You are here

Center for Reproductive Rights

Subscribe to Center for Reproductive Rights feed
Updated: 13 min 26 sec ago

Texas Latinas Rising

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 10:49
Texas Latinas Rising A human rights hearing in Texas gave voice to the thousands of Latinas on the border whose health and rights are in jeopardy.

03.26.15 - On Monday, March 9, 2015, the forecast for the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas called for heavy rain and thundershowers—with dangerous flash flooding predicted in the string of border communities that stretch along the Rio Grande in the state’s southernmost tip.

Yet the threat of downpours and rising waters did nothing to deter hundreds of supporters and activists from the community and around the world who gathered to call out human rights violations taking place in the region.

This first-ever domestic women’s human rights hearing was sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), U.S. Human Rights Network, and ten Texas-based organizations. The day before, these same organizations and community members gathered in Brownsville, Texas, for the first International Women’s Day march in the Rio Grande Valley.

The severe weather was perhaps the most accurate mirror of the urgency of the occasion. Women in the Rio Grande Valley—a poor, rural, and predominantly immigrant and Latino area where over half the women of reproductive age lack basic health insurance—have organized in response to the crisis caused by systemic attacks by the state on reproductive health services over the past few years.

Numerous restrictions targeting abortion providers and the dismantling of the state’s reproductive health care safety net in 2011 have stranded millions of low-income women without access to basic care. High poverty rates and a lack of services such as public transportation have only compounded the crisis.

Now the women themselves are a rising tide.

They and their families—mothers, daughters, sisters—have been rocked to the core by the financial and emotional toll of unplanned pregnancies, devastating yet preventable cancers, inadequate pre- and postnatal care, and lack of access to safe abortion.

At the hearing, 20 women affected by the barriers to obtaining basic reproductive health services offered oral and written testimony before a panel of seven global human rights experts who specialize in issues of women’s rights, immigrant rights, and health rights.

One woman, Letitia, told of enduring months of severe pain and vaginal bleeding because she could not afford the $250 fee to be seen by a doctor. She subsequently discovered she had a uterine tumor, for which she was unable to afford any treatment. Letitia lives with crushing anxiety about what will happen to her children if she dies. “I just want to know how to get out of this situation,” she said.

Josefina explained that, with all the clinic closures in Texas, she now has to travel 50 miles to get her annual exam. But she does not have a car or any money. Each year, getting a mammogram, a Pap smear, and a basic exam presents an overwhelming hurdle. She said, “Being able to prevent illness should be within every woman’s reach because we want healthy women in our homes, in our communities, and in our Texas.”

Another woman, Julia, was so overcome with emotion when she came to the podium that she could hardly speak. But the room immediately embraced her—filling with applause and encouragement. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is hard because I have to remember.” She told of receiving a devastating colon cancer diagnosis and having no insurance or money to cover treatment. She was told she had three months to live, and she recalled her school-aged son offering to drop out and get a job to help pay for her treatment.  

Due to medical negligence and a lack of quality care, Alejandra gave birth to a daughter with cerebral palsy. At the hearing she spoke of telling her doctor she did not want to have any more children and asking to be sterilized. He refused—denying her a basic right.

Later the doctor told Alejandra he would do the procedure, but that she could never afford it. “I did not know about the existence of programs and clinics offering low-cost women’s reproductive health services that could have helped me. I also believed that because I am an immigrant, I did not have any rights.”

Alarmed and dismayed by their stories, the panel of human rights experts followed the testimony with promises to share the women’s experiences and highlight the crisis in the Valley in their respective spheres of influence.

Paula, a promotora—or community health advocate—in the Valley who testified at the hearing, was fortified by the response. “It gives us a sense of security that we’re not alone, and we’re not the forgotten border community,” she said afterwards. “We’re going to get mobilized and we’re going to get moving. If this is what it takes to make our voices heard, we’re going to do it.”  

The Center and NLIRH have been documenting the impact of Texas family planning cuts and other threats to the health and human rights of Latinas and immigrant women in South Texas since late 2012. Last month, the Center and NLIRH released a policy blueprint called Nuestro Texas: A Reproductive Justice Agenda for Latinas which outlines proactive policies that state lawmakers should enact to end the current crisis and restore access to critical reproductive health services.

Katrina Anderson, the Center’s senior human rights counsel, notes that moving forward, all eyes will be on the Texas legislature: “We are watching closely to make sure that proposals to revamp women’s preventive health services do not cause further damage in areas like the Valley that cannot afford to lose more providers. With NLIRH, we’re also building support in the legislature for policies that affirm all women’s rights to affordable, high quality reproductive health care, regardless of where they live, how much money they make, or what their immigration status is.”  

Despite the somberness of their stories and situations, the women of the Rio Grande Valley have embraced a symbol of hope and empowerment: the poderosa, the powerful woman. With chants demanding salud, dignidad, and justicia (health, dignity, justice), the clarity and resolve of the poderosas was in full force at this historic event.

Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women's Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley Nuestro Texas Blueprint Endorsement

U.S. Supreme Court Protects Pregnant Workers’ Rights

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 23:00
U.S. Supreme Court Protects Pregnant Workers’ Rights Court’s ruling allows Peggy Young to continue discrimination case against former employer UPS

03.25.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Peggy Young, a former employee of the United Parcel Service (UPS), will be able to continue her case against the company for discriminating against her by refusing to accommodate her doctor’s orders that she avoid heavy lifting while pregnant—forcing her to take unpaid leave and lose her health benefits at the time she needed them most.

Today’s 6-3 decision vacates and remands Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Young argues she was denied the same light duty accommodations the company offered to other individuals—such as those with disabilities, on-the-job injuries, and even those who lost their driving privileges from DUI charges—in violation of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978.

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

“Today the U.S. Supreme Court has rightfully sided with Peggy Young, ensuring the rights of pregnant women cannot simply be cast aside by their employers.

“No pregnant woman should be forced to choose between keeping her job and what’s best for her health. We commend Peggy Young for her courage to stand up for her rights and the rights of millions of workers across the U.S.”

In writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer noted “there is a genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young’s.” Breyer was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion.

Members of Congress plan to reintroduce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a bill that would provide additional protections for pregnant workers by preventing employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and helping ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who want to continue working and provide for their families.

