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Spotlighting Racial Bias

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 10:44
Spotlighting Racial Bias

08.14.14 - In LaKeisha’s hometown of Atlanta, African American women die in childbirth at a rate more than three times the national average. Following an emergency c-section, LaKeisha experienced a brush with this unsettling statistic when she developed a painful infection.

While post-cesarean complications are not uncommon, inadequate follow-up care meant that LaKeisha was neither treated for nor informed about the signs of infection. For countless women like her, racial and socio-economic disparities in health care quality and insurance access have made childbearing an increasingly dangerous proposition in this country.

“There were no calls from the doctor’s office to say, ‘How are you doing?’” recalls LaKeisha. “I sat with an infection for two weeks. I thought it was just the pain [from the cesarean]. . . . I remember feeling horrible.” The lingering infection traumatized LaKeisha both physically and emotionally, especially when her financial situation forced her to return to work earlier than planned.

LaKeisha is one of 25 women we spoke to during the Center for Reproductive Rights’ joint effort with SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective to gather firsthand accounts of Southern Black women’s sexual and reproductive lives. The project documents the experiences of women living in Georgia and Mississippi—two states with the highest rates of maternal death in the country. Analyzing their stories has helped the Center identify key areas in which U.S. government policy is failing to address racial and gender discrimination in the sphere of sexual and reproductive health care.

This week, the Center and SisterSong brought these findings before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) during the committee’s periodic review of the United States. The CERD is the UN body responsible for assessing the efforts of member states to end racial discrimination.

In addition to testifying, the Center submitted a shadow report intended to supplement the government’s account of actions taken to address the Committee’s concerns from their last review, in 2008.

“These reviews allow us to spotlight issues of racial discrimination in the U.S. and bring to light various concerns that are not normally talked about in terms of racial discrimination,” notes the Center’s senior human rights counsel, Katrina Anderson, who is representing the Center at the review.

Anderson identifies specific concerns such as poor-quality care for women of color in public hospitals, inadequate public transportation to health facilities, and lack of coverage for preventive care as systemic issues for which the government needs to be held accountable. 

“Most people in the U.S. don't know we have a maternal mortality rate double that of Saudi Arabia. And those who do know about it view it as a public health issue,” she says. “Globally, however, preventing maternal mortality is a key human rights concern, and the international community has developed standards to hold governments accountable for high ratios of maternal deaths.”

Kendra, another woman we spoke to during the joint project with SisterSong, is from Mississippi, where a disproportionately high percentage of people of color live in poverty. In that state, there are counties where the risk of maternal death has risen to more than 20 times the national average—a higher maternal mortality rate than in Kenya or Rwanda.

No surprise then that Kendra, who became pregnant in the 12th grade after receiving virtually no sex education, says of her community, “We really don't have a lot of good experiences when it comes to childbirth.”

During this week’s testimony, the Center and SisterSong are urging the CERD to question the U.S. government about how it is addressing racial disparities in maternal mortality, especially in the South, where states have largely rejected Medicaid expansion yet are comprised of a disproportionate number of people of color who are unable to afford private insurance.

Additionally, the Center hopes the CERD will press the U.S. about laws that exclude immigrants from being able to obtain health care benefits. The shadow report points to Texas, where lawmakers have imposed sweeping barriers to essential reproductive health services, essentially blocking Latinas and immigrants in poor, rural areas such as the Rio Grande Valley from accessing such care.

“The 136% rise in maternal deaths in the U.S. over the past 20 years and the dramatic increase in racial disparities is a human rights crisis, brought on to large degree by gender and racial discrimination in the health care system,” notes Anderson. “Our hope is that the Committee will identify how the U.S. is falling short in policy and practice and offer recommendations for how federal and state governments can reduce racial discrimination.”

Taking the stories and statistics of this developing crisis to the international stage helps ensure that the distressing experiences of women like Kendra and LeKeisha cannot be dismissed. As with governments across the world, we aim to hold the U.S. responsible for addressing the complex of factors—including race, gender, and poverty—that continue to imperil the lives of millions of already marginalized women.

Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Health Care Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care

Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 23:00
Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care New report presented during U.S. review before United Nations committee exposes massive gaps in maternal health care, reproductive health services 08.13.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Women of color face significant obstacles in obtaining essential health care services in the United States, according to a new report jointly issued today by the Center for Reproductive Rights, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
The report—titled Reproductive Justice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in US Health Care—identifies how racial discrimination in law and practice interferes with women’s fundamental human right to health, with a particular focus on the maternal health of Black women in the South and immigrant women’s access to reproductive health care. The organizations are calling on the United States to immediately implement key policy changes and proactive measures that would address these overlapping forms of discrimination against women of color and immigrant women.
The report is being presented this week in Geneva, Switzerland to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) during its periodic review of the United States’ commitments to ensure its residents have access to health care, free from all forms of racial discrimination.
Said Angela Hooton, state policy and advocacy director at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The clear discrimination and human rights violations that women of color face every day when trying to get essential—and sometimes life-saving—health care is undeniable when you hear their powerful and heartbreaking stories.
“For too long, these women, their families, and their communities have been shut out of this country’s health care system.  A woman’s race or immigration status should never determine whether she will survive childbirth or access critical cancer treatments. The United Nations must hold the U.S. government accountable for these grave injustices.”
Today’s report focuses on two specific areas of discrimination against women of color in the United States:
  • Black women nationwide are nearly four times as likely to die in childbirth as white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Maternal mortality is nothing short of a human rights crisis in the country, with the United States’ maternal mortality rate increasing by 136 percent between 1990 and 2013, which is nearly double the rate of Saudi Arabia and more than triple that of the United Kingdom according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Today’s report features several personal stories from Black women in Jackson, Miss. and Atlanta, Ga as they’ve attempted to access basic sexual and reproductive health care services—including prenatal and maternal care.  These two cities have some of the highest rates of maternal mortality and other racial health disparities in the country and the stories highlight the pervasive and often irreparable harm that takes place when discrimination in health care is commonplace.
  • Women without U.S. citizenship are three times as likely as U.S.-born citizens to lack private or public insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Federal and state policy has exacerbated coverage barriers for immigrant women and their families, with many programs excluding individuals based solely on their immigration status. Today’s report also features stories from a 2013 report from the Center and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health documenting the devastating human toll on Latinas and their families in the Rio Grande Valley community in the wake of Texas’s family planning program cuts.  The stories highlight the very real effect of the family planning cuts, with women unable to access basic reproductive health care and oftentimes left with undiagnosed or untreated illnesses.
“This report shines a bright light on the huge gaps that still exist when it comes to women’s rights and equality—gaps that are especially wide for women of color and immigrant women in the South,” said Katrina Anderson, senior human rights counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Rather than setting a high standard for the rest of the world to follow, the United States has for too long lagged far behind.
“It’s time for the U.S. government to take bold and immediate action to start to address the serious deficiencies that persist in this country’s health care system to ensure equal access to health care—free from racial and gender discrimination—to all women living within its borders.”
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a human rights treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1994. The United States is required to submit periodic reports to the Committee on how its commitments are being implemented, including its obligation to ensure the right to health care is free from all forms of racial discrimination to all within its borders. The Committee, which undertakes a review of the U.S. record in implementing the ICERD from August 13-14 in Geneva, will issue recommendations to the U.S. government on how to eliminate racial discrimination in U.S. policy and practice to better reflect the government’s international commitments.
Today’s report by the Center for Reproductive Rights, SisterSong, and the National Latina Institute includes a number of policy recommendations, including:
  • Increasing health coverage for low-income women and improving access to reproductive and sexual health care, especially for women of color living in the 21 states that have rejected Medicaid expansion;
  • Taking proactive measures to reduce racial disparities in maternal mortality, including improving data collection on maternal health outcomes and strengthening accountability mechanisms for preventable maternal mortality; and
  • Repealing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that exclude large categories of immigrants from coverage, which enact enormous barriers to immigrant women’s access to contraception, cancer screenings, and other forms of preventive health care.​
File Upload:  Reproductive Justice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in US Health Care

CRR Announces New Columbia Law Fellow

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 09:24
CRR Announces New Columbia Law Fellow

08.11.14 - The Center is excited to announce Harvard law student Lisa Kelly as the 2014-2016 recipient of the Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Law School Fellowship.

