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Costa Rica debe cumplir sentencia de la Corte IDH y garantizar la Fecundación in Vitro

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 13:31
Costa Rica debe cumplir sentencia de la Corte IDH y garantizar la Fecundación in Vitro

24.08.15 - (COMUNICADO DE PRENSA) Las organizaciones de derechos humanos abajo firmantes instamos al Estado costarricense a cumplir lo ordenado por la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (Corte IDH) en el caso Artavia Murillo y otros y aplicar una normativa que permita la realización de Fecundación in Vitro (FIV) en el país sin ningún tipo de discriminación.

La prohibición de la FIV fue decretada por la Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia en el año 2000. Por esta situación la Corte IDH condenó al país en diciembre de 2012 por violar los derechos a la vida privada, los derechos reproductivos y los derechos a la integridad personal de sus ciudadanos. El tribunal internacional ordenó a Costa Rica ejecutar una ley que permita la FIV e incluir esta opción gradualmente en su sistema de salud pública.

Costa Rica siempre ha manifestado disposición para cumplir con sus obligaciones internacionales de respetar y garantizar los derechos humanos de su población. Cabe destacar que además de ser sede de la Corte IDH, ha ratificado casi todos los instrumentos interamericanos de derechos humanos y ha tenido un rol destacable de apoyo al sistema interamericano; en sintonía con esto, deben reconocerse los significativos avances implementados para cumplir con la sentencia del caso Herrera Ulloa adecuando el sistema procesal penal vigente.

Considerando la trayectoria del Estado costarricense, nos preocupa que algunas voces de actores internos aboguen por el incumplimiento de la sentencia poniendo en tensión la histórica posición de respeto a los derechos humanos que representa Costa Rica a nivel internacional. Más grave aún, el incumplimiento de la sentencia afecta a las personas a quienes se les sigue violentando sus derechos humanos al privarlas del acceso a este importante método reproductivo.

En su reciente visita a Costa Rica, Tracy Robinson, Relatora sobre los derechos de las mujeres de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, manifestó: “Ahora es el momento de cumplir con la sentencia de la Corte. Esto no sólo es un aspecto fundamental del Estado de Derecho, sino que es un principio básico del derecho internacional: que todos los tratados celebrados por un Estado son vinculantes para el Estado y deben ser realizados por el Estado, de buena fe. La integridad y legitimidad del Sistema Interamericano de Derechos Humanos depende de la aplicación efectiva de las decisiones de los órganos del Sistema de modo que los derechos garantizados en la Convención Americana se ejecuten”.

Las organizaciones firmantes nos sumamos a las declaraciones de la Relatora Robinson y exigimos la acción pronta y oportuna del gobierno para asegurar el cumplimiento de lo ordenado por la Corte IDH en el caso FIV y que en la audiencia de cumplimiento, a realizarse el próximo 3 de septiembre, el Estado exprese de manera indiscutible su voluntad política de acatar los compromisos internacionales en materia de derechos humanos.

Abogadas y Abogados para la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos, A. C., México
Agrupación Ciudadana por la despenalización del aborto terapéutico, ético y eugenésico, El Salvador

Amnistía Internacional (AI), organización internacional
Asociación Comunicando y Capacitando a Mujeres Trans (COMCAVIS TRANS), El Salvador
Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos Desparecidos de Guatemala
Asociación LGTB Arcoiris, Honduras
Asociadas por lo Justo (JASS), organización internacional
Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (CEDEHM), México
Centro de Derechos Reproductivos (CRR), organización internacional
Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (CSMM), Ecuador
Centro de la Mujer Acción Ya, Nicaragua
Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (PROMSEX), Perú
Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH), Nicaragua
Centro para el Desarrollo Integral de la Mujer, A.C. (CADIMAC), México
Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL), organización internacional con sede en Costa Rica
Coalición Salvadoreña para la Corte Penal Internacional, El Salvador
Colectiva Feminista para el Desarrollo Local, El Salvador
El Refugio de la Niñez, Guatemala
Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC), Honduras
Frente por los Derechos Igualitarios, Costa Rica
Fundación Justicia y Género, Costa Rica
Hijas de la Negrita, Costa Rica
Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (MAM), Nicaragua
Movimiento contra el Abuso Sexual, Nicaragua
Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD), organización internacional
Programa Mujer, Justicia y Género del ILANUD, programa regional
Red feminista contra la violencia hacia las mujeres, Costa Rica
Seguridad en Democracia (SEDEM), Guatemala

2016 Sarah Weddington Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 11:16
2016 Sarah Weddington Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

08.11.15 - Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ), the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), and the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice (CRRJ) at Berkeley Law School invite submissions for the eleventh annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights.

The first place winning submission will have a presumption of publishability and receive expedited review by New York University School of Law’s Review of Law and Social Change. Winning authors will also receive cash prizes: $750 (1st place), $500 (2nd place), or $250 (3rd place) in addition to a copy of the newly released casebook, Murray and Luker’s Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice.

The co-sponsoring organizations seek student scholarship exploring reproductive rights and justice issues in the United States. The suggested theme for this year’s Writing Prize is “Restoring Public Insurance Coverage for Abortion,focusing on the Hyde Amendment and Harris v. McRae (1980); however, writing on other topics will also be accepted.  We encourage students to think creatively and expansively about reproductive rights and justice (RR/RJ) and to analyze issues using an intersectional lens – considering the impact of demographic and institutional factors such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and immigration status. Other RR/RJ issues that may be explored, for example:

  • Abortion access for low-income women
  • Birthing options
  • Immigration reform and RR/RJ
  • LGBTQ community and RR/RJ
  • Parenting with safety and dignity
  • Policing and prosecution of pregnant women
  • Rape culture and its impact on RR/RJ
  • Sex education or lack thereof

Papers should have a domestic focus, but may draw on international and comparative materials. Authors are asked to apply an RJ 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 most affected by reproductive oppression.

Requirements:

Papers must be at least 20 pages in length (not including footnotes), double-spaced in 12-point font with footnotes in 10-point font, conforming to Bluebook citation format. Only original scholarship by current law students or 2015 graduates will be accepted. Papers being considered for publication elsewhere are ineligible for the first place prize but may be considered for second and third place. Papers already contracted for publication as of January 2016 will not be accepted. Winners will be selected by an outside panel of legal academics.

