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A Pivotal Moment

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 14:56
A Pivotal Moment

10.30.14 - With the glittering New York City evening skyline as a backdrop, the Center for Reproductive Rights hosted its third annual benefit Gala on October 29 at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

More than 300 guests gathered to celebrate the Center’s accomplishments and affirm their support for the organization as it undertakes the formidable challenges ahead.

The mood at the event was especially celebratory, coming just weeks after the Center achieved a stunning victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, allowing 13 critical reproductive health care clinics in Texas to reopen.

The evening kicked off with a video offering a glimpse of the “pivotal moment” confronting advocates of women’s health and equality around the world today. From challenging forced pregnancy testing in Tanzania to defending the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, the film demonstrated how the Center is making a difference in real women’s lives.

The Gala honored two women of formidable global impact: The Hon. Louise Arbour, leader of some of the most significant international human rights efforts, from the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to the UN High Commission for Human Rights; and Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan and editorial director of Seventeen, two of the world’s most influential women’s magazines.

Arbour underlined the evening’s theme, describing the pivotal moment we face concerning women’s fundamental rights at the global level: “After years of expectations that real, substantive equality was achievable, we are witnessing a resurgence of attacks on women’s entitlement to reproductive health services, attacks that compromise our fundamental right to life, to liberty and to security.”

In the face of these threats, Arbour said, the Center has carried out “spectacular” work protecting rights before national courts and in international venues.

Arbour was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), lead sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a historic piece of legislation designed to guarantee every woman’s access to safe, legal abortion care without political interference.

Joanna Coles spoke about the crucial difference that reproductive freedom makes in a woman’s life: “Practically speaking, the single most important economic decision a woman will make is when she has her first child. If you get pregnant by mistake and you have your first child at 17, your life will turn out very differently than if you have your first child at 27 or 37.” 

Coles was introduced by Dr. Willie J. Parker, one of two physicians who travel to Mississippi to provide care at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the sole remaining clinic offering abortion services in that state. Parker is represented by the Center in the case challenging the state’s clinic shutdown law.

Other guests included Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, fashion designer Nanette Lepore, and actress Aida Turturro of the HBO TV series The Sopranos.

Staff circulated iPads on which guests could add their names to the more than 300,000 who have signed the Center’s pledge telling politicians: “My word is the last word on my reproductive health care.

The energy and momentum of the evening translated into nearly $1 million raised to continue the Center’s groundbreaking work improving and protecting every woman’s fundamental right to quality reproductive care, no matter where she lives.

Black Women’s Health: A Twitter Chat with SisterSong and Ebony

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 14:02
Black Women’s Health: A Twitter Chat with SisterSong and Ebony

10.30.14 - How do racial disparities in health care affect women of color? This week, Ebony magazine took on the complex topic by hosting a Twitter chat featuring Katrina Anderson, senior human rights counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.

Engaging a range of voices from across the Twittersphere, the chat probed issues of access barriers, poor-quality health services, the need for Medicaid expansion, and blatant racial bias from health providers.

Anderson and Simpson coauthored an article published by Ebony in conjunction with the chat. They write:

Alarmed and frustrated at the lack of national discussion about the issue of black women’s maternal health—and the status of black women’s health more generally—we decided to take the issue to the international stage where we could hold our government accountable for failing to take action to address discrimination in health care.

The Center and SisterSong testified jointly this summer in Geneva before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Their testimony focused on the disturbing disparity in maternal mortality rates in the United States, where black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. For black women living in the U.S. South—where poverty rates are high and many are uninsured—the mortality rates are even greater.

Spotlighting Racial Bias We Can Be Moved Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Health Care Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care

Abortion Ban Leads to Death Sentence for Kenyan Nurse

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 13:12
Abortion Ban Leads to Death Sentence for Kenyan Nurse

10.30.14 - As detailed in a piece this month from Mother Jones, Kenya has recently sentenced a licensed, registered nurse from Nairobi—Jackson Tali—to death after a teenaged girl suffering from a botched abortion sought his medical assistance and died in his care.

Tali’s high-stakes case has attracted attention worldwide. Currently, his death sentence is being challenged at Kenya’s Court of Appeal. The Center for Reproductive Rights is providing legal technical support for Tali’s lawyer as part of a committee during the appeals process.

Abortion is illegal in Kenya except under extreme circumstances—when necessary for “emergency treatment" as deemed by a "trained health professional," or when the woman's life is in danger.

Mother Jones reports that the pregnant woman, Christine Atieno, came to Tali in severe pain, bleeding from her uterus—possibly after attempting to procure an abortion elsewhere. Tali took her to his clinic to complete the abortion, but she began to bleed out and died in his car en route to the hospital.

It is unclear under Kenyan law if Atieno’s condition when she sought care from Tali constituted a medical emergency.

The horrors of this case are many—not the least of which is the fact that while the harshness of Tali’s death sentence is unusual, the young pregnant woman’s experience is not.

With limited access to contraception, more than four in ten pregnancies in Kenya are unintentional. And, due to the lack of access to legal abortion care in Kenya, unsafe abortions contribute to 2,400 maternal deaths each year.

Case Of Pregnant Woman Beaten And Denied Care At Local Hospital Brought To Kenyan High Court Kenya: The Worst Possible Treatment Piercing Review of Kenya’s Reproductive Health Services

Unhealthy Initiatives

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 11:18
Unhealthy Initiatives The Center for Reproductive Rights urges voters to reject anti-choice ballot measures in Colorado, North Dakota, and Tennessee.

10.29.14 - This Election Day, November 4, three states will be voting on ballot initiatives that would dangerously restrict access to legal abortion services. Here’s what’s at stake and what you can do.

Colorado

The Center for Reproductive Rights strongly opposes Amendment 67, which would amend the Colorado constitution to define a “person” to include “unborn human beings.” While the measure may be motivated by a sincere desire to protect pregnant women and punish those who harm their pregnancies, the result of it will be to ban abortions in Colorado with no exceptions. Amendment 67 could also ban many forms of contraception and assisted reproductive technologies, like in vitro fertilization. You don’t have to look further than Amendment 67’s most vocal supporters to learn the true intent of the measure—they are advocating for the complete obliteration of abortion rights in our country. 

