05.27.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has permanently blocked Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Today's decision upholds a federal district court ruling from March 204 striking the extreme law as unconstitutional under more than four decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—affirming that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today’s ruling affirms that safely and legally ending a pregnancy remains a protected constitutional right in this country.
“Women should not have to run to court in state after state, year after year to protect their constitutional rights from these politically motivated attacks. The Constitution and the courts are clear: A woman’s right to decide for herself whether to continue or safely and legally end a pregnancy does not change depending on what state she happens to live in."
SB 134 in Arkansas would have banned abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy with only narrow exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies. SB 134 was enacted in March 2013—just two days after Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe vetoed the measure—when both houses in the state legislature voted to override his veto. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and ACLU of Arkansas filed suit in April 2013 against the ban on behalf of two physicians who provide abortions in Little Rock. A federal district judge permanently struck down the ban in March 2014, saying the extreme measure would “prevent a woman’s constitutional right to elect to have an abortion before viability.”
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 Dakota and Arkansas 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.Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Arkansas 12-Week Abortion Ban as Unconstitutional Arkansas Governor Vetoes Unconstitutional Legislative Assault on Reproductive Rights Arkansas Legislature Ignores 40 Years of Supreme Court Precedent, Overrides Governor Veto to Enact Most Extreme Abortion Ban in the Nation Center for Reproductive Rights and ACLU File Lawsuit to Block Extreme and Unconstitutional Abortion Ban in Arkansas
05.22.15 - Last week the U.S. House passed a bill prohibiting most abortions after 20 weeks, with only narrow exceptions for women with life-threatening conditions and for rape survivors. No exceptions are included for cases when the woman’s health is at risk or in cases of severe fetal anomalies.
Aside from being unconstitutional, legislation that disregards the thousands of variables that can arise in any given pregnancy ignores a central concern of reproductive health:
Every pregnancy is different.
When a woman finds out she is pregnant, her universe explodes with questions and unknowns: How far along am I? What will this mean for my family? My health? My job?
Can I afford this? Do I want this? Is the fetus healthy?
“There has never been—and never can be—a one-size-fits-all answer to navigating such variables,” says Angela Hooton, vice president of the U.S. Policy and Advocacy Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Blanket legislation like this 20-week ban intrudes on the importance of these questions as well as on a woman’s constitutionally protected right.”
While the overwhelming majority of abortions take place before 20 weeks, there are a number of situations and circumstances that demand more time to become clear.
"The women we serve for abortion care past 20 weeks present with a myriad of complex situations,” says Texas reproductive health provider, Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health. “Some women don’t find out they are pregnant until much later than others. Some women need time to save money to end their pregnancy. Some women’s life circumstances change drastically during the course of their pregnancies. No matter the reason, women need access to safe, compassionate care.”
Hagstrom Miller adds, “We also see women who face logistical challenges such as arranging child care and getting adequate time off work to both negotiate the web of state-imposed abortion restrictions—such as two-trip waiting period requirements and limited clinic access—and make time for a healthy recovery. When anti-choice legislation shuttered more than half of Texas’s clinics last fall, we saw women forced to wait up to four weeks just to get an appointment."House Subcommittee to Hear Testimony on Unconstitutional Federal Bill Banning Abortion at 20 Weeks House Subcommittee Amends Federal Legislation to Ban Abortion at 20 Weeks Nationwide House Subcommittee to Hear Testimony on Unconstitutional Federal Bill Banning Abortion at 20 Weeks
05.22.15 - For over 20 years, the Center has been working in and out of the courts to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right. The Center engages with policymakers to promote progressive ideas and defeat proposals that are discriminatory or dangerous to women's health.
You can help strengthen our efforts by taking action today!We Won't Go Back
Mark Ruffalo shares the story of his mother's illegal abortion on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and tells why the Women's Health Protection Act must become law. Watch the video and share with your representative.Take the Texas Quiz
This summer, Texas passed four new abortion restrictions, adding to its deplorable record of sacrificing the health and safety of women in the name of politics. Find out how much you know about the dire state of reproductive health care in Texas. Take the quiz.Making History: the Women's Health Protection Act
Congress has introduced landmark legislation that ensures that every woman has access to abortion services, no matter where she lives. Tell your representatives to support the Women’s Health Protection Act.Time to Speak Out in Texas
Extremist anti-choice policies in Texas are threatening to take away a woman's right to make personal decisions about her life and future. Let your voice be heard. Speak out against new proposed regulations on health care clinics.What Health And Safety Really Mean in Texas Governor Perry claims that he supports "the health of Texas women," but he passed a sweeping law that medical experts confirm will put women's lives at risk.Tell Perry that you won’t stand for his ideological agenda.
05.20.15 - This past March, a 25-year-old woman suffering from terrible abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding sought emergency care at the hospital—where she was reported to authorities and detained on suspicion of attempted abortion.