Send your submission as an email attachment (in Word format, saved with your name in the title) along with the name of your law school, graduation year, and mailing address to submissions@lsrj.org by 2:00pm ET/ 5:00pm PT on Monday, January 18, 2016.

To read previous winning submissions: http://lsrj.org/awards/#writingprize. Questions? Email LSRJ’s Academic & Attorney Programs Coordinator, at submissions@lsrj.org.

Chile Moves Toward Easing Abortion Ban

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 09:20
Chile Moves Toward Easing Abortion Ban HP_chile_flag.png

08.11.15 - Since 1989, abortion has been prohibited under any circumstance in Chile due to a law enacted under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.  This week, legislators took a key step toward easing the country’s draconian policy.

As reported by Reuters, Chile’s Health Commission voted eight to five to advance President Michelle Bachelet's groundbreaking proposal to allow women access to safe and legal abortion services in cases of life-endangerment, sexual violence, and fatal fetal impairments.

Chile is currently one of only six countries worldwide to ban abortion in all circumstances.

Reuters quotes health commission deputy Gabriel Silber as saying “what we’re doing here is turning the state’s choice into a choice for women” as he voted for the reform.

Next, the measure, which has stirred much debate in the legislature, will face another vote in the health commission on whether to advance the law as proposed by President Bachelet, including the three exceptions. To become law, the bill must win simple majorities in both the lower house and the senate.

Chile’s Health Commission Moves Abortion Bill Forward

State Court Permanently Blocks Oklahoma’s Unconstitutional Restrictions on Medication Abortion

Mon, 08/10/2015 - 13:30
State Court Permanently Blocks Oklahoma’s Unconstitutional Restrictions on Medication Abortion

08.10.15 - An Oklahoma state judge permanently blocked a state law restricting medication abortion today, ensuring women in the state will continue to have access to a method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages using medication that has been proven safe by more than a decade of scientific evidence and medical practice.

State district court judge Patricia G. Parrish ruled from the bench during a summary judgment hearing this morning, finding the restrictions clearly violate the state constitution's prohibition against special laws--which forbids the legislature from enacting a special law where a general law could be enacted.  A written order is currently being drafted based on today’s ruling.

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

“Today’s ruling affirms that Oklahoma politicians cannot single out women for discrimination simply because they don’t agree with their health care decisions.

“For years, Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission to stand between women and safe, legal abortion care, and the courts have stepped in time and time again to stop them.  It’s time for Oklahoma politicians to take the hint and give up their relentless crusade against women and their doctors. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged Oklahoma’s restrictions on non-surgical abortion in September 2014 —restrictions that would force 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 measure—which was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin in April—also bans all medication abortions after 49 days of pregnancy, forcing women to undergo a surgical procedure when they otherwise would have the option of a safe abortion using medications alone. 

A state court judge failed to block the measure in late October 2014, but the state Supreme Court stepped in shortly thereafter and blocked the measure from taking effect while the legal challenge continued.

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. 

Autumn Katz and Zoe Levine of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Blake Patton of Walding & Patton, and Martha Hardwick of Hardwick Law Office represent 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.  The Center is also currently challenging a Texas-style clinic shutdown law in Oklahoma, which also remains blocked while the legal challenge continues.

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.

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 Wisconsin 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 Resource Analyzes Major Policy Outcomes Impacting Texas Latinas in 84th Legislative Session

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 23:00
New Resource Analyzes Major Policy Outcomes Impacting Texas Latinas in 84th Legislative Session

08.05.15 - The Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health have released a new resource which analyzes the major policy outcomes impacting Texas Latinas following the 84th Texas Legislative Session.

The Texas legislature made modest advances this session regarding increased family planning funding and improved access to all forms of contraception—gains that will help address the high demand for affordable contraception among Texas Latinas. However, Texas politicians continued their crusade of choking off access to critical reproductive health care services--including passinga measure which could serve as a backdoor ban on abortion for minors and immigrant women by requiring proof of identity and age.

Today’s resource follows the policy agenda published by the two organizations at the start of Texas’ legislative session in January 2015, which outlined proactive policies to end the current health care crisis in Texas and restore access to critical reproductive health care services for millions of Latinas.

The resource also comes a little over a month since the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a ruling from the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that would have shuttered all but nine abortion clinics in the state--ensuring harmful provisions of Texas’ clinic shutdown law will remain blocked while Texas health care providers ask the nation’s highest court to review the case.

About the Nuestro Texas Campaign

Nuestro Texas is a human rights campaign calling for reproductive health access for all women, without distinction as to geographic location, ethnicity, race, economic class, or immigration status. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights launched the campaign in 2012 in response to the devastating 2011 cuts to family planning that resulted in the closure of 82 specialized family planning clinics statewide, and following the release of a fact-finding report documenting the impact of these funding cuts for Latinas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Texas Governor Abbott Signs Bill Blocking Young Women’s Access to Safe, Legal Abortion New Report Calls on Texas Lawmakers to Restore Critical Reproductive Health Care Services for Latinas Supreme Court Steps In to Protect Abortion Access in Texas

Chile’s Health Commission Moves Abortion Bill Forward

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 23:00
Chile’s Health Commission Moves Abortion Bill Forward

08.05.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) This evening the Health Commission of Chile agreed to advance a proposed bill that would allow women access to safe and legal abortion services in cases of life-endangerment, sexual violence, and fatal fetal impairments.

The legislation, which was introduced by President Michelle Bachelet in January, will face another vote in the Health Commission on whether to advance the law as proposed by President Bachelet, including the three exceptions.

Chile is one of six countries in the region with a total ban on abortion services. Currently, nearly 200,000 unsafe abortions occur each year in Chile according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

 “Chilean women risk their health and lives if they need to end a pregnancy. It should never have to come to this.

“The Health Commission took an important step today towards bringing Chile in line with so many other nations across the globe and finally decriminalizing abortion in the country.

“We hope the Chamber of Representatives will continue to support women’s health and human rights by quickly working to pass President Bachelet’s historic bill.” 

Chile’s 1931 health code legalized abortion in limited circumstances, but this reproductive health service was later banned on all grounds in September 1989. In 2008, the most recent year data is available, more than 33,000 women were hospitalized due to abortion complications according to the Chilean Ministry of Health.

In June, the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (U.N. CESCR) called on Chile to quickly approve legislation to decriminalize abortion. The U.N. CESCR oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a treaty obligating member states to ensure equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights for all individuals.