There is no question that those who have injured a pregnant woman should be brought to justice and punished for harming or ending the pregnancy as well. But the best way to combat violence against pregnant women is to increase the penalties for the crime against the woman—not by eliminating women’s access to abortion, which is plainly unconstitutional and unquestionably harms women’s health. For these reasons, the Center strongly opposes Amendment 67 and encourages Colorado voters to vote No on this measure on November 4, 2014. For more information, visit Vote No 67 at www.voteno67.com.

North Dakota

The Center for Reproductive Rights strongly opposes Measure 1, which would dangerously restrict North Dakotans’ constitutional rights and access to reproductive health care. Measure 1 is a vaguely worded, permanent change to the State Constitution that would impact North Dakotans seeking a range of reproductive health care services including contraception, fertility assistance, and abortion. Measure 1 is designed by its backers to ban abortion in North Dakota for all women, including women whose pregnancies result from rape or incest or put their life or health at risk, and this measure extends far beyond access to abortion. Measure 1 also could ban access to common forms of birth control women and families rely on; make it impossible for couples to receive standard medical treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF); and limit a doctor’s ability to care for women with crisis conditions during pregnancy, putting women's lives and health at risk. Furthermore, the ballot measure would have real and far-reaching effects on end of life plans like living wills and do not resuscitate orders.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that constitutional rights do not extend to fetuses or embryos and that neither courts nor legislatures can ban abortion prior to fetal viability. In North Dakota, a state with only one abortion provider and a history of legislative attempts to curtail reproductive rights, it is crucial that North Dakotans vote “No” on Measure 1. The constitutional rights of North Dakota women should not be subject to debate at the ballot box. Voters should send a clear message that a woman’s private health care decisions should not be subject to government interference by rejecting Measure 1. For more information, visit North Dakotans Against Measure 1 at www.ndam1.org.

Tennessee

The Center for Reproductive Rights strongly opposes Amendment 1, which seeks to amend the Tennessee constitution to provide that “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” Amendment 1 is intended to reverse a Tennessee Supreme Court decision holding that the state constitution provides strong protections for a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. If approved, Tennessee would join only one other state whose constitution contains this extreme language. Contrary to proponents’ claims, Tennessee law contains many restrictions on abortion access, including a requirement that abortion providers have local hospital admitting privileges and other medically unnecessary targeted regulations of abortion providers, restrictions on the administration of medication abortion, parental involvement requirements for minors seeking abortion, and discriminatory bans on insurance coverage for abortion.

If approved, this measure would limit women’s privacy rights under the state constitution and further restrict women’s access to reproductive health care in the state. It is more important than ever to retain Tennessee’s strong constitutional right to abortion now, when access to safe abortion care is crumbling across the South. For these reasons, the Center strongly opposes this proposed amendment, and encourages Tennessee voters to vote No on Amendment 1 on November 4, 2014. For more information, visits www.voteno1tn.org.

Oklahoma Women At Risk of Losing Access to Non-Surgical Abortion on November 1

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 23:00
Oklahoma Women At Risk of Losing Access to Non-Surgical Abortion on November 1 District court fails to block unconstitutional law restricting medication abortion from taking effect Center for Reproductive Rights plans immediate appeal to state Supreme Court

10.29.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) A district court judge has refused to block Oklahoma’s unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion in an order issued this morning.  The Center for Reproductive Rights is planning an emergency appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to ensure 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 after November 1.

The district court judge had announced from the bench on October 22 that he intended to allow the law to take effect—today’s order makes that announcement final.

Late last month, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit 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 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.

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

 “This ruling endorses sham restrictions passed under false pretenses to deny doctors the ability to prescribe certain kinds of care and women a safe option when they have decided to end a pregnancy.

“Politicians have no more business playing doctor than they do intruding on our personal, private medical decisions. We now look to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to maintain women’s ability to get high-quality, compassionate care based on the expertise of the reproductive health care providers they trust, not the agendas of politicians who presume to know better.”

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.

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.

New Lawsuit Seeks to Block Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion in Oklahoma CRR Launches Legal Challenge to Oklahoma Law Restricting Abortion-Inducing Medication Nation’s Highest Court Dismisses Case Concerning Oklahoma’s Unconstitutional Medication Abortion Ban Oklahoma Supreme Court Confirms Unconstitutional State Law Acts as a Total Ban on All Medication Abortion NPR: Oklahoma Abortion Law 'Invasive,' Critics Say Cases:  Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, et al. v. Terry Cline, et al.

North Dakota’s Highest Court Upholds Unconstitutional Restrictions on Medication Abortion

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 23:00
North Dakota’s Highest Court Upholds Unconstitutional Restrictions on Medication Abortion Court ignores threats to women’s health and safety

10.28.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) North Dakota’s law severely restricting medication abortion—a non-surgical method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages—has been upheld by the state Supreme Court, allowing the regulations to go into effect immediately. 

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

“Today’s decision directly conflicts with courts across the U.S. that have rejected the idea that politicians have any place in the practice of medicine or in women’s deeply personal decisions about their pregnancies, their health, their families, and their future.

“The politicians pushing for these unconstitutional and downright dangerous restrictions have had only one goal in mind:  prevent North Dakota women—whom already face incredible obstacles to the severely limited reproductive health care services in their state—from exercising their legal right to abortion.

“We will continue to relentlessly defend the reproductive rights of all women, to expose the terrible harm that anti-choice laws like this cause in countless women’s lives, and to use the momentum we have built to seek stronger legal protections against these assaults on women’s health and safety.”

The Center for Reproductive Rightsalong with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Turman & Lang Ltdfiled a challenge in July 2011 to North Dakota’s unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion on behalf of Red River Women’s Clinic—the state’s only abortion clinic—arguing that the law denies women access to an alternative to surgical abortion widely recognized as safe and effective by medical experts and organizations worldwide.  Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with approximately one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy in the first nine weeks choosing this method.  The law unconstitutionally restricts medication abortion in such a way that that it possibly bans medication abortion altogether, or at best permits doctors to use it following an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol.  The law was temporarily blocked before it could take effect in July 2011, and was permanently blocked by a state district court in April 2013.

