cases involving reproductive rights, sex discrimination under Title IX, health insurance coverage of contraceptives, health care for women prisoners and family rights for gay and lesbian couples. Professor Cohen worked on several U.S. Supreme Court cases, including representing the plaintiffs in Ferguson v. City of Charleston.
He is a regular contributor to "The Good Phight," a blog on the Philadelphia Phillies, and occasionally contributes to other blogs and websites as well, including Feminist Law Professors, Faculty Lounge, and Slate.
The Innovation in Scholarship Award recognizes a distinguished scholar whose research advances the academy's understanding of health, women's rights, human rights, constitutional law, and related fields. Award winners have made significant contributions to the intellectual basis of these fields through years of dedicated research as scholars and leaders within the academy, and their work displays an understanding of the human condition that is at the heart of human rights.
03.09.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Dozens of Latinas from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley will share their stories about the growing reproductive health care crisis in Texas with a group of global human rights experts today at a women’s human rights hearing sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), U.S. Human Rights Network, and 10 Texas-based organizations.
The human rights hearing will highlight the many barriers Latinas in underserved areas of Texas face when seeking reproductive health care due to state and federal policies that have closed reproductive health clinics, eliminated family planning funding, barred immigrant women from affordable health coverage, and placed abortion care out of reach. Seven experts in the fields of women’s rights, health, and immigrant rights will receive oral and written testimony from over 20 women directly affected by the loss of services and legal and administrative barriers. Several reproductive health care providers in the Valley are also testifying about difficulties providing family planning and abortion services in the Valley in the wake of Texas’ attacks on women’s health care.
“Politicians across the state of Texas have denied millions of women, especially Latinas and immigrant women, their basic human rights through their relentless assaults on access to reproductive health services,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s hearing lifts the voices of the women and their families who have suffered the brunt of this health care crisis, and exposes these state policies as the human rights violations they are.”
“As an organization that has been building Latina power in Texas for nearly a decade, we have seen firsthand the devastating impact of state and federal policies that block Latinas from getting the care they need,” said Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of NLIRH. “These barriers include the high cost of care, lack of transportation, and lack of accessible clinics or culturally competent care. Moreover, immigrant Latinas in Texas and nationwide are locked out of most affordable health insurance options because of discriminatory policies that bar immigrants from Medicaid and ACA benefits. In Texas, where 40 percent of the women are Latina—many of whom are immigrants—these barriers are unacceptable. That’s why we’ve brought women from across the Valley to tell their stories.”
Following the testimony, experts will comment on the crisis from a human rights perspective and discuss how policymakers might address the crisis and reverse policies that have exacerbated long-term barriers to necessary reproductive health care, including poverty and immigration enforcement policies. Later this summer, the Center and NLIRH will release an outcome document with the women’s testimony and expert analysis of the human rights crisis in the Valley.
One of the women testifying, Dina Nuñez, said, "For me, the solution is that the funds return to my county and that clinics reopen. One of the universal rights we have is protection of health care services for all people."
The Center and NLIRH have been documenting the devastating impact of Texas family planning cuts and other threats to the health and human rights of Latinas and immigrant women in South Texas since late 2012. Last month, the Center and NLIRH released a policy blueprint called Nuestro Texas: A Reproductive Justice Agenda for Latinas that outlines proactive policies Texas politicians should enact to end the current health care crisis in the state and restore access to critical reproductive health services. In November 2013, the Center and NLIRH released Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley, a joint report showing how barriers to reproductive health—including high costs, lack of transportation, immigration status and lack of accessible clinics—systemically bar Texas Latinas from care they need to live with health and dignity.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently challenging two components of Texas’ omnibus bill HB2, legislation that has shuttered over half of the reproductive health care clinics offering abortion services. A ruling is imminent from the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which will determine the fate of the remaining clinics, including the last abortion provider in the Rio Grande Valley. NLIRH community leaders provided expert testimony in the case.
03.06.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Just days after West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a cruel and unconstitutional abortion ban at 20 weeks of pregnancy, both houses in the state legislature have voted to override the veto and enact HB 2568 into law. Today’s vote is the first time the West Virginia legislature has overridden a governor’s veto in nearly 30 years.
HB 2568—which allows abortion services after 20 weeks only in limited circumstances of medical emergencies and non-viable pregnancies, without any exception for survivors of rape or incest—is scheduled to take effect on May 26, 2015. The very few West Virginia women who may need to seek abortion services after 20 weeks already face extreme barriers to care, as there are only two clinics providing abortion services in the entire state.
This is the second time in less than a year that the West Virginia legislature has passed this unconstitutional abortion ban—and the second time the Governor has vetoed such a measure, both times citing concerns over the constitutionality of the law and the negative impact on women’s health and safety.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
"Governor Tomblin was right to veto this callous, cruel, and unconstitutional attack on health care for women facing complicated and sometimes dangerous situations in their lives and pregnancies.
"With this action today, the politicians behind this law have revealed how far they are willing to go to advance their ideological agenda at the expense of women's rights, lives, and safety. They should be ashamed."
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. Last year, the Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also blocked similar pre-viability bans.
Bans on abortion at 20 weeks are as dangerous as they are unconstitutional, coming at a point at which a woman is just receiving the results of critical tests to determine the health of her pregnancy—and potentially the presence of severe and possibly life-threatening complications.
Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like West Virginia from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.Center for Reproductive Rights Calls on West Virginia Governor to Veto Cruel and Unconstitutional Abortion Ban Supreme Court Refuses to Review Arizona Abortion Ban
03.05.15 - Anti-choice politicians have pushed hundreds of different sham laws over the last few years, but all are designed to do just one thing: Make abortion care more difficult to obtain. But for the many women who cannot afford the money or time to get past the many obstructions, these laws essentially ban abortion.
A thought-provoking article and infographic over at Think Progress demonstrates how.
Using statistics from the Guttmacher Institute and Think Progress’s own research, the piece tracks costs that women may incur in Wisconsin. A new sham law aimed at shutting down abortion providers is currently under review in that state.
Factoring in travel and child care costs, lost time at work, and lack of Medicaid coverage, the article finds that the total cost of abortion care could add up to over $1100.
For a woman on a low income, these costs—which are directly related to harsh state abortion laws—are prohibitive.
Jane Collins, a University of Wisconsin professor who testified against the state’s latest sham law at a hearing this past summer notes in the piece:“I think people have a hard time grasping that that $600 can be an absolute barrier. It can be the difference between having your civil rights and not having them. If you keep adding up the expenses of the extra miles, the need to pay for childcare, you’re going to reach a wall — a point when you’re not going to be able to pay.”
More than half of women across the country seeking abortion care cannot afford to pay for it on their own, according to the Guttmacher Institute.