The Center for Reproductive Rights opposes any discrimination against pregnant women and fights for the human rights of, and safe maternal health care for, women in the U.S. and around the globe. In recent years the Center has advocated for fair treatment of pregnant immigrant women in U.S. detention centers, exposed severe disparities Black women face when seeking quality maternal health care in the South, and fought for justice on behalf of women in Latin America and Africa who have received unfair and discriminatory treatment when accessing pregnancy care.

United Nations Committee Examines U.S. Record On Torture Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care Brazil Takes Step to Implement Historic United Nations Ruling in Maternal Death Case Case Of Pregnant Woman Beaten And Denied Care At Local Hospital Brought To Kenyan High Court

North Carolina Asks Supreme Court to Review State’s Coercive Ultrasound Law

Sun, 03/22/2015 - 23:00
North Carolina Asks Supreme Court to Review State’s Coercive Ultrasound Law Unanimous decision from federal appeals court found law violates First Amendment, interferes in doctor-patient relationship

03.23.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) North Carolina has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a state law that would force women to undergo a narrated ultrasound before receiving an abortion—a measure that has been blocked by both a district court and federal appeals court as unconstitutional.

Today’s filing follows the unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in December 2014 affirming that the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians by forcing them to deliver politically motivated communications to a patient even over the patient’s objection, declaring that "transforming the physician into the mouthpiece of the state undermines the trust that is necessary for facilitating healthy doctor-patient relationships and, through them, successful treatment outcomes."

The law was preliminarily blocked in October 2011 following a lawsuit filed on behalf of several North Carolina physicians and medical practices by the Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and the firm of O’Melveny & Myers.  The measure was later permanently struck down as unconstitutional by a federal district court in January 2014.

“The only purpose for this intrusive and unconstitutional law is to shame and demean women who have made the very personal, private decision to end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “We will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the First Amendment and ensure doctors are never forced to serve as mouthpieces for politicians.”

 “As the court has recognized, a doctor shouldn’t be forced to humiliate a patient just because some politicians disagree with her decision,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “It’s just mean-spirited for a politician to make a woman who has already decided to have an abortion feel bad because he doesn’t like her decision.”

“We all want a woman to have the information and support she needs to make the personal medical decisions that are best for her health and well being—and this cruel law does just the opposite. Politicians are not medical experts, yet politicians have written this law as part of a broader effort to end access to safe, legal abortion,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We are hopeful that the Court will reaffirm that it is unconstitutional for government to interfere in personal medical decisions about abortion that should be left to a woman and her doctor.”

The North Carolina mandatory ultrasound law, passed in 2011 by the General Assembly over the veto of then-Governor Bev Perdue, is one of the most extreme ultrasound laws in the country.  In November 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a similar law from Oklahoma, allowing the ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocking the measure as unconstitutional to stand.

While the law would allow the woman to “avert her eyes” from the ultrasound screen and to “refuse to hear” the explanation of the images, the provider would still be required to place the images in front of her and describe them in detail over her objection. The North Carolina law applies even if a woman does not want to see the ultrasound, and makes no exception for rape, incest, serious health risks or severe fetal anomalies.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like North Carolina from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care p1roviders that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.​

File Upload:  Walker-McGill v Stuart Petition for Certiorari Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law Federal Court Blocks Demeaning North Carolina Ultrasound Law Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law as Unconstitutional Supreme Court Declines to Review Oklahoma "Choose Life" License Plates Case

U.S. House of Representatives Attempting to Attach Abortion Restrictions to Medicare Bill

Sun, 03/22/2015 - 23:00
U.S. House of Representatives Attempting to Attach Abortion Restrictions to Medicare Bill Center for Reproductive Rights calls on House leadership to reject this clear “political game”

03.23.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Ignoring the current gridlock in the U.S. Senate over abortion coverage restrictions slipped into an anti-human trafficking bill, the House of Representatives is prepared to follow suit by adding similarly harmful language in a bill designed to change how Medicare reimburses physicians. 

The bill, known as the “SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2015” or commonly the “doc fix” bill, would also extend funding for community health centers.

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

“This is nothing more than a political game for anti-choice politicians to find every nook and cranny they can to sneak in harmful restrictions on abortion care.

“Important policy decisions to expand health care services for Americans should not be held hostage to a relentless agenda to deprive women of essential reproductive health care services. It’s time our leaders in Congress put an end to these political games.”

Senate Blocks Federal Bill That Would Have Denied Survivors of Human Trafficking Safe and Legal Abortion

Spain: Abortion Bill Endangers Girls

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 23:00
Spain: Abortion Bill Endangers Girls Popular Party Should Abandon Parental Consent Requirement

03.18.15 - (Madrid, March 18, 2015)—Spain’s ruling Popular Party should withdraw a bill that would force 16 and 17-year-old girls to obtain the consent of their parents to terminate a pregnancy, 22 national and international rights groups said today in letters  to the head of the party’s group of legislators in Congress and to UN bodies. The bill is under examination in Congress.

The rights groups said the draft legislation poses a serious threat to the health and sexual and reproductive rights of girls and creates unjustified barriers to safe and legal abortion.

The proposed legislative changes would obligate 16 and 17-year-olds to obtain consent from their parents or legal guardians before terminating a pregnancy, even in cases in which the requirement could place them at risk of serious conflict, violence, or abuse. Under the bill, a parent’s refusal to give consent could only be challenged in court, raising serious concerns about girls’ well-being and whether the courts would be able to make decisions in a timely manner.

International human rights law recognizes that access to safe and legal abortions is fundamental to women and girls’ exercise of their human rights, including the rights to life, freedom from discrimination, equality, health, and privacy. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has determined that in accordance with their evolving capacities, 16 and 17-year-old girls should be able to access sexual and reproductive health services without parental consent. The European Court of Human Rights has established that parents of teenaged girls do not necessarily have the right to make decisions concerning their reproductive choices.

The UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice noted in December 2014 that the bill “would further restrict girls’ access to safe and legal abortion” and would expose them to risk.

Current Spanish law requires 16 and 17-year-olds to inform their legal representatives, but does not require the consent of those representatives. The current law removes even the notification requirement when there is the possibility notification could provoke a serious conflict or family violence, threats, coercion, abuse, or abandonment.

In 2014, 3.6 percent of all abortions performed in Spain were for 16 and 17-year-olds. Of these, 12.37 percent --400 girls -- did not inform their parents, citing the above grounds.

The rights organizations have also sent the letter to the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and the UN special rapporteurs on violence against women and on the right to health to encourage them to raise concerns about the draft legislation with the Spanish authorities.