In 2013, the North Dakota Legislature enacted an additional five anti-women’s health care laws restricting access to abortion. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed lawsuits on behalf of the Red River Women’s Clinic challenging a ban on abortion as early as six weeks—which was permanently blocked in April 2014 by a federal district court judge—and a medically unnecessary requirement that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles—which has since been settled.

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found a similar ban in Arizona unconstitutional, calling the law “a burden on women’s access to abortion.”  And in November 2013, the US Supreme Court dismissed Oklahoma’s appeal of a state Supreme Court decision finding that the state’s ban on medication abortion was unconstitutional, allowing the law to remain permanently blocked. 

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 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.

Center Challenges New Abortion Restriction in North Dakota North Dakota Governor Signs the Nation’s Most Extreme Attack on Women’s Constitutional Rights into Law Center for Reproductive Rights Takes Legal Action Against North Dakota Law Aimed at Closing State's Only Abortion Clinic Judge Temporarily Blocks Enforcement of North Dakota Medication Abortion Ban State Judge Announces Intention to Permanently Strike North Dakota’s Restrictions on Medication Abortion as Unconstitutional Federal Court Permanently Blocks Most Extreme Abortion Ban in the Country State Judge Blocks ND Law Designed to Close Only Abortion Clinic in the State 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Protects Arizona Women’s Access to Non-Surgical Abortion Nation’s Highest Court Dismisses Case Concerning Oklahoma’s Unconstitutional Medication Abortion Ban

Oklahoma Judge Greenlights Unconstitutional Clinic Shutdown Law

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 23:00
Oklahoma Judge Greenlights Unconstitutional Clinic Shutdown Law State court fails to block unconstitutional restrictions targeting abortion providers, Center for Reproductive Rights plans immediate appeal to state Supreme Court

10.24.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) A state district court judge failed today to block an unconstitutional Oklahoma abortion clinic shutdown law similar to others that have devastated access to safe, legal abortion services across the region. The Center for Reproductive Rights—who filed a legal challenge against the measure earlier this month—is planning an emergency appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to ensure that the physician providing nearly half of the abortion services in the state can continue providing safe and legal care.

Senate Bill 1848—which is scheduled to take effect on November 1— was signed by Governor Mary Fallin in May and forces reproductive health care clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital on-site when abortion procedures are performed.

Admitting privileges requirements like Oklahoma’s are opposed by national and state medical groups and have devastated access to abortion services throughout the South.  Scores of clinics have been forced to close in Texas, with clinics in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama hanging on by a court order.  Admitting privileges are not necessary for the treatment of the fewer than 1 percent of abortion patients who experience complications requiring hospital treatment and they can also be impossible to satisfy because some hospitals deny admitting privileges to abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.

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

“Today’s ruling rubberstamps the false pretenses of Oklahoma politicians attempting to insert themselves into women’s personal, private decisions in which they have no business.

 “If allowed to take effect, access to safe legal abortion in Oklahoma will be drastically reduced on November 1.

“This copycat clinic shutdown law would put Oklahoma among the ranks of several states in the region that have endangered women’s health and safety by eliminating critical services for those who have made the decision to end a pregnancy.

 “We will take every legal step necessary to ensure this law never takes effect, and now look to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to step in and immediately protect women’s rights and access to safe, legal abortion.”

Ilene Jaroslaw, Janet Crepps, and Genevieve Scott of the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Blake Patton of Walding & Patton and Martha Hardwick of Hardwick Law Office, represent Larry A. Burns, D.O. in this challenge—a physician with over 41 years of experience providing safe abortion care in Norman, Oklahoma.  To date, Dr. Burns has been unable to obtain privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of his office, with many hospitals even refusing to process his application.  Dr. Burns provides abortions at one of only three clinics in the state and provides nearly half of abortion services for Oklahoma women.

With this law, Oklahoma joined the ranks of other states that have attempted to use admitting privileges requirements as an underhanded way to shutter high-quality clinics and severely limit women’s access to abortion services.  Women’s health care providers and advocates are currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement which has already closed health centers across the state while the last clinic in Mississippi is fighting to keep its doors open.  Louisiana clinics are also challenging a similar law which could shutter the majority of their clinics.  A similar law in Alabama was recently found unconstitutional and Wisconsin’s admitting privileges requirement has been preliminarily blocked.

Major medical groups oppose laws like Oklahoma’s that require hospital admitting privileges for physicians providing abortion services.  In an amicus brief filed in the challenge to Texas’ admitting privileges requirement, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) write that the law “jeopardizes women’s health,” and does “nothing to protect the health of women.”  Medical experts confirm that legal abortion in the U.S. is extremely safe, with fewer than 1% of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.  The Oklahoma State Medical Association opposed Senate Bill 1848 because it “would result in the Legislature and unelected bureaucrats at the Department of Health interfering in the physician/patient relationship and crafting more burdensome regulations that . . . may not reflect medical science or the best interest of the patient.”

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Oklahoma from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

New Lawsuit Challenges Unconstitutional Oklahoma Abortion Restrictions Oklahoma Governor Fallin Signs Law Designed to Shutter Reproductive Health Clinics Full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Refuses to Consider Texas Law Shuttering Abortion Clinics Statewide, Leaving Women without Safe, Legal Health Care Options Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling New Lawsuit Seeks to Block Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion in Oklahoma Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer Fifth Circuit Court Continues to Block Mississippi Anti-Abortion Regulation, State’s Only Clinic to Remain Open While Legal Battle Continues

We Can Be Moved

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 10:08
We Can Be Moved From Ferguson to Geneva in search of reproductive justice.

10.22.14 - Mid-August 2014: the town of Ferguson, Missouri—along with much of the country—reels in the aftermath of the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

Meanwhile, half a world away in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has just convened to assess U.S. progress in addressing discrimination in policy and practice.

Sabrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and Ron Davis, the father of Jordan Davis, are part of the delegation from civil society. Both have come to testify about the role of race in the shooting deaths of their unarmed black teenage sons.

As the news out of Ferguson filters into Geneva’s staid UN buildings, the mood grows increasingly emotional, increasingly intense. The importance of CERD has rarely been clearer.

“Sometimes our system in the United States can feel unmovable,” says Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, who joined the Center for Reproductive Rights at this year’s CERD meeting to discuss how racial discrimination interferes with women’s fundamental human right to health.

“Watching our government being held accountable dramatically shifted my perspective. We—our system—can be moved,” says Simpson. “I had a really different reaction to Ferguson than I’d had at home to the murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. With those, I was ready to march, to get on the ground. But being in Geneva, I found myself thinking more strategically, asking how to move this crucial conversation to the international stage.”

Black women are nearly four times more likely to die from childbirth complications than are their white counterparts, according to a report the Center submitted to CERD. For black women living in the American South—where poverty rates are high and many are uninsured—the disparity is even greater. In some rural, predominantly black counties, maternal mortality rates are higher than rates in sub-Saharan Africa.  

Weeks after the meeting, CERD issued concluding observations of their review of the United States. The Committee expressed concern about the widening racial disparities in reproductive health, citing the high maternal mortality rates among black women.

CERD recommended that, in addition to ensuring adequate coverage and affordable care for all, the U.S. take concrete steps to “eliminate racial disparities in the field of sexual and reproductive health.” These steps include standardizing data collection on maternal and infant mortality across states in order to effectively identify the causes of disparities, and improving monitoring and accountability mechanisms for preventable maternal mortality.

“It is an extraordinary thing for a respected international human rights body to say to the U.S. government: ‘The sky-high rate of maternal mortality in black women is not only disgraceful, it is discrimination, and we are going to hold you accountable for this human rights violation.’ In essence, CERD echoed what reproductive justice advocates have been saying for years—barriers to access are important but are only part of the problem,” says the Center’s senior human rights counsel Katrina Anderson, who represented the Center at the review.

Reproductive justice is a human rights concept that considers reproductive rights through a broader framework than traditional reproductive rights advocacy. It’s not just about a woman’s ability to decide when or if to have a child, but also about the context into which that child is born.

In addition to ensuring access to contraception and safe abortion, reproductive justice also focuses on governments’ obligation to address the social, political, and economic inequalities impacting different communities, particularly women of color. As founding executive director of SisterSong Loretta Ross has articulated, reproductive justice is about ensuring the social supports and conditions that allow all families to thrive.

The right to parent in a safe and healthy environment is integral to this obligation.

Many women of color who choose to have children have no choice but to bring them into a hostile context. The high cost of health care, poor access to providers for women who depend on publicly financed care, a lack of prenatal care, and inadequate maternal and postnatal care all increase the risk of negative health outcomes for the woman and her child. Precarious financial situations and a lack of paid parental leave mean that new mothers are often forced to return to work before they are ready.

Add this to the fear that black parents feel when confronted with discriminatory police practices such as racially biased drug laws and racial profiling. Then, the terror facing the parents of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown, and countless other unarmed black youth targeted simply for walking down the street—due to preconceptions of them as “scary.”

It is nearly impossible for a woman to feel control over her reproductive choices when the environment she brings her child into is systemically stacked against her.

It is through this lens that the events of Ferguson melted away the odd disconnect of discussing race in America in a European capital with an Alpine view. Delegates, advocates, and Committee members alike felt the immediacy and complexity of racial discrimination, and the pressing work that remains to be done.

Spotlighting Racial Bias Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Health Care

MSNBC: Northup Responds to “Extraordinary” Supreme Court Ruling

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:02
MSNBC: Northup Responds to “Extraordinary” Supreme Court Ruling

10.15.14 - Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup spoke to Rachel Maddow last night directly after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling granting the Center’s emergency petition to reopen 13 Texas abortion clinics that had been forced to close by court order two weeks ago.

Although this ruling is temporary—the case now will return to the lower court for further review—the decision marks a potentially significant shift in the Court’s attitude toward abortion rights.

“Six members of this court thought it was important to take this unusual step,” noted Northup. “It’s a better day.”

Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State 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 Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

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

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 18:18
Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling Nation’s Highest Court Reinstates Injunction Blocking Texas Law that Shuttered Nearly All Abortion Clinics in the State 10.14.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) In a 6-3 order, the U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated an injunction blocking a far-reaching Texas law that had forced all but eight reproductive health care clinics in the state to close their doors.  Today’s ruling allows clinics previously shuttered to reopen their doors and offer abortion services while the case is heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.   Said Nancy Northuppresident and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights: “The U.S. Supreme Court gave Texas women a tremendous victory today. Tomorrow, thirteen clinics across the state will be allowed to reopen and provide women with safe and legal abortion care in their own communities.   “This fight against Texas’ sham abortion law is not over. HB2 was designed to gut the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade and half of the state’s clinics remain closed. We will continue this legal battle until the rights of Texas women are restored.”   Today’s order from the U.S. Supreme Court is in response to reproductive health care providers' emergency application filed on October 6. A panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit will now hear the case’s appeal.   The Fifth Circuit’s ruling on October 2 immediately allowed the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as hospital-style surgery centers to go into effect immediately—a provision that amounts to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and has closed more than a dozen of the state’s remaining providers.   The ruling also stayed the district court’s injunction against the admitting privileges requirement as it applied to two of the state’s hardest-hit communities in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas.   This is the Center for Reproductive Rights’ second challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation that was passed last summer.  The first suit—filed in September 2014—challenged the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. These provisions were ultimately upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and led to the closure of about 20 of the states more than 40 abortion clinics that existed before HB2 was passed last summer. The plaintiffs requested the full appeals court rehear the case, which the Fifth Circuit denied last week.   The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti, Esha Bhandari, and David Brown of the Center for Reproductive Rights, J. Alexander Lawrence of the law firm Morrison & Foerster, and Austin attorneys Jan Soifer and Patrick O’Connell of the law firm O’Connell & Soifer.   Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2 Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposehospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services. Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with less than 1 percent of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.  ACOG also opposes the imposition of medically unnecessary facility requirements on abortion providers.   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 Texas 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.  Elected officials in two Texas cities—Austin and Houston—have called for the repeal of HB2 and the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act. Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight for Abortion Access to U.S. Supreme Court Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State 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 Texas Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Austin City Council Members Speak Out in Support of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Call for Repeal of Texas HB2 Houston Mayor and City Council Members Call for Passage of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Repeal of Texas HB2 Cases:  Whole Woman's Health v. Lakey

Preventing Maternal Death

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 10:46
Preventing Maternal Death In the vast majority of cases, maternal mortality is completely preventable. Why are 800 women a day still dying from pregnancy complications?