In a report to the U.N. CESCR, the Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the total criminalization of abortion and the restrictive access to emergency contraception in Chile violate women’s rights to health, non-discrimination and substantive equality, as well as the right to non-regression, since women previously had access to legal abortion in limited circumstances.

According to a 2014 report published by the Center, 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.​

U.N. Committee Questions Chile on Its Human Rights Record

U.S. Senate Defeats Harmful Measure Stripping Planned Parenthood of All Federal Funding

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 23:00
U.S. Senate Defeats Harmful Measure Stripping Planned Parenthood of All Federal Funding

08.03.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Pro-choice Senators blocked attempts to advance a measure today which would have stripped Planned Parenthood of all federal funding dedicated to providing basic health care services, including cancer screenings and contraception, to millions of low-income women, men, and young people.

The measure—S. 1881—was introduced by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) last week shortly after the release of a series of heavily-edited videos obtained under false pretenses by anti-abortion extremists fixated on ending safe and legal abortion in U.S. Several members of Congress and the California Attorney General have called for investigations of the organizations behind this underhanded effort.

Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health care providers are granted federal dollars to provide much needed health care services—including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—to underserved communities. The organization serves a total of 2.7 million women, men, and teens per year and approximately 1 in 5 women has relied on a Planned Parenthood health center for care in her lifetime.

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

“All women deserve access to affordable contraception and other basic health care services in their own communities. Funding for essential health care services should never be used as a bargaining chip by politicians looking to boost up their anti-choice bona fides.

“Thanks to the efforts of our champions in Congress, millions of women and men will continue to have access to high-quality, comprehensive health care services. We are proud to stand with Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health care providers in the face of this latest smear campaign and urge politicians to stop legitimizing these baseless, politically motivated attacks on trusted health care providers.”

A number of states have slashed family planning funding in recent years, including Texas. The Center for Reproductive Rights has been documenting the devastating impact of the loss of family planning services in the Rio Grande Valley since 2011, when the Texas legislature severely cut funding for women’s health services and excluded Planned Parenthood—the state’s largest family planning provider—from participating in the Texas Women’s Health Program.

World Health Organization Guidelines Call for Safe Abortion Trainings for Wide Range of Health Worker

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 10:01
World Health Organization Guidelines Call for Safe Abortion Trainings for Wide Range of Health Workers

07.30.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Trained nurses and midwives can safely and effectively administer abortion services, according to a new World Health Organization report on safe abortion care.

The WHO report provides recommendations on the role health workers can play in providing safe abortion care and post-abortion contraception. In the report, the WHO emphasizes how lack of trained providers is one of the most critical barriers to safe abortion services. The WHO also recognizes that women can safely and effectively take medications to induce abortion without the direct supervision of a health care provider.

“Training health care workers to provide safe abortion services could prevent the needless deaths of thousands of women and girls each year,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It’s time governments take every step necessary to improve the lives and health of women and girls across the globe by adhering to these WHO guidelines and ensuring all women have access to safe abortion services.”

Nearly 22 million unsafe abortions take place globally each year, resulting in the deaths of over 47,000 women and girls. Nearly all of these (98%) occur in developing countries, which generally have more restrictive abortion laws. Adolescents, rural women, poor women and women without educations are disproportionately affected. In the new report, the WHO urges that these inequities can be addressed by expanding the range of health care workers who can administer abortion services.

Lack of skilled providers and confusion around who can provide abortion services hinders women's access to safe abortion across the globe. In 2013, the Director of Medical Services in Kenya withdrew the government’s guidelines for reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion and banned safe abortion trainings for health care professionals, which has led to great confusion as to when legal abortions can be provided. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a petition this June against Kenya’s Ministry of Health for undermining women’s constitutional rights and contributing to cases of maternal death by denying countless women, including rape survivors, access to safe, legal abortion.

In the past few years, more governments have implemented medically unnecessary regulations around who can provide abortion services.  In 2013, Texas passed House Bill 2, a sweeping package of legislation aimed at restricting access to abortion services, including a requirement forcing all doctors who provide abortion services to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.  The measure took effect in October 2014 and has resulted in the closure of more than half of the clinics in the state.

In the 2012 report Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems the WHO further recognized that unsafe abortion and the resulting maternal mortalities and morbidities are avoidable and could be eliminated entirely and called on states to guarantee women access to safe abortion services. This report recognizes the clear link between restrictive abortion laws, unsafe abortion and elevated rates of maternal mortality and morbidity.

According to a 2014 report published by the Center, 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.

Kenyan Women Denied Safe, Legal Abortion Services Supreme Court Steps In to Protect Abortion Access in Texas

Medical Panel in India Grants Legal Abortion to Pregnant 14-Year-Old Rape Survivor

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 23:00
Medical Panel in India Grants Legal Abortion to Pregnant 14-Year-Old Rape Survivor

07.30.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Four gynecologists informed the Supreme Court of India today that they determined a 14-year-old rape survivor, known as X, should receive a legal abortion.

Dr. Riddhi Shukla who examined the young girl said that continuing with the pregnancy “will pose a great risk for her given her current mental and physical condition” and noted that the girl is “physically and medically too weak to deliver a child.”

X, who will finally receive the abortion services she needs on July 31, was allegedly raped by a doctor treating her for typhoid earlier this year and only discovered the pregnancy at the end of June. The High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad denied her a legal abortion since she was 23 weeks pregnant at the time. The Supreme Court agreed to hear her appeal and requested a medical panel examine X to determine whether there was an immediate threat to her life as required by law for an abortion.

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

“No young girl should ever be forced to continue with an unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape.”

“The medical panel rightfully recognized the critical health needs of this young rape survivor and the clear risks to her life. Now she will finally get the safe and quality care she deserves.

“India must allow survivors of rape timely access to safe abortion services. X’s case makes it clear that the government must recognize the reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity of women and girls—not just defer to medical experts to make decisions for them.

“The government must amend its current law so no other woman or girl is subjected to these unnecessary and harmful delays and to ensure women and girls have greater autonomy over their reproductive health and lives.”

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 abortion is only legal within 20 weeks of pregnancy—including in cases of grave injury to physical or mental health, rape, incest, fetal impairment and contraceptive failure—or any time during a pregnancy where it is “immediately necessary” to save the life of a pregnant woman. Decades later, over half of the more than 6 million abortions that take place each year are unsafe according to the Abortion Assessment Project-India.