Lisa has been selected from an extremely competitive applicant base for the two-year appointment, which is a full-time academic position designed to prepare recent law school graduates for legal academic careers in reproductive health and human rights. Lisa is the program’s sixth fellow.

Competing with a pool of applications with stellar academic records, Lisa distinguished herself as an up-and-coming scholar with an impressive research agenda, a focus on pertinent issues, and an insightful and thoughtful doctoral dissertation.

She is currently completing her S.J.D. (Doctorate of Law) at Harvard Law School.  During her doctorate, Lisa was a Trudeau Scholar, a Doctoral Fellow of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow, and a Fellow of the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School.  Her dissertation—Governing the Child: Parental Authority, State Power and the School in North America—analyzes legal struggles from the mid-nineteenth century through the present over race, corporal punishment and the disciplinary reach of school authorities.

Lisa has also published in the areas of family law and reproductive justice, including a forthcoming chapter, “Reckoning with Narratives of Innocent Suffering in Transnational Abortion Litigation,” in Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (Cook, Erdman & Dickens, eds., UPenn). 

For the purpose of the Fellowship, “reproductive rights” is broadly defined to include a range of issues regarding women, families, sexuality, violence, and parenting.  The program aims to engender an interest in these issues, with the hopes that the developing legal scholar will go on to research and write about factors that impact women’s reproductive health.

“The fellowship is a great opportunity for scholars with an interest in women’s issues to gain insight into the practical implications of their theoretical work,” says Nicole Tuszynski, manager of the Center’s Law School Initiative, which coordinates the fellowship program. “The Center is really committed to this program because it is a unique way to support future legal academics who are sympathetic to reproductive rights issues and may produce impactful scholarship in the area.”     

During her fellowship, Lisa will split her time between the Center—working on projects central to reproductive justice—and Columbia, where she will focus on her research and interact with the law school’s community of legal fellows. Lisa plans to continue working on questions concerning young people and sexuality, including a project examining the role of age of sexual consent laws and enforcement in recent antiabortion campaigns in the United States.  

“I have long followed and admired the work of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  Seeing firsthand how the organization mobilizes for reproductive justice will provide unique insights on law and social movements,” says Lisa. “I am also looking forward immensely to joining the vibrant community of scholars working on gender and sexual justice at Columbia Law School.  I am confident that I will benefit greatly from their perspectives and am excited to be an active contributor to this scholarly community.”  

Columbia Law professors Carol Sanger – the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law – and Katherine Franke – the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director of Center for Gender and Sexuality Law Katherine Franke oversee Columbia’s half of the program.

“Columbia Law School has been delighted to build this partnership with the Center for Reproductive Rights. Over the last five years we have had the privilege of working with truly gifted young scholars who plan careers in the legal academy writing on a range of topics related to reproductive rights and justice,” says Franke. “Given the depth of our faculty’s research interests in this area, and the strength of our Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, Columbia Law School has developed a vibrant, rigorous, and nurturing environment for our CRR-CLS fellows to launch their academic careers.”

Lisa will begin her work at the Center this summer, joining current CRR-CLS Fellow, Rana Jaleel. Rana’s work examines how feminist theorizations of violence against women interfaced with legal doctrine in the 1990s to establish war rape and sexual violence as violations of human rights and international humanitarian criminal law.

Apply for the 2015-2017 Center for Reproductive Rights - Columbia Law School Fellowship Fifth Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Law School Fellowship Awarded to Rana Jaleel Center for Reproductive Rights Launches U.S. Law School Initiative and Selects First Fellow

CRR Announces New Columbia Law Fellow

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 09:14
CRR Announces New Columbia Law Fellow

08.11.14 - The Center is excited to announce Harvard law student Lisa Kelly as the 2014-2016 recipient of the Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Law School Fellowship.

Lisa has been selected from an extremely competitive applicant base for the two-year appointment, which is a full-time academic position designed to prepare recent law school graduates for legal academic careers in reproductive health and human rights. Lisa is the program’s sixth fellow.

Competing with a pool of applications with stellar academic records, Lisa distinguished herself as an up-and-coming scholar with an impressive research agenda, a focus on pertinent issues, and an insightful and thoughtful doctoral dissertation.

She is currently completing her S.J.D. (Doctorate of Law) at Harvard Law School.  During her doctorate, Lisa was a Trudeau Scholar, a Doctoral Fellow of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow, and a Fellow of the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School.  Her dissertation—Governing the Child: Parental Authority, State Power and the School in North America—analyzes legal struggles from the mid-nineteenth century through the present over race, corporal punishment and the disciplinary reach of school authorities.

Lisa has also published in the areas of family law and reproductive justice, including a forthcoming chapter, “Reckoning with Narratives of Innocent Suffering in Transnational Abortion Litigation,” in Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (Cook, Erdman & Dickens, eds., UPenn). 

For the purpose of the Fellowship, “reproductive rights” is broadly defined to include a range of issues regarding women, families, sexuality, violence, and parenting.  The program aims to engender an interest in these issues, with the hopes that the developing legal scholar will go on to research and write about factors that impact women’s reproductive health.

“The fellowship is a great opportunity for scholars with an interest in women’s issues to gain insight into the practical implications of their theoretical work,” says Nicole Tuszynski, manager of the Center’s Law School Initiative, which coordinates the fellowship program. “The Center is really committed to this program because it is a unique way to support future legal academics who are sympathetic to reproductive rights issues and may produce impactful scholarship in the area.”     

During her fellowship, Lisa will split her time between the Center—working on projects central to reproductive justice—and Columbia, where she will focus on her research and interact with the law school’s community of legal fellows. Lisa plans to continue working on questions concerning young people and sexuality, including a project examining the role of age of sexual consent laws and enforcement in recent antiabortion campaigns in the United States.  

“I have long followed and admired the work of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  Seeing firsthand how the organization mobilizes for reproductive justice will provide unique insights on law and social movements,” says Lisa. “I am also looking forward immensely to joining the vibrant community of scholars working on gender and sexual justice at Columbia Law School.  I am confident that I will benefit greatly from their perspectives and am excited to be an active contributor to this scholarly community.”  

Columbia Law professors Carol Sanger – the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law – and Katherine Franke – the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director of Center for Gender and Sexuality Law Katherine Franke oversee Columbia’s half of the program.

“Columbia Law School has been delighted to build this partnership with the Center for Reproductive Rights. Over the last five years we have had the privilege of working with truly gifted young scholars who plan careers in the legal academy writing on a range of topics related to reproductive rights and justice,” says Franke. “Given the depth of our faculty’s research interests in this area, and the strength of our Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, Columbia Law School has developed a vibrant, rigorous, and nurturing environment for our CRR-CLS fellows to launch their academic careers.”

Lisa will begin her work at the Center this summer, joining current CRR-CLS Fellow, Rana Jaleel. Rana’s work examines how feminist theorizations of violence against women interfaced with legal doctrine in the 1990s to establish war rape and sexual violence as violations of human rights and international humanitarian criminal law.

Center for Reproductive Rights Launches U.S. Law School Initiative and Selects First Fellow Fifth Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Law School Fellowship Awarded to Rana Jaleel Apply for the 2015-2017 Center for Reproductive Rights - Columbia Law School Fellowship

CRR Announces New Columbia Law Fellow

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 09:10
CRR Announces New Columbia Law Fellow

08.11.14 - The Center is excited to announce Harvard law student Lisa Kelly as the 2014-2016 recipient of the Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Law School Fellowship.

Lisa has been selected from an extremely competitive applicant base for the two-year appointment, which is a full-time academic position designed to prepare recent law school graduates for legal academic careers in reproductive health and human rights. Lisa is the program’s sixth fellow.

Competing with a pool of applications with stellar academic records, Lisa distinguished herself as an up-and-coming scholar with an impressive research agenda, a focus on pertinent issues, and an insightful and thoughtful doctoral dissertation.