If this story feels unnervingly familiar, that’s probably because you’ve heard something like it before. In countries such as El Salvador or Nicaragua, where extreme bans prohibit abortion even in cases of rape or to save a woman’s life, women are as a result often criminalized for miscarriage and other pregnancy loss.
In particular, the world has come to know the stories of Las 17, a group of women in El Salvador. After experiencing tragic pregnancy complications, each was convicted of homicide and imprisoned under that country’s total abortion ban.
But last month’s arrest comes out of Chile, a country that otherwise boasts a worldly sensibility, with relatively low maternal mortality rates and a strong health care system.
Due to an extreme ban implemented in the final years of the brutal Pinochet dictatorship almost 25 years ago, Chile is one of only four countries in the world that expressly prohibits abortion under any circumstances.
The majority of women arrested for suspected abortion in Chile are reported by doctors, who can avoid prosecution for their involvement if they report the act. As a result, many women do not to seek medical help in the event of an attempted abortion gone wrong.
“This young woman’s arrest highlights just how out of step Chile’s current policy is with the country’s own social priorities—and even with the rest of Latin America, where we are seeing some of the more conservative governments are starting to enact change,” says Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
For more than a decade, the Center has been active in high-level legal and human rights efforts in two prominent international treaty bodies—the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women—to expose how the region’s extreme abortion bans compromise women’s health and safety. Our ongoing efforts in countries such as El Salvador, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic have brought a perceptible shift to Latin American policies toward abortion access and rights, as well as maternal health in general.
At last, a groundbreaking bill—introduced in February by Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, a pediatrician—promises an easing of that country’s outdated abortion policy, with four notable exceptions to the ban: in cases of life endangerment, health endangerment, rape, or fetal abnormality.
While the legislation is a historic step toward decriminalizing abortion in Chile, the proposed law would require authorization from two medical professionals and only allow women to access an abortion legally within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“This bill is long overdue, and there is no question that it will ultimately be successful,” says Arango. “Chile is a modern country with a strong history of caring for the health of its vulnerable citizens. It is past time to liberalize this backwards policy that inflicts harm and infringes on the dignity of Chilean women.”
Illegal abortion rates are difficult to estimate, but likely range from 15,000 to 200,000 a year in Chile. As in other countries like El Salvador, poorer women are forced to carry out clandestine and unsafe abortions—risking hemorrhage, death, and legal punishment—while wealthier women can often travel or attain the procedure with less risk to their health and freedom.
The bill is now being debated by the Commission of Health in Chile’s House of Representatives, who could vote on the new policy this month. Then the bill will be passed to the Senate, where it is likely to encounter more significant opposition.
While there is wide public support for the proposed reforms, particularly around the life and health endangerment exceptions, the issue of a rape exception continues to provoke heated debate. In segments of Chile—South America’s most Catholic country—there remains a sense that it is courageous for a woman to carry to term a pregnancy caused by rape. This infamous argument was popularized in 2013 by then president Sebastián Piñera, who praised an 11-year-old girl who continued a pregnancy following two years of rape by her mother's boyfriend, for her “depth and maturity.”
The Center’s advocacy in the region remains focused on fighting for the passage of all of the proposed exceptions, where these changes—at a very minimum—are needed to protect women’s health. As the bill is debated in the Chilean congress, we are providing technical assistance to advocates on the ground and held a panel discussion this month to elevate the debate inside and outside of Congress on international law and public health topics related to the bill.
“At their heart, the exceptions included in this bill are essential human rights—insuring a women’s right to health, dignity, and self-determination,” says Arango. “We will not relent until Chile enacts legislation that protects these basic rights—already acknowledged by an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations—for its own citizens.”Al Jazeera: Chile's Total Ban on Abortion
05.20.15 - Tina Montales, her husband, and their eight children barely have enough to eat.
A few rolls and coffee for breakfast. A couple of pounds of rice for lunch and dinner for all of them, with only soy sauce or salt if the day’s earnings do not allow the 10 pesos for vegetables or dried fish. Some days, there’s less.
Tina never wanted to have eight children. In fact, her ideal number was two, and—had she been able to obtain the birth control she sought—she and her husband might have been able to support their family. Instead, her children have no school shoes and often nothing for lunch. Her sixth child, who was born at a low birth weight, has ongoing health issues. Her oldest died of rheumatic heart disease.
The family lives in Manila City, where, although contraception is technically legal, a local directive called Executive Order 003 has for nearly the past 15 years made it almost impossible for the region’s most disadvantaged citizens to obtain effective family planning supplies and services.
Tina used to receive free birth control pills, and had planned to have a tubal ligation. But the passage of executive orders that restrict funding for and access to modern contraception put these services firmly out of reach for Tina and thousands of other Filipino women who could not afford to pay for birth control privately.
Tina lives in fear of becoming pregnant again.
“By failing to repeal this law, the Filipino government has essentially allowed Manila City to deny women access to the most common and modern methods of birth control,” says Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has been working to expose the harmful impact of this policy for several years. “This has resulted in serious human rights violations including of the rights to health, equality, and nondiscrimination for an entire generation of women in Manila City.”
