11.25.14 - A recent Wall Street Journal article takes a look at some of the big-picture issues around the recent tragedy in Bilaspur, India, where 13 women died and dozens of others seriously fell ill while undergoing coerced sterilization at one of the country’s government-sponsored sterilization “camps.”
Although investigators have now zeroed in on tainted antibiotics as a possible cause for the mass sickening, the horrendous event brings to light questions about why female sterilization remains a cornerstone of Indian family planning in the first place.
“We only know the world of sterilization,” said the mother of 26-year-old Janaki Suryavanshi, one of the women who died following the procedure. According to a recent government survey, 34% of households nationwide said female sterilization was their current method of family planning.
Suryavanshi, who was a mother of three, had been told that surgical sterilization was her only option when she asked health workers in her community about birth control. According to the Wall Street Journal, many of the women sterilized in Bilaspur said they had never used a condom, birth-control pills, or an IUD.
In an effort to address overpopulation, India’s government offers money to women and health workers who take part in the surgeries. The women who were sterilized at the camp in Bilaspur earlier this month were each paid the equivalent of approximately $22 to have the procedure.
However, a number of women in the region said that the primary reason they agreed to be sterilized was the lack of birth control alternatives.
Around 4.5 million women were sterilized in India last year.
In the aftermath of Bilaspur, activists hoped that the Indian government would be prompted to more closely examine the safety and quality of health care, the nation’s health priorities, and the country’s overall accountability towards people's lives and human rights.
An investigation of the camp after the incident found that the facility was shockingly out of date, with broken windows, cobweb-laden equipment, and floors covered in animal feces.
Unfortunately, on November 18, the Indian daily newspaper Dainik Bhaskar reported another mass sterilization at a camp in a neighboring state.
One hundred thirty-two women were hastily operated on over a period of just five hours in the middle of the night, despite express government guidelines that instruct surgical teams to perform no more than 50 procedures a day. It was also reported that the camp did not have basic essentials such as the stretchers to carry women out of the operation room.
While no deaths or mishaps have been reported following the most recent incident, the continued precarious conditions to which woman are routinely exposed to as a result of the lack of birth control choices points to significant deficits in the Indian government’s accountability towards women's lives and reproductive health rights.Center for Reproductive Rights Brings Forced Sterilization Case of HIV Positive Woman to Human Rights Commission Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity India Pushed to Prioritize Women’s Health
11.25.14 - Following the raid of a health clinic in Penang, Malaysia, a young woman has been wrongfully arrested and sentenced to 12 months in prison for obtaining a legal abortion.
Twenty-four-year-old Nirmala and her husband came to Malaysia from their home country of Nepal as legal migrant workers. Nirmala is an operator at the Sony factory. Her husband works as a security guard.
Last month, shortly after discovering she was pregnant and fearing that she would lose her job as a result, Nirmala sought an abortion at a local clinic. While she was resting in recovery following the procedure, officials from the Malaysian ministry of health entered the clinic, arresting both Nirmala and the doctor.
Since 1989, abortion in Malaysia has been legal in circumstances when a qualified doctor considers the pregnancy to pose a risk to the mental or physical health of the woman.
The doctor reports that he considered 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. Nirmala was only six weeks into the pregnancy at the time of the procedure.
Following her arrest on October 9, Nirmala was swiftly charged and convicted in the absence of legal representation, and has since been imprisoned. After repeated attempts to determine her whereabouts, human rights advocates located Nirmala in prison, reporting that she is in deep distress over her situation.
According to an abortion rights activist from the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia who is working with the Center for Reproductive Rights to find answers, Nirmala was convicted under a law that states: “It is a criminal offense to prevent a child being born alive.”
A Malaysian expert on comparative abortion laws says that this law only applies later in pregnancy. Nirmala’s case clearly does not fit this category. Her arrest and conviction indicate a sudden reinterpretation of Malaysia’s penal code. Authorities have not enforced the law this way in 25 years.
When attempting to determine the reason for Nirmala’s conviction and why there was no counsel at her court hearing, the abortion rights activist was stonewalled by a health ministry official claiming to know nothing about the raid or Nirmala’s case.
As a migrant worker, Nirmala does not have access to many legal protections or rights. Migrant workers are frequently at risk of abuse in Malaysia.
“The arrest and conviction of Nirmala reeks of discrimination and impunity. We are deeply concerned about Nirmala’s safety and health,” says Melissa Upreti, the Center’s regional director for Asia. “When abortion is criminalized, it is women who suffer the most.”
The government of Malaysia has a binding obligation under international law to ensure that no woman is discriminated against, denied due process, and subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment for having an abortion.Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting their Reproductive Lives East and Southeast Asia
11.22.14 - “I was turned into someone’s wife before I knew what it meant to me,” remembers Rahar Maya Biswokarma, a Nepalese woman who was married off by her family at age 10. “All my joy was gone at once.”
Forced to leave her parents and her childhood home, to bear children while still a child herself, and to suffer through a lifetime of profound isolation as well the enduring physical trauma of a uterine prolapse that likely occurred as the result of giving birth at a young age, Maya looks back at her 40-year marriage with sorrow: “Perhaps I’ll regret getting married early throughout my life, until my death.”
Deprived of her dignity, her health, and a sense of personal fulfillment, Rahar Maya’s story is a disturbing but familiar tale. The centuries-old practice of child marriage in South Asia continues to plague generations of young girls and women in the modern world. Although there have been laws against child marriage in place throughout the region since 1929, estimates suggest that as many as 130 million South Asian girls will be forced into child marriage between 2010 and 2030—unless governments stop this practice immediately. Lax enforcement, entrenched regional customs, and a sense that marriage falls into the personal realm have allowed this harmful practice to perpetuate.
For the first time in history, key stakeholders in South Asia have come together to urge their governments to clarify, strengthen, and enforce their laws to end child marriage. Earlier this month, officials from member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the region’s collaborative political body, and members of civil society endorsed an innovative call for action that implores governments to utilize legal mechanisms to address this human rights crisis.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC)—which has led the development of a regional action plan to end child marriage to be implemented in January 2015—were the lead organizers in this effort. The Center has deployed its extensive legal expertise to promote the use of international and national norms and mechanisms for catalyzing change.