The groups that signed the letters are:

Alianza por la Solidaridad

Centro de Derechos Reproductivos

Human Rights Watch

Rights International Spain

Associació de Dones de les Illes Balears per a la Salut (ADIBS) 

Asociación de Investigación y Especialización sobre Temas Iberoamericanos (AIETI)

Asociación Profesional de Agentes de Igualdad de Oportunidades entre Mujeres y Hombres de la Comunidad de Madrid (AMPLIA)

Associació de Planificació Familiar de Catalunya i Balears

Calala Fondo de Mujeres

Campanya pel Dret a l'Avortament

Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres

Confederación CERES

Creación Positiva

Federación de Planificación Familiar Estatal

Federación Mujeres Jóvenes

Forum de Política Feminista

Fundación Mujeres

Haurralde Fundazioa  

Iniciativas de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo  (ICID)

Puntos Subversivos

Tertulia Feminista Alternativas Insólitas

Tertulia Feminista Les Comadres

Senate Blocks Federal Bill That Would Have Denied Survivors of Human Trafficking Safe and Legal Abortion

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 23:00
Senate Blocks Federal Bill That Would Have Denied Survivors of Human Trafficking Safe and Legal Abortion Hundreds expected to rally on Supreme Court steps in support of preserving critical tax credits in Obamacare’s massive expansion of affordable health care

03.17.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today 43 Senators stood up for women’s reproductive rights and blocked passage of legislation intended to help survivors of human trafficking that would have denied women access to safe and legal abortion.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S 178), introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), would have established a fund to help survivors by using fines levied against traffickers. However, the bill included a provision that restricted money from that fund from being used for abortion care.

This bill had originally received bipartisan support and unanimously passed out of the Judiciary Committee last month. While the legislation took critical steps to combat human trafficking and to support survivors, anti-women lawmakers politicized the bill by sneaking in a provision to restrict abortion care. In an attempt to codify language found in the Hyde Amendment—a provision banning federal funding for abortion services with limited exceptions—and restrict the use of funds for trafficking survivors, this bill harmed the very women it is intended to help.

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

"Survivors of human trafficking have dealt with the unfathomable, yet politicians wanted to add insult to injury by passing a bill that would limit their access to safe and legal abortion care.

“Playing politics with women’s access to reproductive health care is simply reprehensible.

“We commend the Senators that blocked this bill and urge Congress to now work to pass legislation that supports and protects the rights of human trafficking survivors without limiting their reproductive health choices.” 

Injustamente Encarcelada

Sun, 03/15/2015 - 23:00
Injustamente Encarcelada Envidada a prisión injustamente por homicidio después de haber sufrido un aborto espontáneo, por fin Guadalupe ha quedado en libertad. Sin embargo, aún hay muchas mujeres como ella que siguen en la cárcel.

16.03.15 - El 19 de febrero, Guadalupe pasó su primera noche en casa como una mujer libre después de haber pasado siete años en prisión. Gracias a la presión internacional y local, el Congreso de El Salvador aprobó el indulto de su caso y ella fue liberada.

A sus 25 años, Guadalupe ya ha pasado por más de lo que cualquier mujer ha de vivir en toda una vida. Ella fue violada y quedo embarazada como producto de la violación. Después de haber sufrido un aborto espontaneo fue injustamente encarcelada por homicidio y sentenciada a una pena de 30 años de cárcel.

El día después de su liberación, rodeada por defensores locales, Guadalupe emitió la siguiente declaración:

Buenas tardes, Mi nombre es Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez, y hoy estoy frente a ustedes con una emoción muy grande, y llena de alegría y alivio. Yo he estado esperando y orando por este día, por más de 7 años.

Yo tenía 18 años cuando sufrí una tragedia muy dolorosa. Quede embarazada después de haber sido violada, y perdí a mi hijo antes que naciera. Pero, cuando fui llevada al hospital, a pesar que yo no había hecho nada malo, fui tratada como una criminal.

Debido a que mi país, El Salvador, tiene unas leyes muy injustas de aborto yo fui acusada por aborto,  después juzgada por homicidio y sentenciada a 30 años de cárcel; muy a pesar que no había ninguna prueba que yo hubiera cometido algún crimen. Ahora, he pasado la mayoría de mi vida como mujer adulta tras las rejas, acusada de algo que no hice.

Cuando estaba en el Centro Penal, conocí a otras mujeres como yo. Mujeres que habían sufrido tragedias similares a la mía con pérdidas muy dolorosas, pero que estaban siendo tratadas como criminales. Hoy quiero enviarles un mensaje de esperanza y de fuerza. Yo quiero que sepan que la atención del mundo está en sus casos y que muchas personas están luchando para que ustedes también puedan volver a la libertad.

Yo no estaría hoy acá frente a ustedes, sino no fuera por todas estas personas que trabajaron para ello. Quiero darles las gracias a todas las personas de La Agrupación Ciudadana y en especial a Morena Herrera, Sara Garcia, y a mis abogados Dennis Muños y Angelica Rivas. También siento una inmensa gratitud por todas las organizaciones locales, regionales e internacionales que han trabajado tan fuerte para lograr que pudiera volver a estar con mi familia y que recobrara mi libertad y mi vida.

Hoy es el día con el que había soñado por muchos años y el que nunca voy a olvidar. De ahora en adelante, simplemente pido que se respete mi vida privada y a mi familia, mientras yo intento reconstruir la vida que me robaron cuando fui injustamente enviada a prisión.

La historia de Guadalupe no es única. Durante más de 16 años El Salvador ha criminalizado el aborto en todas las circunstancias, aun en los casos en que es necesario para salvaguardar la vida y la salud de la mujer. La prohibición también se ha traducido en la detención ilegal de un sinnúmero de mujeres que han sufrido complicaciones relacionadas con el embarazo y abortos espontáneos.

Guadalupe es una de “Las 17”, un grupo de 17 mujeres quienes, han sufrido tragedias similares, han sido denunciadas por aborto, sentenciadas por homicidio y condenadas a pagar penas entre 30 y 40 años de cárcel. Actualmente, 15 de ellas siguen en prisión, muchas en las mismas condiciones de hacinamiento en las que Guadalupe estuvo detenida.

