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New Report Debunks Politicians’ Disingenuous Claims about Protecting Women’s Health and Safety in Passing Abortion Restrictions

6 hours 28 min ago
New Report Debunks Politicians’ Disingenuous Claims about Protecting Women’s Health, Safety with Abortion Restrictions States with Highest Number of Abortion Restrictions Have Poorest Health Outcomes, Least Supportive Policies for Women and Children

10.01.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) States with the highest number of abortion restrictions have the poorest health outcomes and least supportive policies for women and children, according to a new report jointly issued today by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health.

The report—titled Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women and Children’s Health and Well-Being Against Abortion Restrictions in the States—evaluates the assertions of anti-choice politicians against real, evidence-based policies that actually advance the well-being of women and families, finding that many of the same states that have passed abortion restrictions under the guise of protecting women are severely lacking in policies that would truly address the challenges women and their families face every day.

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

“This report exposes the flimsy claims of politicians who have been shutting down women’s health care providers under the patently false pretext of protecting women’s health.

“It clearly demonstrates how women and families have suffered as politicians put their ideological agenda before the real needs of their constituents.

“The real goal of these restrictions on abortion has never been to protect women, but rather to cut off access to safe, legal care for women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy. 

“Women do not need any more laws that pretend to protect their health and safety while putting both in jeopardy. They need the real thing.  It’s time these politicians check their priorities, and finally be held accountable to the women and children of their states.”

 This analysis comes at a time when women’s access to essential reproductive health care is under siege like never before, with politicians in nearly 30 states enacting more than 200 laws since 2011 in their effort to make it harder, or in some cases impossible, to access abortion services. Despite the fact that abortion is one of the very safest medical procedures, politicians are advancing these laws under the false pretense that it will make abortion safer and improve women’s health.

Politicians in states like Texas and Louisiana have made the claim that restrictions on abortion services protect women’s health and safety, despite the fact that leading medical associations—including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist—oppose such restrictions precisely because they are a threat to women’s health, lives, and well-being.

“It is critical to look closely at what is happening in states where an alarming number of abortion restrictions are either in place or being proposed,” said Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health.  “Our analysis shows that many policymakers working to restrict abortion are ignoring the evidence about what policies are well-documented to improve women’s and children’s lives.”

The report examined state-level policies and broad health, social, and economic indicators and outcomes related to the well-being of women and children against state-level restrictions on abortion.  Findings include:

  • The more abortion restrictions a state has on the books, the less likely they are to have evidence-based policies that promote the health and well-being of women and children.
    • For example, Kansas and Mississippi both have the maximum number of abortion restrictions (14 in total), but have only adopted 6 policies (of 18 total) demonstrated to promote the health and well-being of women and children.
  • States that have the most restrictions on abortion consistently have the worst health outcomes for women and children.
    • For example, Oklahoma has the maximum number of abortion restrictions (14 in total) and has some of the country’s worst outcomes for women’s health – including higher maternal mortality rates, higher uninsured rates, and lower rates of cancer screening, among other outcomes – and some of the worst outcomes for children’s health – including higher infant and child mortality rates, lower rates of preventive care, and higher rates of teen alcohol and drug abuse, among other indicators.

Many of the abortion restrictions referenced in today’s report would be addressed by the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—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.

File Upload:  Petition FINAL_OK Med Ab.pdf Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women’s and Children’s Health and Well-being against Abortion Restrictions in the States

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Gets It

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 17:41
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Gets It

09.30.14 - If she wasn’t your hero already, take a look at the interview Justice Ginsburg gave to Elle magazine for their October issue, and you might reconsider.

Writer Jessica Weisberg asks the 81-year-old Clinton appointee about topics all over the map—from the conservative pendulum swing on abortion issues to work/life balance to the Justice’s own first appearance in front of the Supreme Court. 

On the subject of abortion, Ginsburg cuts to the quick regarding the socio-economic disparity in access to abortion care in the US: 

The impact of all these restrictions is on poor women, because women who have means, if their state doesn’t provide access, another state does. I think that the country will wake up and see that it can never go back to [abortions just] for women who can afford to travel to a neighboring state... It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.

She also notes that she doesn’t think the pendulum can swing any further to the right on abortion issues, and muses that 50 years from now, people will not understand the Hobby Lobby decision.

Weisberg calls out the seasoned Justice as an optimist, and Ginsburg readily agrees—but she’s also a realist. When asked if she will resign while Obama is in office in order to insure continuity in the court’s makeup, she replies, “Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court.”

Ginsburg, despite her age and health setbacks with colon and pancreatic cancer, says she will continue to “do the job full steam” until she no longer can.

The online version of the interview is a powerful excerpt, but Weisberg’s full sit-down with the Supreme Court’s greatest champion for reproductive rights can be found in the hardcopy of Elle’s October issue.

A Guide to the Supreme Court Nomination

New Lawsuit Seeks to Block Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion in Oklahoma

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 12:43
New Lawsuit Seeks to Block Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion in Oklahoma Legal challenge filed less than a year after state courts permanently struck down similar measure as unconstitutional

09.30.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Women’s health care providers filed a new lawsuit in state court today challenging Oklahoma’s unconstitutional restrictions on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy—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 Center for Reproductive Rights represents the providers in today’s suit.

House Bill 2684—which was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin in April and is scheduled to take effect  November 1—would deny women current evidence-based protocols for medication abortion that leading medical groups have found “make medical abortion safer, faster, and less expensive, and that result in fewer complications” as compared to the protocol mandated under the law. In addition, the bill 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.

Today’s lawsuit comes less than a year after the courts overturned Oklahoma’s last attempt to ban medication abortion in the state. In that case, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that preventing doctors from using evidence-based medicine “is so completely at odds with the standard that governs the practice of medicine that it can serve no purpose other than to prevent women from obtaining abortions and to punish and discriminate against those who do.”

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

“Oklahoma politicians are back at it again, playing doctor, intruding upon women’s private decisions, and pretending their actions are good for women’s health even though medical experts and associations nationwide make clear that they are absolutely not.

“Women’s health will never be advanced by laws aimed at foreclosing safe and legal options for those who have made the decision to end a pregnancy, no matter what false pretenses lawmakers use to dress them up.

“The true intent and effect of this law is to deny women an important option for ending a pregnancy safely and legally in the earliest stages. That is plainly unconstitutional, and we are confident that the court, as it has so many times before, will stop it from ever going into effect.”

Autumn Katz and Zoe Levine of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Blake Patton of Walding & Patton, and Martha Hardwick of Hardwick Law Office filed today’s suit in the District Court of Oklahoma County 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.

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.

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.