“We have been frustrated that despite clear international legal obligations to eliminate child marriage, South Asian governments have continued to show a lack of accountability in establishing proper legal frameworks and implementing and enforcing their laws to end this egregious practice,” says Melissa Upreti, the Center’s regional director for Asia. “This call for action demands that governments in the region urgently take concrete steps to protect the rights and well-being of millions of their most disenfranchised citizens.”
The document outlines a set of specific recommendations, such as codifying minimum age requirements for marriage, establishing legal remedies for girls whose rights are violated through child marriage which involves sexual violence and marital rape, providing counseling as well as sexual and reproductive health information and services, and improving national accountability measures for human rights violations.
“With the support of a number of high-ranking government officials, the call for action is an exciting culmination of years of advocacy, research, and intervention,” notes Upreti. Last year, as part of the launch of our current strategy in the region, the Center published an in-depth human rights analysis (Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity) detailing the disturbing range of human rights violations associated with the practice.
The repercussions of child marriage are often disastrous—setting into motion a continuum of harm both for the young girls and for their communities. Early marriage leaves girls vulnerable to sexually contracted diseases as well as domestic violence and marital rape as a result of the power imbalance in the relationship. It also exposes them to life-threatening complications like the uterine prolapse that Rahar Maya experienced. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth compared to women over 20, and the risk is far greater for those under 15.
Ahead of SAARC’s 18th summit in Kathmandu next week, representatives from civil society will gather for an event where the historic call for action will be formally read aloud, ensuring that ending child marriage is central to the conversation of South Asia’s future.
Kathmandu Call for Action to End Child Marriage in South Asia
11.21.14 - The Center for Reproductive Rights works with the UN and civil society organizations at the forefront of key global advances in women’s reproductive autonomy. On November 13, 2014, we opened our newest office, in Geneva.
To celebrate, we held an event featuring Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan; Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary and African Union Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage; and Center President and CEO Nancy Northup. The following is an excerpt from Northup’s remarks.
The world contains a welcome diversity of language, landscape, culture and religion. But for women, wherever they live in this rich diversity, some biological facts remain constant.
One such fact is that every single woman faces life-threatening complications with every pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, 800 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications every day.
The probability that a woman will eventually die from a maternal cause varies dramatically across the globe. From as low as 1 woman in 15,000 in some countries, to as high as 1 in 15 in others.
The centrality of a woman's reproductive capacity to her very life and life's path is why we at the Center for Reproductive Rights work on issues ranging from access to contraception, essential obstetric care, and safe abortion, as well as preventing abuses such as child marriage and forced sterilization.
Around the globe, we work alongside local NGOs to document abuses, promote legislative and policy reform, publish legal resources, and litigate cases in national courts, as well as regional and international human rights bodies.
We have seen significant progress since 1990. Progress that all of us—NGOs, supportive governments, and UN agencies—have achieved together.
There has been a 45 percent decline in maternal deaths worldwide since 1990. In that time, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion, and in so doing saved women's lives.
The UN has ensured that violations of reproductive rights--such as criminalization of abortion, discrimination and coercion in the health care settings, and lack of access to reproductive information and services--have been recognized as violations of fundamental human rights.
We are pleased to have played a part in those advancements.
But there is so much more to do.
And that is why we are here: to expand our reach at the United Nations—from UN missions to civil society organizations—and amplify the voices of women seeking reproductive health care worldwide, and to secure their rights in law.
We are excited to be here, and look forward to continuing and deepening our work here in Geneva at the UN.Center For Reproductive Rights Opens Geneva Office
11.21.14 - A recent piece in the New York Times takes a look at the scope of President Obama’s bold Executive Order on immigration, which promises to shield up to five million people from the threat of deportation.
Notably absent from the president’s plan is mention of health care coverage for the immigrants who qualify for this new program. The new class of immigrants will not be eligible for Medicaid or access to insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. According to the Times:
“The White House decision to deny health benefits also underscores how far the president’s expected actions will fall short of providing the kind of full membership in American society that activists have spent decades fighting for. The immigrants covered by Mr. Obama’s actions are also unlikely to receive public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid coverage or other need-based federal programs offered to citizens and some legal residents.”
The Executive Order, announced last night, offers temporary protection to certain undocumented immigrants who have been in this country for more than five years and who have children who are American citizens or legal U.S. residents. Those who wish to be granted this new status must register, pass a criminal background test, and pay taxes.
“You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” Obama said during his speech announcing the new order.
The Times article points out the troubling paradox of a plan that seeks to legally integrate undocumented immigrants into society while at the same time denying essential benefits that ensure their well-being and their ability to function as productive members of society.
The piece quotes Angel Padilla, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, “We would all benefit if more people had access to health care services.”
Health benefits for immigrants have been a central question in the debate over immigration reform. A new report from the Guttmacher Institute highlights the pressing need for health coverage for immigrants, particularly for women of reproductive age.
Among women aged 15-44, 40% of the 6.6 million noncitizen immigrants are uninsured. This number is significantly higher for the large percentage of noncitizen immigrant women living below the poverty line.
Lack of health insurance is linked to adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes, including unintended pregnancy, STIs, and cervical and other cancers that could be easily reduced through proper screening.Administrative Action on Immigration Provides Relief to Millions
21.11.14 - (COMUNICADO
DE PRENSA) A pesar que más de 90,000
abortos inseguros ocurren en la República Dominicana cada año, y que el derecho
internacional de los derechos humanos garantiza el derecho de las mujeres a
acceder a servicios de salud reproductiva; la Cámara de Diputados Dominicana
aprobó esta semana una reforma al Código Penal, que mantiene la
prohibición absoluta del aborto y las consecuencias negativas producto de la
La República Dominicana es uno de los seis países en América Latina que mantiene una prohibición absoluta del aborto, sin ninguna excepción. Actualmente, la reforma al Código Penal se encuentra bajo revisión del Presidente Danilo Medina y se espera que esta sea aprobada el próximo año.
Nancy Northup, Presidenta del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos afirmó:
“La República Dominicana obliga a las mujeres a arriesgar sus vidas cuando buscan servicios de aborto seguro y a ser encarceladas”.
“La criminalización de servicios esenciales de salud de las mujeres destruye sus vidas y sus familias. Desde el Centro, seguiremos trabajando contra estas violaciones a los derechos humanos de las mujeres en la República Dominicana y en todo el mundo”.