A 2007 report by the Center documenting human rights violations associated with Executive Order 003 became the basis for a special inquiry convened by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)—an international human rights treaty body—in 2012 to investigate these concerns. The inquiry is the first of its kind to specifically examine the human rights implications of denial of contraceptive access for women and to hold a government accountable for failing to uphold this right.
At last, the results of that inquiry have been published, and the committee’s findings are resounding: the Philippines has been held responsible for violating women’s human rights— particularly their right to freedom from discrimination—by denying thousands of women the full range of reproductive health services, which can cause irreparable harm, and failing to remove barriers to access.
The Committee holds the government accountable for failing to prioritize women’s human rights over religious ideology and cultural stereotypes, which has led to widespread discrimination against women and hindered access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. It expressed concern about funding restrictions on modern contraceptives in Manila City and called specifically for the legalization of abortion in cases of rape, incest, when the health or life of the woman is at risk, and in cases of severe fetal impairments.
“The Committee’s findings are unambiguous in connecting how the Filipino government’s current policies have created an oppressive and discriminatory environment for women,” says Upreti. “We are hopeful that President Aquino and other leaders can use the CEDAW’s detailed recommendations to implement positive changes to ensure and protect women’s reproductive rights in the country.”
Last year, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the country’s groundbreaking Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (known as the Reproductive Health Law), which guarantees access to contraceptives for all citizens, mandates reproductive health education in government schools, and recognizes a woman's right to post-abortion care as part of the right to reproductive health care. However, political battles over modern contraception have prevented the law from being fully implemented.
The CEDAW’s recommendations include urging the Philippines to:
The Center will continue our work advocating on the ground and in international human rights bodies and courts to ensure that these recommendations are vigorously implemented. For women in the Philippines, it is one more step toward reclaiming the dignity and self-determination that they deserve.Imposing Misery: The Impact of Manila's Contraception Ban on Women and Families Philippine Supreme Court Upholds Historic Reproductive Health Law
05.13.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban abortion in the United States after 20 weeks—a cruel and unconstitutional measure with only narrow exceptions for women with life-threatening conditions, rape survivors who have received medical care or counseling for the sexual assault at least 48-hours prior to receiving care, and minors who have reported rape or incest to law enforcement or child protective services.
H.R. 36 was originally slated for a vote in January 2015, but cancelled last minute following loud opposition over the bill’s previous language requiring rape and incest survivors to report their abuse.
Today’s substituted version now imposes additional hurdles that interfere with the patient-provider relationship and further delay care, including what amounts to a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for rape survivors, requiring adult patients to obtain medical care or counseling from a state-licensed counselor or victims’ rights advocate for their assault at least two days prior to receiving abortion services. For minors who have become pregnant after rape or incest, they are still required to report the crime to law enforcement or child protective services.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The politicians behind this bill clearly learned nothing from the outrage provoked earlier this year by its gross intrusions into women’s private lives and decisions.
“As if it weren’t enough to severely limit women’s options for confronting potentially devastating challenges during their pregnancies, this noxious legislation would also require rape survivors to undergo additional medical care or counseling whether they want it or not.
“This bill is a danger to women’s lives and well-being, an affront to their dignity, and a threat to the rights and liberties all Americans hold dear. Congress must reject this callous and unconstitutional bill.”
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 recently blocked similar pre-viability bans.
H.R. 36 would take critical medical decisions out of the hands of women and their trusted health care providers, as abortion care after 20 weeks may be the best medical option for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, 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 life-threatening complications and severe fetal abnormalities.
The devastating impact of these cruel laws are evident in stories like Whitney’s, a woman who has spoken out about her experience needing an abortion after 20 weeks in North Carolina, one of 11 states in the U.S. where the services are currently banned. After receiving a difficult diagnosis, she was forced to travel out of state to get the safe, legal care she needed and had a constitutional right to obtain.
The Women’s Health Protection Act, which was reintroduced in the Senate and House earlier this year, would prohibit politicians from imposing harmful measures such as H.R. 36 and other 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.U.S. House Passes Bill to Deny Millions of Women Reproductive Health Care Coverage Supreme Court Refuses to Review Arizona Abortion Ban Pro-Choice Champions in Congress Reintroduce Historic Women’s Health Protection Act
05.13.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Peruvian government will reopen its criminal investigation into the forced sterilization of hundreds of thousands of women and men in the 1990s—according to a decision by Luis Antonio Landa Burgos, the Superior Prosecutor for Perú.
In January 2014, national organizations in Perú filed a complaint after learning that the government ended its investigation into the mass sterilizations of nearly 350,000 women and 25,000 men from 1990-2000 during the Fujimori regime—under the guise of a population control policy to address poverty in the country.