File Upload:  Petition FINAL_OK Med Ab.pdf 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

Forced Sterilization in Chile

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 10:41
Forced Sterilization in Chile

09.30.14 - Francisca, a young Chilean woman, describes the day her only son was born as the worst and the best day of her life. The best—for obvious reasons. The worst—for reasons almost too awful to fathom. While a doctor at Curicó Hospital was delivering Francisca’s baby via cesarean, he also sterilized her without her knowledge or consent—because she was HIV-positive.

“I was floored by this news. I couldn’t understand why they had done this and especially without asking me,” remembers Francisca. “A few days later, I went home from the hospital filled with joy for the birth of my new beautiful son, but also a profound loss of security and self.”

Although she has never fully recovered from this violation, Francisca has thrown herself into seeking justice for more than a decade. After a criminal case she pursued against the operating surgeon was ineffectively prosecuted and subsequently dismissed, the Center for Reproductive Rights along with Vivo Positivo, a Chilean HIV/AIDS organization, brought Francisca’s case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

The IACHR monitors the compliance of member states—of which Chile is one—with regional human rights treaties, including the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.

This month—five years after the case was filed—the IACHR made history when it announced that it will hear Francisca’s case, known as F.S. v. Chile. It is the first case the IACHR has admitted that addresses the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV.

“The admissibility of the F.S. case is a huge step forward in the solidification of the recognition of reproductive rights under the American Convention, as it places before the IACHR the question of forced sterilization on the basis of HIV status,” says Monica Arango, the Center’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. A favorable decision could hold the Chilean government accountable for ignoring its obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the reproductive rights of HIV-positive women.

Like many other HIV-positive women, Francisca’s status was discovered in her first trimester of pregnancy during a routine prenatal test. In the face of such overwhelming news, she assumed her diagnosis was an automatic death sentence.

In Francisca’s home country of Chile, stigma and misconceptions surrounding HIV abound, and even her doctors offered her no information about how to take care of herself during her pregnancy or her chances to live a relatively normal life in spite of her HIV status.

Fortunately, a nurse mentioned that there was a good chance the baby could be born healthy if Francisca took medication. This glimmer of hope cemented Francisca’s commitment to do everything possible to avoid transmitting HIV to her child by obtaining regular prenatal care, doing antiretroviral therapy, and scheduling a cesarean delivery. Francisca awaited the day of her cesarean with much apprehension, but also with excitement.

That’s when the unthinkable happened. Although Francisca had delivered a healthy baby boy, the surgeon’s decision to perform a tubal ligation on her while she was sedated meant that she would no longer be able to have children. Francisca had not agreed to—or even been informed about—this drastic and life-altering measure. No doctor had ever even discussed the possibility with her.

Regrettably, Francisca’s experience is not unusual. In Chile, according to a 2004 study done by the Center and Vivo Positivo, of the 23 women who were sterilized after learning they were HIV-positive, 50% did so under pressure or had been sterilized without their knowledge. Although giving birth as an HIV-positive woman carries extra risks, the chance of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is less than 2% when the proper precautions are taken, and mandating sterilization is borne of fear and prejudice rather than of sound public health policy. Discrimination against women with HIV is pervasive throughout Latin America, where patients seeking reproductive health services are frequently refused care because of their HIV status and reprimanded by health professionals for having become pregnant.

As Arango points out, “The admissibility of the case brings Francisca a step closer to accessing justice.” 

The IACHR’s willingness to confront these biases on the international stage marks an important shift. Still, much remains to be done to protect the dignity and autonomy of the millions of women throughout the world who, like Francisca, are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and human rights violations as the result of their HIV status.

Dignity Denied: Violations of the Rights of HIV-Positive Women in Chilean Health Facilities CRR Spotlights Abuses against HIV+ Women in Chile

Center for Reproductive Rights Brings Forced Sterilization Case of HIV Positive Woman to Human Rights Commission

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 23:00
Center for Reproductive Rights Brings Forced Sterilization Case of HIV Positive Woman to Human Rights Commission Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Hear Case on the Forced Sterilization of Chilean Woman Living with HIV

09.30.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) More than a decade after a Chilean woman was forcibly sterilized because she is living with HIV, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced that it will hear her case—the first-ever forced sterilization case for a person living with HIV in Latin America to be decided by an international human rights body.

This week, the Commission declared F.S. v. Chile—a case submitted by the Center for Reproductive Rights to the human rights body—admissible and the Commission will review the case on its merits around the violation to the rights to personal integrity, due process, privacy and family life, equality, judicial protection and right to be free from violence.

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

“Every woman across the globe has a fundamental right to control her reproductive life, no matter who she is, what her HIV status may be, and whether she decides to build a family or not.

“The unconscionable actions of the doctor who took it upon himself to forcibly sterilize a young woman because she was living with HIV were a gross violation of her human rights, robbing her of her basic reproductive decision-making and future.

“The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights is making history in taking her case and must send a clear message that no country can ever ignore human rights violations or allow discrimination as horrific as forced sterilization to occur.”

F.S. is a Chilean woman living with HIV who gave birth in November 2002 via cesarean. Aware of her HIV status, the surgeon operating on F.S. surgically sterilized her during the delivery without her knowledge or consent—despite the fact that Chilean law requires written consent from a woman before any sterilization procedure. F.S. later filed a criminal complaint against the surgeon in March 2007, but due to a substandard police investigation, the Chilean judiciary dismissed the case, falsely claiming F.S. had given verbal consent to sterilization. She continues to suffer physical and psychological harms today.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Chilean-based HIV/AIDS NGO Vivo Positivo brought the F.S. v Chile case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2009. The petition argues that the forced sterilization of F.S. violated her rights to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, to privacy, to be free from discrimination and to an effective judicial remedy. The petition calls for compensation to F.S. for the harm that she suffered, criminal sanctions for those responsible for violating her rights, and guarantees against coercive or forced sterilizations of HIV-positive women in the future. The petition also seeks the legislative and policy changes necessary to fully protect the sexual and reproductive rights of individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

“For the last decade, the Chilean government has continually failed to address the appalling injustices this young woman has endured,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Now, we look to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to take this important opportunity to hold accountable those responsible for violating this woman’s fundamental human rights.”

“Women living with HIV and AIDS have a right to make their own medical decisions, including those about their fertility,” said Sara Araya Executive Director at Vivo Positivo. “The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must demand that the Chilean government create and implement health policies to protect the rights of women living with HIV and AIDS—punishing anyone who discriminates and denies women quality health care.”