A principios de este año, el Centro junto con otras organizaciones de derechos humanos testificaron ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) sobre las restricciones a la garantía de los derechos de las mujeres, incluyendo asuntos de discriminación, violencia y violaciones a los derechos reproductivos de las mujeres en la República Dominicana. La prohibición absoluta del aborto es una violación a los derechos reproductivos de las mujeres que desprotege la vida y pone en riesgo la salud, inclusive en circunstancias de violencia doméstica y violaciones sexuales dónde las sobrevivientes quedan embarazadas.
La violencia contra las mujeres es alarmante en la República Dominicana. De acuerdo con la Procuraduría General de la República Dominicana, 86 mujeres fueron asesinadas por sus parejas en el 2013, y desde enero a septiembre de 2012, casi 10,000 casos de violencia domestica fueron reportados.
“En América Latina, donde las tasas de violencia sexual son unas de las más altas en todo el mundo, el acceso a servicios esenciales de salud reproductiva deben ser una prioridad fundamental” dijo Mónica Arango, Directora Regional para América Latina y el Caribe del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos. “La República Dominicana ha fracasado en hacer hasta lo más mínimo para permitir el aborto seguro en los casos de violación sexual, y en los casos en que la vida y salud de la mujer se encuentran en peligro. El Presidente de la República no debe promulgar este Código Penal y debe trabajar con el Congreso para crear leyes y directrices que respeten los derechos humanos de las mujeres”.
Conforme a un reciente informe del Centro, 35 países han reformado su legislación para expandir el acceso a servicios de abortos seguros y legales en los últimos 20 años – una tendencia que ha marcado un gran progreso para los derechos de las mujeres, reduciendo de manera significativa las tasas de mortalidad materna debido a abortos inseguros. El informe fue publicado en conjunto con el Mapa sobre Leyes de Aborto en el Mundo—uno de los recursos interactivos más completos en materia de leyes sobre aborto en el mundo.
11.21.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Despite more than 90,000 unsafe abortions occurring in the Dominican Republic each year and decades of international human rights law establishing a woman’s right to reproductive health care services, the Dominican Chamber of Deputies this week approved revisions to the country’s Penal Code that retains the country’s absolute ban on abortion, and the harsh criminal penalties associated with it, in place.
The Dominican Republic is one of only six countries in Latin America that completely bans abortion with no explicit exceptions. The revised Penal Code is now headed to Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina and is slated to pass next year.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The Dominican Republic forces countless women to risk imprisonment-- even their health and lives—when they need abortion services.
“The criminalization of essential women’s health care destroys lives and devastates families. We will continue to fight these violations of women’s fundamental human rights in the Dominican Republic and across the globe.”
Earlier this year, the Center alongside reproductive health and human rights organizations testified at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on women’s rights issues in the Dominican Republic, including discrimination, violence and reproductive rights violations. Absolute abortion bans are violations of reproductive rights and fail to protect women whose health and lives are at risk, including domestic violence and sexual assault survivors who become pregnant.
Violence against women is rampant in the Dominican Republic. According to the Office of the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic —one of the highest State institutions responsible for guaranteeing fundamental rights in the country—86 women were murdered by their partners in 2013 and there were close to 10,000 domestic violence incidents reported from January through September 2013.
“In Latin America where the rates of sexual violence are among the highest in the world, women’s access to essential reproductive health care services should be the utmost priority,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The Dominican Republic failed to do even the bare minimum to allow safe and legal abortion in cases of sexual assault and when the life and health of a pregnant woman is at risk. The President should veto this Penal Code and work with Congress to create laws and guidelines that respect women’s human rights.”
According to a recent Center report, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress toward improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—one of the most comprehensive resources on abortion laws across the globe.Women's Rights in the Dominican Republic Take Center Stage at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform
11.21.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Last night’s executive action on immigration by President Barack Obama will protect up to 5 million immigrants, many of them women, from deportation and allow them to receive work authorization.
But the administrative relief will not ensure access to health insurance coverage for the same individuals under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and other government programs—leaving many without affordable access to health care critical to their ability to participate in and contribute fully to U.S. society.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“This crucial step forward on immigration should be celebrated, but must be followed by additional action to ensure immigrant women’s access to a full range of affordable reproductive and other health care.
“Immigration status should never determine a woman’s ability to get the health care she needs.
“We applaud President Obama for taking bold action to ensure millions of immigrants are free from the constant threat of being wrenched from their families, their homes, and their communities.
“We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to address the very real discrimination immigrant women face in our health care system, and to advance policies that guarantee health care for all women in the U.S.”
The U.S. has come under fire recently for failing to ensure adequate and affordable health care—including reproductive health care—to its immigrant population. In March 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that the exclusion of large categories of immigrants from public insurance coverage and tax credits under the Affordable Care Act violated U.S. treaty obligations to prevent gender discrimination in health care. In August 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) echoed the recommendation that the U.S. remove barriers to affordable health care for immigrants because of the harm such policies cause in driving racial and gender disparities in reproductive health care.
The very real impact of immigrant women’s inability to access health care is also the focus of a groundbreaking report—Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley—led by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). The report documented the devastating human toll on Latinas and their families in the Rio Grande Valley community in the wake of Texas’s 2011 policy decisions to slash the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds and bar any health centers even affiliated with facilities that provide abortion services from receiving any state family planning funding. These policy decisions took an especially deep toll on immigrant women in Texas, who are barred from eligibility for government health insurance due to their immigration status and must rely on state-funded family planning clinics for basic reproductive health care.UN Human Rights Committee: U.S. Should Ensure Health Coverage for Immigrant Women UN Committee Calls on United States to Immediately Address Racial Discrimination in Health Care
11.20.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has refused to reconsider the constitutionality of Mississippi’s arbitrary and medically unwarranted law forcing a physician performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
In refusing to reconsider the case, the Fifth Circuit also continued to block the law from taking effect, allowing the last clinic in the state to remain open as the legal challenge continues. The case now heads back to the federal district court.