Five human rights groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, brought a case in 1999 to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez, a Peruvian woman who was threatened with imprisonment by health workers if she did not consent to being sterilized and died days later from complications in 1996. Superior Prosecutor Burgos ordered a broader investigation into Ms. Mestanza’s case and that of 2,000 others in the next three months.
Said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The Peruvian government robbed thousands of women of their dignity and rights to build a family. Now, more than a decade later, we are nowhere near justice being served.
“Superior Prosecutor Burgos must hold Peruvian officials accountable and ensure a thorough criminal investigation to right these injustices so women and families like the Mestanza family get the compensation they deserve.”
On January 22, 2014, the Peruvian Prosecutor closed the investigation into the mass sterilizations due to lack of evidence to support claims that hundreds of mostly poor and indigenous women were sterilized against their will. On January 28, 2014, national organizations, including Estudio para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (DEMUS) filed a complaint against that decision.
DEMUS received notice on May 7 that Superior Prosecutor Luis Antonio Landa Burgos ordered the Provincial Prosecutor to broaden the investigation of Ms. Mestanza’s case and approximately 2,000 other cases of forced sterilization in the next three months.
“When we settled Ms. Mestanza’s case at the Inter-American Commission, the Peruvian government committed to investigate the human rights violations stemming from the forced sterilizations,” said Maria Ysabel Cedano, Director of DEMUS. “We’ve waited long enough for the government to investigate these 2073 cases and hold ex President Fujimori and his Administration accountable for these reproductive rights abuses.”
In a formal letter dated April 29, 2015, Superior Prosecutor Burgos established that the Provincial Prosecutor must:
In 1999, the Center with the Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Association for Human Rights (APRODEH), and Estudio para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (DEMUS) brought María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez v. Perú before the IACHR, arguing that Ms. Mestanza was one of thousands of women affected by a massive, compulsory, and systematic government policy that stressed sterilization as a means to rapidly decrease the fertility rate, especially among poor, indigenous, and rural women, in violation of their human rights.
The IACHR approved the friendly settlement agreement in Ms. Mestanza’s case on October 10, 2003 (Report No. 71/03). Under this settlement, the State agreed “to undertake a thorough investigation of the facts and apply legal punishments to any person determined to have participated in them, as either planner, perpetrator, accessory, or in other capacity, even if they be civilian or military officials or employees of the government,” among other measures. The settlement also called for the State to provide Ms. Mestanza’s children free primary and secondary education and to guarantee free health insurance for her family. The government has failed to provide integral reparations to the family of Mestanza, including access to health care services.
In January 2014, the Peruvian State closed the investigations alleging the lack of evidence to support claims that hundreds of mostly poor and indigenous women were sterilized against their will—in breach of the IACHR settlement and leaving thousands of women without justice.
05.12.15 - Sensing an important need to cultivate new, cutting edge scholarship and teaching on reproductive health, rights and justice, the Center for Reproductive Rights (the Center) and Columbia Law School (CLS) formed a partnership in 2008 and created the CRR-CLS Fellowship program. Designed to support outstanding law school graduates pursuing legal academic careers related to reproductive health and human rights, the CRR-CLS Fellowship has supported 6 exceptional young scholars. The Center has also benefited from a rich relationship with Columbia Law School, and the support of Professors Carol Sanger and Katherine Franke.
At this time, the Center and Columbia Law School have decided to suspend the CRR-CLS Fellowship program. Nevertheless, we remain committed to an ongoing partnership and will evaluate how the Center and Columbia can best support emerging legal academics. Our current Fellow, Lisa Kelly, will remain in residence at both institutions through summer, 2016.
At this time, we are proud to share the achievements of the CRR-CLS Fellows:
Rana Jaleel (2013-15) has accepted a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies at UC Davis, where she is also affiliated with the Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies at UC Davis School of Law. Rana's broader research interests include international law, global labor, and comparative legal responses to gender and sexual violence and reproductive health. Rana’s most recent article “The Wages of Human Trafficking,” will be published in the Brooklyn Law Review in March, 2016.
Margaux Hall (2012-2014) is an Associate at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips LLP, where she provides regulatory and transactional counsel to a wide array of clients in the healthcare industry, including Medicaid managed care plans, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. During her time in residence at the Center and CLS, she wrote on federal and state healthcare regulatory issues, including those emerging under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Margaux’s most recent publication, “A Fiduciary Theory of Health Entitlements” was published in the June 2014 Volume of the Cardozo Law Review.
Erez Aloni (2011-2013), is an Assistant Professor of Law at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California. His main research and teaching interests address regulation of complex family forms and nonmarital partnerships. His current projects focus on a “menu-of-options” for legal recognition of relationships; legal policies that affect the lives of nonrecognized family units; and promoting redistribution of resources as a goal of family law. Erez recently published “Deprivative Recognition” in the UCLA Law Review which examines what kind of law promotes both cultural recognition and distributive justice for unmarried partners.