In 2010, the Center and Vivo Positivo collaborated on the report Dignity Denied: Violations of the Rights of HIV-Positive Women in Chilean Health Facilities. The report uncovered that abuse against women living with HIV/AIDS in Chile by medical professionals is widespread, including sterilizing them without their knowledge or consent during other procedures. It notes that Chile has failed to protect the human rights of women living with HIV in the country by fostering an environment in which healthcare workers willfully discriminate against them.

Dignity Denied: Violations of the Rights of HIV-Positive Women in Chilean Health Facilities

El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y Vivo Positivo presentan caso sobre esterilización forzada de una mujer VIH positiva ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 23:00
El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y Vivo Positivo presentan caso sobre esterilización forzada de una mujer con VIH La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos admite caso sobre la esterilización forzada de una mujer chilena con VIH

30.09.14 - (COMUNICADO DE PRENSA) Más de una década después de que una mujer chilena fuera esterilizada por el hecho de ser VIH positiva, la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH)  anunció recientemente que conocerá el caso. Esta es la primera vez que un órgano internacional de derechos humanos decidirá un caso que refleja la discriminación sistemática y las violaciones a los derechos reproductivos de las mujeres con VIH en Chile. 

Esta semana la CIDH comunico la admisibilidad del caso de F.S. contra  Chile, siendo este el primer caso del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y Vivo Positivo presentado ante el mencionado órgano de derechos humanos que aborda la situación de las mujeres chilenas con VIH. La CIDH revisara las violaciones de FS de sus derechos a la integridad personal, garantías judiciales, privacidad y protección a la familia, igualdad, protección judicial y derecho a estar libre de violencia.

Nancy Northup, presidenta y Directora Ejecutiva del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos afirmó que:

“Cada mujer en cualquier parte del mundo tiene el derecho fundamental a controlar su vida reproductiva, sin importar quién es, su estatus de VIH o si decide tener una familia o no”.

“Las acciones inconscientes del médico que decidió esterilizar a F.S., son una grave violación a los derechos humanos, ya que la privó de su capacidad para tomar decisiones sobre su salud reproductiva”.

“La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos al conocer el caso de F.S. está marcando un hito histórico que permitirá enviar un mensaje fuerte y claro a todos los Estados para que no permitan este tipo violaciones a los derechos humanos y en específico, que no ignoren este tipo de discriminación tan horrenda como lo es la esterilización forzada”.

F.S. es una mujer chilena con VIH que dio a luz en noviembre de 2002 por medio de una cesaría. Consciente de su condición de VIH positiva, el médico que le realizó la cesaría, la esterilizó durante el parto sin informarla y sin solicitar su consentimiento, esto a pesar de que la ley chilena requiere un consentimiento informado y por escrito de la mujer antes de cualquier procedimiento de esterilización. F.S. presentó una denuncia contra el médico en marzo de 2007, pero debido a una investigación deficiente por parte de la policía, el poder judicial rechazó el caso, alegando que F.S. había dado su consentimiento verbalmente para autorizar el procedimiento de esterilización. El sufrimiento físico y psicológico de F.S. persiste hasta el día de hoy.

El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y Vivo Positivo, una organización no gubernamental chilena que trabaja alrededor del SIDA/VIH, presentaron el caso de F.S. ante la CIDH en el 2009. La petición argumenta que la esterilización forzada viola el derecho a estar libre de tortura y otros tratos crueles, inhumanos y degradantes; el derecho a la privacidad; el derecho a no ser discriminada y el derecho a un recurso judicial efectivo.

La petición solicita medidas de reparación para F.S., dentro de las que se encuentran: (i) la indemnización por el sufrimiento que le ha generado la esterilización forzada, (ii) la identificación y sanción de los responsables, y (iii) medidas de no repetición de los hechos a favor de las mujeres VIH positivas. La petición también busca cambios legislativos y de políticas necesarias para proteger íntegramente los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las personas que viven con VIH/SIDA.  

“Durante esta última década, el Estado chileno ha fracasado en abordar las atroces injusticias que esta joven mujer padeció,” dijo Mónica Arango, Directora Regional para América Latina y el Caribe del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos. “Ahora, esperamos que la CIDH aproveche esta oportunidad tan importante para exigir al Estado que cumpla con su responsabilidad internacional de sancionar a los responsables de la esterilización forzada de F.S.”

“Las mujeres que viven con VIH y SIDA, tienen el derecho a tomar sus propias decisiones médicas, incluyendo las relacionadas con su fertilidad,” dijo Sara Araya Directora Ejecutiva de Vivo Positivo. “La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos debe exigir al Estado chileno que diseñe e implemente políticas de salud que protejan los derechos de las mujeres con VIH y SIDA—castigando a cualquiera que discrimine y le niegue cuidados de calidad en materia de servicios de salud a las mujeres”.

En 2010, el Centro y Vivo Positivo publicaron el informe Dignidad Negada: Violaciones de los derechos de las mujeres VIH-Positivas en establecimientos de salud Chilena, el cual documentó los abusos sistemáticos por parte de los profesionales de la salud en contra las mujeres con VIH/SIDA en Chile, entre los que se encuentran las esterilizaciones no consentidas durante otros procedimientos médicos. El informe también resalta que el Estado chileno ha fracasado en proteger los derechos humanos de mujeres con VIH positivo, promoviendo un ambiente en el cual los profesionales de la salud de manera intencional discriminan a las mujeres.

MSNBC Spotlights “Draw the Line” Campaign

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 14:34
MSNBC Spotlights “Draw the Line” Campaign

09.29.14 - MSNBC looked at the Center for Reproductive Rights’ new storytelling campaign Draw the Line, which shares the personal reproductive health experiences of Americans from all walks of life. 

Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi kicked off the initiative for the Center with a two-minute video describing her long struggle with endometriosis and the importance of high-quality reproductive health care for all Americans.

“I had access to the best physicians and the best medical treatment,” says Lakshmi, whose condition took years to diagnose. “I think about my peers in other parts of the country who may not have access to all the resources that I have access to.” 

As MSNBC notes, the Center has launched the campaign amid an onslaught of attacks in state legislatures across the country on the constitutional rights of women to access safe, legal reproductive care.

Says Lakshmi in her video, “What politicians and representatives need to remember is that they represent us. Their responsibility is to allow all of their constituents the right and access to good, sound health care, including reproductive health care.” 

Designed to engage all Americans in supporting reproductive rights, Draw the Line includes accounts from other celebrities such as actor Mark Ruffalo and singer DeeDee Bridgewater. Supporters are encouraged to submit their own stories and sign a petition telling politicians: “My word is the last word on my reproductive health care.” 