Following the lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Dr. Willie Parker, the law was partially blocked in July 2012 and later fully blocked in April 2013—barring the state from imposing criminal and civil penalties on the clinic doctors and on staff pending the outcome of the litigation. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit heard arguments in the preliminary injunction in April 2014 and upheld the injunction blocking the law in July 2014.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“For now, the sole clinic providing safe, legal abortion care can keep its doors open for the women of Mississippi.
“Earlier decisions in this case have rightly recognized the very real and severe harm that would befall countless women in Mississippi if the state’s only abortion clinic were shuttered.
“We are confident the federal district court will once again see through the sham justifications for this underhanded clinic shutdown law and ultimately strike it down permanently as a gross violation of women’s constitutional rights.”
Admitting privileges requirements—which are designed by anti-choice politicians as an underhanded way to shutter high-quality clinics and severely limit abortion services—have already devastated abortion access across the South. Numerous clinics have already been forced to close in Texas, and abortion providers in Louisiana and Alabama are hanging on by the thread of a court order.
Although all the doctors currently providing abortions to women at the Mississippi clinic are board-certified ob-gyns, the physicians responsible for providing abortions to the vast majority of the clinic’s patients have been unable to obtain privileges at any hospital in the area—in fact, no hospital would even process the physicians’ applications, with several hospitals citing their policies on abortion care.
Requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges provides no increased benefits for the one in three women who will need an abortion at some point in their life—as less than 1 percent of abortion patients experience complications requiring hospitalization. Furthermore, privileges can be impossible to obtain due to individual hospital policies or biases toward abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.
Major medical groups oppose laws like Mississippi’s that require hospital admitting privileges for physicians providing abortion services. In an amicus brief filed in the challenge to Texas’ admitting privileges requirement, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) write that the law “jeopardizes women’s health in Texas,” doing “nothing to protect the health of women.”
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization has served women and families in Mississippi for nearly 20 years, and has been the sole reproductive health care provider offering abortion in the state since 2002. The next nearest clinics for Mississippi residents are approximately three hours away, with most neighboring states requiring a mandatory 24-hour waiting period.
The Center filed the suit on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization & Willie Parker, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc. v. Mary Currier, M.D., M.P.H. & Robert Shuler Smith, with Julie Rikelman as lead counsel, along with co-counsel Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Robert B. McDuff in Jackson, Mississippi.
Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Mississippi from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.Fifth Circuit Considers Mississippi Law Designed to Shutter Last Clinic in the State Federal Judge Blocks All Enforcement of Mississippi Admitting Privileges Requirement
11.13.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) With the United Nations and human rights bodies being called upon frequently to protect women’s reproductive rights, the Center for Reproductive Rights is expanding its presence at the United Nations with the opening of a new office in Geneva, Switzerland.
For over 20 years, the Center for Reproductive Rights has used the power of the law to advance and defend reproductive rights as fundamental human rights, working with the U.N. bodies to define women’s human rights. With a Geneva office, the Center will further engage with the United Nations and local-based NGOs to amplify the voices and experiences of women seeking reproductive health care across the globe.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Geneva is where global human rights standards are set and where critical litigation and advocacy over the years has enshrined reproductive rights as fundamental human rights.
“For more than 20 years, the Center for Reproductive Rights has stood at the forefront of this effort to shine a bright light on the injustices women face worldwide, bringing their cases to international courts, human rights bodies and the United Nations.
“With this expanded presence in Geneva and at the United Nations, we are deepening our commitment to work with civil society and U.N. missions to ensure reproductive rights are realized for every woman worldwide.”
The Center has played a part in some of the most important advances in reproductive rights worldwide. At the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Center secured historic financial reparations for the family of a young Brazilian woman who died from preventable pregnancy complications—the first time an international human rights decision named maternal health a human rights. And at the European Court of Human Rights, the Center called upon Poland to ensure adolescents’ reproductive rights after access to a legal abortion for a rape survivor was repeatedly obstructed.
In its first few years, the Center’s Geneva office will deepen its work promoting a rights-based approach to the full range of reproductive health care—including contraception, maternal health, and safe abortion—through advocacy initiatives within U.N. committees and working with local NGOs with international presence.
“The United Nations has repeatedly recognized that reproductive rights are human rights and that to deny women these rights—from criminalizing abortion to discrimination, coercion, and violence in health care settings—is unacceptable,” said Rebecca Brown, director of global advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We hope to build on this strong foundation through our work here in Geneva.”Brazilian Government Gives Monetary Reparations As Part of Historic United Nations Maternal Death Case European Court Issues Momentous Decision Against Poland, Says Legal Abortion Following Rape Must Be Ensured
11.12.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations Committee against Torture meets in Geneva this week to review the United States’ record on torture and human rights violations. The Center for Reproductive Rights is among 70 US civil society groups attending the review to raise critical issues, ranging from allegations of torture at Guantánamo Bay to conditions of immigration detention facilities.
Today the UN committee asked a high-level U.S. delegation questions regarding lack of sexual and reproductive health services for immigrant women in detention facilities and the shackling of pregnant women in custody. Prior to the review the Center submitted a joint letter with The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Women Enabled International to the UN Committee detailing how discrimination against immigrants, poor and rural women, and women and girls living with disabilities seeking reproductive health services subjects them to torture or ill-treatment.
Discriminatory state and federal policies are resulting in the denial of essential reproductive health care and other ill treatment of women. In Texas, for example, reproductive health funding was slashed by two-thirds in 2011, cutting off critical preventive services for millions of low-income women. In 2013 House Bill 2 (HB2) passed, leading to the closure of approximately half Texas’s safe, legal abortion clinics. These efforts together have had a particularly devastating impact on low-income Latinas and immigrant women living in the Rio Grande Valley and other medically underserved areas of the state.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“All women deserve access to safe, legal, high-quality health care, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, or where they live.
“But for countless women in Texas and across the U.S., access has been choked off by politically motivated legislation that has shut down clinics and left millions of women to travel hundreds of miles just to seek the care they need.
“The Committee against Torture must hold the U.S. government accountable for allowing this reproductive health crisis to unfold on its watch.”
UN human rights bodies have historically been critical of the United States for the discrimination immigrants experience when seeking affordable health care. In August, 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 discriminate against immigrants in health coverage and access to reproductive health care.