This is not the first time that the Gujarat High Court has denied a young rape survivor an abortion. This case underscores the urgent need to adopt proposed amendments to permit abortion at least up to 24 weeks, still under review by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

 

Supreme Court of India Allows Medical Panel to Grant Legal Abortion to Pregnant 14-Year-Old Rape Survivor

Mon, 07/27/2015 - 23:00
Supreme Court of India Allows Medical Panel to Grant Legal Abortion to Pregnant 14-Year-Old Rape Survivor

07.28.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Four gynecologists will determine whether a pregnant 14-year-old rape survivor can obtain a legal abortion, according to a ruling today by a two-judge panel in the Supreme Court of India.

The young girl, known as X, was allegedly raped by a doctor treating her for typhoid earlier this year and only discovered the pregnancy at the end of June. Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 abortion is only legal within 20 weeks of pregnancy—including in cases of grave injury to physical or mental health, rape, incest, fetal impairment and contraceptive failure—or any time during a pregnancy where it is “immediately necessary” to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Although doctors determined she was not physically or mentally prepared to continue with the pregnancy, the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad denied X a legal abortion since she was 23 weeks pregnant at the time. The Supreme Court overturned the Gujarat High Court ruling and the medical panel will examine X on July 30 in Ahmedabad and determine whether there is risk to her life that justifies an abortion under the current law.

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

“Forcing any woman or young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is a serious violation of human rights.

“We commend the Supreme Court for stepping in to protect the reproductive rights of this young rape survivor.

“Now these medical experts must act quickly to ensure this young girl receives the reproductive health services she needs. Their failure to recognize the imminent risks to her life and future well-being will lead to further violations of her human rights.”

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 legalized abortion on broad grounds but with strict time limits. Decades later, more than half of the estimated 6 million abortions that take place each year are unsafe according to theAbortion Assessment Project-India.

This is not the first time that the Gujarat High Court has denied a young rape survivor an abortion. This case underscores the urgent need to adopt current proposals to amend the abortion law and make it more humane by permitting abortions even beyond 20 weeks.

Fighting for Girlhood

Mon, 07/27/2015 - 14:23
Fighting for Girlhood Child marriage violates the rights of millions across the world each year. But the UN just took notable steps to end its ravages.

07.27.15 - At age 15, Gita should have been cramming for math tests and gossiping with friends. Instead, she was forced to leave her family and the school she attended in the midwestern hills of Nepal to marry a man eight years older.

With that marriage, Gita’s trials had only begun. Not long after arriving at her new home, her mother-in-law pushed Gita into a room with her husband—of whom she was terrified—and locked the door from the outside. Before long, Gita was pregnant. She delivered her child at home with no help and suffered numerous complications.

Gita is one of more than 15 million girls worldwide subjected each year to child marriage, a centuries-old practice with often disastrous repercussions for young girls and their communities.

As noted in a 2013 report from the Center for Reproductive Rights, early marriage can instigate a range of human rights violations, leaving girls and women vulnerable to sexually contracted infections as well as domestic violence and rape. 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.

“Child marriage is premised on patriarchal norms and harmful stereotypes of women and girls as subordinate to men and reflects deeply rooted gender inequality “ says Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center. “It institutionalizes violence against girls and women and serves as a veil for unthinkable crimes which routinely go unrecognized and unpunished.”

Approximately half of child marriages currently take place in South Asia, and—unless the practice is abolished immediately—as many as 130 million South Asian girls will be forced into marriage by 2030.

The Center has been working closely with the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), which spearheaded the development of the Regional Action Plan to End Child Marriage in South Asia and the Kathmandu Call for Action, a call for governments in the region to denounce child marriage as a human rights violation, to bring their laws in line with international human rights standards, and truly enforce those laws.

To promote stronger legal accountability in the region, the Center organized a convening this past November in collaboration with SAIEVAC, where participants representing civil society and government bodies from eight South Asian states endorsed the Kathmandu Call for Action.

In a huge victory last month for women and girls across the globe, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the principal body at the U.N. that promotes and protects human rights for all, welcomed these regional commitments and unanimously adopted a groundbreaking resolution to eradicate child, early, and forced marriage. The resolution calls on states to implement national action plans on child marriage, and encourages partnering with civil society groups to develop and implement a holistic, comprehensive and coordinated response to address child marriage and support married girls.

“The Regional Action Plan to End Child Marriage in South Asia and the Kathmandu Call for Action—recognized and reinforced by the UN Council’s resolutions—generate hope for millions of women and girls like Gita in the region who have been forced to endure countless indignities and abuses,” says Upreti.

Ahead of the UN Council’s session, the Center and our partners advocated to strengthen the resolution by ensuring that it adequately recognized the human rights dimension of child marriage and built on regional initiatives and commitments already made by governments to end child marriage.

We hosted a side event at the UN co-sponsored by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and other high-profile agencies that highlighted these concerns, featuring a panel with powerful voices from the affected regions, including Upreti and Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, general secretary of the World YWCA and African Union goodwill ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage.

One day when Gita’s husband learned she was pregnant again, he accused her of adultery and attempted to electrocute her. It was then she decided to escape. She was able to return to her family home and—eight years after being forced to leave school—she reenrolled in the eighth grade.

At first, returning to middle school as a mother in her twenties was difficult. But Gita gathered courage and studied hard to pass the standard exams and continue her education. Her husband later filed for divorce when he married another girl.

Upreti emphasizes that while Gita survived one ordeal after another as a child bride and a young wife, child marriage causes irreparable harm and there are some wounds that simply never heal. Legal remedies can help women and girls get out of situations that are abusive or life threatening and, with the right support systems in place, give them the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

However, such remedies cannot give them back their lost childhood. Where girls suffer serious repercussions to their reproductive health, their physical integrity can never be fully restored. It is important for violations associated with child marriage to be prevented altogether by enacting and enforcing laws that prohibit child marriage. 

“Stopping the continuum of harm that is triggered by early marriage is only possible when governments fully implement laws and policies that prohibit child marriage, and when women are aware of their rights and empowered to make decisions about marriage,” says Upreti.  

Moving forward, the Center is working to support the implementation of the Regional Action Plan to End Child Marriage in South Asia and the Kathmandu Call for Action. This will ensure that governments in the region are able to play a central role in shaping a better future for millions of women and their families across the world.

Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity Kathmandu Call for Action to End Child Marriage in South Asia U.N. Human Rights Council Passes Resolutions to End Violence Against Women and Child Marriage

U.N. Committee Calls on Croatia to Expand Reproductive Health Services and End Discrimination Against Women

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 23:00
U.N. Committee Calls on Croatia to Expand Reproductive Health Services and End Discrimination Against Women

07.27.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) has called on the Croatian government to take concrete steps to improve the quality of care provided to pregnant women during child birth. It also called on Croatia to ensure women can access reproductive health services in practice, including legal abortion, regardless of health professionals’ personal objections.

In its concluding observations, the CEDAW Committee urged Croatia to guarantee that women’s rights and autonomy and informed consent requirements are upheld during childbirth. It further recommended that Croatia ensure that health professionals’ refusals to provide services on grounds of  conscience not be allowed to impede women’s effective access to reproductive health care services, especially abortion.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the Center for Education, Counselling and Research (CESI) and Parents in Action (RODA), made a joint submission to the CEDAW Committee regarding the failure of the Croatian government to ensure women have access to quality reproductive health services, including abortion services and modern contraceptives. The submission also addressed serious concerns about the treatment of pregnant women during childbirth in Croatian hospitals including deficits in ensuring full and informed consent to medical interventions during childbirth as well as frequent disrespectful and abusive treatment of women by medical professionals.

“Croatian women have a right to receive quality reproductive health services, but instead they face abuse, disrespectful care, and a range of obstacles to critical services, said Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The government of Croatia must take effective steps to ensure pregnant women giving birth receive medical care that respects their needs and wishes.”

Abortion in Croatia is legal within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter under limited circumstances, including when the pregnancy is a result of a crime, if the pregnancy put a woman’s health or life at risk and in cases of severe fetal impairments. However, women are facing increasing difficulties in accessing legal abortion services in practice. According to 2014 research by the Gender Equality Ombudsperson, more than half of gynecologists in Croatia do not provide legal abortion services due to their personal objections.

The joint submission to the CEDAW Committee also included findings from RODA’s 2015 Survey on Experiences in Maternity Services that reported a large number of pregnant women being subjected to procedures that can be harmful to their physical and mental health, including 54 percent of women alleging that health professionals applied heavy pressure to their abdomens to speed up the delivery, a procedure not supported by medical evidence.

Hope for EACH Woman

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 14:26
Hope for EACH Woman Bold new legislation in Congress would restore access to essential reproductive services for millions of women denied coverage.

07.23.15 - Five hundred dollars. That’s about what it costs for a woman to exercise her constitutional right to end a pregnancy in the United States—not including associated expenses such as travel, child care, and lost wages.

For some women, that’s a deep breath—but doable. For others, it will wipe out a savings account or send them into debt.

But for millions of low-income women—for whom every single cent available is already earmarked for rent and food and kids—$500 is an un-climbable mountain. It may as well be $500,000. As a result of current restrictions that deny abortion coverage to Medicaid recipients, one in four women on Medicaid seeking abortion care will be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

One of these women is Laurie. A young mother of three working at Pizza Hut and trying to go back to school, Laurie was devastated when she found out she was pregnant again. She knew she could not afford it—financially or emotionally.

But due to a lack of Medicaid coverage, she found herself unable to obtain a legal abortion. The fact that Laurie had a constitutional right to end her pregnancy meant nothing without the ability to afford it.

“I was heartbroken. I cried and cried,” Laurie recalls. “And I think it’s an extra layer to have a unwanted pregnancy when you are poor and a woman of color. You know what it means to walk into the welfare office and add another child to your case—everyone thinking it’s your fault. You know you’re going to be ‘that girl.’ You feel the stigma. And you know that the moment your child comes in to this world, she will feel it, too.”    

A historic piece of legislation introduced this month in Congress by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGette (D-CO) would ensure that a lack of coverage no longer stands in the way of a woman making the best decision for herself and her family. The EACH Woman Act gives all women access to health coverage for abortion services—no matter how much money they make, what insurance plan they have, or where they live.

“This is visionary lawmaking,” says Megan Donovan, federal policy counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “For too long, discriminatory policies such as the Hyde Amendment have taken a disproportionate toll on low-income women, immigrant women, young women, and women of color by banning insurance coverage for abortion care.”

Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has barred Medicaid coverage of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. In addition to restoring coverage to Medicaid recipients, the EACH Woman Act would protect federal employees and their dependents, Peace Corps members, Native Americans, low-income residents of Washington, D.C., and federal prisoners—all of whom are currently denied abortion coverage. The bill would also prohibit political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to cover abortion care.

Studies have shown that when a woman seeks an abortion but is denied, she is far more likely to fall into poverty than a woman who is able to get an abortion. When asked how a woman affords to have a baby if she can’t afford an abortion, Laurie responds without a pause: “You don’t.”

“You’re not living—you are existing. You’re in survival mode. I dropped out of school—it just wasn’t doable—and went back to waitressing after only four weeks,” Laurie remembers. “We had some shockingly lean months. The baby slept with me because I couldn’t afford a crib. I had to negotiate for everything we had—food, clothes. No one budgets better than a poor, single woman, but I still couldn’t make ends meet.”

Of course, not all barriers are financial. Over the last few years, hundreds of new state laws have imposed restrictions on abortion care including mandatory delays, sham health regulations, and outright bans.

That is why in January of this year, Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Lois Frankel (D-FL) reintroduced the Women’s Health Protection Act. That bill would prohibit states from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfering with women’s personal decision-making, and blocking access to abortion services​.

“Right now, we are working to secure an environment where a woman’s right to make one of the most important decisions of her life—when and if to become a parent—is not dependent on where she lives or what’s in her pocketbook,” says Donovan. “These two complementary measures are essential components of that environment.”

The idea that a government has an obligation to ensure that women have access to safe health services—and that no woman is denied a legal abortion just because she cannot pay for it—is hardly groundbreaking. At the Center, we know from our global involvement in international human rights bodies and courts around the world—from France to Uruguay to Nepal—that coverage of abortion services is commonplace in countries that respect women’s rights to health and self-determination.

We are committed to advancing the compassionate vision of the EACH Woman Act and the Women’s Health Protection Act—and joining the ranks of nations that understand that a right without the ability to access it is not a right at all.

Federal Appeals Court Permanently Blocks Most Extreme Abortion Ban in the U.S.