Center for Reproductive Rights Releases New Celebrity PSA and Letter to President Obama Urging Support for ‘Draw the Line’ Campaign "Draw the Line" on MSNBC RH Reality Check: It's Time to Draw the Line on Attacks Against Reproductive Freedom

Esterilización forzada en Chile

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 23:00
Esterilización forzada en Chile

29.09.14 - Francisca, una joven chilena, describe el día en que nació su único hijo como el peor y a la vez el mejor día de su vida. El mejor—por obvias razones y el peor—por razones aterradoras y difíciles de imaginar. Mientras que el médico en el Hospital Curicó le estaba realizando una cesaría para el nacimiento de su bebé, también la esterilizó sin informarla y sin solicitar su consentimiento por ser VIH positiva.

 “Esta noticia me dejó fría. No pude entender por qué lo habían hecho y cómo lo hicieron sin mi consentimiento,” recuerda Francisca. “Varios días después llegué del hospital a mi casa llena de alegría por el nacimiento de mi hermoso hijo, pero al mismo tiempo sentí una profunda pérdida de confianza y seguridad en mí misma.”

Aunque Francisca nunca logró recuperarse completamente de este episodio violento, desde entonces se ha dedicado a buscar justicia por más de una década. Ella denunció al cirujano que la esterilizó, pero las investigaciones presentaron irregularidades y fue el expediente fue archivado. Desde entonces, el Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y Vivo Positivo, una organización de SIDA/VIH chilena, presentaron el caso de Francisca ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH).

La CIDH monitorea el cumplimiento de las obligaciones internacionales asumidas por los  Estados que han ratificado los acuerdos regionales en materia de derechos humanos, incluyendo la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos y la Convención para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer—de las cuales el Estado de Chile hace parte.

Este mes— cinco años después de que el caso fuera archivado por la justicia chilena— la CIDH marcará un hito histórico cuando analice el primer caso en la región americana-conocido como F.S. v. Chile, que aborda los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las mujeres que viven con VIH. 

 “La admisibilidad del caso de F.S. es un gran paso hacia adelante en cuanto al reconocimiento de los derechos reproductivos a la luz de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos, ya que posiciona ante la CIDH el tema de la esterilización forzada como consecuencia de la condición de VIH,” afirma Mónica Arango, Directora Regional para América Latina y el Caribe del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos. Una decisión favorable podría responsabilizar al Estado chileno por ignorar su obligación de respetar, proteger y cumplir con los derechos reproductivos de las mujeres que son VIH positivas.

También como otras mujeres que son VIH positivas, es estado de Francisca se descubrió durante el primer trimestre de su embarazo mientras le realizaban un examen prenatal de rutina. Con esa noticia tan abrumadora ella asumió que su diagnóstico era una sentencia de muerte.

En el país de Francisca, Chile, hay muchos estigmas e ideas equivocadas sobre el VIH. A Francisca sus doctores no le ofrecieron información sobre cómo cuidarse durante su embarazo o las posibilidades de llevar a cabo una vida relativamente normal a pesar de su situación.

Afortunadamente, una enfermera mencionó a Francisca que tenía una buena probabilidad de que él bebe naciera sano, si ella tomaba medicamentos. Esta pequeña esperanza cimentó el compromiso de Francisca a hacer todo lo posible para evitar transmitir el VIH a su hijo mediante la obtención de atención prenatal, terapia antiretroviral  y programación del parto por cesaría. Francisca espero el día de su cesaría con mucho temor pero también con emoción.

Ahí fue donde lo impensable ocurrió. Aunque Francisca tuvo un bebe saludable, la decisión del cirujano de realizar una ligadura de trompas-mientras ella estaba sedada- se tradujo en que ella no podrá tener más hijos. Francisca no estaba de acuerdo con este procedimiento y ni siquiera le habían informado sobre esta medida que la cambiaría la vida para siempre. Ningún médico jamás había hablado con ella sobre la posibilidad de realizar esta cirugía.

Lamentablemente, la experiencia de Francisca no es un hecho aislado. En Chile, de acuerdo a un estudio realizado por el Centro y por Vivo Positivo en el 2004, de las 23 mujeres esterilizadas después de enterarse que tenían VIH, el 50% de ellas no otorgó su consentimiento o fueron presionadas para realizar la esterilización. La discriminación contra las mujeres con VIH es una práctica extendida por toda América Latina, donde las pacientes que buscan servicios de salud reproductiva son frecuentemente rechazadas por su condición personas con VIH y son reprendidas por los profesionales de salud por haber quedado embrazadas.

Como Arango declara, “la admisibilidad del caso coloca a Francisca un paso más cerca a acceder a la justicia.”

La voluntad de la CIDH a enfrentar estos prejuicios en el ámbito internacional marca un cambio importante. Sin embargo mucho queda por hacer para proteger la dignidad y autonomía de las millones de mujeres en el mundo quienes, como Francisca, son particularmente vulnerables a la discriminación y violaciones de derechos humanos como resultado de vivir con VIH.

Joint Statement and Call to Action for the Philippine Congress to Examine the Harmful Impact of the Total Criminal Ban on Abortion

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 23:00
Joint Statement to Philippine Congress to Examine Harmful Impact of Total Criminal Ban on Abortion

09.28.14 - We would like to draw Congress’ attention to the tragic reality that serious and widespread violations of women’s rights are being committed under the country’s absolute criminal ban on abortion. We believe that the persistent occurrence of human rights violations as a consequence of the criminal ban, and the absence of any legal remedy whatsoever for these violations, underscore the urgency of having a national dialogue on abortion.

We urge Congress not to turn a blind eye to the persistent and widespread occurrence of unsafe abortions, and the recent increase in preventable maternal deaths in the country, and to finally address the egregious human rights violations which have persisted with impunity for more than 80 years.

We respectfully call on Congress to take the opportunity provided by the penal law reform process to lead a public discussion on abortion in the interest of examining the harmful effects of the total ban, tackling what has become a stigmatized public health issue, promoting women’s access to justice and ensuring the rule of law.

Signed and Endorsed the following organisations:

Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP), regional
Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), global
EnGendeRights, Philippines
Institute for Social Studies and Action (ISSA), Philippines
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), global

Philippine Department of Justice Fails to Include Grounds for Abortion in Draft Criminal Code

United Nations Calls on Governments to Promote Safe Pregnancy and Child Birth

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 23:00
United Nations Calls on Governments to Promote Safe Pregnancy and Child Birth U.N. Human Rights Council Passes 5th Resolution to Address Preventable Maternal Deaths

09.26.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations Human Right Council unanimously passed its fifth resolution on preventable maternal deaths, urging all U.N. member states to take action at all levels to address the causes of maternal mortality with a human rights-based approach. However, the resolution failed to acknowledge that such an approach must also ensure women’s sexual and reproductive rights. 