10.10.14 - Maureen, a maternal health advocate in Uganda, remembers losing her cousin—a young woman in her first year of university. During a secret abortion performed in haste, her intestines were accidentally pierced. She later developed diarrhea and intense stomach pain, but so great was her fear of being condemned for having the abortion, she did not tell anyone, even as her condition deteriorated.

Maureen’s cousin died after two unsuccessful surgeries, having informed the medical staff too late that she’d received an unsafe abortion.

Each year, nearly 300,000 women across the world die from pregnancy complications—including hemorrhaging, infections, and unsafe abortions. But it is not simply bad luck or a fact of life. In 90 percent of maternal mortality cases today, death is completely preventable.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and our partners have worked unrelentingly in courts and human rights bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), to promote the view that preventable maternal mortality and morbidity is a human rights violation that governments must take measures to address.

These efforts have drawn global attention to the widespread discrimination and quality disparities in maternal health care and have played an integral role in the worldwide reduction of maternal deaths by 45 percent since 1990.

Since 2009, the UNHRC has passed five resolutions on preventable maternal death, each one moving incrementally toward implementing and enforcing human rights-based policies among member states. As a result of these resolutions, in 2012 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights devised technical guidance on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, which provides law and policymakers with the tools they need to guarantee women quality maternal health care in compliance with their international human rights obligations.  At the end of September, the Council passed it most recent resolution, calling on governments to implement the technical guidance and address the role that discrimination against women plays in the maternal mortalities.

“This latest resolution resoundingly affirms that states must adopt and implement concrete policies to improve maternal health,” says the Center’s global advocacy director, Rebecca Brown.

At the recent UNHRC session, Brown spoke at a side event that explored the role abortion stigma plays in women’s rights violations, including in reinforcing gender based stereotypes around motherhood and reproduction, and endangering women’s health and lives. The World Health Organization has repeatedly recognized the connection between restrictive abortion laws and elevated rates of maternal mortality. The technical guidance firmly recognizes that, in order to reduce maternal mortality rates, states must enable women to exercise their human rights, including by addressing the social determinants of health and guarantee women meaningful participation in the formulation of laws and policies surrounding their reproductive health. 

“States must take measures to address the multiple, intersecting causes of maternal mortality by enabling women to seek timely maternal health services, as well as elevating the status of women in society and guaranteeing their reproductive autonomy.”

Tackling maternal mortality means addressing root causes of these deaths which range broadly from inadequate transportation to poor maternal health care to cultural stigmas and racial biases. Too often, maternal mortality rates are directly linked to a woman’s social, economic, and cultural status.    

Generating a shift in international attitudes and perceptions of maternal death has been no small task. To document and highlight this historic shift, the Center has released a publication titled From Risk to Rights: Realizing States’ Obligations to Prevent and Address Maternal Mortality.

The publication, released during the UN Human Rights Council’s September session, examines the process by which maternal mortality and morbidity became recognized as a fundamental human rights violation and details many of the concrete measures implemented to realize the right to safe pregnancy and childbirth. It also provides a timeline of landmark events and recommendations for future action.

“Our efforts over the last 25 years have proven that we are capable of eradicating preventable maternal deaths, but we have a lot more work to do,” notes Brown.

“Maternal deaths still claim the lives of 800 women and girls every day. 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 affordable access to quality maternal care and the full range of their sexual and reproductive rights are recognized in law and policy.”

This involves guaranteeing access to the full range of comprehensive reproductive health information and services, including comprehensive sexuality education, contraception, safe abortion, and post-abortion care on a basis of non-discrimination, without violence or coercion. Such services are particularly critical for women from marginalized communities—even in developed countries such as the United States and Australia—who remain at the greatest risk for pregnancy-related deaths and illnesses.

Spotlighting Racial Bias Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Health Care Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care

What Happens Without Legal Abortion?

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 12:06
What Happens Without Legal Abortion?

10.09.14 - Center president and CEO Nancy Northup reflects on the consequences of abortion bans across the world in a thought-provoking MSNBC editorial this week.

Northup contextualizes the importance of the global movement to liberalize abortion policy over the last 20 years. A new map from the Center shows that 35 countries worldwide have expanded or legalized abortion services in that period, creating a safer and healthier environment for women.  In countries where abortion is legal and accessible, pregnancy-related death rates are far lower due to fewer women being forced to resort to unsafe abortions.    

However, in countries such as El Salvador, where abortion restrictions remain harsh, the consequences are terrifyingly clear. “Restrictive abortion laws result in 22 million clandestine, unsafe abortions annually—killing nearly 50,000 women each year,” Northup says.

In addition to the interactive 2014 World Abortion Laws Map, the Center has released a report, Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform, tracking the efforts of advocates, lawyers, public health researchers, and government leaders to reform harmful abortion policies across the globe.  

Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

Full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Refuses to Consider Texas Law Shuttering Abortion Clinics Statewide, Leaving Women without Safe, Legal Health Care Options

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 23:00
Full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Refuses to Consider Texas Law Shuttering Abortion Clinics Statewide Women’s Health Care Providers, Advocates Considering Options as Law Remains in Effect

10.09.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has refused to reconsider the constitutionality of two provisions of Texas’ HB2, a measure that has shuttered abortion providing clinics statewide.