Elizabeth Sepper (2010-2012) is an Associate Professor of Law at Washington University Law. In her scholarship, Liz explores the interaction of morality, professional ethics, and law in medicine. In her forthcoming article for the Columbia Law Review titled, “Free Exercise Lochnerism,” she argues that in promoting corporate religious exemptions from employment and consumer protections, litigants, scholars, and courts are resurrecting Lochner v. New York — a case symbolic of the courts’ strike down of economic regulation at the turn of the last century.
Khiara M. Bridges (2008-2010), our inaugural awardee, is now a tenured Associate Professor of Law and an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Boston University. She has written many articles concerning, race, class, reproductive rights, and the intersection of the three. Her scholarship has appeared in the Stanford Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, and the California Law Review among others. She is the author of Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization (2011), and she is currently working on a book about the privacy rights of poor mothers.
For any questions please contact Diana Hortsch, Senior Director of the Law School Initiative at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
05.12.15 - The Center for Reproductive Rights and URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity strongly oppose measures that limit teens’ access to basic health care, including several bills being considered by the Texas legislature. House Bill 723 and House Bill 3994 are just two of the many bills introduced this year that will severely limit young people’s access to abortion care. House Bill 723 unfairly target teens in Texas, and could effectively ban young people from obtaining abortion care if they feel they cannot involve a parent, in direct violation of settled Supreme Court precedent. House Bill 3994 is an omnibus measure intended to make it as challenging as possible for a teen to access abortion care, including requiring “valid government identification” and adding barrier after barrier designed to delay teens seeking this critical care. Young people should decide who to include in their personal reproductive health care decisions, and it is not the role of politicians to legislate communication between parents and teens. Imposing additional hurdles between the most vulnerable Texas teens and access to safe, legal reproductive health care is dangerous and cruel.
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05.11.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Governments this week asked the United States to explain its failure to address the misapplication of the Helms Amendment, a 40-year-old policy that — on paper – permits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds for safe abortion services in cases of rape, incest and life-endangerment.
The United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium questioned the U.S. delegation about the Obama administration’s refusal to implement the Helms Amendment correctly, treating the policy as though it were a complete ban, preventing millions of women and girls overseas from accessing essential medical care—even in countries where abortion is legal.
The questioning by governments is part of a review at the Human Rights Council—the U.N.’s main human rights body—where the United States responded to inquiries regarding a wide range of human rights violations. In addition to raising the global impact of the Helms Amendment, the Center for Reproductive Rights drew attention to policies that discriminate against immigrants in access to public health insurance and women with disabilities, including violence and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“While the United States views itself as a model of human rights and gender equality, the truth is that U.S. policies and practices are failing women at home and abroad.
“The U.S. has broken its promises to ensure the human rights of all women—especially those most at risk of discrimination—to safe, legal, high quality reproductive health care.
“It’s time for the U.S. to honor its human rights obligations and for the Obama Administration to ensure all women have access to safe abortion services and comprehensive reproductive health care.”
The Human Rights Council examines each country’s human rights record every four years in a process known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
During today’s UPR review of the United States, the governments of Portugal, Peru, Spain, and Honduras recommended that the U.S. improve access to affordable health care for undocumented immigrants.
In the past year, two UN human rights bodies have been critical of the United States for the discriminatory policies against immigrants in access to affordable health care. In August 2014, the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about policies barring immigrants from public health insurance and urged the U.S. to improve access to affordable coverage for all immigrants, especially women in need of reproductive health care.
These recommendations echo ones made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee this past March urging the U.S. to amend laws that exclude many groups of immigrants—even those lawfully present in the U.S.—from eligibility for health coverage and access to reproductive health care.
05.08.15 - International outrage has been building since late last week, when The Daily Beast reported on the case of a pregnant 10-year-old in Paraguay who has been denied an abortion by the government.
Abortion is illegal in all circumstances in Paraguay, except for when the mother’s life is in immediate danger.
The unnamed girl is 21 weeks pregnant and reportedly weighs less than 70 pounds. Her mother suspected she was being raped by her stepfather and reported it to authorities earlier in the year—to no effect. Yet on April 23, when the girl was checked into the hospital, her mother was arrested as an accomplice to the abuse. The stepfather is currently at large.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is in touch with attorneys in Paraguay as they fight the government’s ruling. We have also launched an online petition—that has collected close to 4000 signatures already—to challenge the decision and bring global attention to the situation.
05.08.15 - Over the last 15 years, Houston family lawyer Rita Lucido has seen just about everything when it comes to young women facing difficult situations.
Lucido has represented more than 150 teenagers seeking abortion care since 2000, when Texas passed a law requiring young people to have parental consent or to obtain a court order to bypass consent. Her stories are both heartbreaking and hair-raising.
One girl was pregnant and HIV-positive after being repeatedly raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Her mother blamed her and purposely told others about the circumstances of the pregnancy.
Another teen said that if her mother found out she was pregnant, she would have forced the girl to carry the pregnancy to term and keep the baby as “punishment.”