The resolution calls for U.N. member states to address how discrimination against women has contributed to maternal mortality and to implement policies that address preventable maternal deaths and health complications, in accordance with the 2012 human rights guidelines from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.   But critical paragraphs in the resolution—which was introduced and spearheaded by the governments of Burkina Faso, Colombia, and New Zealand—urging states to meet their obligations to ensure the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls were later removed to achieve consensus following strong opposition from a few states.   Said Rebecca Brown, director of Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights:   “Women should never feel as though they’re putting their health and lives at risk when they become pregnant, but the truth is maternal deaths still claim the lives of 800 women and girls every day.   “We commend the governments of Burkina Faso, Colombia, and New Zealand for their commitment alongside the United Nations Human Rights Council to hold member states accountable for the preventable maternal deaths in their countries.    “The only way governments can truly ensure the women in their countries stay healthy and safe during and after pregnancy is to ensure every woman has access to quality maternal care and their sexual and reproductive rights are recognized in law and policy.”   While there has been a 45 percent decline in maternal deaths worldwide since 1990, nearly 300,000 women died from pregnancy related complications last year—underscoring the need for the U.N Human Rights Council’s ongoing commitment to preventing and addressing maternal mortality and morbidity, and resolutions like the one passed today. Furthermore, marginalized women continue to experience significantly higher levels of maternal mortality, including in developed countries such as the United States and Australia.    The Center for Reproductive Rights has brought cases to both international human rights bodies, as well as national courts, on behalf of women who were denied quality maternal health care. Earlier this year the Brazilian government provided monetary reparations as part of a 2011 ruling from the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that held Brazil responsible for the death of an Afro-Brazilian woman. And in Kenya, the Center has filed two cases of the mistreatment and abuse of pregnant women in maternity hospitals.   Recently the Center released From Risk to Rights: Realizing States’ Obligations to Prevent and Address Maternal Mortalitythat examines how states’ failure to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity became recognized as a fundamental human rights violation. It describes the causes of maternal mortality and morbidity and summarizes the relevant human rights standards, political declarations and development commitments on this issue.​ Brazilian Government Gives Monetary Reparations As Part of Historic United Nations Maternal Death Case Case Of Pregnant Woman Beaten And Denied Care At Local Hospital Brought To Kenyan High Court From Risk to Rights: Realizing States’ Obligations to Prevent and Address Maternal Mortality

‘Top Chef’ Host Padma Lakshmi Joins Everyday Americans to Share Her Reproductive Health Care Story

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 10:20
‘Top Chef’ Host Padma Lakshmi Joins Everyday Americans to Share Her Reproductive Health Care Story State attacks on women’s constitutional rights galvanize women and men across the U.S. to speak out at DrawTheLine.org

09.24.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) In the wake of devastating legislative attacks on women’s constitutional rights to severely reduce access to safe, legal reproductive health care across the U.S., everyday Americans have been inspired to speak up and tell stories of their own personal experiences with reproductive health care through a new platform at the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Draw the Line campaign. 

Today, the Center released a new video from model, author, and Bravo “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, where she shares her struggle with endometriosis and how her ability to access reproductive health care made a huge difference in her life.

Padma’s story joins dozens of other commanding personal accounts from men and women across the country, from Texas to California, as well as previously released videos from actor and activist Mark Ruffalo and Tony Award winner DeeDee Bridgewater.

The stories are available on DrawtheLine.org, where visitors are encouraged to sign a petition committing that their “word is the last word on reproductive rights.”

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

“It has become painfully clear that anti-choice politicians opposed to women’s rights will stop at nothing to choke off access to reproductive health care services—attempting to eliminate safe and legal abortion and making it harder for women to get other essential health care such as contraception, fertility treatments, and even well-woman visits and cancer screenings.

“The Center for Reproductive Rights launched the Draw The Line campaign two years ago to raise the voices of people who wanted to fight back against these underhanded and unconstitutional attacks on our rights—and nearly 300,000 have joined us in this fight.

“It’s time to turn up the volume on stories like Padma’s and remind politicians that our reproductive health care is an essential part of our health, well-being, and lives. It’s time for each and every one of us to tell our elected officials: My word is the last word on my reproductive health.”

Individuals are encouraged to share the stories featured on the Draw the Line site and can even submit their own video, audio recording, or written piece about how reproductive health care has played a critical role in their lives.

The Draw the Line personal stories initiative comes at a time when attacks on reproductive rights by state legislatures around the country are at an all time high. According to the Center’s recent 2014 State of the State report, more than 250 pieces of anti-choice legislation have been introduced since the beginning of 2014, and more anti-choice legislation has been passed in the previous three years than in the entire decade prior.

People can join the movement by visiting DrawtheLine.org, where they can share a personal story or join the conversation online at #DrawtheLine and #MyHealthMyWord.

11 Things You Need to Know: State of the States 2014 Mid-Year Review

Spain Halts Extreme Abortion Law

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 15:20
Spain Halts Extreme Abortion Law News follows resignation of Spanish Minister of Justice Alberto Ruiz Gallardón

09.23.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced the withdrawal of a draft bill that would have criminalized abortion in Spain, with exceptions only in cases of rape and when a woman’s health or life is at risk.  

The restrictive abortion bill, spearheaded by Prime Minister Rajoy and Justice Minister Gallardón, was scrapped after failing to build enough political support to move forward. National and international groups sent a joint letter in May to Prime Minister Rajoy opposing the proposed restrictions that posed “a serious threat to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Signatories included Alianza por la Solidaridad, European NGOs for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Population and Development (EuroNGOs), Federación de Planificación Familiar Estatal, Human Rights Watch and Rights International Spain and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In proposing the bill the Spanish government moved against the overwhelming trend of expanding access to safe and legal abortion both in Europe and globally—against the views of the vast majority of Spanish citizens. Following the news of the defeated abortion law, Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón announced resignation from his post, as well as from his seat in Parliament and as member of the Popular Party.

Said Lilian Sepúlveda, director of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today is a huge victory for the countless Spanish women and men who have fought so hard to see their country’s laws changed to protect safe and legal abortion, and to keep these vital legal protections in place.

“The outcry provoked by the introduction of this law sent a clear message to both Prime Minister Rajoy and Justice Minister Gallardón that playing politics with reproductive rights is unacceptable.

“We commend the advocates for women’s health and rights in Spain for their unwavering commitment and tireless work to put a stop to these vicious attacks on women.”

While the attempt to ban abortion in Spain was halted, Prime Minister Rajoy announced that the current abortion regulations will soon be amended to require parental consent for young women 17 years of age and under who seek to end a pregnancy.