El mismo día que Guadalupe fue liberada, La Agrupación Ciudadana— una organización local de derechos humanos  que ha luchado por la liberación de Las 17—confirmó que el gobierno de El Salvador no emitirá más indultos al resto de mujeres que se encuentran en circunstancias similares.

El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos ha trabajado durante más de 12 años para exponer las consecuencias de la prohibición absoluta del aborto, en la vida de las mujeres en El Salvador. El indulto de Guadalupe ha sido la respuesta más significativa hasta ahora por parte del gobierno Salvadoreño a nuestros esfuerzos.

Ayúdanos a mantener la presión, dile a las 17 que los ojos del mundo están en sus casos y que las estamos apoyando.

Insta al Secretario de Estado de los EE.UU. para que haga un llamado a El Salvador para la liberación a Las 17. Firma aquí la petición.

2015 Student Policy and Advocacy Award goes to NCCU LSRJ!

Tue, 03/10/2015 - 16:44
2015 Student Policy and Advocacy Award goes to NCCU LSRJ!

03.10.15 - This semester, the Center is pleased to honor the North Carolina Central University chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) with the Center for Reproductive Rights Student Policy and Advocacy Award.

The CRR Student Policy Advocacy Award recognizes policy advocacy by students within their schools and communities that advances the principle that reproductive rights are human rights which those in power must respect, protect, and fulfill. The award, a cash prize of $250, is given on an ad hoc basis to student groups that are doing the hard work of supporting and advancing policies that reinforce reproductive rights.

NCCU LSRJ was founded in 2014 and has shown dedication to the promotion of reproductive rights and social justice within the law school community and beyond. They’ve hosted programming on a range of reproductive justice issues including access to abortion, sex trafficking, and women’s health policy.  Working with Ipas, NARAL, the Carolina Abortion Fund, and local abortion providers, NCCU LSRJ are passionate advocates contributing to the conversations around access to reproductive health care in North Carolina. 

We at the Center for Reproductive Rights believe that reproductive rights policy advocacy, including the work happening on the NCCU campus, deserves to be recognized and encouraged. For these reasons, we commend the NCCU chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice and are pleased to present them with the CRR Student Policy Advocacy Award.

Sarah Weddington Prize Winners Announced!

Tue, 03/10/2015 - 15:41
Sarah Weddington Prize Winners Announced!

03.10.15 - We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 10th annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship co-sponsored by Law Students for Reproductive Justice and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

First place:

"Racism, Sexism, and Abortion: How Race-Selective and Sex-Selective Bans on Abortion Make Visible the Color-Coded Dimensions of the Right to Abortion and the Deficiencies of Constitutional Protections for Women of Color" by April Shaw, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law (2015)

Second place:

"Constitutionality of the Death Penalty for Fetal Homicide: Connecting Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence with Fourteenth Amendment Substantive Due Process" by Alix Noureddine, Case Western Reserve University School of Law (2014)

Third place:

"A 'Velvet Hammer': Criminalizing Motherhood and New Maternalism" by Eliza Duggan, University of California Berkeley School of Law (2016)

The Sarah Weddington Prize is awarded each spring. Winning authors will receive cash prizes: $750 (1st place), $500 (2nd place), or $250 (3rd place). The first place winner will also have a chance at publication with the NYU Review of Law and Social Change. Papers should have a domestic focus, but may draw on international and comparative materials. Authors are asked to apply a reproductive justice and/or human rights framework to their analyses of the issues. We encourage writing that amplifies lesser heard voices, applies an intersectional approach to legal thinking, suggests innovative solutions, and/or takes into account the practical realities and the lived experiences of the people affected.

Announcing Innovation in Scholarship Awardee David S. Cohen

Tue, 03/10/2015 - 15:35
Announcing Innovation in Scholarship Awardee David S. Cohen

03.10.15 - The Law School Initiative at the Center for Reproductive rights is excited to announce the 2015 Innovation in Scholarship Awardee, David S. Cohen.

David Cohen is an Associate Professor of Law at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law. His work explores the intersection of constitutional law and gender, emphasizing sex segregation, masculinity, and violence against abortion providers.

Professor Cohen's publications include articles in the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, George Washington Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, Boston University Law Review and the South Carolina Law Review. A recent article, "Still Unconstitutional: Our Nation's Experiment with State Sponsored Sex Segregation in Education," was published in the Seton Hall Law Review in 2014We are particularly excited about his forthcoming book tentatively titled “Anti-Abortion Terrorism” which he is co-authoring to be published by Oxford University Press.

Professor Cohen received his J.D. from Columbia University School of Law, where he was named a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and received the Public Interest Commitment Award and two Columbia Human Rights Fellowships. He was managing editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. After clerking for Justice Alan B. Handler of the New Jersey Supreme Court and Judge Warren J. Ferguson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Professor Cohen worked as a fellow and staff attorney for the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia where he handled a range of cases involving reproductive rights, sex discrimination under Title IX, health insurance coverage of contraceptives, health care for women prisoners and family rights for gay and lesbian couples. Professor Cohen worked on several U.S. Supreme Court cases, including representing the plaintiffs in Ferguson v. City of Charleston.

He is a regular contributor to "The Good Phight," a blog on the Philadelphia Phillies, and occasionally contributes to other blogs and websites as well, including Feminist Law Professors, Faculty Lounge, and Slate.

The Innovation in Scholarship Award recognizes a distinguished scholar whose research advances the academy's understanding of health, women's rights, human rights, constitutional law, and related fields. Award winners have made significant contributions to the intellectual basis of these fields through years of dedicated research as scholars and leaders within the academy, and their work displays an understanding of the human condition that is at the heart of human rights.

Latinas, Immigrant Women Testify Before Global Human Rights Panel on Reproductive Rights Violations in Texas Rio Grande Valley

Sun, 03/08/2015 - 23:00
Latinas, Immigrant Women Testify Before Global Human Rights Panel on Reproductive Rights Violations in Rio Grande Valley Human rights hearing documents impact of the reproductive health care crisis in Texas

03.09.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Dozens of Latinas from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley will share their stories about the growing reproductive health care crisis in Texas with a group of global human rights experts today at a women’s human rights hearing sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), U.S. Human Rights Network, and 10 Texas-based organizations.