She is currently completing her S.J.D. (Doctorate of Law) at Harvard Law School.  During her doctorate, Lisa was a Trudeau Scholar, a Doctoral Fellow of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow, and a Fellow of the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School.  Her dissertation—Governing the Child: Parental Authority, State Power and the School in North America—analyzes legal struggles from the mid-nineteenth century through the present over race, corporal punishment and the disciplinary reach of school authorities.

Lisa has also published in the areas of family law and reproductive justice, including a forthcoming chapter, “Reckoning with Narratives of Innocent Suffering in Transnational Abortion Litigation,” in Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (Cook, Erdman & Dickens, eds., UPenn). 

For the purpose of the Fellowship, “reproductive rights” is broadly defined to include a range of issues regarding women, families, sexuality, violence, and parenting.  The program aims to engender an interest in these issues, with the hopes that the developing legal scholar will go on to research and write about factors that impact women’s reproductive health.

“The fellowship is a great opportunity for scholars with an interest in women’s issues to gain insight into the practical implications of their theoretical work,” says Nicole Tuszynski, manager of the Center’s Law School Initiative, which coordinates the fellowship program. “The Center is really committed to this program because it is a unique way to support future legal academics who are sympathetic to reproductive rights issues and may produce impactful scholarship in the area.”     

During her fellowship, Lisa will split her time between the Center—working on projects central to reproductive justice—and Columbia, where she will focus on her research and interact with the law school’s community of legal fellows. Lisa plans to continue working on questions concerning young people and sexuality, including a project examining the role of age of sexual consent laws and enforcement in recent antiabortion campaigns in the United States.  

“I have long followed and admired the work of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  Seeing firsthand how the organization mobilizes for reproductive justice will provide unique insights on law and social movements,” says Lisa. “I am also looking forward immensely to joining the vibrant community of scholars working on gender and sexual justice at Columbia Law School.  I am confident that I will benefit greatly from their perspectives and am excited to be an active contributor to this scholarly community.”  

Columbia Law professors Carol Sanger – the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law – and Katherine Franke – the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director of Center for Gender and Sexuality Law Katherine Franke oversee Columbia’s half of the program.

“Columbia Law School has been delighted to build this partnership with the Center for Reproductive Rights. Over the last five years we have had the privilege of working with truly gifted young scholars who plan careers in the legal academy writing on a range of topics related to reproductive rights and justice,” says Franke. “Given the depth of our faculty’s research interests in this area, and the strength of our Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, Columbia Law School has developed a vibrant, rigorous, and nurturing environment for our CRR-CLS fellows to launch their academic careers.”

Lisa will begin her work at the Center this summer, joining current CRR-CLS Fellow, Rana Jaleel. Rana’s work examines how feminist theorizations of violence against women interfaced with legal doctrine in the 1990s to establish war rape and sexual violence as violations of human rights and international humanitarian criminal law.

Center for Reproductive Rights Launches U.S. Law School Initiative and Selects First Fellow Apply for the 2015-2017 Center for Reproductive Rights - Columbia Law School Fellowship Fifth Center for Reproductive Rights-Columbia Law School Fellowship Awarded to Rana Jaleel

Houston Mayor and City Council Members Call for Passage of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Repeal of Texas HB2

Sun, 08/10/2014 - 23:00
Houston Mayor and City Council Members Call for Passage of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Repeal of Texas HB2 Houston elected officials join leaders in Austin, San Francisco, and Dane County, Wisconsin, in publicly supporting reproductive health and rights

08.11.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) In the wake of devastating attacks on critical women’s health care by Texas politicians, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and eight members of the Houston City Council urged the U.S. Congress to pass the federal Women’s Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Texas from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that do not apply to similar medical professionals, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

In the letter (attached) sent to Congress and the Texas State Legislature, Mayor Parker, Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzales, Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Jerry Davis, and Council Members Stephen Costello, David Robinson, Ellen Cohen, Robert Gallegos, Mike Laster, and Larry Green also called for the immediate repeal of House Bill 2 (HB2)—the omnibus state law passed last summer that has that has shuttered scores of clinics and left large swaths of the state without access to a reproductive health care clinic that offers abortion services.  The final provision of HB2 – which requires every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) – is set to take effect on September 1 and threatens to leave fewer than ten abortion-providing clinics in the state.

“As City Council Members, it is our duty to protect our constituents,” the letter states. “Houston residents and those who may come to Houston should have access to safe, legal reproductive health care.”

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Community leaders in Houston are fighting back against state politicians’ attacks on women’s healthcare because they are witnessing firsthand the very real and devastating impact it is having on the women and families in their community.

“The Women’s Health Protection Act would ensure that politicians in states like Texas couldn’t unfairly target reproductive health care services and providers as a way to roll back our constitutional rights. Whether you live in Houston or Austin or New York City, we all live under one constitution with one set of rights.

“We applaud Mayor Parker and the Houston City Council members for speaking out on behalf of their community, and call on elected officials across the U.S. to match their commitment to women rights, health, and well-being by urging Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

Houston is now the second Texas city to demand the repeal of HB2, with members of the Austin city council issuing a similar call to action in January. In addition to Houston and Austin, San Francisco and Dane County, Wisc. have also called on Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.

The Women’s Health Protection Act (S 1691/HR 3471)—which was introduced last fall by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Lois Frankel and Rep. Marcia Fudge—currently has 35 Senate sponsors and 128 sponsors in the House.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation which was passed last summer.  The first suit challenges the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. While the medication abortion provision was largely upheld by the federal district court, the admitting privileges provision was initially struck down, but then later took effect on October 31, 2013 after a decision by the Fifth Circuit to stay the lower court’s injunction. The same appellate court later upheld both provisions—the results of which have been nothing short of devastating, closing clinics across the state and leaving thousands of women already facing extremely limited reproductive health care options due to drastic family planning cuts in 2011 without access to health care. The providers now await a decision whether the full Fifth Circuit will rehear the case and review the constitutionality of the admitting privileges requirement and the lack of a health exception in the medication abortion restrictions.

In April 2014, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an additional lawsuit against HB2, seeking to block the admitting privileges requirement specifically as it applies to two clinics—Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso—that are among the last, if not the only, reproductive health care providers offering safe, legal abortion care in their communities. Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen has been unable to provide abortion services to their patients since the admitting privileges requirement took effect in November 2013 and earlier this year closed its doors entirely, leaving the Rio Grande Valley without an abortion provider and continuing to force women to travel 300 hundred miles roundtrip to the next nearest clinic.  Whole Woman’s Health also recently announced they will be closing their flagship clinic in Austin as a result of HB2.  In El Paso, Reproductive Services was also forced to close their doors due to the admitting privileges requirement.

The second suit also seeks to strike HB2’s provision that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), a provision scheduled to take effect in September 2014 that would leave fewer than 10 clinics in Texas and force many women to endure a roundtrip of more than a thousand miles or cross state lines to access safe and legal abortion services.  The trial in the second challenge was held in federal district court just last week, with closing arguments scheduled for Wednesday, August 13 in Austin.

 

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File Upload:  Annise Parker Letter to Congress Austin City Council Members Speak Out in Support of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Call for Repeal of Texas HB2 San Francisco Board of Supervisors Calls for Expanded Access to Safe, Legal Reproductive Health Care Dane County, Wisconsin Board of Supervisors Passes Resolution in Support of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act Texas Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Court Decision Protects Abortion Access for Most Women in Texas, But Upholds Restrictions on Medication Abortion One-Third of Texas Women Will Soon Lack Access to Safe, Legal Abortion Following Appellate Court Ruling Fifth Circuit Ruling Deepens Health Crisis Facing Texas Women by Continuing to Deny Texas Women Safe, Legal Abortion Services Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer Trial Begins in Second Challenge to Texas’ Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions

PROMSEX, el Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y Planned Parenthood Federation of America dan la bienvenida a las recomendaciones de la ONU al Estado Peruano sobre ampliación del acceso al aborto legal

Sun, 08/10/2014 - 23:00
PROMSEX, el Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y PPFA dan la bienvenida a las recomendaciones de la ONU al Estado Peruano

11.08.14 - (COMUNICADO DE PRENSA) PROMSEX, el Centro de Derechos Reproductivos (CDR) y Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) saludan las recientes recomendaciones de las Naciones Unidas al Estado peruano sobre la protección de los derechos reproductivos de las mujeres, como parte de las obligaciones internacionales de ese país.