One young woman came to Texas from Nicaragua with her aunt after her village was destroyed by a hurricane. She did not know where her parents were and was on her own, living like an adult.
Another girl’s mother clubbed her with a two-by-four on Christmas Day.
As Lucido, who co-founded Jane’s Due Process, a nonprofit ensuring legal representation for pregnant teenagers seeking a judicial bypass, notes, “There are generally very compelling reasons why a young woman cannot or does not want to involve a parent in her decision to have an abortion.”
A judge in Texas may allow a teenager to get an abortion without getting her parent’s permission based on one of the following three grounds: that the teen is mature enough to make a decision to have an abortion, that notifying a parent would not be in the minor’s best interests—for example, she could be removed from a positive custody situation, or that notification may lead to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of the minor.
Yet a new piece of legislation, Texas House Bill 723, is trying to make the judicial bypass process even more arduous by requiring that teens meet all three of these criteria instead of just one.
Studies show that most teenagers seek out their parents or another trusted adult when they are pregnant. It is the most vulnerable of teens—those dealing with precarious family situations such as an absent or abusive parent—who typically seek judicial bypasses.
For those young women, proving all three grounds can be nearly impossible. Sometimes a teenage seeking an abortion has not been abused, but her parents have abandoned her, died, or compelled to relinquish custody. In other cases, she has been abused, but is obviously not mature, which is all the more reason she should not be forced into parenthood.
“It’s appalling and dangerous to target vulnerable young women who are already enduring extreme stress and trauma,” says Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It’s also blatantly unconstitutional.”
In the 1979 case Bellotti v. Baird, the Supreme Court precedent established that bypassing parental consent requires a minor to show either that she is mature enough to make her abortion decision, or that the desired abortion is in her best interests—but not both.
If HB 723 passes, Texas will have the most extreme parental involvement law in the country. No other state requires teenagers to meet such unreasonable requirements to get access an abortion.
“HB 723 is yet another example of legislation that, while pretending to protect women, is actually deeply harmful and specifically designed to make it more challenging to obtain an abortion. This bill completely disregard a young woman’s particular circumstances, her autonomy, and her constitutional rights,” says Allen.
Another bill the Texas legislature is considering is an omnibus measure that includes a provision that would make public the names of judges who grant judicial bypasses. Such a measure would put judges under intense scrutiny and could even jeopardize their safety, which could affect their willingness to grant the bypass.
Yet another provision in this bill aimed at making it more difficult for many women—including minors and undocumented immigrants—to receive care would require patients seeking an abortion to have a valid government ID proving their age.
The Center is currently working with Jane’s Due Process, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, URGE—a nonprofit organization focused on young people’s reproductive justice and gender equity—and other women’s advocacy groups to defeat these bills in the Texas Legislature.
05.08.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a measure into law today designed to shut down reproductive health care clinics and severely restrict access to safe and legal abortion. Haslam’s signature comes less than six months after a 2014 ballot initiative in which voters narrowly approved a radical constitutional amendment designed to strip Tennessee women’s rights to safe and legal abortion.
SB 1280 requires reproductive health care facilities that provide more than 50 surgical abortions per year to meet the same building requirements as hospital-style surgery centers—a provision that could amount to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and threatens to force clinics in the state to close. A similar measure in Texas forced all but eight clinics in the state to shut their doors until the United States Supreme Court intervened last October.
The measure is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2015.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Last year’s ballot initiative opened the door for Tennessee politicians to begin demonstrating their hostility to women’s constitutional rights and indifference to their well-being, and now they have marched right through.
“With the stroke of a pen, reproductive health clinics are threatened with closure and Tennessee’s reputation as one of the few states in the South to protect women’s rights and health care will be history.
“Women’s rights and access to safe, legal, essential health care should not be determined by where they happen to live or who happens to sit on their state legislatures. Tennessee women are only the latest to see their rights and access to essential health care voted down by lawmakers elected to serve them. They deserve better.”
Also waiting on the governor’s desk is SB 1222—a measure which forces women to delay abortion care by 48 hours and make two trips to their health care provider in order to obtain safe and legal abortion. Measures forcing women to delay constitutionally protected health care have been sweeping the South this legislative session, with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signing a similar measure into law earlier this month.
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 often face innumerable hurdles when trying to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services. Legislators’ time and effort would be better spent on increasing the number of policies that are known to support women and children rather than enacting abortion restrictions that will not only harm Tennessee women, but also wreak additional havoc in a region already decimated by similarly underhanded laws. This session alone, Tennessee politicians have introduced 12 measures aimed at reducing a woman’s ability to obtain safe and legal abortion.