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 23:00
Federal Appeals Court Permanently Blocks Most Extreme Abortion Ban in the U.S. Eighth Circuit strikes down North Dakota’s ban on safe, legal abortion as unconstitutional

07.22.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) After permanently striking Arkansas’s ban on safe and legal abortion services at 12 weeks as unconstitutional earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit today permanently blocked North Dakota’s ban on abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy.

In light of today’s ruling, the state’s sole abortion clinic can continue providing safe, legal, high-quality services to the women and families of the state.

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

“Today’s decision reaffirms that the U.S. Constitution protects women from the legislative attacks of politicians who would deny them their right to safely and legally end a pregnancy.

“No woman should ever have to fear her constitutional rights could disappear overnight by virtue of where she lives. It’s beyond time these anti-choice politicians in North Dakota and across the U.S. finally start focusing on laws and policies that actually matter to women and their families and put an end to relentless attacks on women’s health and rights."

North Dakota’s HB 1456—which was signed into law by Governor Jack Dalrymple in March 2013—is the earliest and most extreme abortion ban in the nation, making virtually all abortions in the state illegal as early as six weeks of pregnancy.  The Center for Reproductive Rights and Thomas A. Dickson of the Dickson Law Office in Bismarck filed the lawsuit in June 2013 challenging the ban on behalf of  Red River Women’s Clinic—the state’s sole abortion provider. A federal district court judge temporarily blocked the ban in July 2013 and then permanently blocked the law in April 2014, noting “the United States Supreme Court has spoken and has unequivocally said no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability.”

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

Federal Court Permanently Blocks Most Extreme Abortion Ban in the Country North Dakota Governor Signs the Nation’s Most Extreme Attack on Women’s Constitutional Rights into Law Judge Temporarily Blocks Enforcement of North Dakota Medication Abortion Ban Federal Court Permanently Blocks Most Extreme Abortion Ban in the Country

Seventy-One Human Rights Organizations Call on President Obama to End Unnecessary Reproductive Health Restrictions That Harm Women

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 23:00
71 Human Rights Organizations Ask President Obama to End Unnecessary Reproductive Health Restrictions That Harm Women

07.22.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) As President Obama makes official visits to Kenya and Ethiopia this week, a broad-based coalition of leading domestic and global organizations are calling on him to put an end to the incorrect implementation of the Helms Amendment in order to save women’s lives and protect their health.

In an open letter, the coalition asks President Obama to meet with the U.S. government’s partners implementing health and gender-based violence programs in Kenya and Ethiopia, local community organizations, and the women they serve, in order to see why it’s imperative that the Obama Administration address its flawed implementation of the Helms Amendment.

The Helms Amendment prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds “to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning.” Although abortion in Kenya is allowed in cases of rape, incest and when the health or life of a pregnant woman is in danger, women are still unable to access legal abortion services. Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality, and Kenya and Ethiopia are among the 24 USAID priority countries in which 70 percent of maternal deaths worldwide occur.

“While nearly 300,000 women in developing countries continue to die needlessly from unsafe abortion every year, the United States’ flawed interpretation of the Helms Amendment denies critical funding to local organizations that could help women get the safe care they need, ” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“In Kenya, maternal deaths and injuries can and must be prevented,” added Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center. “President Obama has been a champion for women’s health in the United States, so we now call on him to take a stand for women worldwide and fix the Helms Amendment.”

The letter provides further background on the groups’ concerns, stating that women in Kenya, Ethiopia and around the world face high rates of gender-based violence, limited access to trained health care providers, and financial and geographic barriers to access comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion. Every year, an estimated 287,000 women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth – 13% of those deaths are the result of unsafe abortion. Close to half of those who die from unsafe abortion are younger than the age of 25. While no single policy can address the broad challenges that affect women in developing countries each day, the administration can take an important step by correcting its implementation of the Helms Amendment.

Kenya’s 2010 constitution eased the country’s severe restrictions on abortion, legalizing safe abortion services when the life or health of a woman is in danger and in cases of emergency—a measure aimed at decreasing the country’s high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity resulting from unsafe abortion. However, Kenyan women continue to be deprived of essential reproductive health services—including quality maternal health care and safe and legal abortion services. This is due to a variety of factors, including the misapplication of the Helms Amendment and the arbitrary withdrawal of the government’s guidelines for reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion and a ban on safe abortion trainings for health care professionals, which has led to great confusion as to when legal abortions can be provided.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a petition last month against Kenya’s Ministry of Health for undermining women’s constitutional rights and contributing to cases of maternal death by denying countless women, including rape survivors, access to safe, legal abortion.

The Center has worked for more than a decade across the continent of Africa to advance women’s access to reproductive health care through law and policy reform. In 2010, the Center published the report In Harm’s Way, which documented the devastating effects of the criminalization of abortion in Kenya before the law was reformed, and demonstrated how the weaknesses in Kenya’s health care system are further exacerbated when it comes to a reproductive health that is perceived as illegal and highly stigmatized.

Kenyan Women Denied Safe, Legal Abortion Services In Harm's Way: The Impact of Kenya's Restrictive Abortion Law

Trends to Watch

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 11:52
Trends to Watch It’s mid-2015. Do you know where your reproductive rights are? A new briefing explains.

07.20.15 - In just the first six months of 2015, three separate anti-choice bills arrived on the desk of Montana governor Steve Bullock. The intent of the measures was clear: to roll back abortion access with cruel and medically pointless regulations, like a ban on doctors using video technology to guide patients through medication abortion, a safe and innovative approach to providing care to women in rural areas.

Bullock knocked the measures down with a trilogy of vetoes. “Montana’s elected officials have no business substituting their personal beliefs for the sound medical judgment of our health care professionals,” he said.

That sentiment sums up the state of affairs in 2015—politicians playing doctor and anti-choice activists ignoring scientific fact to advance their assault on women’s rights. “Faced with the reality that a woman’s right to an abortion is a fundamental human right enshrined in constitutional law—not to mention supported by most Americans,” observes Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, “anti-choice politicians have gotten desperate, turning to junk science and disingenuous tactics.”

At the same time, there are promising bright spots. Women’s advocates like Gov. Bullock have defeated bad legislation across the country while others have made strides in expanding insurance coverage for abortion care. But a cadre of politicians remains committed to curtailing reproductive rights, and they’ve proven they won’t let the truth—or women’s well-being, for that matter—stand in their way. 