En sus recientes observaciones de conclusión,  el Comité de las Naciones Unidas que vigila el cumplimiento de la Convención para la Eliminación de Todas las Formas de Discriminación contra la Mujer (“CEDAW” por sus siglas en inglés), felicitó al gobierno peruano por la adopción del Protocolo Nacional de Aborto Terapéutico y, a su vez, alertó sobre posibles barreras para el acceso de las mujeres a este servicio legal de salud.

Con miras a asegurar la adecuada instrumentación del protocolo de aborto terapéutico, el Comité de la CEDAW recomendó al Estado difundir este instrumento entre el personal médico y alentó una interpretación amplia del derecho a la salud física, mental y social en su implementación.

Estas recomendaciones se realizan después de que PROMSEX, PPFA y el CDR presentaran un reporte en conjunto al Comité de la CEDAW durante su revisión del Estado peruano señalando las preocupaciones en materia de derechos humanos derivadas de las restricciones para el acceso al aborto, la falta de acceso a anticoncepción de emergencia en los servicios de salud pública, y los obstáculos existentes en cuanto al acceso de adolescentes a servicios de salud sexual y reproductiva. Además, estas organizaciones citaron los dictámenes de los casos emblemáticos de K.L. y L.C. , ambos casos que dieron lugar a decisiones de mecanismos internacionales de derechos humanos que confirmaron que aun cuando las mujeres peruanas cumplen con las condiciones para el aborto legal, se les niega el acceso a este servicio de salud.

En su informe, el Comité de la CEDAW llamó nuevamente a Perú a legalizar el aborto en casos de violación, incesto y malformación fetal severa. Además, exhortó a que se retiren las medidas que castigan a las mujeres que se practican abortos, protegiendo su derecho constitucional a la privacidad. Adicionalmente, el informe llama a Perú a garantizar el acceso a los servicios de salud sexual y reproductiva de las mujeres en todo el país, incluyendo a las mujeres en áreas rurales y a asegurar la disponibilidad de la anticoncepción de emergencia en los centros de salud del sector público.

Perú enfrenta un momento crucial para asegurar la protección de los derechos de las mujeres. La reciente publicación del Protocolo Nacional de Aborto Terapéutico representa un paso significativo hacia delante. La implementación de las recomendaciones del Comité CEDAW  guiarán al Estado en la toma de las medidas necesarias para seguir avanzando en la garantía de la salud y los derechos de las mujeres peruanas.

Cases:  L.C. v. Peru (UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women)

Gobierno Peruano Cumple Con Acuerdo de Solución Amistosa en Caso de Abuso Sexual con Décadas de Antigüedad

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 23:00
Gobierno Peruano Cumple Con Acuerdo de Solución Amistosa en Caso de Abuso Sexual con Décadas de Antigüedad La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos Cierra Caso de Abuso Sexual en un Hospital Público de Perú

08.08.14 - (COMUNICADO DE PRENSA) La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH)-uno de los organismos principales de protección de los derechos humanos para las Américas, consideró que el Estado Peruano había cumplido con la solución amistosa del caso de M.M., una joven quien al ir en búsqueda de atención médica a un hospital público fue violada por el médico que la atendió. El caso se cierra después de casi 20 años.

La solución amistosa que el gobierno acordó con los peticionarios en marzo de 2000, obligaba al Estado a que proporcionara reparaciones financieras a M.M., revocara la licencia médica del violador, mejorara el acceso a la justicia en casos de violencia sexual y a que admitiera la responsabilidad internacional por la violación a los derechos humanos que sufrió M.M.

Nancy Northup, presidenta y directora ejecutiva del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos afirmó que:

“Ninguna mujer debería temer ser violada por un médico encomendado a proporcionarle asistencia médica crítica y ninguna mujer quien sufra un tratamiento tan deplorable debería esperar tanto tiempo para que se haga justicia”.

“Elogiamos al gobierno Peruano por aceptar su responsabilidad en el sufrimiento de esta mujer y por tomar acción para prevenir que esta situación se repita”.

“Ahora es el momento para que funcionarios a cargo de formular políticas públicas construyan sobre este trabajo para asegurar que todos los casos de violencia sexual se agilicen y sean manejados de forma justa y que todas las mujeres estén protegidas de violaciones similares a sus derechos humanos”.  

M.M. tenía 22 años cuando fue al Hospital Público Carlos Monge Medrano de Juliaca en enero de 1996, con dolores por todo su cuerpo y un dolor de cabeza severo, efecto de un accidente vial que había sufrido meses antes. En vez de brindarle atención médica por sus síntomas, el médico la llevó a un cuarto del hospital donde la drogó y la violó.

Después de haber denunciado ante las autoridades competentes la violación, M.M. fue sometida a malos tratos y discriminación por parte del personal del hospital, la policía y el sistema judicial. Su caso fue cerrado por falta de evidencia en julio de 1997.   

El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos, el Centro de Justicia y Derecho Internacional (CEJIL), el Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM) y DEMUS (Estudio para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer)  presentaron una petición a la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos el 23 de abril de 1998 en nombre de M.M. El acuerdo de solución amistosa se firmó el 6 de marzo de 2000.  

Como parte del acuerdo, en marzo de este año, el gobierno peruano adoptó una resolución que incluye la capacitación de magistradas/os en temas de género y justicia como parte de su formación fundamental obligatoria. La resolución aún debe ser implementada conforme al acuerdo en la Comisión.

“Los sistemas jurídicos y criminales de Perú le fallaron a M.M.”, dijo María Ysabel Cedano, Directora de  DEMUS. “Exhortamos al  Gobierno para que la Academia de la Magistratura (AMAG) cumpla con  incluir en su oferta curricular, planes y presupuestos 2014,  2015 y futuros,  talleres, cursos y diplomados en género y justicia como parte de la formación fundamental obligatoria de fiscales, juezas y jueces. Asimismo exhortamos al Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura (CNM) para que adopte las propuestas formuladas por Demus para que se bonifique especialmente la formación en género recibida en la AMAG,  en los procesos de selección, ratificación y ascenso de magistrados y magistradas tomando”.

“La violencia contra la mujer es una violación muy grave en Perú,” dijo Gabriela Filoni, como responsable de Litigio de CLADEM. “El Gobierno debe establecer estándares más altos de salud, justicia y representación legal para todas la mujeres, pero en especial cuando las mujeres hacen denuncias sobre hechos de violencia sexual”.     

Leer en Inglés >

Peruvian Government Complies with Settlement in Decades-old Sexual Assault Case

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 23:00
Peruvian Government Complies with Settlement in Decades-old Sexual Assault Case Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Closes Sexual Assault Case in Peruvian Public Hospital

08.07.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Almost 20 years since a doctor at a public hospital raped a young woman who was seeking medical care, the Peruvian government has finally complied with the friendly settlement of the woman’s case, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)—a main human rights body for the Americas.

The settlement the Peruvian government reached with the petitioners in March 2000, required the State to provide financial reparations to the young woman known as M.M., revoke the rapist’s medical license, improve access to justice in cases of sexual violence, and admit responsibility for the human rights violations that M.M. suffered under international law.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“No woman should fear that she will be raped by a doctor entrusted to provide her with critical medical care, and no woman who suffers such deplorable treatment should have to wait this long for justice to be served.”

“We commend the Peruvian government for accepting its responsibility for this young woman’s   suffering and taking action to prevent this situation from being repeated.”

“Now it’s time for Perú’s policymakers to build on this work to ensure all cases of sexual violence are expedited and handled fairly, and all women are protected from similar violations of their fundamental human rights.”

M.M. was 22 years old when she went to the Carlos Monge Medrano Juliaca Public Hospital in January 1996 complaining of a severe headache and pain throughout her body, stemming from involvement in a traffic accident a few months earlier. Instead of treating M.M. for her symptoms, the doctor at the hospital lured her into an examination room where he drugged and raped her.