In addition to the denial of essential reproductive health care for Texas Latinas, the Center for Reproductive Rights describes in the joint letter to the Committee against Torture abuses that frequently occur in immigration detention facilities, including shackling of pregnant women and denial of contraception and prenatal care, due to lack of proper oversight and binding policies.
“No woman in the U.S. should be denied essential reproductive health care and endure ill-treatment because of her gender, ethnicity, immigration status, or disability,” said Katrina Anderson, Senior Human Rights Counsel at the Center. “The U.S. must be held accountable to fulfill all women’s human rights and take the concrete steps necessary to combat the many forms of discrimination that leave far too many women at risk of torture and cruel treatment.”
The Center has led the effort to hold states and the U.S. government accountable for failures to ensure reproductive rights for immigrants. In 2013, the Center and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health released Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley, a report documenting the devastating human toll on Latinas and their families in the Rio Grande Valley in the wake of Texas’s 2011 policy decisions to slash state funding for reproductive health services.
11.10.14 - “At no point in her pregnancy should a woman lose her civil and human rights,” assert the authors of a recent op-ed in the New York Times.
Written by Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the article takes a look at the alarming trend of civil rights infractions against pregnant women perpetrated by the crush of new anti-abortion legislation that prioritizes the rights of fetuses and embryos over the rights of women.
Across the country, in an array of circumstances such as miscarriage or stillbirth, women have been arrested, prosecuted, and coerced by the government. In one particularly egregious case, a judge forced a critically ill woman from Washington D.C. to have a C-section against her wishes, during which both the woman and her baby lost their lives.
The dramatic increase in these types of cases coincides with what the Guttmacher Institute has called a “seismic shift” in the number of states with laws hostile to abortion rights. Following the midterm election of a flood of anti-choice Republicans and the passage of Tennessee’s disturbing new anti-abortion legislation, we can only expect these numbers to rise.
It is not only women seeking abortion care who are currently under attack by the extremist anti-choice movement, write Paltrow and Flavin; “all pregnant women are at risk of losing a wide range of fundamental rights that are at the core of constitutional personhood in the United States.”Center for Reproductive Rights Statements on 2014 Anti-Choice Ballot Initiative Results
10.11.14 - (COMUNICADO
DE PRENSA) Esta semana, durante
el Examen Periódico Universal (EPU) realizado por el Consejo de Derechos
Humanos de las Naciones Unidas, 12 países denunciaron ante este organismo la
penalización absoluta del aborto en El Salvador.
El EPU es un mecanismo de monitoreo a los países miembros de las Naciones Unidas, el cual busca garantizar que los Estados cumplan sus obligaciones internacionales en materia de derechos humanos. En sus intervenciones ante el Consejo de Derechos Humanos, los Estados de Australia, Canadá, República Checa, Francia, Alemania, Islandia, Luxemburgo, Noruega, Eslovenia, España, Suecia y el Reino Unido recomendaron al El Salvador reformar la ley que criminaliza de manera injusta y absoluta el aborto.
El Salvador cuenta con una de las leyes más restrictivas de aborto en el mundo. De forma reiterada El Salvador ha ignorado sus obligaciones de garantizar los derechos reproductivos de las mujeres al mantener una legislación que penaliza el aborto en todas las circunstancias. Por más de 16 años, El Salvador ha prohibido todas las formas de aborto y ha encarcelado cientos de mujeres, quienes han sido sentenciadas a varios años de prisión en condiciones deplorables -incluso algunas por perdidas espontaneas de sus embarazos. El Salvador optó por posponer su decisión de aceptar o rechazar las recomendaciones hechas en el EPU por estos 12 países, hasta la próxima sesión, la cual tendrá lugar en marzo del 2015.
Nancy Northup, Presidenta del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos afirmó:
“La comunidad internacional solicita a El Salvador cada vez con más fuerza poner fin a sus leyes que restringen el aborto de manera absoluta”.
“El Estado Salvadoreño no puede seguir ignorando este llamado, y no debe evadir la responsabilidad internacional que surge de las violaciones de derechos humanos que cientos de mujeres siguen sufriendo”.
“El acceso legal y seguro a servicios de salud reproductiva, incluyendo el aborto, son un derecho humano, no un crimen”.
“Felicitamos a estos 12 países por pedirle a El Salvador que termine su criminalización de servicios reproductivos esenciales para las mujeres y acompañamos los esfuerzos para lograr una reforma legal y justicia para todas las mujeres en el Salvador”.
Antes de la revisión del EPU, el Centro de Derechos Reproductivos, junto con su aliado en El Salvador, la Agrupación por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugenésico (Agrupación Ciudadana), presentaron un informe al Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas, que establece como la penalización absoluta del aborto en El Salvador pone en grave riesgo la salud y la vida de las mujeres. El informe también condena al Estado Salvadoreño por retrasar el acceso a la atención médica necesaria para salvar la vida a mujeres en estado de embarazo, como el caso de Beatriz, una mujer a la que el embarazo la llevó a una insuficiencia renal, y el caso de Manuela, madre dos hijos, la cual fue condenada por homicidio a una pena de prisión de 30 años cuando en realidad sufrió complicaciones obstétricas. Manuela murió en la cárcel producto de un linfoma no tratado, casi un año después de que la sentencia en su contra fuera emitida. El informe solicita al Estado de El Salvador revisar sus leyes para permitir el aborto en ciertas circunstancias y tomar acciones para prevenir que las mujeres que buscan cuidado de emergencia por complicaciones obstétricas, sean denunciadas ante las autoridades locales por sospecha de haber cometido un aborto.
“Esperamos que el Estado de El Salvador no use este tiempo adicional como una táctica para dilatar el proceso de dialogo, sino para revisar las recomendaciones hechas por el EPU y sentar las bases para legalizar el aborto”, dijo Mónica Arango, Directora Regional para América Latina y el Caribe del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos. “Ahora más que nunca la comunidad internacional debe continuar trabajando y presionando al Estado Salvadoreño para garantizar los derechos reproductivos de las mujeres”.
El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos ha trabajado durante más de 12 años en El Salvador para exponer las consecuencias de la prohibición absoluta del aborto en la vida de las mujeres. Recientemente, el Centro y la Agrupación Ciudadana, publicaron el informe Excluidas, Perseguidas, Encarceladas: El Impacto de la Criminalización Absoluta del Aborto en El Salvador. El reporte documenta las consecuencias de la prohibición del aborto desde una perspectiva de derechos humanos, e incluye las historias de cinco mujeres que fueron injustamente perseguidas por aborto después de sufrir emergencias obstétricas y sin recibir ningún tipo de atención médica. El informe analiza cómo los sistemas de salud, judicial y penitenciario de El Salvador violan los derechos de las mujeres.