Legislators in Arizona and Arkansas enacted bills that force physicians to lie to their patients by telling them that abortion can be “reversed,” despite the chorus of real doctors who slammed the measures for being contrary to basic medical science and a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech. A coalition of groups including the National Physicians Alliance, the American Academy of Family Physicians and others denounced the laws for forcing doctors “to violate their medical training and ethical obligation to their patients.”

Kansas and Oklahoma both passed similarly invasive laws that criminalized physicians who provide the best care they can to their patients rather than follow the dictates of anti-choice politicians. The Center for Reproductive Rights, joined by other organizations, challenged the Arizona and Kansas laws, and the courts have blocked their enforcement for the moment.

Reproductive rights are in jeopardy particularly across the South, where mandatory waiting periods force women to delay obtaining abortion care in every state in the region, for up to 72 hours. State-mandated waiting periods are hardest on low-income women, especially in rural areas far from abortion clinics, by saddling them with the costs of two visits to a clinic: multiple tanks of gas, hotel stays, time off from work, and child care. These laws are patronizing to all women but they can be downright deadly to women who face abuse at home, for whom finding the time to get to a clinic without an abuser discovering their plans can be nearly impossible. 

Several states in particular are poised to launch all-out assaults on women’s rights by testing the limits of Roe v. Wade. Tennessee voters in 2014 approved a constitutional amendment that enabled lawmakers in 2015 to attack reproductive rights. The floodgates to anti-choice laws opened, putting women and families at risk throughout the region, where abortion clinics are scarce and many women have depended on Tennessee’s facilities in the past.

Arkansas unleashed an anti-choice blitz of its own, with six separate bills attacking reproductive health services from all angles, while Texas doubled down on its ongoing campaign against reproductive rights. Just two years after passing a massive anti-choice law that could have left just nine clinics open in America’s second biggest state, Texas politicians passed new regulations aimed squarely at low-income and undocumented women and teens, like requirements that all adult patients show an official ID proving they are not a minor, a virtually impossible hurdle for undocumented women and a cause of dangerous delays in time-sensitive medical care for others.

West Virginia, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio are some of the states that attempted to pass unconstitutional bans on 20-week abortions. West Virginia went so far as to override Gov. Ray Tomblin’s veto, enacting the bill into law and eliminating a rarely used but vital medical option for West Virginian women.

Fortunately, reproductive rights advocates haven’t taken this onslaught sitting down.

After Virginia’s Board of Health buckled under pressure from anti-choice politicians and imposed onerous new construction standards designed to do nothing more than close abortion clinics, Attorney General Mark Herring issued a legal opinion that called for existing facilities to be exempt from the medically unnecessary rules.

Louisiana politicians introduced two-pronged legislation in 2015 intended to force abortion patients to learn the sex of the fetus and ban abortions based on the sex of the fetus. The bill’s under-handed intent was to intimidate women while doing nothing to combat actual gender-based discrimination. In its cynical subtext, the measure fueled racist stereotypes that Asian Pacific Islander families don’t value girls, which led the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum to denounce the bill, forcing anti-choice politicians to back down.

Advocates continued to push forward in Oregon and Washington State, where lawmakers worked to advance bills to restore insurance coverage for abortion, and local officials in Madison, Wisconsin, joined a growing chorus calling for full insurance coverage of abortions.

Get the big picture. View the State of the States interactive map.

STATE OF THE STATES: 2015 AT THE MIDPOINT

Ignoring Objections of Major Medical Groups, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Signs Cruel Ban on Abortion at 20 Weeks of Pregnancy

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 10:07
Ignoring Objections of Major Medical Groups, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Signs Cruel Ban on Abortion at 20 Weeks

07.20.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a measure into law today which bans safe and legal abortion after twenty weeks of pregnancy with an extremely narrow exception for medical emergencies.

HB179—which is slated to take effect next year—was opposed by major medical groups in the state, including the Wisconsin Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, and the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics because of the dangers to a woman’s health and wellbeing.  A group of 100 obstetrician-gynecologists directed a letter to Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature opposing the ban because “SB 179 would block Wisconsin ob-gyns from being able to treat our patients in a medically appropriate and humane manner. This bill would undoubtedly place us in the unconscionable position of having to watch our patients and their loved ones undergo emotional trauma, illness and suffering during what is already a difficult time.” 

Wisconsin women who seek abortion services already face extreme barriers to care, as there are only four clinics providing abortion services in the entire state.  Additionally, Wisconsin clinics have been fighting to keep their doors open in the face of a clinic shutdown law since 2013.

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

“Wisconsin politicians have criminalized safe, legal abortion services at the same time they are attempting to eliminate all abortion services by shutting down clinics with sham laws and red tape.

“With this law, women in Wisconsin will soon face a catch-22 of shrinking options earlier in pregnancy and a complete ban on services later in pregnancy. Women deserve to make their own health care decisions with the medical professionals she trusts, not interference from her governor or legislature who presume to know better. ” 

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

Bans on abortion at 20 weeks take critical medical decisions out of the hands of women and their trusted health care providers at a time when those services may be the best medical option for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, measures like Wisconsin’s prohibit services at a point at which a woman is just receiving the results of critical tests to determine the health of her pregnancy—and potentially the presence of life-threatening complications and severe fetal abnormalities.

The devastating impact of these cruel laws are evident in stories like Whitney’s, a woman who has spoken out about her experience needing an abortion after 20 weeks in North Carolina, one of 11 states in the U.S. where the services are currently banned. After receiving a difficult diagnosis, she was forced to travel out of state to get the safe, legal care she needed and had a constitutional right to obtain.

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 Wisconsin 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.

Supreme Court Refuses to Review Arizona Abortion Ban

U.N. Committee Calls on Uganda to Reform Abortion Laws

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 23:00
U.N. Committee Calls on Uganda to Reform Abortion Laws 07.17.15 - 

(PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (U.N. CESCR) has called on the Ugandan government to reform and clarify its laws severely restricting abortion services.

In its concluding observations, the committee recommended that Uganda consider decriminalizing abortion and expanding the circumstances under which services are made legal and available. Further, the committee called on Ugandan officials to immediately improve awareness among women and health care officials in the country about the country’s existing abortion laws and available services for safe care following unsafe abortion. The committee also called for immediate steps to eradicate the continued practice of early and forced marriage in the country.