After filing a criminal report immediately after the rape, M.M. was subjected to mistreatment and discrimination from the hospital staff, police, and the judicial system. Her case was dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence in July 1997.   

The Center, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM) and DEMUS (Estudio para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer) filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on April 23, 1998 on behalf of M.M. The friendly settlement was reached on March 6, 2000.

As part of the settlement agreement, last March the Peruvian government adopted a resolution that includes the training of judges on gender and justice issues as part of their core curriculum. The resolution is yet to be implemented in accordance with the IACHR agreement. 

“The Peruvian criminal and court systems failed M.M.,” said María Ysabel Cedano, executive director at DEMUS. “We urge the government to hold the Judicial Academy (AMAG) to its promise of including gender and justice as part of the basic training for judges in its curriculum, plans and budgets in 2014, 2015 and beyond. In addition, we call on National Judicial Council to adopt the formal proposals by DEMUS on gender training received in the AMAG as part of the selection process, ratification and promotion of judges and magistrates.”

“Violence against women is a serious human rights abuse in Perú,” said Gabriela Filoni, litigator at CLADEM. “The government acknowledges this but it must hold health, criminal justice and legal professionals to a higher standard when women file complaints.”

The Post’s Sobering Look at Texas

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 12:11
The Post’s Sobering Look at Texas

08.06.14 - Amen, Washington Post. The Post’s editorial board has written a dead-on opinion piece that breaks down the alarming trend of anti-choice legislation that is essentially undermining Roe v. Wade at the state level.

The piece specifically focuses on new legislation in Texas, where lawmakers have passed a number of abortion-related regulations that are decimating providers’ ability to offer safe, accessible abortion care to the women of the state. The editorial notes:

“More than 40 clinics around the state performed the procedure legally and safely when the law took effect a year ago. Today fewer than half of those clinics are still in business in a state where the population has more than doubled over four decades.”

As the editors emphasize (and has been repeated by top medical experts in the country – the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) these new regulations—which impose expensive, superfluous “safety measures” such as wider hallways and men’s locker rooms—will not actually make abortion any safer than it already is and will do nothing to reduce women’s need for abortion services. The laws will only impede a woman’s ability to access these services, despite her constitutionally guaranteed right to do so.  

As the Texas law takes full effect, many more clinics are expected to be forced to shut down, and it is estimated that less than ten clinics will be able to remain open. In poorer, more rural areas such as the Rio Grande Valley, the current closures are already forcing women to travel hundreds of miles to access legal abortion services. For many, factors such as work, cost, lack of transportation, immigration check points, and mandatory waiting periods make this trip an impossibility. As the Post observes, many women will be forced to seek illegal—and possibly unsafe—options closer to their homes.

“Very possibly, some women will die as a result; most of these will be poor,” write the editors. The situation in Texas is dire, and at this point it is only getting worse. The Post piece nails not only the women’s health crisis at hand, but also the constitutional crisis. “In huge swaths of the nation’s second most populous state,” they write, “Roe v. Wade has been effectively undone by the legislature.”    

Trending in Texas: DIY Abortions Court Decision Protects Abortion Access for Most Women in Texas, But Upholds Restrictions on Medication Abortion One-Third of Texas Women Will Soon Lack Access to Safe, Legal Abortion Following Appellate Court Ruling

TRAP: “Exceedingly Weak”

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 11:45
TRAP: “Exceedingly Weak”

08.06.14 - Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show this week to discuss extremist politicians’ ongoing efforts to aggressively push Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers or TRAP laws.

The measures are touted as efforts to make abortion services safer, but they actually are threatening to shut down a number of reproductive health clinics in many parts of the country, particularly in the South.

Just this week, a federal court struck down the Alabama legislature’s attempt to enforce a kind of TRAP law that requires doctors who provide abortion services to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals in the event of complications with a patient.

The judge in the case said the state's reasoning for such a law—that it would improve the quality of care for women having abortions—was "exceedingly weak."

Nancy called the ruling a “huge win” as the court called out the “underhanded tactics” that extremist politicians continue to use to try and prevent women from accessing abortion services.

Major medical groups, including the American Medical Association, have come out in opposition to these laws because they do not serve any medical purpose.

Admitting privileges are often business arrangements with hospitals and hospitals sometimes require doctors to meet quotas. Abortion providers already have plans in place to deal with an emergency. And medical experts confirm that abortion care has a 99% safety record, with less than 1% of patients experiencing any complications and even fewer requiring further treatment at a hospital. 

Watch Nancy on Maddow:

MSNBC: The Trap of TRAP Laws Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP)

Trending in Texas: DIY Abortions

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 16:41
Trending in Texas: DIY Abortions

08.05.14 - A fascinating article from The Atlantic this month puts readers firmly on the ground in Texas, in middle of what the author calls “ground zero for state’s bitter abortion battle”—the Rio Grande Valley. The implications of Texas’s controversial new abortion regulations, HB2, have begun to play out by forcing clinic closures across the state. The women of the isolated, largely poor Rio Grande Valley currently find themselves with no clinics offering abortion services within 150 miles.

Knowing that denying abortion care does not keep women from seeking abortions, writer Erica Hellerstein explores the growing black market culture of DIY abortion drugs that is taking hold in the region. In particular, women are seeking a pill well-known throughout Latin America and Mexico called miso, short for misoprostol. If taken correctly, the drug is 80-85% successful in safely inducing an abortion during the first trimester.

One problem Hellerstein identifies, however, is that because the drug is sold largely on the black market in the area, many women are unaware of the correct dosages, which can lead to botched abortions and hospitalizations. Hellerstein prowls local flea markets and even crosses by foot into Mexico in search of information about how the pill is sold, bought, and consumed. She discovers that due to police crackdowns, it’s become harder to find the drug in Texas than she thought. But she has no trouble tracking down miso just across the border, and she discovers many internet vendors who claim to offer it, although such vendors are known to sell counterfeit versions.     

Miso, long prescribed as an ulcer medication, is thought to have first been used as an abortion inducer in Brazil—where abortion is illegal except in certain circumstances and considered a mortal sin—in the late 1980s. Its off-label use quickly spread throughout the dominantly Catholic countries of Latin America, where communicating instructions for safely administering the clandestine drug became a problem as well. Secret hotlines developed in many countries to spread accurate information to women in need. 

Hellerstein sees similarities in today’s Texas to the situation in Latin America 20 years ago:

Things are starting to look a lot like the early years of miso in places like Brazil and Chile: The simple guidelines about miso haven't yet made it to women in the state. But eventually, in those countries, the Internet and the democratization of information prevailed. Unless, and until, abortion restrictions change again, Latin America’s DIY-abortion culture might be the future of women in South Texas.

As Texas moves increasingly backwards, the Atlantic piece serves as a reminder that if a woman needs an abortion, she will find a way to get one. And as Hellerstein traces just a few steps of that path, the perils of the journey become chillingly clear.

New Investigation Details Devastating Impact of Texas Family Planning Cuts on Latinas in the Rio Grande Valley Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women's Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley One-Third of Texas Women Will Soon Lack Access to Safe, Legal Abortion Following Appellate Court Ruling Court Decision Protects Abortion Access for Most Women in Texas, But Upholds Restrictions on Medication Abortion

French President Approves Gender Equality Law

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 23:00
French President Approves Gender Equality Law

08.05.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) France affirms that women can obtain an abortion without restriction as to reason during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy with passage of a sweeping gender equality law today by President François Holland.

This equality law will amend France’s existing abortion law, passed in 1975, that has only allowed “a pregnant woman whose condition puts her in a situation of distress” the legal right to terminate her pregnancy. Additionally, the law will outlaw any attempt to prevent a woman from accessing information about abortion services.

“At a time when women in many parts of the world, including in the United States and Spain, are seeing their rights restricted, violated, and disrespected, France has set an important example for the rest of the globe with its progressive stance toward reproductive health care,” said Lilian Sepúlveda, director of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Ensuring a woman’s right to control her fertility is fundamental to achieving gender equality. But passing today’s law is just the first step—we now look to French policymakers to ensure women see the benefits of this historic law implemented this year.”