11.10.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Twelve countries denounced the criminalization of abortion in El Salvador this week as part of the Universal Periodic Review of the country currently being conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In statements to the Human Rights Council, the governments of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom called on El Salvador to amend its devastating and unjust ban on abortion without exception. The UPR is part of a regular assessment of United Nations member States’ compliance with international human rights obligations.
El Salvador’s abortion ban is one of the strictest in the world, and the country has repeatedly disregarded its obligations to ensure women’s reproductive health and rights. For more than 16 years, abortion in all circumstances has been criminalized, and countless women have been sentenced to years and even decades in prison under deplorable conditions—including some who simply suffered miscarriages. The Salvadoran government has opted to postpone responding to the UPR recommendations until the next session in March 2015.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The chorus of countries worldwide calling for El Salvador to end its unjust abortion ban is growing ever larger and louder.
“The Salvadoran government cannot ignore the calls any longer, and must not be allowed to evade accountability for the human rights abuses that countless women continue to suffer.
“Access to safe and legal reproductive health care, including abortion, is a fundamental right, not a crime.
“We commend the 12 countries that have called on El Salvador to end the criminalization of essential women’s health care, and we stand with them in all efforts to bring reform and justice to women across the country.”
Prior to the UPR review, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Salvadoran partner Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugenésico submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council documenting how the total ban on abortion in El Salvador is putting the health and lives of women at serious risk. The report also condemns the Salvadoran government for delaying pregnant women’s access to life-saving medical care, such as Beatríz whose pregnancy was leading to kidney failure and Manuela a mother of two who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after experiencing obstetric complications and died less than a year after sentencing from untreated lymphoma. The letter urges the Salvadoran government to revise its laws to allow abortion in limited circumstances and to take steps to prevent women seeking emergency obstetric care from being reported to the authorities on suspicion of abortion.
“We hope the Salvadoran government uses this extra time not as a stall tactic, but to review the UPR recommendations and lay the groundwork to legalize abortion,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Now more than ever the international human rights community must continue to advocate and pressure the Salvadoran government to ensure women’s reproductive rights.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights has worked for more than 12 years to expose the consequences that the blanket abortion ban in El Salvador has on the lives of women. Recently, the Center and the Agrupación Ciudadana co-authored the report Marginalized, Persecuted and Imprisoned: The Effects of El Salvador’s Total Criminalization of Abortion that documents the human rights consequences of the abortion ban, and includes the personal stories of five women who were unfairly prosecuted for illegal abortion after suffering obstetric emergencies without receiving medical attention. The report analyzes how El Salvador’s health, judicial and prison systems fail to guarantee women’s human rights.Inter-American Court of Human Rights Orders El Salvador Government to Allow Pregnant Woman with Critical Complications Access to Life-saving Health Care Center for Reproductive Rights Files Case Revealing the Horrifying Reality of El Salvador's Ban on Abortion Marginalized, Persecuted, and Imprisoned: The Effects of El Salvador’s Total Criminalization of Abortion
11.06.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) With 130 million South Asian girls expected to be forced into early marriage by 2030, the government of Nepal is hosting a convening on using the law to end child marriage, particularly focusing on how the lack of government accountability is leading to these human rights violations against young women.
The convening today brings together officials from member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)—including representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka— members of civil society and the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC) which led the development of a regional action plan to end child marriage set for enforcement in 2015. The Center for Reproductive Rights and SAIEVAC are the lead organizers of this convening.
“Too many young girls in South Asia are forced into marriage and robbed of their childhood,” said Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Governments in the region have been complicit in violating the fundamental rights of young girls by failing to effectively prohibit and punish child marriages. It’s time South Asian governments take the concrete steps necessary to eliminate child marriage in the region through law reform and enforcement.”
In 2013 the Center issued the report Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity examining the consequences of child marriage, which subject girls to heinous abuses, including domestic violence and marital rape, placing their reproductive health and lives at serious risk. The report criticizes the failure of governments to prevent and prosecute cases of child marriage, but also acknowledges progress being made under the leadership of SAIEVAC to promote stronger legal accountability to end child marriage in the region.
The practice of child marriage violates a fundamental norm of international law that marriage should be based on the free and full consent of the parties involved. The family and societal pressure on child brides to give birth soon after marriage leads to early pregnancies that increase girls’ risk of maternal mortality—the leading cause of death among girls ages 15-19 worldwide, accounting for 70,000 deaths every year–and pregnancy complications such as fistula and uterine prolapse. In cases of child marriage, various forms of physical and sexual abuse that are otherwise recognized as crimes in national laws go unpunished leaving girls powerless and without any legal recourse.
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 which focuses on promoting the use of the law and legal strategies to protect and promote 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.Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity
11.05.14 - For Niketa Mehta and her husband, a promising proposal that expands a woman’s ability to access abortion later in her pregnancy sadly comes too late.
According to an article in the Times of India, the proposed amendment would extend legal abortion limits from 20 weeks to 24 weeks “if there is a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of injury to her physical or mental health or if there is substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from serious physical or mental abnormalities.” The new policy would also permit post-24-week abortions in cases of “substantial abnormalities.” Many serious heart conditions are not discovered until after 22 weeks gestation.
In 2008, after discovering that their unborn child had a life-threatening heart anomaly, the Mehtas asked the Bombay high court to allow them to abort the fetus at 24 weeks. Their plea was denied, and Niketa later suffered a miscarriage.
But the Mehtas’ case sparked a national debate on abortion limits, prompting a number of human rights organizations to push for more humane guidelines in abortion care.
The Center for Reproductive Rights provided technical legal assistance in Niketa’s case, and has advocated determinedly for India to adopt new measures to protect women in Niketa’s situation and to increase access to safe abortion services.
“This is an important step forward,” notes the Center’s regional director for Asia, Melissa Upreti, of the proposed amendment, which was introduced by India’s health ministry. “Our work is far from done, but this definitely encouraging.”