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 Tennessee from imposing 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 Statements on 2014 Anti-Choice Ballot Initiative Results Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling Arkansas Poised to Enact Most Abortion Restrictions in the U.S. So Far this Year Oklahoma Becomes Second State to Criminalize Doctors for Providing Safe and Common Method of Abortion Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Arkansas 12-Week Abortion Ban as Unconstitutional Center for Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health Call on Florida Governor to Veto Bill Forcing Women to Delay Abortion 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 Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women’s and Children’s Health and Well-being against Abortion Restrictions in the States
05.07.15 - New York, NY (May 7, 2015)—Martha Plimpton and her nonprofit organization A is For rocked New York City on Sunday night with “Broadway Acts for Women,” featuring Broadway’s biggest stars, including Patti LuPone, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and others. Attendees included Josh Charles, Samantha Bee, Josh Hamilton, and more.
Spontaneity was the name of the game, as audience members bid on the chance to have Broadway stars perform the song of their choice, many of which they had never performed publicly. Co-hosted by Plimpton and comedian Seth Herzog, the impromptu nature of the auction and karaoke performances kept the energy high and the audience riveted. In fact, it was Patti LuPone who served as the biggest cheerleader of the night, dancing in the aisles and encouraging audience members to bid higher in support of the cause.
The night raised approximately $40,000, which will go to benefit the Center for Reproductive Rights and A is For.
05.07.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a measure into law last night that will triple the state’s mandatory waiting period from 24 to 72 hours for all women seeking abortion services—making Oklahoma the fourth U.S. state to force women to delay constitutionally protected health care for at least three days
With this measure--which is slated to take effect on November 1 and makes no exceptions for survivors of rape and incest—Oklahoma now has the longest mandatory delay in the region. HB1409 comes on the heels of an onslaught of other measures in the South which are designed solely to choke off women’s access to the full range of reproductive health services, including a measure signed by Governor Fallin last month which criminalizes doctors for providing a safe and common method of abortion.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“In a region where access to reproductive healthcare is under relentless attack, the last thing Oklahoma women need is another roadblock to safe and legal abortion care.
“This law’s purpose is to second-guess women’s ability to decide for themselves what is right for themselves and their families, and its effect will be to delay women from receiving safe, legal abortion care earlier in pregnancy.
“It’s time for Oklahoma politicians to get their priorities straight and actually advance women’s health and safety, not enact measure after measure that serve only to shame, demean, and harm women."
Oklahoma’s measure is one of the many mandatory delays moving through statehouses this legislative session. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a two day waiting period last month, while similar measuresare currently moving through the statehouses in Florida and Tennessee.
From clinic shutdown laws—which have closed clinics in Texas and threaten to shutter abortion providers in 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 on increasing 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.Arkansas Poised to Enact Most Abortion Restrictions in the U.S. So Far this Year Oklahoma Becomes Second State to Criminalize Doctors for Providing Safe and Common Method of Abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health Call on Florida Governor to Veto Bill Forcing Women to Delay Abortion 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
05.05.15 - The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS), in partnership with the Center for Reproductive Rights, will present the third annual American Constitution Society Reproductive Rights and Justice Award to the ACS chapter at Yale Law School for its outstanding work in reproductive rights and justice in the 2014-2015 academic year.
The Yale chapter, which will be honored at the ACS National Convention on June 11-13, 2015, has been committed to advancing the constitutional significance of reproductive rights through events and discussions, including the recent event, "Griswold v. Connecticut -- 50 Years Young: How Wonder Woman Fought for Birth Control.”
The ACS Reproductive Rights and Justice Award is an annual prize given to an ACS chapter in recognition of its focus on reproductive rights and justice. The award includes a cash prize of $250 and recognition during the ACS National Convention. Prior recipients of the award include ACS chapters at UCLA and Indiana Bloomington.
05.05.15 - (PRESS RELEASE)—Following years of intense political pressure and interference from former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to enforce state regulations designed to shutter abortion clinics, yesterday the state’s current attorney general took the first critical steps to reverse those underhanded efforts and ensure women’s access to safe, legal, and high quality reproductive health care providers.
A legal opinion issued yesterday by Attorney General Mark Herring calls for existing health care facilities offering abortion services to be exempt from meeting onerous and medically unnecessary new hospital-like construction standards—advising abortion providers meet the same standards that allow every other similarly regulated health care facility to provide care in their current facilities.
Between 2011 and 2013—caving to extreme political pressure and scare tactics from the former governor and attorney general—the Virginia Board of Health promulgated regulations that unfairly targeted abortion providers to meet the excessive building standards, against the board's own advisory panel recommendations and evidence that the new construction standards did nothing to advance women's health and would impede access to care for many Virginians.
Earlier this year, Governor Terry McAuliffe ordered a review of the regulations, and Health Commissioner Marissa Levine recently announced her recommendation to amend the requirements. In light of the attorney general’s opinion, the Board of Health should now amend the regulations to grandfather in existing reproductive health facilities.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The Attorney General has cleared the way at last for the reversal of the previous administration’s attacks on women’s access to safe, legal, essential health care.
“It’s now up to the Board of Health to ensure that the state’s regulations truly serve the purpose of protecting women’s health and well-being without interfering with their rights and ability to get safe, high-quality abortion care when they need it.
“We urge them to set an example for lawmakers across the U.S. by basing health care policy on evidence and the expertise of health care providers, not politicians’ ideological agendas.”
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 and Southeast often face innumerable hurdles when trying to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services. Legislators’ time and effort would be better spent on increasing the number of policies that are known to support women and children rather than enacting abortion restrictions that will not only harm Virginia women, but also wreak additional havoc in a region already decimated by similarly underhanded laws.
Harmful 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 Virginia from imposing 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.
05.05.15 - (Media Advisory) Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL) will be joined by state Representative Lori Berman and women’s health advocates today in West Palm Beach, Florida to call for Governor Rick Scott’s veto of recently passed measure which severely restricts access to safe and legal abortion. Representative Frankel will also call for support of the Women’s Health Protection Act—a federal bill which would defend access to safe, legal, essential reproductive health care and the constitutional rights of every woman in the United States, regardless of where she happens to live. This event comes days after Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz also called for support of the Women’s Health Protection Act and a veto of the Florida measure in Fort Lauderdale late last month.
Press Conference with Representative Lois Frankel
Representative Lois Frankel
State Representative Lori Berman
Mona Reis, Founder and CEO of Presidential Women’s Center
Representatives from Planned Parenthood and the American Association of University Women (AAUW)
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 10AM EST
West Palm Beach Federal Courthouse
701 Clematis Street #202
West Palm Beach, FL
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“As politicians in Florida attack women’s rights and access to safe and legal abortion care, Representative Frankel is witnessing firsthand the dire need for the Women’s Health Protection Act. Constitutional protections should never vary from state to state and Florida women deserve the very same rights as women in the rest of the U.S.”
“In calling for Florida Governor Rick Scott to veto his state’s mandatory delay bill, Representative Frankel is once again showing bold leadership and her deep commitment to women’s reproductive rights. We stand with her in her efforts to ensure that women in all fifty states enjoy the same strong protections of their rights and freedoms.”Background
On Friday, April 24, 2015, the Florida Senate passed a measure which forces a woman to wait 24 hours and make two separate trips before she is able to obtain a safe and legal abortion. The Senate vote came just two days after the Florida House passed the same measure.
Harmful 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 Florida from imposing 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, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health Call on Florida Governor to Veto Bill Forcing Women to Delay Abortion Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to Speak Out in Support of Women’s Health Protection Act at Florida Press Event Florida Politicians Advance Demeaning Law Forcing Women to Wait 24 Hours, Make Two Trips Before Obtaining Abortion Care
05.04.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Richard Ryan has joined the Center for Reproductive Rights as the organization’s new Chief Operating Officer. Ryan has most recently served as Senior Vice President of Finance & Administration and Chief Financial Officer at the Rainforest Alliance.
With more than 18 years of nonprofit finance and administration leadership, Ryan brings an impressive background in financial management and staff development to the Center. At the Rainforest Alliance, he was responsible for finance and accounting, compliance, global office administration, contract and grant administration, information technology and knowledge management, and employee safety and security. During his tenure, the Rainforest Alliance grew in budget size from $35M to $54M and significantly expanded its global offices to 15 countries and a global staff of over 400.
As Chief Operating Officer, Ryan will serve as a member of the Center’s executive management team and oversee the Center’s financial and administrative operations, including information technology, human resources, monitoring and evaluation, and strategic and annual Planning.
“Richard Ryan arrives at the Center for Reproductive Rights with a wealth of expertise in strengthening non-profit organizations and fostering sustainable growth to meet their future challenges and opportunities,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “He will be instrumental in propelling forward the Center’s vital work defending human rights around the globe.”
The Center’s game changing litigation and advocacy work, combined with its unparalleled expertise in the use of constitutional, international, and comparative human rights law, have transformed how reproductive rights are understood by courts, governments, and human rights bodies. It has played a key role in securing legal victories in the U.S., Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe on issues including access to life-saving obstetrics care, contraception, safe abortion services, and comprehensive sexuality information, as well as the prevention of forced sterilization, child marriage, and female genital mutilation. It has brought groundbreaking cases before national courts, U.N. Committees, and regional human rights bodies, and has built the legal capacity of women’s rights advocates in over 55 countries.
“I’m honored to join an organization that is so well-respected across the globe and working on issues so critical to the lives of millions of women around the world,” said Richard Ryan, Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “I look forward to bringing my experience to the Center’s dedicated and passionate team and building on the organization’s successes in the U.S. and abroad.”
Ryan was previously Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer at The Trustees of Reservations, a Massachusetts-based land and historic conservation organization; Chief Operating Officer of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, where in addition to his finance and administration responsibilities he oversaw fundraising and communications; and Regional Finance Director of The Nature Conservancy. Prior to his transition to the nonprofit sector in 1996 Richard worked in banking in New York City and Boston.
Ryan graduated from Salem State College with a degree in Business Administration.