In April 2013, the French government enacted legislation that requires the government to cover the full cost of legal abortions for every woman seeking services, as well as fully cover contraception for adolescent girls aged 15 to 18. Both initiatives fulfill the French President François Hollande’s promise to strengthen reproductive rights and health care, with a goal of reducing the country's rate of abortion.

The National Assembly voted to amend France’s current abortion law on January 21. This law is part of a number of gender equality measures parliament is taking up, including extending paternity leave to six months and higher fines for failing to achieve gender parity in business and politics.

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Trial Begins in Second Challenge to Texas’ Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions

Sun, 08/03/2014 - 23:00
Trial Begins in Second Challenge to Texas’ Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions

08.04.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today marks the beginning of a four-day trial in the second challenge to Texas’ unconstitutional package of abortion restrictions intended to shutter clinics across the state.  Federal district court Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin will hear arguments on the Center for Reproductive Rights’ challenge to the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as an ambulatory surgical center (ASC), as well as the challenge to the law’s admitting privileges requirement on behalf of two of the hardest-hit clinics in the state.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“This is a battle to stop the politicians who have already done devastating and potentially irreparable harm to the health care system for women in Texas from obliterating it entirely for millions of women statewide.

“If the additional regulations we are challenging in this case are allowed to go into effect, they would leave a state of more than 26 million people and 270,000 square miles with fewer than 10 clinics offering safe, legal care to women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy.

“This is a patently unconstitutional and potentially life-threatening assault on women’s rights and health, and we look to the court to block its enforcement before it places any more women in harm’s way.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation which was passed last summer.  The first suit challenges the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. While the medication abortion provision was largely upheld by the federal district court, the admitting privileges provision was initially struck down, but then later took effect on October 31, 2013 after a decision by the Fifth Circuit to stay the lower court’s injunction. The same appellate court later upheld both provisions—the results of which have been nothing short of devastating, closing clinics across the state and leaving thousands of women already facing extremely limited reproductive health care options due to drastic family planning cuts in 2011 without access to health care. The providers now await a decision whether the full Fifth Circuit will rehear the case and review the constitutionality of the admitting privileges requirement and the lack of a health exception in the medication abortion restrictions.

In April 2014, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an additional lawsuit against HB2, seeking to block the admitting privileges requirement specifically as it applies to two clinics—Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso—that are among the last, if not the only, reproductive health care providers offering safe, legal abortion care in their communities. Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen has been unable to provide abortion services to their patients since the admitting privileges requirement took effect in November 2013 and earlier this year closed its doors entirely, leaving the Rio Grande Valley without an abortion provider and continuing to force women to travel 300 hundred miles roundtrip to the next nearest clinic.  Whole Woman’s Health also recently announced they will be closing their flagship clinic in Austin as a result of HB2.  In El Paso, Reproductive Services was also forced to close their doors due to the admitting privileges requirement.

The second suit also seeks to strike HB2’s provision that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), a provision scheduled to take effect in September 2014 that would leave fewer than 10 clinics in Texas and force many women to endure a roundtrip of more than a thousand miles or cross state lines to access safe and legal abortion services.

Said Amy Hagstrom-Miller, Founder, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health:

“For over ten years, Whole Woman’s Health has been proud to provide high-quality, safe, and legal reproductive health care services to the women and families of Texas.  But after already being forced to shutter three of our five remaining Texas clinics as a direct result of HB2, the fate of one of our last remaining clinics continues to hang in the balance. 

“Whole Woman’s Health remains committed to fighting back against these underhanded attacks on women’s health and rights and do everything in our power to continue providing Texas women with the high quality reproductive health care they need and deserve.”

Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services. Medical experts confirm that abortion care has a 99% safety record, with less than 1% of patients experiencing any complications and even fewer requiring further treatment at a hospital.  ACOG also opposes imposing medically unnecessary facility requirements on abortion providers that are not required of similarly situated surgical procedures.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Texas  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.

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Texas Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Court Decision Protects Abortion Access for Most Women in Texas, But Upholds Restrictions on Medication Abortion One-Third of Texas Women Will Soon Lack Access to Safe, Legal Abortion Following Appellate Court Ruling Fifth Circuit Ruling Deepens Health Crisis Facing Texas Women by Continuing to Deny Texas Women Safe, Legal Abortion Services Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer

ReproWrites Monthly eNews Archive

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 11:42
ReproWrites Monthly eNews Archive

08.01.14 - Keep informed about the Center's groundbreaking cases, victories and innovative projects by signing up for ReproWrites, our monthly eNewsletter. Each issue includes timely stories, information on upcoming events and breaking news about our latest cases. You can read the latest issue in our archive below. Sign up today!

ReproWrites Archive

 

2014

July: A big day on Capitol Hill >

May: Deadline for Advocacy Day Contest: May 31 >

April: Seeking justice for a young mother >

March: We vowed to fight back >

February: A deeply personal experience >

January: A busy year so far >

2013

December: Choosing Discrimination over Democracy >

October: A cautionary victory >

September: A strong counterattack >

August: The stakes are high >

July: My choice to fight >

June: A victory of historic proportions >

May: We're putting Congress on notice >

April: Fighting the new extreme >

March: Who controls your birth control? >

February: Where will women turn? >

January: The War is Alive and Well >


2012

December: We're Building a Movement >

October: 106K and Counting >

September: Clinic status: Denied >

August: Brazil Must Act Now >

July: Mississippi Clinic Open...for Now >

June: Birth Control & Life After Limbaugh >

Senate Bill Would Ensure All Military Servicewomen and Dependents Have Equal Access to Contraceptive Coverage, Family Planning Counseling

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 23:00
Senate Bill Would Ensure Military Servicewomen, Dependents Equal Access to Contraceptive Coverage, Family Planning Sen. Shaheen and more than a dozen other Senators sponsor new legislation to extend comprehensive reproductive health-care coverage to non-active duty servicewomen, military dependents

07.30.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) New federal legislation was introduced today in the U.S. Senate that would guarantee all women who rely on the military for their health care—including active and non-active duty servicemembers and dependents—comprehensive coverage for contraceptives and family-planning counseling.

The “Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2014” would bring the military’s health program, also known as TRICARE, in line with contraceptive coverage required in most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. Under the proposed legislation, the nearly five million women eligible for TRICARE would have the same birth control coverage as federal employees.

The bill, which was introduced today by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and more than a dozen other Senators, would also ensure that women who depend on TRICARE for health coverage receive comprehensive family-planning counseling and improve access to emergency contraception for servicewomen who have been sexually assaulted.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Every woman, including the women who have bravely committed their lives to serving in the military, deserve equal and affordable access to health care coverage for themselves and their families.

“With the vast majority of servicewomen being of reproductive age, the benefits of expanding coverage of contraception and family planning services for those who rely on the military for their health care couldn’t be clearer.”

Women represent 16 percent of all active duty and reserve members of the military, with 97 percent of reproductive age. Currently, active-duty military have no cost-sharing for any prescriptions, while non-active-duty military dependents must pay cost-sharing for birth control acquired outside a military treatment facility.

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Fifth Circuit Court Continues to Block Mississippi Anti-Abortion Regulation, State’s Only Clinic to Remain Open While Legal Battle Continues

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 23:00
Fifth Circuit Court Continues to Block Mississippi Anti-Abortion Regulation, State’s Only Clinic to Remain Open While Le

07.29.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) A panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today upheld a preliminary injunction blocking a Mississippi law designed to close the last remaining abortion clinic in the state—ensuring the Jackson Women’s Health Organization can remain open and continue to provide safe, legal care to its patients pending the outcome of the legal battle.

The measure forces any physician who provides abortion services to adhere to an arbitrary and medically unwarranted requirement to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital.  Today’s decision affirms that “Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state.”

Following a lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Dr. Willie Parker, the law was partially blocked in July 2012 and later fully blocked in April 2013—barring the state from imposing criminal and civil penalties on the clinic doctors and staff pending the outcome of the litigation.  A three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit heard arguments on the preliminary injunction in April 2014.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today’s ruling ensures women who have decided to end a pregnancy will continue, for now, to have access to safe, legal care in their home state.