In declining to re-hear the case, the court has let stand the provision of HB2 that forces doctors who provide abortion care to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, a requirement that was upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit earlier this year.  In a scathing dissent, Judge James L. Dennis notes “the panel’s sham undue burden test will continue to exert its precedential force in courts’ review of challenges to similar types of recently minted abortion restrictions in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.”    He also blasts the court for failing to fulfill “its duty to correct the panel’s perversion of the undue burden standard,” writing that laws like Texas’ “will be given only a modicum of scrutiny, essentially giving states carte blanche with respect to the regulation of the right to an abortion.”

The court also let stand a provision in HB2 that forces physicians providing medication abortion to go against years of research and their professional experience by following an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol— even for those women who are unable to undergo a surgical procedure due to an increased risk to their health.

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

“Texas now stands at the epicenter of a national health care crisis brought on by politicians who have all but eliminated access to safe and legal abortion care for countless women, leaving many with only unsafe and unregulated options that may very well threaten their lives.   

“These politicians have turned the reproductive health care system across huge expanses of the U.S. into a tattered patchwork. Women’s constitutional rights and access to safe, legal abortion care now differ wildly depending on their zip code.

“This is a threat to the well-being of millions of women, and an affront to the promise of equal rights and legal protection for all Americans. It is increasingly clear that either the Supreme Court or Congress needs to step in to protect the rights of women across the nation from this relentless assault on their dignity, health and rights.

More than a dozen women’s health care providers who jointly filed suit in September 2013 on behalf of their patients are currently considering all available options to restore access to safe and legal abortion services to the women of Texas.

This is the first challenge to Texas’ HB2; the second lawsuit—which challenges the admitting privileges requirement as applied to two of the hardest hit communities in the state and HB2’s onerous ambulatory surgical center requirements—is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court on a request to reinstate the district court’s injunction after a ruling from a panel of the Fifth Circuit on October 2 which shuttered all but eight clinics in the state.

Texas’ admitting privileges requirement was initially struck down, but then took effect on October 31, 2013, after a three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit granted the State’s motion to stay the lower court’s injunction.  In March 2014, another three-judge panel of the Court upheld both the admitting privileges requirement and the restrictions on medication abortion.  The providers then requested the full Fifth Circuit review the constitutionality of the admitting privileges requirement and the lack of health exception in the restrictions on medication abortion.

Both restrictions are opposed by both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). In an amicus brief filed in the case, the organizations wrote that the law “jeopardizes women’s health in Texas” and does “nothing to protect the health of women.”  Admitting privileges provide no increased benefits for the fewer than 1 percent of abortion patients who experience complications. Furthermore, privileges can often be impossible to obtain due to individual hospital policies or for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, was filed on behalf of the Texas reproductive health care providers by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Texas law firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.

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 Texas 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.

“The Women’s Health Protection Act would ensure that politicians could not single out reproductive health care providers with a litany of regulations designed purely to drive them out of practice and roll back our constitutional rights,” said Northup.  “We call on elected officials across the U.S. to demonstrate their commitment to women rights, health, and well-being by urging Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

Fifth Circuit Ruling Deepens Health Crisis Facing Texas Women by Continuing to Deny Texas Women Safe, Legal Abortion Services Texas Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight Against Unconstitutional Law to U.S. Supreme Court Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer One-Third of Texas Women Will Soon Lack Access to Safe, Legal Abortion Following Appellate Court Ruling Cases:  Planned Parenthood et al. v. Abbott

Denunciando a El Salvador frente al mundo

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 23:00
Denunciando a El Salvador frente al mundo Manuela-new-thumb.jpg

08.10.14 - En el 2010, Manuela, una joven madre de una área rural de El Salvador se murió encarcelada mientras cumplía una codena a 30 años en prisión. Ella fue denunciada por sospechas de haber tenido un aborto, cuando busco asistencia médica por haber sufrido una emergencia obstétrica y perdido a su bebe. Como cientos de mujeres, ella fue víctima de la ley  que criminaliza de forma absoluta el aborto en El Salvador. Conoce su historia.

La Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) afirma que las restricciones del access al aborto es una forma de violencia contra las mujeres; hace un llamado a los Estados Miembros para despenalizar el aborto

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 23:00
La Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) afirma que las restricciones del access al aborto es una forma de violencia

08.10.14 - (COMUNICADO DE PRENSA) Por primera vez, la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) recomendó a todos los Estados Miembros despenalizar el aborto en los casos de violencia sexual e incesto, cuando la salud o vida de la mujer estén en peligro y en los casos en que haya una inviabilidad del feto.

El Comité de la OEA  (MESECVI) que trabaja por la implementación de la Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer (Convención Belém do Pará), hizo un llamado a los Estados Miembros para reconocer la violencia contra la mujer como una forma de discriminación basada en género. El Comité solicitó a los Estados Miembros condenar todas las formas de violencia contra la mujer, incluyendo las formas relacionadas con el derecho a la salud reproductiva y el acceso gratuito a servicios médicos para las víctimas de violencia sexual.

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

“La negación del acceso al aborto en condiciones seguras y legales para las mujeres que necesitan interrumpir su embarazo constituye un acto de violencia. Por lo tanto, resulta una medida bastante progresista el hecho de que un  órgano parte de la Organización de los Estados Americanos haga este reconocimiento.”

“Las mujeres a quienes se les niega este servicio esencial de salud enfrentan serios riesgos en la vida y la familia, al verse obligadas a acceder a procedimientos abortivos ilegales e inseguros,”

“Es irrefutable que esta denegación constituye una violación de los derechos fundamentales de las mujeres,”

“Felicitamos las voces progresistas dentro de la OEA por reconocer que el aborto no es un delito y que los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las mujeres deben ser respetados y protegidos. Seguiremos trabajando para responsabilizar a los Estados ante organismos de derechos humanos para que cumplan con sus obligaciones internacionales de garantizar y proteger el acceso legal y seguro a los servicios de salud reproductiva, como un asunto de derechos humanos en las Américas.”