The human rights hearing will highlight the many barriers Latinas in underserved areas of Texas face when seeking reproductive health care due to state and federal policies that have closed reproductive health clinics, eliminated family planning funding, barred immigrant women from affordable health coverage, and placed abortion care out of reach. Seven experts in the fields of women’s rights, health, and immigrant rights will receive oral and written testimony from over 20 women directly affected by the loss of services and legal and administrative barriers. Several reproductive health care providers in the Valley are also testifying about difficulties providing family planning and abortion services in the Valley in the wake of Texas’ attacks on women’s health care.

“Politicians across the state of Texas have denied millions of women, especially Latinas and immigrant women, their basic human rights through their relentless assaults on access to reproductive health services,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Today’s hearing lifts the voices of the women and their families who have suffered the brunt of this health care crisis, and exposes these state policies as the human rights violations they are.”

“As an organization that has been building Latina power in Texas for nearly a decade, we have seen firsthand the devastating impact of state and federal policies that block Latinas from getting the care they need,” said Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of NLIRH. “These barriers include the high cost of care, lack of transportation, and lack of accessible clinics or culturally competent care. Moreover, immigrant Latinas in Texas and nationwide are locked out of most affordable health insurance options because of discriminatory policies that bar immigrants from Medicaid and ACA benefits. In Texas, where 40 percent of the women are Latina—many of whom are immigrants—these barriers are unacceptable. That’s why we’ve brought women from across the Valley to tell their stories.”

Following the testimony, experts will comment on the crisis from a human rights perspective and discuss how policymakers might address the crisis and reverse policies that have exacerbated long-term barriers to necessary reproductive health care, including poverty and immigration enforcement policies. Later this summer, the Center and NLIRH will release an outcome document with the women’s testimony and expert analysis of the human rights crisis in the Valley.

One of the women testifying, Dina Nuñez, said, "For me, the solution is that the funds return to my county and that clinics reopen. One of the universal rights we have is protection of health care services for all people."

The Center and NLIRH have been documenting the devastating impact of Texas family planning cuts and other threats to the health and human rights of Latinas and immigrant women in South Texas since late 2012. Last month, the Center and NLIRH released a policy blueprint called Nuestro Texas: A Reproductive Justice Agenda for Latinas that outlines proactive policies Texas politicians should enact to end the current health care crisis in the state and restore access to critical reproductive health services. In November 2013, the Center and NLIRH released Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley, a joint report showing how barriers to reproductive health—including high costs, lack of transportation, immigration status and lack of accessible clinics—systemically bar Texas Latinas from care they need to live with health and dignity.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently challenging two components of Texas’ omnibus bill HB2, legislation that has shuttered over half of the reproductive health care clinics offering abortion services. A ruling is imminent from the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which will determine the fate of the remaining clinics, including the last abortion provider in the Rio Grande Valley. NLIRH community leaders provided expert testimony in the case.

Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling

West Virginia Legislature Casts Aside Women’s Health and Rights, Overrides Governor’s Veto to Enact Abortion Ban

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 23:00
West Virginia Legislature Casts Aside Women’s Health and Rights, Overrides Governor’s Veto to Enact Abortion Ban

03.06.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Just days after West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a cruel and unconstitutional abortion ban at 20 weeks of pregnancy, both houses in the state legislature have voted to override the veto and enact HB 2568 into law. Today’s vote is the first time the West Virginia legislature has overridden a governor’s veto in nearly 30 years.

HB 2568—which allows abortion services after 20 weeks only in limited circumstances of medical emergencies and non-viable pregnancies, without any exception for survivors of rape or incest—is scheduled to take effect on May 26, 2015.  The very few West Virginia women who may need to seek abortion services after 20 weeks already face extreme barriers to care, as there are only two clinics providing abortion services in the entire state.

This is the second time in less than a year that the West Virginia legislature has passed this unconstitutional abortion ban—and the second time the Governor has vetoed such a measure, both times citing concerns over the constitutionality of the law and the negative impact on women’s health and safety.

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

"Governor Tomblin was right to veto this callous, cruel, and unconstitutional attack on health care for women facing complicated and sometimes dangerous situations in their lives and pregnancies.

"With this action today, the politicians behind this law have revealed how far they are willing to go to advance their ideological agenda at the expense of women's rights, lives, and safety. They should be ashamed."

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. Last year, the Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also blocked similar pre-viability bans.

Bans on abortion at 20 weeks are as dangerous as they are unconstitutional, coming at a point at which a woman is just receiving the results of critical tests to determine the health of her pregnancy—and potentially the presence of severe and possibly life-threatening complications.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like West Virginia from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

Center for Reproductive Rights Calls on West Virginia Governor to Veto Cruel and Unconstitutional Abortion Ban Supreme Court Refuses to Review Arizona Abortion Ban

An “Abortion Ban” for Poor Women

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 14:56
An “Abortion Ban” for Poor Women

03.05.15 - Anti-choice politicians have pushed hundreds of different sham laws over the last few years, but all are designed to do just one thing: Make abortion care more difficult to obtain. But for the many women who cannot afford the money or time to get past the many obstructions, these laws essentially ban abortion.

A thought-provoking article and infographic over at Think Progress demonstrates how.

Using statistics from the Guttmacher Institute and Think Progress’s own research, the piece tracks costs that women may incur in Wisconsin. A new sham law aimed at shutting down abortion providers is currently under review in that state.

Factoring in travel and child care costs, lost time at work, and lack of Medicaid coverage, the article finds that the total cost of abortion care could add up to over $1100.

For a woman on a low income, these costs—which are directly related to harsh state abortion laws—are prohibitive.

Jane Collins, a University of Wisconsin professor who testified against the state’s latest sham law at a hearing this past summer notes in the piece:

“I think people have a hard time grasping that that $600 can be an absolute barrier. It can be the difference between having your civil rights and not having them. If you keep adding up the expenses of the extra miles, the need to pay for childcare, you’re going to reach a wall — a point when you’re not going to be able to pay.”

More than half of women across the country seeking abortion care cannot afford to pay for it on their own, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

U.S. Supreme Court Case on Affordable Care Act Could Dismantle Advances in Affordable Reproductive Health Care for Millions of Women

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 23:00
U.S. Supreme Court Case on Affordable Care Act Could Dismantle Advances in Affordable Reproductive Care for Millions Hundreds expected to rally on Supreme Court steps in support of preserving critical tax credits in Obamacare’s massive expansion of affordable health care

03.04.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in yet another challenge to the Affordable Care Act—a case that could completely dismantle the historic legislation that has already brought millions of people affordable, quality health care services to which they otherwise would not have access.