“But there is still only one clinic in the entire state, and it is still threatened by a law advanced by politicians over the opposition of respected medical organizations, with the sole intent of closing that clinic permanently.

“For far too long, women in Mississippi have been teetering on the precipice of a reality similar to the dark days before Roe v. Wade, where reproductive health care options were limited at best and life-threatening at worst. This is unacceptable, unconstitutional, and contrary to the consensus of the strong majority of Americans who do not wish to see Roe’s constitutional protections overturned.

“The promise of the U.S. Constitution is one that ensures all of our rights are protected no matter where we happen to live. We will continue this fight to ensure the fundamental rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court more than 40 years ago remain a reality for women in Mississippi and across the country.”

The measure, which was advanced by anti-choice politicians, not doctors, forces any physician performing abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at an area hospital— a requirement that is often difficult to meet because of some  hospitals’ inclination to deny admitting privileges to abortion providers for political or other reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.  Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services and medical experts confirm that abortion care has a 99% safety record, with less than 1% of patients experiencing any complications and even fewer requiring further treatment at a hospital.

Although all the doctors currently providing abortions to women at the Mississippi clinic are board-certified ob-gyns, the physicians responsible for providing abortions to the vast majority of the clinic’s patients have been unable to obtain privileges at any hospital in the area—in fact, no hospital would even process the physicians’ applications, with several hospitals citing their policies on abortion care.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization has served women and families in Mississippi for over 17 years, and has been the sole reproductive health care provider offering abortion in the state since 2002. The next nearest clinics for Mississippi residents are approximately three hours away, with most neighboring states requiring a mandatory 24-hour waiting period. 

The Center filed the suit on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization & Willie Parker, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc. v. Mary Currier, M.D., M.P.H. & Robert Shuler Smith, with Julie Rikelman as lead counsel, along with co-counsel Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Robert B. McDuff in Jackson, Mississippi.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Mississippi 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. 

Fifth Circuit Considers Mississippi Law Designed to Shutter Last Clinic in the State Federal Judge Blocks All Enforcement of Mississippi Admitting Privileges Requirement Cases:  Jackson Women’s Health Organization, et al. v. Mary Currier, et al.

Las Naciones Unidas Recomiendan a Perú Expandir el Acceso al Aborto Legal

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 23:00
Las Naciones Unidas Recomiendan a Perú Expandir el Acceso al Aborto Legal El Comité para la Eliminación de la Discriminación contra la Mujer (Comité de la CEDAW) define la negación en el acceso a servicios de aborto legal como una violación de derechos humanos

25.07.14 - (COMUNICADO DE PRENSA) Las Naciones Unidas han hecho un llamado al gobierno peruano para que reforme sus actuales leyes en materia de aborto y reconozca las violaciones de derechos humanos, incluyendo la negación de servicios de aborto legal y la discriminación basada en género a la que las mujeres se enfrentan cuando buscan remedios legales.

En recomendaciones emitidas esta semana por el Comité de la CEDAW, expertos del Comité citaron cómo durante muchos años Perú ha negado a las mujeres el acceso al aborto legal y ha fallado en la provisión de reparaciones individuales y generales integrales en los casos de L.C. y K.L., adolescentes a las que les fue negado el aborto terapéutico legal. El Comité de la CEDAW instó a Perú expandir el aborto legal a casos de violación, incesto, y malformaciones fetales severas. Actualmente, el aborto es legal en Perú sólo en casos donde la salud o vida de la mujer está en riesgo.

El mes pasado, Perú adoptó un protocolo nacional para prestar servicios de aborto legal para dar claridad a los médicos y pacientes sobre el aborto legal terapéutico en el país, noventa años después de la despenalización del aborto terapéutico. Funcionarios del Estado anunciaron el cambio en la política poco antes de la sesión No. 58 del Comité de la CEDAW en Ginebra, Suiza. El Comité de la CEDAW recomendó diseminar el contenido del protocolo de aborto terapéutico a todo el personal de la salud.

Declaró Nancy Northup, presidenta y directora ejecutiva del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos:

“Una vez más las Naciones Unidas ha reconocido el principio vital que los derechos reproductivos de las mujeres son derechos humanos fundamentales, que incluye el derecho al aborto legal y seguro.

“Las experiencias de mujeres peruanas a las que se les ha negado cuidado en salud que es un derecho fundamental son inexcusable y no debe ser repetido en la vida de otras mujeres.

“Si bien Perú ha dado algunos pasos recientes para expandir los derechos de las mujeres, no está ni cerca de ser suficiente. Ahora es el momento en que el gobierno peruano debe construir sobre el progreso alcanzado y emitir legislación que realmente expanda el acceso a cuidado esencial en salud reproductiva para las mujeres”.

En sus observaciones el Comité de la CEDAW expresó su preocupación sobre las barreras significativas que las mujeres de escasos recursos y marginalizadas tienen que enfrentar al buscar acceso a la justicia en las cortes nacionales, regionales e internacionales –subrayando los casos de L.C. y K.L. El Comité instó al Estado para que capacite a la policía, los jueces y los abogados respecto de sus obligaciones en materia de derechos humanos, especialmente los derechos humanos de las mujeres y el derecho a la igualdad de género.

“Por demasiado tiempo a las mujeres en Perú les ha sido negado el acceso a servicios de aborto seguro, legal, y en ocasiones para salvar su propia vida”, dijo Mónica Arango, Directora Regional para América Latina y el Caribe del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos. “Las Naciones Unidas ha dejado en claro que Perú debe responder rápidamente para implementar el nuevo protocolo de aborto terapéutico e inmediatamente proveer reparación integral a L.C., K.L., y sus familias por el sufrimiento causado dada la falla del gobierno en la provisión de servicios médicos esenciales”.

De acuerdo con lo establecido por el Comité de la CEDAW, Perú debe también asegurar la disponibilidad de servicios de aborto y cuidado post-aborto. También instó a que Perú asegure el acceso a servicios de planificación familiar, en particular en las áreas rurales, y adopte todas las medidas necesarias para distribuir gratuitamente anticoncepción de emergencia dentro del sistema de salud pública, particularmente para las mujeres sobrevivientes de abuso sexual.

El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos, Planned Parenthood Federation of America y la ONG peruana PROMSEX presentaron un reporte en conjunto al Comité de la CEDAW, señalando las preocupaciones en materia de derechos humanos derivados de las leyes peruanas que restringen el aborto, la falta de acceso a anticoncepción de emergencia en los servicios de salud pública, y los obstáculos existentes en cuanto al acceso de adolescentes a servicios de salud sexual y reproductiva.

“Los defensores de la salud de las mujeres han sido sistemáticos en denunciar como los derechos de las mujeres y niñas en Perú han sido violados por demasiado tiempo,” dijo Rossina Guerrero, Directora de Incidencia Política de PROMSEX. “Ahora, con el foco global sobre las violaciones de derechos humanos en Perú, el gobierno debe actuar de forma rápida para poner en práctica la guía para el aborto terapéutico con el fin de que los servicios de aborto seguro sean una realidad para las mujeres peruanas.”

Actualmente el aborto es legal en el Perú solamente cuando la vida o la salud de la mujer está en riesgo, y no en casos de violación sexual. El impacto devastador de la criminalización del aborto en casos de violación tiene especial relevancia en el Perú, por ser el país con las más altas cifras de denuncia por violación sexual en  América del Sur. Las niñas y adolescentes peruanas conforman una proporción mayoritaria (78 por ciento) de los casos de violación, y peor aún, los servicios de salud pública tienen prohibido suministrar anticoncepción de emergencia.

Un estudio de la Organización Mundial de la Salud y el Instituto Guttmacher reforzó el hecho que las leyes que restringen el aborto no están asociadas con menores cifras de aborto. De acuerdo con el estudio, la cifra de abortos para América Latina en 2008 –una región donde el aborto se encuentra altamente restringido en la mayoría de los países- era de 32 por cada mil mujeres en edad reproductiva, mientras en Europa del Este, donde el aborto está ampliamente permitido, la cifra es de 12 por cada mil.     