La Declaración sobre la Violencia contra las Mujeres, Niñas y Adolescentes y sus Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, aprobada por la OEA esta semana, reconoce específicamente que “la violencia contra las mujeres es una forma de discriminación que inhibe gravemente la capacidad de la mujer de gozar de sus derechos y libertades en pie de igualdad con el hombre.” En la Declaración, el Comité reconoce que la discriminación de género y los estereotipos culturales son obstáculos que impiden el ejercicio de los derechos humanos de las mujeres y niñas, incluyendo el acceso a cuidados médicos y recursos legales cuando son sometidas a distintas formas de violencia sexual.   

El MESECVI parte de la OEA le hace seguimiento a la “Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia Contra la Mujer (Convención de Belém do Pará). La Convención de Belém do Pará, la cual entro en vigor en 1995, define la violencia contra las mujeres en términos amplios y establece las obligaciones de los Estados para prevenir, investigar y castigar las violaciones contra la integridad física, sexual y psicológica; al igual que otros derechos relacionados con la finalidad de eliminar la violencia contra las mujeres. La Declaración resulta una amplia herramienta para promover la incidencia y el litigio de casos en cada país.

El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos ha declarado en contra de la violencia derivada de los abusos a los derechos sexuales y reproductivos. En Septiembre de este año, el Centro testificó junto con diversos activistas y defensoras y defensores de la salud reproductiva y los derechos reproductivos ante el Comité durante el proceso de revisión de la Declaración. A su vez, a principios de este año, el Centro realizó una audiencia pública ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), sobre los asuntos relacionados con temas de violencia, discriminación y violaciones a los derechos reproductivos en la República Dominicana. 

De acuerdo con un nuevo informe del Centro, 35 países han cambiado sus leyes para expandir el acceso a servicios de aborto seguro y legal en los últimos 20 años. Una tendencia que ha marcado un amplio progreso para mejorar las vidas y los derechos de las mujeres, y que ha generado una reducción significativa en la mortalidad materna debido a los abortos inseguros. El informe fue publicado en conjunto con el nuevo mapa del Centro de las Leyes sobre Aborto en el Mundo, una de las herramientas más comprensivas sobre la situación legal del aborto alrededor del mundo.

Nancy Northup on MSNBC: Fighting for Abortion Access, All the Way to Supreme Court

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 15:51
Nancy Northup on MSNBC: Fighting for Abortion Access, All the Way to Supreme Court

10.07.14 - What’s next in the fight against the Texas legislation that has forced a historically unparalleled reduction of abortion services? Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup appeared last night on the Rachel Maddow Show to talk about it.

“What we saw last Thursday with the decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is unprecedented,” says Northup. “We have never seen the effect of a law like you see in Texas where you lose 80% of the clinics in a state.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed an emergency petition with the United States Supreme Court asking that the court take immediate action to put the Texas laws on hold.

Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State 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 Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

CEDAW Committee holds India Accountable for Failure to Prevent and Prosecute Cases of Child Marriage, and Ensure Access to Reproductive Health Services

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 15:37
CEDAW Committee holds India Accountable for Failure to Prevent and Prosecute Cases of Child Marriage

10.07.14 - The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) recently criticized India for failing to address human rights violations, associated with child marriage and high rates of maternal death resulting from lack of access to modern contraceptives and safe abortion services.  

During its 58th session in July, the CEDAW Committee reviewed India’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and issued Concluding Observations urging stronger action to eliminate child marriage and protect women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights.

Child marriage

The Committee expressed concern around the continued prevalence of early and forced marriage, despite the introduction of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006, and urged the government “to strengthen efforts to raise awareness about the prohibition of child marriage… and to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish cases of forced and early marriage.”

The Committee further expressed concern around the multiple legal systems governing marriage and family relations based on religious norms. These legal systems accommodate the religious and cultural differences in India’s pluralistic society, but are frequently discriminatory against women and girls, and often prevent the government from interfering in cases of child marriage as they establish their own age of marriage, legal status for marriages conducted before the age of 18, and penalties for child marriage. Echoing their Concluding Observations from India’s last review in 2007, the Committee urged the government to ensure “that all laws on marriage and family relations governing the various religious groups… are in full compliance with articles 15 and 16 of the Convention.”

The Center’s new fact sheet on Child Marriage and Personal Laws in South Asia further details how religion-based personal status laws are among the greatest barriers to ending child marriage practices in India.

Maternal health

The Committee noted the persistently high rate of maternal mortality in some states, along with the high rates of death resulting from unsafe abortion and lack of access to safe abortion. The Committee expressed concern specifically around the disparities in maternal health outcomes between urban and rural areas, and the limited availability of modern contraceptive methods. The Committee urged the government to “provide women with access to high-quality and safe abortion services… and to increase access to and use of effective and affordable methods of contraception.”

The Committee’s concerns echo the claims brought against the government of Chhattisgarh in the case of NAMHHR v. State of Chhattisgarh, which was filed in June of 2014 under the Center’s SARJAI initiative. The case argues that women in the state of Chhatisgarh (which has among the highest levels of maternal mortality in India), are effectively denied access to safe and legal abortion by the state’s failure to implement existing laws guaranteeing provision of comprehensive reproductive healthcare, and calls on the state to implement the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, which legalized abortion in India in 1971.

Marital rape

Finally, the Committee urged the government to establish a legal framework to more effectively prevent and respond to violence against women by amending the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act to ensure that marital rape is defined as a criminal offense. Widening the definition or rape would allow the Penal Code to more accurately reflect the realities of sexual abuse experienced by women and girls.

We urge the government of India to take these recommendations seriously and more effectively implement policies that will vastly improve the lives and health of girls and women.

The full Concluding Observations from the CEDAW Committee can be found here.

Fact Sheet: Accountability for Child Marriage Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity

CRC Committee Holds India Accountable for Failing to Eliminate Child Marriage and Ensure Access to Reproductive Health Services and Autonomy for Girls

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 15:34
CRC Committee Holds India Accountable for Failing to Eliminate Child Marriage

10.07.14 - The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) recently criticized India for a wide range of human rights violations, resulting from the persistence of child marriage and girls’ lack of access to contraceptive information and services and autonomy.

During its 66th session in May and June, the CRC Committee reviewed India’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and issued Concluding Observations urging the government to address its discriminatory religion-based personal laws and protect women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights.