Ahead of these new recommendations, the Center for Reproductive Rights submitted to the committee its 2013 report, The Stakes Are High: The Tragic Impact of Unsafe Abortion and Inadequate Access to Contraception in Uganda, which documents personal stories of women impacted by the widespread and false impression by even health care professionals that abortion is illegal in all circumstances in Uganda—when in fact the country’s laws permit abortion for women with life-threatening conditions and victims of sexual assault.

Said Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“For too long, countless Ugandan women are forced to take illegal and unsafe measures to end their pregnancies due to severe criminal laws and deep confusion about critical services that are in fact legally available.

“It is time Uganda immediately reform these harsh laws and increase awareness among women and their health care professionals of available family planning and safe abortion services.” 

Unsafe abortion is one of the most easily preventable causes of maternal mortality, yet more than a quarter of maternal deaths in the country occur because of unsafe abortion, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Health in Uganda. Many of these deaths are in large part because of confusion and ignorance of reproductive health laws.

The Stakes are High: The Tragic Impact of Unsafe Abortion and Inadequate Access to Contraception in Uganda

Mandatory Delays and Junk Science Among New Abortion Restrictions in 2015

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 12:04
Mandatory Delays and Junk Science Among New Abortion Restrictions in 2015 New policy brief details troubling trends in abortion restrictions

07.16.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Anti-choice politicians in states across the U.S. have continued to pass harmful restrictions on women’s reproductive health care services, either through sham laws that shutter clinics or by intruding in women’s personal private decision-making—according to a new policy brief released today by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The brief—The States of the States: 2015 at the Midpoint—highlights six troubling trends in state laws passed so far this year.  From junk science used to further interfere in the doctor-patient relationship in Arizona and Arkansas to a surge of mandatory delays for women seeking safe and legal abortion services across the South, each measure poses a threat to women’s health, rights, and personal decision-making.

The briefing also details six proactive efforts to improve and expand reproductive rights and access—including information on four states’ work to restore full insurance coverage for abortion services and successful efforts in Louisiana to defeat a measure that would have forced women seeking abortion services to learn the sex of their pregnancy and then banned any abortion services based on that information. 

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

“Already this year, politicians have advanced a new crop of underhanded laws devised to interfere with women’s personal, private decisions and block access to safe, legal abortion..

“But that is not the end of the story. In the face of these relentless attacks on women’s health and rights, lawmakers are fighting back with measures of their own that would repair the this nation’s patchwork system of abortion access and help millions of women struggling to obtain basic health care.”

The brief outlines the six separate abortion restrictions passed in Arkansas this year, as well as Texas politicians efforts to further chip away at access to reproductive health care in a state already devastated by underhanded abortion restrictions.

Many of the measures outlined in today’s brief have been challenged—and successfully blocked—by the Center for Reproductive Rights.  In June 2015, the Center filed four new challenges to unconstitutional state laws, including:

  • Florida’s 24 mandatory delay for women seeking abortion services,
  • Kansas’ unconstitutional law which criminalizes doctors for providing the most common method of abortion in the second trimester,
  • Tennessee’s Texas-style clinic shutdown law, and
  • Arizona’s measure which forces health care providers to lie to women about medical abortion “reversal.” 

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

STATE OF THE STATES: 2015 AT THE MIDPOINT

Global NGOs Urge U.N. Human Rights Committee to Reaffirm the Right to Life Begins at Birth

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 23:00
Global NGOs Urge U.N. Human Rights Committee to Reaffirm the Right to Life Begins at Birth

07.15.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) More than 50 NGOs are calling upon the U.N. Human Rights Committee (U.N. HRC) to reinforce and elaborate on the measures states must take to guarantee women’s right to life on the basis of equality and nondiscrimination, including by eradicating preventable maternal mortalities and morbidities and guaranteeing access to safe and legal abortion.

A broad coalition of human rights organizations, spearheaded by the Center for Reproductive Rights, submitted a joint statement during the U.N. HRC’s consultation on the right to life urging the committee to continue to protect women’s health and lives by calling on states to eradicate preventable maternal deaths, ensure access to modern contraceptives and expand access to safe and legal abortion.    

During the consultation, groups seeking to undermine women’s reproductive rights urged the U.N. HRC to contradict well-established international human rights law recognizing that the right to life begins at birth and expand the scope of when life begins. This could compel women to carry to term pregnancies that jeopardize their health and lives, and undermine women’s reproductive autonomy and equality. 

Said Rebecca Brown, director of Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Close to 300,000 women around the world needlessly die each year because of governments’ failure to provide quality, comprehensive reproductive health care.

“Efforts to undermine women’s rights and access to essential services are an outright attack on their lives.

“The U.N. Human Rights Committee is a champion for women’s fundamental human rights, and we are confident the committee will do everything in its power to protect the well-being of women worldwide by rejecting efforts to deny access to critical health services.”

In the joint statement to the U.N. HRC, the Center and coalition partners address the ways that women’s health and lives continue to be jeopardized as a result of persistent discrimination which manifests in preventable maternal mortalities and morbidities, lack of reproductive health information, inadequate access to modern contraception and restrictive abortion laws. Specifically, the statement calls on the committee to reaffirm that the right to life provision in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights begins at birth and must not be invoked to jeopardize women’s fundamental human rights.  

International human rights law has long-established that the right to life begins at birth, and any other approach would be in direct contradiction and violation of reproductive rights. However, states continue to violate their human rights obligations and put women’s lives and health in grave danger in the name of protecting a fetus. El Salvador denied a 22-year-old pregnant woman from accessing abortion services even though she was pregnant with a non-viable fetus and suffering from complications related to lupus and kidney disease.

The Center has led some of the most important advances in reproductive rights worldwide. In 2008, the U.N. HRC ruled in the Center’s case of KL v. Peru that the denial of abortion services to an adolescent carrying a non-viable fetus constituted a violation of her rights to privacy and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, among other rights. At the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Center secured a historic victory stemming from the preventable maternal death of a young Brazilian woman who was denied quality maternal health services—the first time an international human rights decision named a maternal death a human rights violation.

Joint Statement for Human Rights Committee Day of Discussion on the Right to Life Inter-American Court of Human Rights Orders El Salvador Government to Allow Pregnant Woman with Critical Complications Access to Life-saving Health Care Interights: UN Human Rights Committee Decision in K.L. v. Peru Brazilian Government Gives Monetary Reparations As Part of Historic United Nations Maternal Death Case

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