“Restricting young women’s access to essential reproductive health care services, including abortion, poses serious threats to their health and human rights.We will continue to stand alongside the women of Spain and committed advocates to build on today’s victory and block any effort to roll back the country’s abortion law,” added Sepúlveda.

Abortion was first decriminalized in Spain in 1985, but even then the procedure was legal only for rape victims and when a woman’s pregnancy had severe fetal impairments or posed a serious risk to her life or health. In 2010, the Spanish government took an historic step and amended the law to recognize abortion as a fundamental right, allowing this reproductive health service through 14 weeks of pregnancy for all women, without restriction as to reason.

According to a new 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 to 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.

Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform

When Abortion Is a Crime

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 14:44
When Abortion Is a Crime

09.22.14 - Manuela had a miscarriage. Then a far worse tragedy began.

In 2010, Manuela, a young mother from a rural area of El Salvador, died in prison two years into a 30-year sentence. Her crime? Not successfully carrying her third child to term.

Manuela (not her real name) was reported on suspicion of abortion by the physician from whom she had sought emergency care after experiencing a traumatic miscarriage—probably due to what doctors would later discover as late-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma. El Salvador has a total ban on abortion.

Unable to afford a lawyer, Manuela was swiftly and wrongfully convicted of murder. And she’s only one of hundreds of women in El Salvador who have been accused of the crime of abortion but convicted instead of homicide.

Not one more woman should have to suffer Manuela’s fate. Instead of allowing governments to treat pregnant women as criminals, we must ensure they are treated with the dignity and that they have access to the reproductive health care that is their human right. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights, in partnership with Ipas and International Planned Parenthood Federation, is petitioning Samantha Power, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, to advocate for women’s reproductive and sexual rights as a UN priority in the post-2015 development agenda. The agenda seeks to define future global development after the UN Millennium Development Goals—a set of targets for eliminating extreme poverty around the world—expire in 2015.

The petition to Ambassador Power calls on her to encourage all world leaders to support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body.

The petition is timed to coincide with the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, which takes place September 28.

“Access to safe, legal abortion is an essential part of ensuring that all women and girls can make meaningful choices about their lives,” says Rebecca Brown, global advocacy director at the Center. “That's why it is so essential that sexual and reproductive rights are recognized in the UN's post-2015 agenda, which has the potential to transform billions of lives around the world.”

If women and girls are to achieve gender equality, they must have the ability to make the choices that most affect their lives, including when and whether to have children. By ensuring that women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are an integral part of the UN’s work with world governments in the coming years, we can transform reproductive rights commitments into reality and can help prevent catastrophes such as Manuela’s.

“The total criminalization of abortion in cases like El Salvador has a devastating impact on women’s right to health,” notes Monica Arango, the Center’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Many risk their lives in cases where the continuation of the pregnancy is a threat. Some die.”

Stand with us. Sign the petition—in honor of Manuela, in honor of the millions of women across the world who need access to safe abortions. Sign the petition to make sure their rights are no longer dismissed or denied.

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

When Abortion Is a Crime

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 14:43
When Abortion Is a Crime

09.22.14 - Manuela had a miscarriage. Then a far worse tragedy began.

In 2010, Manuela, a young mother from a rural area of El Salvador, died in prison two years into a 30-year sentence. Her crime? Not successfully carrying her third child to term.

Manuela (not her real name) was reported on suspicion of abortion by the physician from whom she had sought emergency care after experiencing a traumatic miscarriage—probably due to what doctors would later discover as late-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma. El Salvador has a total ban on abortion.

Unable to afford a lawyer, Manuela was swiftly and wrongfully convicted of murder. And she’s only one of hundreds of women in El Salvador who have been accused of the crime of abortion but convicted instead of homicide.

Not one more woman should have to suffer Manuela’s fate. Instead of allowing governments to treat pregnant women as criminals, we must ensure they are treated with the dignity and that they have access to the reproductive health care that is their human right. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights, in partnership with Ipas and International Planned Parenthood Federation, is petitioning Samantha Power, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, to advocate for women’s reproductive and sexual rights as a UN priority in the post-2015 development agenda. The agenda seeks to define future global development after the UN Millennium Development Goals—a set of targets for eliminating extreme poverty around the world—expire in 2015.

The petition to Ambassador Power calls on her to encourage all world leaders to support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body.

The petition is timed to coincide with the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, which takes place September 28.

“Access to safe, legal abortion is an essential part of ensuring that all women and girls can make meaningful choices about their lives,” says Rebecca Brown, global advocacy director at the Center. “That's why it is so essential that sexual and reproductive rights are recognized in the UN's post-2015 agenda, which has the potential to transform billions of lives around the world.”

If women and girls are to achieve gender equality, they must have the ability to make the choices that most affect their lives, including when and whether to have children. By ensuring that women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are an integral part of the UN’s work with world governments in the coming years, we can transform reproductive rights commitments into reality and can help prevent catastrophes such as Manuela’s.

“The total criminalization of abortion in cases like El Salvador has a devastating impact on women’s right to health,” notes Monica Arango, the Center’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Many risk their lives in cases where the continuation of the pregnancy is a threat. Some die.”

Stand with us. Sign the petition—in honor of Manuela, in honor of the millions of women across the world who need access to safe abortions. Sign the petition to make sure their rights are no longer dismissed or denied.

A Map of Progress

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:30
A Map of Progress Worldwide, abortion laws have been liberalizing over the last 20 years. And the momentum is only accelerating.

09.18.14 - In a country like the United States, where attacks on a woman’s right to abortion are frequent, it sometimes seems that reproductive rights are everywhere under siege. Extremist politicians across the U.S. have been increasingly introducing regulations that impose medically unnecessary and expensive requirements upon abortion clinics—all with the aim of shutting them down entirely.

But legal trends worldwide tell a different story.

A new report and interactive map from the Center for Reproductive Rights offer good news for supporters of reproductive rights: Worldwide, abortion laws have been liberalizing over the last 20 years. And that progress is accelerating.

Today, in 74 countries—that’s 60 percent of the world’s population—women can access abortion services without restriction as to reason, or on broad grounds such as socioeconomic concerns. Since 1994, thanks to the tireless efforts of reproductive rights advocates, 35 countries—from South Africa to Uruguay to Nepal—have expanded the grounds on which women can legally access abortion services.

“We have seen countries that once threw women and doctors in jail for obtaining and performing abortions reverse themselves entirely,” says Center president and CEO Nancy Northup. “Today, they recognize abortion as a fundamental right that their governments must protect and guarantee.”