Cases:  L.C. v. Peru (UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women)

United Nations Calls on Perú to Expand Access to Legal Abortion

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 23:00
United Nations Calls on Perú to Expand Access to Legal Abortion Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) Cites Denial of Legal Abortion Services As Human Rights Violations

07.25.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations (U.N.) has called for the Peruvian government to liberalize its current abortion law and to address human rights violations, including the denial of legal abortion services and gender-based discrimination faced by women when they seek legal recourse.

In recommendations released this week by the U.N. CEDAW Committee, committee members recognized Perú’s long history of denying women access to legal abortion and failure  to provide comprehensive individual and general reparations in the cases of L.C. and K.L. In these cases, adolescent women were denied legal, therapeutic abortions. The CEDAW Committee also called on Perú to permit legal abortion in cases of rape, incest, and severe fetal impairments. Currently, abortion in Perú is legal only when the health or life of a woman is at risk.

Last month, Perú adopted a national protocol for safe abortion services to provide clarity for physicians and patients on legal therapeutic abortion in the country, ninety years after therapeutic abortion was decriminalized. State officials announced the policy change leading up to Perú’s evaluation at CEDAW Committee’s 58th session in Geneva, Switzerland. The CEDAW Committee recommended that Perú disseminate the abortion guidelines included in the protocol to all health staff.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Once again, the United Nations has underscored the vital principle that women’s reproductive rights are fundamental human rights, which include the right to safe and legal abortion care.

“The experiences of Peruvian women denied the health care that is their fundamental right are inexcusable and must not be repeated in other women’s lives.

“While Perú has taken some recent steps toward expanding the rights of women, it’s nowhere near enough.  Now is the time for the Peruvian government to build on this progress and bring forth legislation that will truly expand women’s access to critical reproductive health care.”

In its observations, the CEDAW Committee expressed concerns about the significant barriers low-income and marginalized women face seeking legal recourse in national, regional and international courts—highlighting L.C. and K.L.’s cases. It called on the State to train police, judges and lawyers on its human rights obligations, specifically women’s human rights and the right to gender equality.

“Women in Perú have been denied access to safe, legal, and often life-saving abortion services for far too long,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The United Nations has made it abundantly clear that Perú must work quickly to implement its new therapeutic abortion guidelines and immediately provide comprehensive reparations to L.C., K.L., and their families for the suffering caused by their government’s failure to provide essential medical care.”

According to the CEDAW Committee, Perú must also ensure the availability of abortion services and quality post-abortion care. The CEDAW Committee also recommended that Perú ensure access to family planning services, in particular in rural areas, and adopt all the necessary measures to carry out the free distribution of emergency contraceptives within the public health system, particularly to survivors of sexual abuse.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Perú-based PROMSEX submitted a report to the CEDAW Committee, addressing the human rights concerns stemming from Perú’s restrictive abortion law, lack of access to emergency contraception within the public health system, and limited sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents.

“Women’s health advocates have systematically denounced how the reproductive rights of women and girls in Perú have been trampled for too long,” said Rossina Guerrero, Director of Political Advocacy at PROMSEX. “Now with the global spotlight on human rights violations in Perú, the government must work diligently to put the therapeutic abortion guidelines into action so that safe abortion services are a reality for Peruvian women.”

Currently abortion in Perú is legal only when the health or life of a woman is at risk, and not in cases of rape. The devastating impact of criminalizing abortion in cases of rape is particularly far-reaching in Perú, which has the highest rate of reported rape in South America. Peruvian girls and adolescents account for an overwhelming proportion (78 percent) of rape cases and, adding insult to injury, public health services are prohibited from distributing emergency contraception.

A study by the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute reinforced the fact that restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower rates of abortion. According to the study, the 2008 abortion rate in Latin America—a region where abortion is highly restricted in almost all countries—was 32 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, while in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds, the rate is just 12 per 1,000.

Cases:  L.C. v. Peru (UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) KL v. Peru (United Nations Human Rights Committee)

Combatting Child Marriage

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 13:40
Combatting Child Marriage

07.24.14 - The numbers are disturbing. According to a recent UNICEF study, one in nine girls in the developing world will marry before age 15; one in three will marry before 18. Some are as young as eight. Child marriage remains an all-too-common reality throughout large swaths of the world—particularly South Asia. And the repercussions are often devastating—both for the young girls and for their communities.

Early marriage usually ends a girl’s education. It leaves her vulnerable to sexually contracted diseases as well as domestic violence and marital rape as a result of the power imbalance in the relationship. It also exposes her to life-threatening complications. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth compared to women over 20. The risk is far greater for girls under 15.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has been working to combat the ravages of child marriage through legal advocacy. This week, this important issue takes center stage in London at the Girl Summit 2014, a first-ever event co-hosted by Unicef and the British government aimed at rallying efforts to end the practice of child marriage, as well as female genital mutilation, within a generation. 

“The Girl Summit reminds us that much more needs to be done by governments across the world to end the egregious practice of child marriage and stronger action is needed to achieve this goal,” says Melissa Upreti, the Center’s Regional Director for Asia. “Governments must step up their efforts to end the impunity surrounding child marriage by using the law and legal institutions to effectively deter child marriage and to provide legal remedies to girls and women who suffer from its consequences. This includes not allowing religion to be used as a justification for the practice.”

The Girls Summit comes on the heels of a promising development in India, where—despite the country’s Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006, it is estimated that a third of child marriages take place. This June, following testimony from human rights groups—including a shadow letter authored by the Center and our partners, the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)—the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued Concluding Observations urging India to take measures “to ensure the effective implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,” specifically by clarifying that that the PCMA supersedes India’s religious-based Personal Status Laws. One of eight UN human rights treaty bodies, the Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body responsible for ensuring children can enjoy their human rights and live with dignity, respect, and equality.

As detailed in the Center’s new Fact Sheet on Child Marriage and Personal Laws in South Asia, personal status laws are among the greatest barriers to ending child marriage practices in India. Personal laws generally govern matters related to family affairs such as marriage and divorce for specific religious groups—Muslim and Hindi, among others. The laws accommodate the religious and cultural differences in a pluralistic society such as India’s, but are frequently discriminatory against women and can undermine human rights protections. Personal laws establish their own age of marriage, legal status for marriages conducted before the age of 18, and penalties for child marriage.

Although the PCMA states that all marriages of girls younger than 18 are voidable and penalizes involvement in child marriage, under the Hindu Marriage Act this is only an option to a girl who was married before 15 and who contests the marriage before she turns 18. In contrast, under the uncodified Muslim personal laws, a girl can only void a marriage performed before puberty—presumed to be age 15—if the marriage has not been consummated. These inconsistencies exemplify the legal maze faced by girls in these regions, as well as by human rights bodies attempting to enforce international human rights standards.

The UN Committee’s recommendation to India to clarify that the PCMA supersedes personal laws takes an important step towards eradicating this harmful practice that has been too long protected by the cloak of tradition.

“The Committee on the Rights of the Child has taken a bold step by trying to tackle a delicate issue—the problematic relationship between religion-based personal status laws and general secular law,” notes Upreti. “The PCMA could be a stronger law and diligent enforcement is needed to make a national law aimed at prohibiting child marriage work, however, a profound challenge to ending child marriage in India is the precedence and deference given to personal laws on marriage, despite the fact that they are outrightly discriminatory and perpetuate inequality within marriage. The Committee’s recommendations to India send a clear signal that this must end as a matter of human rights.”

In addition to stressing the PCMA’s supremacy over personal status laws, the Committee’s Concluding Observations also responded specifically to a recommendation articulated in the Center and HRLN’s shadow letter for more educational efforts promoting reproductive health and rights. The Committee recommended that India take steps to combat the practices of dowry payment, child marriage, and devadasi (a form of sexual enslavement) by “conducting awareness-raising programmes and campaigns with a view to changing attitudes, as well as counselling and reproductive education, to prevent and combat child marriages, which are harmful to the health and well-being of girls.”

Child Marriage and Personal Laws in South Asia Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity (Press Release) Childhood Discarded Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity UN Takes Major Action to End Child Marriage

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