As part of India’s legislative procedure, the draft amendment is now posted on the health ministry’s website for public comment. The draft will be finalized once the commenting period ends on November 10.
In a country where a woman dies every two hours due to unsafe abortion, the new proposal also aims to make abortion services safer and more accessible by widening abortion provider options. Currently, only traditional doctors are permitted to perform abortions, which means that women have to travel farther to find legal care.
Studies have shown that abortion is equally safe when performed by trained nursing staff and alternative health providers. The draft amendment proposes that ayurveds, midwives, and homeopaths could perform the procedure as well.
View the World’s Abortion Laws Map, published by the Center for Reproductive Rights, to chart regions such as India where there has been important progress in liberalizing abortion laws and policies.Fact Sheet: Datar v. Union of India Center Supports Challenge to India's Abortion Law
11.05.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights issued the following statements on the defeat of anti-choice ballot measures in Colorado and North Dakota and passage of an anti-choice constitutional amendment in Tennessee.
Colorado Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Measure Intended to Ban Abortion in the State
Colorado voters have resoundingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment intended to ban abortion in Colorado. Amendment 67—which would have amended the Colorado constitution to define a “person” to include “unborn human beings”—would have also threatened to ban some forms of contraception and fertility treatments, as well as potentially criminalize both women in crisis pregnancy situations and reproductive health care providers.
Amendment 67—known as the “Brady Amendment” after a tragic case of a woman losing her pregnancy after being in a car crash with a drunk driver—was strongly supported by Personhood USA, the same extreme group that has advocated for the failed, so-called “personhood” measures on the Colorado ballot in 2008 and 2010.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Voters in Colorado have, for the third time, seen through an attempt to advance an extreme measure that wouldn’t just ban abortion, but potentially throw women and their doctors behind bars for obtaining or providing many basic reproductive health care services including contraception and fertility treatments.
“Pregnant women have a right to and deserve safe, healthy pregnancies, yet the politicians and anti-choice groups responsible for this measure have been cynically using a tragedy to strip women of their constitutional rights.
North Dakota Voters Reject Dangerous and Extreme Measure Designed to Cut off Access to Reproductive Health Care
The Center for Reproductive Rights applauds voters in North Dakota for rejecting Measure 1—a vaguely worded, permanent change to the State Constitution that would have severely threatened a range of essential reproductive health care services in the state, including abortion and some forms of contraception and fertility treatments.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today’s victory at the North Dakota ballot box is yet another in a long history of voters from different political backgrounds and personal philosophies rejecting these extreme and unconstitutional ballot measures.
“North Dakota women are already subject to some of the most extreme abortion restrictions in the country, promoted by politicians hell-bent on choking off reproductive health care options until women have nowhere left to turn.
“North Dakotans have rejected this dangerous amendment that could have banned essential reproductive health care services like contraception, safe abortion and fertility treatments. The voters have sent a loud and clear message: women know what’s best for their lives, their health, and their futures. It’s time for North Dakota politicians to remember that message when they return to the capital for a new session in January.”
The North Dakota legislature has already passed some of the most extreme abortion restrictions in the country, many of which are currently being challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Red River Women’s Clinic—the sole abortion provider in the state. The state’s six week ban on abortion was permanently blocked in April 2014 by a federal district court judge and a medically unnecessary requirement that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles was settled earlier this year. Just last week, the North Dakota Supreme Court upheld the state’s law severely restricting access to medication abortion, effectively denying women access to an alternative to surgical abortion widely recognized as safe and effective by medical experts and organizations worldwide
Tennessee Voters Approve Radical Constitutional Amendment Designed to Strip Women of Abortion Rights
Tennessee voters have approved a proposed constitutional amendment that strips the state constitution of its current protections for a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion, becoming only the second state in the U.S. to include such extreme anti-choice language in its state constitution.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“In a region already devastated by underhanded abortion restrictions, Tennessee has stood up for women by providing strong constitutional protections for their reproductive rights.
“This constitutional amendment kicks open the door for Tennessee politicians to do what far too many of their neighboring colleagues have done over the last several years and run roughshod over women’s rights and health.
“We call on the Governor and state legislature to consider the devastating impact restrictions on safe, legal abortion care have had on countless women in states like Mississippi and Texas before imposing similarly underhanded and harmful restrictions in Tennessee.”
11.04.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today the Center for Reproductive Rights called on Texas Governor-Elect Greg Abbott to reject the extreme and divisive positions taken during his gubernatorial campaign and tenure as Texas Attorney General and reassure Texas women that their fundamental constitutional and human rights will be respected and protected during his administration.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, issued the following statement in response to the very real threat that Governor-Elect Abbott will further deepen the current health care crisis facing Texas women:
“Today is an alarming day for the women of Texas. Make no mistake: The election of Greg Abbott poses a direct threat to what remains of the reproductive health and rights of Texas women.
“Governor-elect Abbott has a well-known history of opposing safe and legal abortion services and has staunchly defended laws that have blocked women from essential reproductive health care services like contraception, well-woman visits, and cancer screenings.
“An Abbott Administration threatens more underhanded attacks on women’s constitutional rights like those that have already forever altered the reproductive health care landscape in Texas.
“The reality is, the vast majority of Americans—including Texans—support women’s access to safe and legal abortion. We urge the majority of women and men in Texas to hold this new governor and incoming state legislature accountable to the real needs and priorities of their constituents.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), the sweeping package of anti-choice legislation that was passed in the summer of 2013.
11.04.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked two unconstitutional measures designed to drastically reduce abortion services in the state, ensuring Oklahoma women will continue to have safe and legal options to end a pregnancy while the legal battle continues.
The state Supreme Court blocked Oklahoma’s law designed to shut down abortion clinics by forcing reproductive health care clinics to have a physician with local hospital admitting privileges on-site when abortion procedures are performed. In light of today’s ruling, the physician who has been providing nearly half of all abortions in the state can reopen and continue offering safe and legal abortion services while the litigation continues.
The court also enjoined a state measure that requires physicians to treat women seeking medication abortion according to a decade-old method that is less safe, less effective, and more expensive than the evidence-based methods most doctors currently use. The law also bans all medication abortions after 49 days of pregnancy, forcing women to undergo a surgical procedure when they otherwise would have the safe and effective option of using medications. Today’s ruling ensures women in the state will continue to have access to a method of ending an early pregnancy using medication proven safe by more than a decade of scientific evidence and medical practice.