The successes of the last 20 years may be traced back to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, where delegates from 179 countries formally recognized for the first time that reproductive rights are human rights. The resulting Programme of Action has enabled advocates worldwide to address unsafe abortion and promote abortion access as a human rights imperative.

Roughly 25 percent of the world’s population live in countries where abortion is prohibited altogether or only permitted where pregnancy poses a risk to the woman’s life. Fourteen percent reside in countries that permit abortion to preserve a woman’s health.

Countries that ban and criminalize abortion must take steps to remove these restrictions—women’s lives and health are at stake. As the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes, restrictive laws don’t reduce the number of women seeking abortion services. Rather, they drive women to risk their lives and health by undergoing clandestine, unsafe procedures. Nearly 50,000 women die from complications of unsafe abortions every year.

Of course, having more liberal laws on the books is not always the same thing as having access to abortion services. Obstacles to access can include cost or procedural barriers such as mandatory waiting periods, third-party consent and notification requirements, and limits on the range of options (such as restrictions on medical abortion). It’s critical that governments ensure that abortion services are accessible to all women.

The significance of the World’s Abortion Laws map, and the accompanying report Twenty Years of Reform, goes beyond documenting which governments respect a woman’s right to make decisions about her own reproductive life. “The legal status of abortion is a measure of women’s equality,” says Johanna B. Fine, deputy director of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It’s a key indicator of how a society treats women.”

Despite this progress, much remains to be done, particularly, as the map indicates, in the Global South. The strictest abortion laws are generally found in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean—with some notable exceptions including Uruguay, South Africa, and Zambia. This is where activists will increasingly be turning their energies in the coming years.

 

Visit the interactive World’s Abortion Laws map website, which also includes the full text of abortion laws and compares the legal status of abortion in countries across the globe.

 

The World's Abortion Laws Map Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform

New Report: Global Trend of Expanding Legal Abortion Services Continues

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 23:00
New Report: Global Trend of Expanding Legal Abortion Services Continues

09.18.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) More than 30 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 to improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reduced rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion—according to a new report released today by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform documents a clear global trend to expand access to safe and legal abortion services since the adoption of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action—an agreement made by 179 governments worldwide in 1994 to affirm reproductive rights as human rights and strengthen their commitment to women’s health and well-being by addressing unsafe abortion. Today’s 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.

Despite this trend, a handful of countries, including El Salvador and Japan, have taken steps to legally restrict abortion. The report also takes note of other burdensome restrictions on women’s access to abortion in countries like the United States—where abortion services are legal and constitutionally-protected, but more than 200 laws impeding women’s access to abortion have been enacted since 2011. 

Restrictive abortion laws across the globe result in 22 million unsafe abortions annually—killing nearly 50,000 women each year.

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

“Globally, the trend over the past two decades has been toward reducing restrictions on abortion and expanding woman’s access to safe, legal reproductive health care. But thousands of women are still dying from unsafe abortion each year—most in countries with harsh restrictions, or even outright bans, on legal abortion services.  

“Until access to the full range of reproductive health care is unequivocally supported by governments worldwide—including access to safe, legal abortion—women will not be able to participate in society with the fullest measure of equality, dignity, and autonomy.

“We call on the international community to join us in the fight to eliminate these restrictive abortion laws and ensure that access to safe and legal reproductive health care services is treated as every woman’s fundamental human right.”    

Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform provides an overview of international and regional human rights standards on abortion and identifies trends in abortion law reform within each of the world’s regions since 1994.

The ICPD Programme of Action has provided the framework for advocates worldwide to address unsafe abortion and promote abortion access as a human rights imperative. Since its adoption, 35 countries have expanded the grounds for legal abortion—evidence of the progress and uphill battle to secure recognition of women’s reproductive rights as human rights.  

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the ICPD Programme of Action, the Center also updated its World’s Abortion Laws map that visually compares the legal status of abortion across the globe.

Key highlights from the report include:

  • Africa: Thirteen countries, including South Africa, Kenya, and Rwanda, have eased legal restrictions on abortion, and no countries have tightened restrictions for legal abortion since 1994.
  • Asia: Seven countries, including Cambodia, Nepal, and Indonesia, have liberalized their abortion laws. Only Japan has imposed legal restrictions on abortion since 1994.
  • Europe: While the majority of countries in the region already permitted abortion on broad grounds, in 1994 5 countries, including Spain and Luxembourg, further liberalized their laws to permit abortion without restriction as to reason.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: Six countries have expanded the grounds under which abortion is legal, including Brazil, Colombia, Guyana and Uruguay. However, flouting the liberalizing trend, both El Salvador and Nicaragua amended their penal codes to ban abortion under all circumstances in 1998 and 2006 respectively. 
Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform

CRR on ABC’s This Week

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 10:55
CRR on ABC’s This Week

09.11.14 - Center for Reproductive Rights staff attorney, David Brown, appeared on ABC’s This Week in a feisty segment discussing the recent ruling out of Texas in which a federal judge deemed unconstitutional the new restrictions imposed by HB2. The Honorable Lee Yeakel stated in his decision that “the overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle” to women seeking abortions.   

Brown, who is part of the legal team challenging the Texas legislation, expressed confidence that the judge’s ruling will be upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, if and when they hear this case.

“We know that for the past 42 years the federal courts have consistently reaffirmed the rule laid down in Roe v. Wade that abortion is a fundamental right of women to choose,” he remarked.

Host Martha Raddatz spoke to both Brown and National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias. Tobias was dismissive of the federal judge’s assertion that the new restrictions—which would shutter the vast majority of Texas’s abortion clinics—place an undue burden on women in need of abortion services.

“It’s actually an undue burden . . . on the abortion facilities,” claimed Tobias.

The new restrictions require abortion clinics to meet hospital-level building and equipment standards. Anti-abortion groups claim that these new measures are intended to protect women, but as Raddatz pointed out in the news segment, both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology say that these standards are not needed for safety.

In his commentary, Brown affirmed that “the goal of this legislation is to shutter these clinics,” pointing out that the legislative director of Tobias’s own organization admitted several months ago that abortion is one of medicine’s safest procedures.

A rattled Tobias did acknowledge that the restrictions are not just about safety; they are also aimed at restricting access to abortion.

 

Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions

Missouri Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto, Triples Waiting Period for Women Seeking Safe and Legal Abortion Services

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 09:21
Missouri Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto, Triples Waiting Period for Women Seeking Safe, Legal Abortion Services Missouri joins Utah and South Dakota to become third state to force women to delay constitutionally protected health care for 72 hours

09.11.14 - The Missouri Legislature voted late last night to triple the state’s mandatory waiting period for women seeking abortion services from 24 to 72 hours, overriding Governor Jay Nixon’s July 2014 veto of the measure.  Missouri is one of the five states in the country with only one reproductive health care clinic that provides abortion care.

In his veto, Governor Nixon called HB 1307—which has no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest—an "extreme and disrespectful measure [which] would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women."

Twenty six states currently force a woman to endure a waiting period before accessing safe and legal abortion services. With this measure, Missouri joins Utah and South Dakota to become the third state with a 72-hour waiting period—the longest in the nation.

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

"The only purpose of a 72-hour waiting period is to attempt to punish, shame, and demean women who have arrived at a personal decision that politicians happen to disagree with.

"Every pregnant women faces her own unique circumstances, challenges, and potential complications, and the right to decide whether to continue or end a pregnancy is guaranteed by the Constitution to her, not politicians who presume to know better.

"The real shame of this law lies with the lawmakers who went to extraordinary lengths to add this latest insulting barrier to the many they have already placed between women and essential, constitutionally protected reproductive health care."

Waiting periods can create a variety of burdens on a woman needing to access abortion—from increasing shame to requiring additional trips to the clinic, which means additional travel time, costs, child care, and time off work. Additionally, extending the waiting period can lead a woman to delay the abortion to later into the pregnancy, which can increase the risks of the otherwise extremely safe procedure.

Missouri women already face steep obstacles to their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services, including the fact that only one abortion provider remains in the state. Missouri women are also subject to biased counselling laws, restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion services, and restrictions on telemedicine for medication abortion.

Philippine Department of Justice Fails to Include Grounds for Abortion in Draft Criminal Code

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 23:00
Philippine Department of Justice Fails to Include Grounds for Abortion in Draft Criminal Code

09.10.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) More than 50 representatives from human rights organizations, academia, and other civil society groups in the Philippines and abroad, have expressed frustration to Honorable Leila M. de Lima, Secretary at the Department of Justice, about the serious and widespread human rights violations against women resulting from the Philippines’ harsh criminal ban on abortion and the missed opportunity to address it in revisions to the country’s criminal code.

In a joint letter to Honorable Lima, activists and leading advocacy groups voiced their concern over the Department of Justice’s removal of proposed grounds for abortions in a public draft of the criminal code sent to Congress. The Committee, spearheaded by the Philippine Department of Justice, publicized the draft on August 19 which failed to include provisions on justified abortions that were in an earlier version of the proposed code.

The Philippines is one of only 29 countries in the world to completely ban abortion without clear legal exceptions. The criminalization of abortion in the Philippines contributes to the longstanding public health crisis of thousands of preventable maternal deaths each year and one of the highest rates of unsafe abortion in the world. Women who seek medical assistance for complications from unsafe abortion are routinely mistreated and denied proper care. Inclusion of grounds for abortion in the draft code could have given Congress an opportunity to discuss abortion law reform. The criminal code will be debated in Congress this year.

“Hundreds of women are hospitalized every day for complications from unsafe abortion, yet the government continues to turn a blind eye to the dire need for safe and legal abortion services,” said Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Criminalizing abortion puts women’s health and lives at grave risk, and subjects them to further abuse when seeking medical care. The Department of Justice has missed an opportunity to put an end to the human rights violations women are forced to suffer because of the country’s blanket abortion ban.”

The Philippine government’s extreme anti-reproductive health care policies criminalizing abortion and restricting access to modern contraception has contributed to the more than 1,500 women undergoing unsafe abortions every day, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The criminalization of abortion in the country has done nothing to decrease preventable maternal deaths, in fact more women are dying. From 2006-2010, the maternal mortality ratio jumped from 162 to 221 deaths per 100,000 live births. The Department of Justice had an historic opportunity to propose grounds for abortion, but by eliminating them from the draft code have precluded the possibility for a Congressional debate on the need for abortion law reform.   

In March 2014, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the country’s historic Reproductive Health Law that guarantees universal and free access to modern contraceptives for women. The law also mandates reproductive health education in government schools and recognizes a woman's right to post-abortion care as part of the right to reproductive healthcare.

While finally making progress on modern contraception, the Philippine government has regressed on abortion—failing to propose legal exceptions and more explicitly making attempted abortion a crime. This piecemeal approach will not result in improvements to women’s reproductive health and well-being in the long-term,” added Upreti. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights has built a significant presence throughout Asia, with major campaigns addressing issues ranging from maternal mortality in India to access to modern contraception in the Philippines. In the report Forsaken Lives, the Center has documented the impact of the criminal abortion ban in the Philippines and how unintended pregnancies have affected women’s lives.

File Upload:  de-lima-sign-on-letter-re-justified-abortion-provisions.pdf Forsaken Lives: Download Report

Leading Health and Human Rights Organizations Call for End to Unnecessary Restrictions that Harm Women’s Health Worldwide

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 23:00
Leading Health & Human Rights Organizations Call for End to Unnecessary Restrictions that Harm Women’s Health Worldwide Diverse Coalition of 80 Groups Calls on the Obama Administration to Allow U.S. Foreign Assistance for Safe Abortion Services

09.08.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) In a letter to President Obama, a broad-based coalition of leading domestic and global organizations spanning women’s rights, health, human rights, reproductive justice, young people, the LGBT community, faith, and development are calling for an end to the incorrect implementation of the Helms Amendment in order to save women’s lives and protect their well-being.

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.” For more than 40 years, the law has been incorrectly implemented as a complete ban on all abortion-related services. The letter urges swift action to allow support for abortion care for women who have been raped, who are victims of incest, or who face a life-endangering pregnancy in countries where those services are legally available.

“Women already face enormous obstacles to care,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “In reinterpreting the Helms Amendment, the Obama administration has an unprecedented opportunity to help women in desperate need around the world. President Obama must continue to be a champion for women’s health by providing clear guidance for U.S. foreign assistance programs that serve the poorest women, including refugees and others in vulnerable circumstances.”

“Women in developing countries should no longer be condemned to suffer or die because of this harmful policy and the way it has been applied – preventing health providers from serving the needs of their patients and leaving many women with no options for safe care,” added Elizabeth Maguire, president and CEO of Ipas, an international reproductive rights organization that helped mobilize support for the letter.

The current policy of the United States compounds the trauma of women who have been raped or face life-threatening pregnancies by unnecessarily denying them assistance in obtaining essential and potentially lifesaving care,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “President Obama has shown leadership previously in defending women’s rights and we hope he continues to do so by fixing the United States’ faulty and harmful implementation of the Helms Amendment.”

The letter provides further background on the groups’ concerns, stating that women 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.

File Upload:  Helms Amendment Coalition Letter

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