The case, King v. Burwell, challenges the Affordable Care Act’s federal tax credits for individuals who need assistance affording mandatory coverage through Health Insurance Marketplaces established by the federal government in the 34 states that have refused to establish state-run Marketplaces. At issue for the Court is whether Congress intended to include such tax credits for individuals obtaining health coverage through these federally-run Marketplaces in addition to the 16 state-run consumer Marketplaces.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is one of 68 organizations that signed on to an amicus brief in the King v. Burwell case, submitted by the National Women’s Law Center, which argues that the tax credits are critical to ensuring more than 9 million women maintain affordable health care benefits

Studies estimate that anywhere from 8 to 10 million Americans would lose their health insurance if the Supreme Court takes away the tax credits they need to afford coverage. Half of those at risk are women, including 1.4 million women of color. An additional 5 million children could also lose coverage.

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

“The Affordable Care Act is an historic step forward in improving the lives of all Americans, especially millions of women who now have access to a wide range of reproductive health care services they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

“But without the critical benefits afforded by this law, millions of Americans would suddenly lose their insurance coverage—putting their health, well-being, and economic stability at grave risk.

“Just as it previously upheld the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court must take this opportunity to preserve the benefits this historic law provides for millions of Americans—benefits that are essential to their health, lives, families, and future.”  

The Affordable Care Act—which was upheld in 2012 by the U.S. Supreme Court—vastly expanded women’s access to preventive health care without copayments, including contraception, cancer screenings, HIV and STI testing, well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, and prenatal and post-partum care and counseling.

However, in June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. allowed some private companies to limit their employees’ birth control coverage under the ACA’s preventive health provision based on the religious opinions of corporate owners. ​

Victory for Women as Affordable Care Act Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court U.S. Supreme Court Lets Private Companies Deny Birth Control Coverage to Employees

How (Not) to Protect Women

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 11:40
How (Not) to Protect Women Numerous state policies have been shown to improve women’s and children’s health. Restricting abortion is not one of them.

03.03.15 - The notorious Texas law known as HB2 has closed more than half of the health clinics that provide abortion care in that state. Jodie Laubenberg, the state representative who authored the bill, celebrated its passage in 2013 by saying she was “proud of the step we've taken to protect both babies and women.”

Texas has one of the highest numbers of abortion restrictions in the U.S. Given the sentiments of politicians like Laubenberg, you might expect women’s health to be extremely well-protected in that state.

But when it comes to indicators of the well-being of women and children, Texas has some of the most abysmal scores in the nation.

In Louisiana last year, Senator David Vitter called for an unwarranted investigation of abortion clinics “to protect the health and safety of children.” Meanwhile, his state has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. Despite this, legislators in 2014 advanced a medically unnecessary admitting privileges requirement claiming that it was “about the safety of women.”

Abortion is already a very safe procedure: less than a quarter of one percent of abortions result in a major complication. It’s safer than many other common procedures such as wisdom tooth removal and tonsillectomy.

Nevertheless, anti-choice state legislators proclaim their commitment to women’s and children’s health loudly and often. But that concern fails to translate into real improvements in the lives of families, according to a new report.

Evaluating Priorities markedly shows that states with the most abortion restrictions have the poorest health outcomes for women and children.

The study calculated the number of abortion restrictions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and ranked them from the least restrictive to the most restrictive state. This ranking was assessed against an array of indicators of women’s and children’s health and well-being in those same states.

The report’s authors found a “consistently negative relationship” between the number of abortion restrictions in a state and the indicators of women’s and children’s health.

States with the most numerous abortion restrictions have also failed to enact policies that genuinely promote the health and well-being of women and children. Such proactive measures include improving the quality of prenatal care, access to cervical cancer screenings, asthma treatment for women and children, and dental care for children, as well as decreasing domestic violence.

“The report makes it clear that enacting abortion restrictions is not genuinely about protecting women’s health; it’s just about politics,” says the Center’s director of state advocacy, Kelly Baden. “There are a number of evidence-based policies that have been shown to improve women’s and children’s health and lives, but restricting abortion is not one of them.”

Instead of imposing restrictions that only intensify the hardship and risk that women face, leaders need to craft policies that respect women’s decision making, improve access to health care, and foster families’ financial health.

To this end, the Center has compiled a guide to pro-women policies that are being proposed and enacted around the country. Released this month, Moving in a New Direction: A Proactive State Policy Resource for Promoting Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice was created in an unprecedented partnership with more than 60 national and state organizations.

Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women’s and Children’s Health and Well-being against Abortion Restrictions in the States New Report Debunks Politicians’ Disingenuous Claims about Protecting Women’s Health and Safety in Passing Abortion Restrictions

Moving in a New Direction

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 11:30
Moving in a New Direction A new resource shares innovative and effective state policies that successfully improve women’s reproductive lives.

03.03.15 - Forced ultrasound. 72-hour waiting periods. Medically unnecessary clinic requirements. We often hear about the outrageousness of anti-abortion laws. Where are the proactive policies that improve women’s reproductive lives?

A new report, Moving in a New Direction: A Proactive State Policy Resource for Promoting Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice, has some good news for supporters of women’s health and freedom.

Created by the Center for Reproductive Rights in collaboration with more than 60 national and state organizations, the guide serves as both a concrete resource and an inspiration for state lawmakers looking to counteract the relentless attacks on family planning and abortion services by advancing proactive policies to improve the health and lives of women and their families.

The resource includes evidence-based policies that have already been introduced in at least one state legislature and show real promise of improving women’s health and access to care. Here are a few highlights:

1.       Fulfilling the promise of the Affordable Care Act

California’s SB 1005 addresses problematic gaps in health coverage for undocumented and lawfully present immigrants in the state by using state funds to expand health care access. This measure would allow millions of women access to affordable, crucial reproductive care.

2.       Promoting sexual health and access to family planning services

Rhode Island and Washington State have both put forth legislation that would make contraception more affordable, accessible, and effective by requiring insurance providers to cover a full-year supply of birth control purchased all at once.

3.       Empowering young people to make informed sexual and reproductive health decisions

New Mexico and Florida have enacted forward-thinking legislation that exempts pregnant and parenting students from standard school absence policies, provided they make up missed classwork, to make it more possible for them to complete their education while building a healthy family.