Today’s ruling blocks enforcement both laws—which had initially taken effect on November 1 after state district courts failed to preliminarily enjoin the laws—while each case returns to the trial court.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed the women of Oklahoma a crucial victory by protecting their constitutional rights and restoring critical options for those seeking safe and legal abortion services.
“Time and time again, courts are seeing that the true motive behind these underhanded and baseless restrictions is to push essential reproductive health care services out of reach for as many women as possible.”
“We will continue to stand with Oklahoma women and their health care providers to ultimately see these sham restrictions overturned and ensure their rights are never determined by virtue of their zip code.”
With the admitting privileges requirement—which the Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging on behalf of Larry A. Burns, D.O, a physician with over 41 years of experience providing safe abortion care —Oklahoma joined the ranks of other states that have attempted to use admitting privileges requirements as an underhanded way to shutter high-quality clinics and severely limit women’s access to abortion services. Women’s health care providers and advocates are currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement which has already closed health centers across the state while the last clinic in Mississippi is fighting to keep its doors open. Louisiana clinics are also challenging a similar law which could shutter the majority of providers in that state. A similar law in Alabama was recently found unconstitutional and Wisconsin’s admitting privileges requirement has been preliminarily blocked.
Major medical groups oppose laws like Oklahoma’s that require hospital admitting privileges for physicians providing abortion services. In an amicus brief filed in the challenge to Texas’ admitting privileges requirement, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) write that the law “jeopardizes women’s health,” and does “nothing to protect the health of women.” The Oklahoma State Medical Association opposed Senate Bill 1848 because it “would result in the Legislature and unelected bureaucrats at the Department of Health interfering in the physician/patient relationship and crafting more burdensome regulations that . . . may not reflect medical science or the best interest of the patient.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the challenge to the restrictions on medication abortion in September 2014 on behalf of Nova Health Systems d/b/a Reproductive Services—a non-profit reproductive health care facility in Tulsa—and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice—a non-profit membership organization dedicated to ensuring the availability of the full range of reproductive health care services to women throughout the state in this challenge.
This is the third time in the past four years Oklahoma politicians have passed legislation restricting women’s access to medication abortion in the state, including a measure that would have effectively banned the method in 2011. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal challenge in October 2011 against that provision and the US Supreme Court eventually refused to hear the case, allowing the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision permanently blocking the law from taking effect to stand.
Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy in the first nine weeks choosing this method. Major medical groups oppose laws like Oklahoma’s which severely restrict access to medication abortion. Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) have submitted amicus briefs opposing similar restrictions in Arizona and Texas. These types of restrictions ignore years of doctor’s practical experience and scientific advancement, forcing providers to prescribe the medication with an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol.
Blake Patton of Walding & Patton and Martha Hardwick of Hardwick Law Office also represent the providers in each lawsuit.
Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Oklahoma 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.New Lawsuit Challenges Unconstitutional Oklahoma Abortion Restrictions Full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Refuses to Consider Texas Law Shuttering Abortion Clinics Statewide, Leaving Women without Safe, Legal Health Care Options Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer Fifth Circuit Court Continues to Block Mississippi Anti-Abortion Regulation, State’s Only Clinic to Remain Open While Legal Battle Continues Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Louisiana Law Threatening Women’s Access to Safe and Legal Abortion New Lawsuit Seeks to Block Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion in Oklahoma CRR Launches Legal Challenge to Oklahoma Law Restricting Abortion-Inducing Medication Nation’s Highest Court Dismisses Case Concerning Oklahoma’s Unconstitutional Medication Abortion Ban Oklahoma Supreme Court Confirms Unconstitutional State Law Acts as a Total Ban on All Medication Abortion Cases: Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, et al. v. Terry Cline, et al.
10.30.14 - With the glittering New York City evening skyline as a backdrop, the Center for Reproductive Rights hosted its third annual benefit Gala on October 29 at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
More than 300 guests gathered to celebrate the Center’s accomplishments and affirm their support for the organization as it undertakes the formidable challenges ahead.
The mood at the event was especially celebratory, coming just weeks after the Center achieved a stunning victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, allowing 13 critical reproductive health care clinics in Texas to reopen.
The evening kicked off with a video offering a glimpse of the “pivotal moment” confronting advocates of women’s health and equality around the world today. From challenging forced pregnancy testing in Tanzania to defending the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, the film demonstrated how the Center is making a difference in real women’s lives.
The Gala honored two women of formidable global impact: The Hon. Louise Arbour, leader of some of the most significant international human rights efforts, from the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to the UN High Commission for Human Rights; and Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan and editorial director of Seventeen, two of the world’s most influential women’s magazines.
Arbour underlined the evening’s theme, describing the pivotal moment we face concerning women’s fundamental rights at the global level: “After years of expectations that real, substantive equality was achievable, we are witnessing a resurgence of attacks on women’s entitlement to reproductive health services, attacks that compromise our fundamental right to life, to liberty and to security.”
In the face of these threats, Arbour said, the Center has carried out “spectacular” work protecting rights before national courts and in international venues.
Arbour was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), lead sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a historic piece of legislation designed to guarantee every woman’s access to safe, legal abortion care without political interference.
Joanna Coles spoke about the crucial difference that reproductive freedom makes in a woman’s life: “Practically speaking, the single most important economic decision a woman will make is when she has her first child. If you get pregnant by mistake and you have your first child at 17, your life will turn out very differently than if you have your first child at 27 or 37.”
Coles was introduced by Dr. Willie J. Parker, one of two physicians who travel to Mississippi to provide care at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the sole remaining clinic offering abortion services in that state. Parker is represented by the Center in the case challenging the state’s clinic shutdown law.
Other guests included Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, fashion designer Nanette Lepore, and actress Aida Turturro of the HBO TV series The Sopranos.
Staff circulated iPads on which guests could add their names to the more than 300,000 who have signed the Center’s pledge telling politicians: “My word is the last word on my reproductive health care.”
The energy and momentum of the evening translated into nearly $1 million raised to continue the Center’s groundbreaking work improving and protecting every woman’s fundamental right to quality reproductive care, no matter where she lives.