Child Marriage

The Committee expressed concern about the high prevalence of child marriage, despite the enactment of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) in 2006. The committee specifically referred to the following as the main barriers to the full implementation of the PCMA: 

  • The prevalence of social norms and traditions over the law;
  • the existence of different personal laws establishing different minimum ages of marriage in different religious communities, and
  • the lack of awareness about the PCMA by enforcement officers. 

To combat these barriers, the Committee recommended that the government “ensure the effective implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act … including by clarifying that the PCMA supersede the different religious-based Personal Status Laws.”  

The Center’s new fact sheet on Child Marriage and Personal Laws in South Asia further details how religion-based personal status laws are among the greatest barriers to ending child marriage practices in India.

The Committee recommended that the state also conduct “awareness-raising programmes and campaigns with a view to changing attitudes, as well as counselling and reproductive education, to prevent and combat child marriages.”

Access to reproductive health services and greater autonomy for adolescents

While the Committee acknowledged the government’s adoption of a strategy on adolescent reproductive and sexual health, it expressed concern around the lack of information with respect to the strategy’s implementation and its demonstrated impact on the health and life of adolescents across the country. The Committee also expressed concern around the lack of access to reproductive health information and services, including modern contraceptives and the consequent rate of teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

The Committee recommended that the government “[t]ake measures to ensure that adolescent girls and boys have effective access to confidential sexual and reproductive health information and services such as modern contraception as well as girls’ access to legal abortions in practice.” Among these measures should be the inclusion of a sexual and reproductive health education as a mandatory school curriculum, “with special attention on preventing early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections…”

The Committee further recommended that the state “guarantee that the views of pregnant teenagers are always heard and respected in abortion decisions.”

Sexual abuse and marital rape

The Committee noted the non-criminalization of sexual abuse if committed against married girls over the age of 15, and recommended that “all forms of sexual abuse of girls under 18 years of age, including marital rape, are fully criminalized.”

The committee further recommended awareness-raising and education programs, mechanisms to ensure mandatory reporting of sexual abuse, and necessary measures to counter reports of “widespread violence, abuse, including sexual abuse, and neglect of children in the State part.”

We urge the government of India to take these recommendations seriously and more effectively implement policies that will vastly improve the lives and health of girls.

The full Concluding Observations from the CRC Committee can be found here.

Fact Sheet: Accountability for Child Marriage Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity

Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 13:46
Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

10.06.14 - The morning after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction, shuttering all but eight of Texas’s abortion clinics overnight, Nancy Northup appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes to discuss the devastating impact the closures will have on the women of Texas.

Under the pretext of women’s health and safety, Texas HB2 imposes a sweeping array of excessive and medically unnecessary regulations that has led to an 80% reduction of clinics providing abortion services for, as Northup notes, “no good reason.” The closures essentially strip Texas women of the promises of Roe v. Wade through backdoor tactics.

“If you closed 80% of the polling booths in Texas, you would not say you still had the right to vote," noted Northup during the show.

Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Seven Abortion Clinics in the Entire State 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

Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight for Abortion Access to U.S. Supreme Court

Sun, 10/05/2014 - 23:00
Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight for Abortion Access to U.S. Supreme Court Texas women facing devastating loss of constitutionally protected health care

10.06.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Following a decision Thursday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed the immediate enforcement of a far-reaching and extreme Texas law that has left no more than eight clinics left standing in the entire state—women’s health care providers have taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Today the women’s health care providers—represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights—filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on August 29 permanently blocking the provisions of Texas’s HB2 that that now has nearly one million Texas women facing a minimum of a 300 mile roundtrip to access their constitutional right to an abortion. 

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

“There can be no question that just a handful of clinics left to offer safe, legal abortion care to all women across the vast state of Texas is a dire emergency in need of an immediate response. 

“Every hour that these clinics are closed adds to the number of women, many facing urgent circumstances, who will be denied essential care and their constitutional rights. Every day that passes increases the likelihood that these shuttered clinics will never be able to open again.

“Women’s constitutional rights and access to safe, legal abortion care have been dealt a devastating blow. We look now to the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately reinstate the injunction, allow the clinics to reopen, and put an end to the irreparable and unjustifiable harm to Texas women that is happening right now.”

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling on October 2 immediately allowed the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as hospital-style surgery centers to go into effect immediately—a provision that amounts to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and has closed more than a dozen of the state’s remaining providers.

The ruling also stayed the district court’s injunction against the admitting privileges requirement as it applies to two of the state’s hardest-hit communities in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas—a provision that has already closed approximately half the state’s abortion clinics. 

This is the Center for Reproductive Rights’ second challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation that was passed last summer.  The first suit—filed in September 2014—challenged the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. These provisions were ultimately upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and now the plaintiffs await a decision on whether the full appeals court will rehear the case. 

The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti, Esha Bhandari, and David Brown of the Center for Reproductive Rights, J. Alexander Lawrence of the law firm Morrison & Foerster, and Austin attorneys Jan Soifer and Patrick O’Connell of the law firm O’Connell & Soifer.

Said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health:

“After just a few days, we have already begun to see the real impact of these onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions. We are being forced to turn women away from safe, compassionate health care simply because of our politicians’ ideological agenda.

“Texas politicians may have closed some of our clinics doors, but Whole Woman’s Health remains committed to the women of this state and we are more determined, bolder, and stronger than ever. And we are proud to stand with the Center for Reproductive Rights and other independent abortion care providers as we take this fight all the way to the U.S Supreme Court.”

Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2 Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services. Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with less than 1 percent of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.  ACOG also opposes the imposition of medically unnecessary facility requirements on abortion providers.

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 Texas 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.  Elected officials in two Texas cities—Austin and Houston—have called for the repeal of HB2 and the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act.

Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Seven Abortion Clinics in the Entire State 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 Texas Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Austin City Council Members Speak Out in Support of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Call for Repeal of Texas HB2 Houston Mayor and City Council Members Call for Passage of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Repeal of Texas HB2 Cases:  Whole Woman's Health v. Lakey

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