4.       Advancing the health and rights of pregnant women

African American women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. This startling statistic points to serious structural barriers—including discrimination and poverty—to health care. Texas has passed a new law establishing a maternal mortality task force to address pregnancy-related deaths, half of which are considered preventable.

5.       Ensuring meaningful access to abortion

In 2014, seven states adopted laws that would ensure that in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or Casey v. Planned Parenthood, a woman’s right to decide whether to have an abortion remains intact. Colorado’s legislators similarly advanced a measure that acknowledges every individual’s “fundamental right of privacy with respect to reproductive health care decisions” and provides that “every individual is entitled to make reproductive health care decisions free from discrimination, coercion or violence.”

6.       Supporting the right to parent and parents in the workplace

In 2014, West Virginia passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, allowing “pregnant women to continue to do their jobs and support their families by explicitly requiring employers to make the same sorts of accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions that employers already must make for temporary disabilities not related to pregnancy.” Until more comprehensive federal legislation is enacted, a number of states have adopted such broad pregnancy accommodation laws. 

There is a lot of energy in the movement right now to address the growing disparities in reproductive health care outcomes and the structural barriers to care facing low-income and underserved populations, according to Kelly Baden, the Center’s director of state advocacy and one of the guide’s creators.

“In many places, whether or not a woman can obtain contraception or abortion care is increasingly dependent on her zip code and the contents of her pocketbook,” says Baden.

“From expanding Medicaid to protecting pregnant women’s rights to broadening the types of licensed professionals who can provide contraception and abortion care, our hope is that this resource can harness the passion and creativity we are seeing at the state level to spread sound pro-women’s health policies throughout the country.”

Center for Reproductive Rights Announces High-Ranking State Department Official Karen Hanrahan as New Chief Program Officer

Sun, 03/01/2015 - 23:00
Center for Reproductive Rights Announces High-Ranking State Department Official Karen Hanrahan as Chief Program Officer

03.02.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights has appointed Karen Hanrahan, who most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, as the organization’s new Chief Program Officer, effective today.

A widely recognized expert in international human rights and foreign policy, Hanrahan brings over two decades of experience leading social change and building effective organizations.  As Chief Program Officer. Hanrahan will serve as a member of the Center’s executive management team and oversee the Center’s legal and policy work in the U.S., Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe and at the U.N.  She will focus on envisioning, implementing, and coordinating the Center’s sweeping portfolio of programs in order to advance the continued transformation of the human rights landscape with respect to reproductive rights, health, and justice.

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.

“Karen Hanrahan is a strategic and innovative leader with a track record of promoting and defending human rights,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The imperative need for advancing women’s reproductive health and rights throughout the world demands the kind of bold leadership that Karen has embodied throughout her impressive career, and we are thrilled that she is joining the Center for Reproductive Rights as our Chief Program Officer.”

“I am honored to be joining the leadership team of such a committed, effective organization,” said Karen Hanrahan.  “I have seen the Center’s results-driven legal and policy work produce direct positive impact on people and communities around the world, and I am excited to be part of this inspiring movement.”

Hanrahan has served in the Obama administration since 2009, brought on under the leadership of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  She was appointed to her most recent role of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy and Human Rights in 2012 where she provided vision and, leadership to shape U.S. Government policy and programs for Africa, South and Central Asia, Business and Human Rights, International Labor Affairs, and Security and Human Rights—including policies on sexual and gender-based violence, child soldiers and counter-terrorism. Hanrahan shaped U.S. Government policy, influenced senior foreign government officials and worked closely with civil society groups around the world.

Prior to serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary, Hanrahan was the architect of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (the QDDR) that has redefined the U.S. Government’s approach to diplomacy and development. Hanrahan went on to serve as the Chief Innovation Officer for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) where she helped the agency strengthen its capabilities to devise innovative solutions to entrenched development challenges.

Hanrahan has spent much of her career working in and on countries in conflict, including working closely with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as the US Coordinator for International Assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan. She served as the State Department’s Senior Rule of Law Coordinator in Iraq and Senior Consultant to the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights. Prior to this, she served with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives in Iraq as the Senior Advisor on Human Rights and Transitional Justice. She worked for the UN High Commissioner of Refugees as a Protection Officer in Afghanistan, including substantial work on gender.   Hanrahan went on to serve as Vice President for International Peace and Stability in a Fortune 500 company, leading a large-scale organizational change effort and travelling around the world to integrate human rights, rule of law, and security assistance.

Hanrahan began her legal career as an associate at White & Case in Washington, D.C., focusing on international financial institutions and foreign investment, while representing asylum seekers and unaccompanied refugee minors on a pro bonobasis.  She graduated from University of Washington School of Law, holds a master’s degree in international politics from American University, and completed the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School.​

Miscarriage of Justice

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 10:10
Miscarriage of Justice Unjustly convicted of homicide after experiencing a miscarriage, Guadalupe is at last free. But there are many more women like her who are not.

02.27.15 - Last week, Guadalupe spent her first night at home as a free woman following seven years in prison. After mounting international and local pressure prompted the Salvadoran government to issue a pardon in her case, she was quietly released.

At 25 years old, Guadalupe has already been through more than any woman should have to endure. She was raped, and became pregnant as a result. After Guadalupe miscarried late in the pregnancy, she was unjustly accused of abortion and convicted of murder. Her sentence was 30 years in prison.

The day after her release, surrounded by supporters and human rights advocates, Guadalupe gave the following statement:

My name is Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana and today I stand before you with overwhelming relief and joy. I have been waiting and hoping for this day for more than seven years.

 

I was 18 years old when I suffered a terrible tragedy. I became pregnant after being raped, and then lost the baby before it was born. But when I was taken to the hospital—even though I had done nothing wrong—I was treated as a criminal.

Due to our country’s unfair abortion laws, I was prosecuted, convicted of homicide, and sentenced to prison for 30 years, even though there was absolutely no evidence that I had committed a crime. I have now spent most of my adult life behind bars for something I did not do.

When I was in prison at Centro Penal de Ilopango, I met other women like me. Women who had suffered terrible losses but are instead being treated like murderers. I wish to send a message of strength and hope to these women. I want them to know the world is now paying attention, and there are many people fighting for their release.

I would not be here today without many of these people. In particular—for their tireless support and advocacy—I would like to thank Morena Herrera and Sara García from la Agrupación Ciudadana, and my lawyers, Dennis Muñoz and Angelica Rivas.  And I also feel immense gratitude for the other local, regional, and international organizations that have worked so hard to return me to my family and restore to me my freedom.

This is a day I have dreamed of for years and a day I will never forget. Moving forward, I simply ask for privacy and respect as my family and I attempt to rebuild the life that was stolen from us when I was unjustly imprisoned.

Guadalupe’s story is not unique. For more than 16 years, El Salvador has criminalized abortion in all circumstances—even when necessary to save a woman’s life. The inhumane ban has resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of countless women who have suffered pregnancy-related complications and miscarriages.

Guadalupe is one of “Las 17,” a group of 17 women who, under similarly tragic circumstances, have been charged with homicide and given 30 to 40 year prison sentences. Today, 15 of them remain imprisoned, many at the same severely overcrowded facility where Guadalupe was held.

On the same day that Guadalupe was released, Agrupación Ciudadana—a local advocacy group that has fought for the release of Las 17—confirmed that the Salvadoran government is refusing to issue any additional pardons of other similarly imprisoned women.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has been working with Agrupación Ciudadana for over a decade to expose the harsh consequences El Salvador’s ban has on women. Guadalupe’s pardon is the most significant government response we have seen to our efforts so far. The momentum is building.

Help us keep the pressure on. Let Las 17 know the world is watching—and that we stand with them.

We are asking Secretary of State John Kerry to call on El Salvador to release Las 17 and stop treating women in need of reproductive care as criminals. Add your name to the petition today.

El Salvador Issues Pardon of Woman Wrongfully Imprisoned for Pregnancy Complications El Salvador Releases One Woman Wrongfully Imprisoned, But Refuses to Pardon 15 Others

Retrial Begins for Nepalese Migrant Worker Wrongfully Accused of Obtaining Illegal Abortion

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 23:00
Retrial Begins for Nepalese Migrant Worker Wrongfully Accused of Obtaining Illegal Abortion

02.26.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The retrial of Nirmala Thapa, a 24-year old Nepalese migrant worker who was arrested alongside her doctor in a clinic raid and found guilty of obtaining an illegal abortion, starts today in the Penang High Court in Malaysia.

High Court Judicial Commissioner Nordin Hassan overturned Nirmala’s conviction in January after he discovered she was charged and convicted without a Nepali interpreter and determined she was unable to understand the full consequences of her initial guilty plea. 

Since 1989, abortion in Malaysia has been legal in circumstances when a qualified doctor considers the “continuance of the pregnancy” to pose a “risk of injury to the mental or physical health of the woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated.” Nirmala is the first woman to be charged and convicted for an “illegal” abortion since 1989.

Said Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Migrant women deserve the same reproductive health care as every other woman in Malaysia, and Nirmala was unfairly targeted.

“If Nirmala’s conviction is upheld, it will set a dangerous precedent for the harassment and unlawful imprisonment of any woman in Malaysia who obtains legal abortion care.

“We urge the Malaysian judicial authorities together with the Ministry of Health to work quickly to reverse the unjust and discriminatory charges against Nirmala and to set her free.”

In October 2014, Nirmala, who was six weeks pregnant at the time, went to a polyclinic in Taman Ciku, Bukit Mertajam seeking a legal abortion. Nirmala was an operator at a Sony factory and, because she was a migrant worker, the pregnancy put her job security at risk. The doctor considered the mental trauma associated with the risks of Nirmala losing her job, having to pay compensation to her employer, and being sent back home if found pregnant—and decided she was legally justified to have a termination.  While in the recovery room post procedure, officials from the Malaysian Ministry of Health entered the clinic and arrested both Nirmala and her doctor.

The Bukit Mertajam Sessions Court charged and convicted Nirmala in November with “conducting an act to prevent a child from being born alive without the intention of saving her own life as a mother,” under section 315 of the country’s Penal Code. Soon after, she filed an appeal in the Penang High Court which was granted by High Court Commissioner Nordin Hassan. Nirmala is currently out of prison on bail and staying at a migrant workers shelter.

The application of section 315 for terminating an early non-viable pregnancy before 22 weeks is unprecedented in Malaysia. The human rights bodies that oversee states’ compliance with the international treaties that have been signed and ratified by Malaysia have recognized the right to safe and legal abortion as a human right. Nirmala’s rights have been violated under both Malaysian law and international law and justice demands that the Penang High Court accord full protection to the rights of all women in Malaysia to reproductive health care without stigma and criminal punishment.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has built a significant presence throughout Asia with major initiatives such as the South Asia Reproductive Justice and Accountability Initiative that focuses on promoting the use of the law and legal strategies to protect and advance women’s reproductive rights in the region. The Center—which opened a regional office in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2012—has conducted legal research, built local capacity and undertaken advocacy at the UN in relation to numerous countries in the region.

Center for Reproductive Rights Calls on West Virginia Governor to Veto Cruel and Unconstitutional Abortion Ban

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 23:00
Center for Reproductive Rights Calls on West Virginia Governor to Veto Cruel and Unconstitutional Abortion Ban Governor vetoed nearly identical legislation last year, citing constitutional concerns, dangerous impact on pregnant women

02.26.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) For the second time in less than a year, the West Virginia Legislature has passed an unconstitutional ban on abortion at 20 weeks.  HB 2568 contains an extremely narrow exception for medical emergencies—including non-viable pregnancies— and no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed last year’s attempt to unconstitutionally ban abortion in the state, noting the bill would be a “detriment of the health and safety” of women and a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

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

“West Virginia politicians are yet again interfering in personal, private decisions that should be left to women, their families, and their doctors. 

“Pregnant women facing challenging circumstances need policies and laws that advance healthy pregnancies and address their real medical needs, not interference from politicians who presume to know better.

“Last year, Governor Tomblin stood up for women’s health and safety and rightfully vetoed this intrusive measure.  Once again, we call upon Governor Tomblin to prioritize the lives and health of women in West Virginia over political pretense and veto this 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 blocked similar pre-viability bans.

Bans on abortion at 20 weeks are as dangerous as they are unconstitutional, coming at a point at which a woman is just receiving the results of critical tests to determine the health of her pregnancy—and potentially the presence of severe and possibly life-threatening complications.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like West Virginia from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.​

Center for Reproductive Rights Calls on West Virginia Governor to Veto Cruel and Unconstitutional Abortion Ban Unexpected Veto of Abortion Ban in WV Supreme Court Refuses to Review Arizona Abortion Ban

Pages

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer