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Justice Undone

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 15:40
Justice Undone Under El Salvador’s extreme abortion ban, 17 women have been wrongfully criminalized and imprisoned. Take action to free them.

01.29.15 - With one of the world’s most extreme abortion bans, El Salvador prohibits women from receiving an abortion under any circumstance—not in cases of rape or incest, not even to save their lives. Since 1998, dozens of women have been wrongfully criminalized and imprisoned under this law—even when the pregnancy ended due to natural causes.

They come from small coastal villages, rural farms, and crowded cities. They are teenagers, wives, and mothers. They are seamstresses, maids, and factory workers.

Collectively, they have unjustly served over 130 years in prison.

They are Las 17—17 women who are currently held in prison cells across El Salvador. Their stories are varied, but with one overwhelming common thread: they have each been tried and imprisoned after experiencing traumatic pregnancy-related complications. Many have been convicted of murder and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.

The following are just a few of their stories.

*****

Twenty-nine-year-old Teresa worked in a sweatshop in San Salvador and lived in a working-class neighborhood with her 8-year-old child.

In November 2011, without ever realizing she was pregnant, she went into early labor, giving birth in a toilet. The baby did not survive. Following this trauma, Teresa experienced heavy bleeding and eventually fainted. Her family summoned emergency services. At the hospital, she was reported to the police on suspicion of having induced an abortion.

Despite inconsistencies and lack of proof that Teresa performed an intentional act leading to the miscarriage, she was convicted of murder and condemned to 40 years in prison.

She’s been in prison for over two years. Teresa’s elderly grandmother is currently caring for her young child. 

*****

Mirian had learning difficulties in school and is illiterate. At age 25, living in the isolated town of Morazan, Mirian became pregnant and then experienced a miscarriage.

Although the autopsy was unable to determine the cause of the miscarriage, authorities accused Mirian of inducing an abortion.

She could not afford to pay a lawyer, and her public defender provided an inadequate legal defense. Charged with murder, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison, where she has remained for the last 13 years.

*****

When 21-year-old Alba found out she was pregnant with her third child, she and her mother together strategized ways to sustain Alba’s growing family. When her mom passed away a short while later, Alba was left alone to take care of her two children and her sister, who was ill.

One day, Alba went into early and intense labor at home and fainted while giving birth. When she came to, she sought help from a neighbor, who said that the baby breathed for a half hour but later stopped breathing. They held a vigil and prayed in a nearby house. The following morning, before burying the baby, they called the authorities to report the death.

While no proof exists that she did anything to cause the death of the baby, Alba was sentenced to 30 years in prison. So far, she has served more than four months, leaving no one to care for her two children and her sister.

*****

After 11 years in jail, Verónica is not yet halfway through her 30-year sentence. 

At age 19, while employed as a domestic worker, Verónica became pregnant. Shortly before reaching full term in her pregnancy, she experienced an obstetric emergency that resulted in a miscarriage.

Her employers took her to the Chalchuapa Hospital, where she was reported to the police. Without witnesses or any direct proof, Verónica was swiftly convicted of murder. Even the judgment acknowledges the lack of evidence and states, “the motives the subject had for committing [murder] are unknown although it can be deduced that her motivation was to avoid social reproach.”

*****

Even when a social worker described Mirna’s home as “stable, with support, respect, and responsibility,” the judges at her trial refused to believe either Mirna or her husband—when they said they were looking forward to having another child.

Thirty-six weeks into her pregnancy, Mirna went into sudden labor and gave birth in the toilet at her home. Her family quickly rushed her to the hospital. The baby had been hurt falling into the toilet, but fortunately survived.

Although the attending gynecologist confirmed that the baby’s injury was not due to attempted abortion, Mirna was sentenced to 12 years and 6 months in prison for attempted homicide.

She has served 11 years in prison, and was released after having fulfilled most of her sentence.

*****

Cinthia remembers that it was about 11:30 at night when the pain began. Eight months pregnant and only 17 years old, she was home alone. Realizing she was experiencing a rapid, early labor, she went out to the patio to give birth. The baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. She tried to cut it away with scissors, hurting the baby in her desperate effort to save its life.

Cinthia’s baby died, and she was charged with murder, despite the fact that no evidence was presented proving that she was the direct cause of the baby’s death or that the baby’s death was intentional.

She is six years into her 30-year sentence.

*****

There are almost a dozen more—Maritza, Salvadora, Ena, Guadalupe, Marina, Evelyn, Carmen, Mariana, Teodora, Johana, Maria—all with similarly haunting stories, similarly broken lives. Las 17 are the victims of a system so harsh it threatens the human rights of thousands of other women who live in fear of its reach.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and our partners La Agrupacion Ciudadana continue a relentless campaign to expose the severe violations of women rights as a consequence of El Salvador’s abortion ban—on the ground in El Salvador, in front of UN human rights bodies, before the Inter-American Court, and now to the U.S. State Department.

Take action today to pressure the Salvadoran government to release Las 17 in time to go home to their families for the holidays.With one of the world’s most extreme abortion bans, El Salvador prohibits women from receiving an abortion under any circumstance—not in cases of rape or incest, not even to save their lives. Since 1998, dozens of women have been wrongfully criminalized and imprisoned under this law—even when the pregnancy ended due to natural causes.

They come from small coastal villages, rural farms, and crowded cities. They are teenagers, wives, and mothers. They are seamstresses, maids, and factory workers.

Collectively, they have unjustly served over 130 years in prison.

They are Las 17—17 women who are currently held in prison cells across El Salvador. Their stories are varied, but with one overwhelming common thread: they have each been tried and imprisoned after experiencing traumatic pregnancy-related complications. Many have been convicted of murder and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.

The following are just a few of their stories.

*****

Twenty-nine-year-old Teresa worked in a sweatshop in San Salvador and lived in a working-class neighborhood with her 8-year-old child.

In November 2011, without ever realizing she was pregnant, she went into early labor, giving birth in a toilet. The baby did not survive. Following this trauma, Teresa experienced heavy bleeding and eventually fainted. Her family summoned emergency services. At the hospital, she was reported to the police on suspicion of having induced an abortion.

Despite inconsistencies and lack of proof that Teresa performed an intentional act leading to the miscarriage, she was convicted of murder and condemned to 40 years in prison.

She’s been in prison for over two years. Teresa’s elderly grandmother is currently caring for her young child. 

*****

Mirian had learning difficulties in school and is illiterate. At age 25, living in the isolated town of Morazan, Mirian became pregnant and then experienced a miscarriage.

Although the autopsy was unable to determine the cause of the miscarriage, authorities accused Mirian of inducing an abortion.

She could not afford to pay a lawyer, and her public defender provided an inadequate legal defense. Charged with murder, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison, where she has remained for the last 13 years.

*****

When 21-year-old Alba found out she was pregnant with her third child, she and her mother together strategized ways to sustain Alba’s growing family. When her mom passed away a short while later, Alba was left alone to take care of her two children and her sister, who was ill.

One day, Alba went into early and intense labor at home and fainted while giving birth. When she came to, she sought help from a neighbor, who said that the baby breathed for a half hour but later stopped breathing. They held a vigil and prayed in a nearby house. The following morning, before burying the baby, they called the authorities to report the death.

While no proof exists that she did anything to cause the death of the baby, Alba was sentenced to 30 years in prison. So far, she has served more than four months, leaving no one to care for her two children and her sister.

*****

After 11 years in jail, Verónica is not yet halfway through her 30-year sentence. 

At age 19, while employed as a domestic worker, Verónica became pregnant. Shortly before reaching full term in her pregnancy, she experienced an obstetric emergency that resulted in a miscarriage.

Her employers took her to the Chalchuapa Hospital, where she was reported to the police. Without witnesses or any direct proof, Verónica was swiftly convicted of murder. Even the judgment acknowledges the lack of evidence and states, “the motives the subject had for committing [murder] are unknown although it can be deduced that her motivation was to avoid social reproach.”

*****

Even when a social worker described Mirna’s home as “stable, with support, respect, and responsibility,” the judges at her trial refused to believe either Mirna or her husband—when they said they were looking forward to having another child.

Thirty-six weeks into her pregnancy, Mirna went into sudden labor and gave birth in the toilet at her home. Her family quickly rushed her to the hospital. The baby had been hurt falling into the toilet, but fortunately survived.

Although the attending gynecologist confirmed that the baby’s injury was not due to attempted abortion, Mirna was sentenced to 12 years and 6 months in prison for attempted homicide.

She has served 11 years in prison, and was released after having fulfilled most of her sentence.

*****

Cinthia remembers that it was about 11:30 at night when the pain began. Eight months pregnant and only 17 years old, she was home alone. Realizing she was experiencing a rapid, early labor, she went out to the patio to give birth. The baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. She tried to cut it away with scissors, hurting the baby in her desperate effort to save its life.

Cinthia’s baby died, and she was charged with murder, despite the fact that no evidence was presented proving that she was the direct cause of the baby’s death or that the baby’s death was intentional.

She is six years into her 30-year sentence.

*****

There are almost a dozen more—Maritza, Salvadora, Ena, Guadalupe, Marina, Evelyn, Carmen, Mariana, Teodora, Johana, Maria—all with similarly haunting stories, similarly broken lives. Las 17 are the victims of a system so harsh it threatens the human rights of thousands of other women who live in fear of its reach.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and our partners La Agrupacion Ciudadana continue a relentless campaign to expose the severe violations of women rights as a consequence of El Salvador’s abortion ban—on the ground in El Salvador, in front of UN human rights bodies, before the Inter-American Court, and now to the U.S. State Department.

Take action today to pressure the Salvadoran government to release Las 17.

New Report Calls on Texas Lawmakers to Restore Critical Reproductive Health Care Services for Latinas

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 23:00
New Report Calls on Texas Lawmakers to Restore Critical Reproductive Health Care Services for Latinas New resource developed to address growing health care crisis facing millions of Texas Latinas after devastating cuts to family planning, abortion restrictions in the state

01.26.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health released a new resource today outlining proactive policies that Texas politicians should enact to end the current health care crisis in Texas and restore access to critical reproductive health care services for millions of Latinas.

The resource—a policy agenda titled Nuestro Texas: A Reproductive Justice Agenda for Latinas—has been sent to every member of the Texas legislature as they begin the state’s 84th legislative session.  The blueprint outlines concrete action steps the Legislature can take to restore full access to reproductive health services in rural and underserved areas, ensure access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion for all Texas women, expand health care coverage to improve the health and well-being of all Texans, and protect non-citizens’ basic human rights, including the right to health.

The agenda—which contains staggering statistics on Texas Latinas’ high incidence of poverty and low insurance rates—also includes solutions for addressing the state’s significant structural barriers to health care, such as expanding coverage for the uninsured, eliminating transportation barriers, strengthening public health infrastructure, and making reproductive health services available to all regardless of immigration status.  

“Latinas in Texas have been particularly hard-hit by the women’s health care crisis that has rocked the state in the wake of politicians’ sweeping attacks on access to essential reproductive care,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Texas lawmakers have a responsibility to advance policies that expand access to the critical services Latina women and families need, and this report provides a robust and detailed blueprint for doing so.

“Across Texas, Latinas face greater barriers than ever before in getting the healthcare they need. It’s time to end the politically-motivated attacks that have decimated the reproductive health safety net and left many women with nowhere to go for cancer screenings, contraception, abortion care, and other necessary services,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Our plan is clear, comprehensive, and proactive, and we look forward to working with Texas lawmakers to advance a reproductive justice agenda in the state.”

In the face of Texas’ growing health care crisis, the Center and NLIRH will be hosting Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: A Women’s Human Rights Hearing on Monday, March 9, 2015 in the Rio Grande Valley. Human rights experts from around the world will join Texas Latinas as they publicly share their stories about violations of their human rights. The hearing will be preceded by a march commemorating International Women’s Day and a human rights training for community members. All events are free and open to the public. More information about these events is available here

The Reproductive Justice Agenda was developed in response to the devastating cuts to family planning services in the state, as well as ever-shrinking abortion access as a result of years of coordinated attacks on basic reproductive health care services.  Starting in 2011, the 82nd legislature dismantled the reproductive health care safety net by slashing funds for reproductive health care, denying millions of low-income women access to affordable contraception and other preventive health services.  The impact of these cuts have been particularly devastating for Latinas living in the Rio Grande Valley, as documented in the groundbreaking 2013 report Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley.

Latinas have also been hit particularly hard by Texas’ omnibus bill HB2, legislation that has already shuttered over half of the reproductive health care clinics offering abortion services, including many providers in rural and underserved sections of the state.  The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently challenging two components of HB2 and awaiting a ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which will determine the fate of the remaining clinics, including the last abortion provider in the Rio Grande Valley.

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

MSNBC: 42 Years After Roe, Nancy Northup Sees Danger and Hope

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 16:33
MSNBC: 42 Years After Roe, Nancy Northup Sees Danger and Hope

01.22.15 - In a powerful op-ed on MSNBC.com, Center for Reproductive Rights president and CEO Nancy Northup takes stock of the continued fight for reproductive freedom on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Citing the ongoing legislative assault that threatens to undermine the constitutional guarantees of Roe, Northup cautions:

We are closer than ever to the dark days that preceded the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision 42 years ago, when women of means could travel to get safe care, and women without were left with few or no options.

Despite the fact that seven out of ten Americans support upholding Roe, Northup notes, women’s access to contraception and abortion care is increasingly imperiled. Yet there are a host of good options for lawmakers to support that will counteract the underhanded efforts of anti-choice politicians.

Among other measures, the Women’s Health Protection Act—reintroduced this week in Congress—would protect access to safe, legal abortion care for all women across the U.S. The bill would invalidate laws that single out abortion providers for restrictions that are medically unnecessary, do not promote women's health or safety, and limit access to abortion services.

Six Reasons Why We Fight for Roe

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 14:17
Six Reasons Why We Fight for Roe

01.22.15 - How much would we lose in a world without Roe v. Wade? Ask a woman who’s been there.

Our Draw the Line storytelling project collects and shares the stories of women’s reproductive health care experiences. No two are alike, which for us underscores how essential it is for a woman to have the final say on her reproductive health choices. The following women’s stories take us back to a time when abortion was taboo, illegal, and sometimes tragically dangerous.

Each one is an inspiration to fight every day to protect reproductive freedom and to pledge to never go back.

Dee Dee

It was 1968, and I found myself in a situation where I had to have an abortion.

I had a girlfriend who had a friend who was a nurse and she said that she would give me the abortion. I had to meet her in a hotel room. I was humiliated.

She took out a long rubber hose . . . I’ll never forget.  She made me lie down on the bed and she inserted this hose, and she said you are going to have to keep this hose in your body for the next couple of days. And two days later I remember starting to hemorrhage. I had to be rushed to the emergency room. I just remember the excruciating pain.

Dianne

In 1969, four years before Roe v. Wade, I was in Spain and intentionally pregnant. At 27, my biological clock was madly ticking and my boyfriend of five years agreed it was time. But 2-1/2 months into the pregnancy, he said, “I _ _ _ _ed up. I can’t stay with you,” and walked out the door.

As I was weighing the options of going to Switzerland to live on a commune or going home to live with my parents, I met a young Englishwoman who said, “You can have a baby later under better circumstances for both you and the baby.” She herself had recently had an abortion at a clinic in London. I had only heard about back-street abortions in the States, or worse, in Mexico, so this opened up another option, one that felt like the best one for me.

My mother and I flew to London and I got an appointment with the clinic right away. The procedure took place within a day or two and I stayed overnight at the clinic. Even though I had not had any second thoughts about this, I woke up crying. It is a loss in a way, yet I have never in all these years even for one moment regretted the decision.

Alice

When abortion was illegal in New York State, before Roe v. Wade, I had a small abortion clinic in my own apartment to help friends who needed it have safe abortions. I happened to know somebody who had learned during the Depression how to stimulate the cervix so that abortion occurred naturally.

When I had it done for myself, I didn’t know whether it was going to be successful or whether I was going to be hurt. It's scary to do something that’s illegal in your own home.

It was very scary, and it was embarrassing. It was—well—mostly scary.

Denise

In my tiny world of 3,000 Catholics, I got pregnant during my first sexual encounter. It was 1970. Before Roe vs. Wade. Before I’d heard of the pill. I didn’t know any other girl who’d ever faced what I was facing. I didn’t tell my best friend. I didn’t tell my favorite teacher. I didn’t tell my mother or my sister. I didn’t even tell my boyfriend.

Six weeks before the due date, my father noticed the bathroom cabinet had an unusually large supply of Kotex. He asked my mother to ask me what was going on, so when she walked into my room one June morning, I confessed. Within days I was hustled out of town and hidden with a foster family. I gave birth to my son in secret, without the support of the baby’s father or my family. The doctors and the nurses at the hospital treated me as if I was filth.

I begged the social worker to let me place my baby in a foster family so I could get him back. He wouldn’t hear of it, so I signed the adoption papers and told no one for almost 21 years when I decided to search for my son.

Shame should never be part of any woman or girl’s reproductive history.

Deborah

I married right out of college in 1972. I had been accepted into a graduate program at Harvard, and it broke my heart to let that dream go. I suppose I was too young and too much of a product of my time to stand up for myself and refuse marriage to someone I already knew I did not care for.

I am thankful every day that abortion was legal during the 1970s, at which time I voluntarily terminated two pregnancies. I extricated myself from an unhappy situation, and luckily went on to attain that PhD, have a career, remarry, and give birth to two children.

I was luckier than many of my high school friends who had illegal abortions or put children up for adoption in the 1960s, before Roe v. Wade.  Two had botched abortions and could never have children.

How painful to pay your whole life for a mistake made when you were so young and unformed.

Janet

I got pregnant in 1974, the year after Roe v. Wade. I was newly married and in my mid-20s, but I had just found a way to go back to school to finish my degree, and I knew I would not be able to do that and have a baby.

We were living in San Francisco. All around me were women energized and emboldened by feminism, thrilled to be shedding the skin of our mothers’ 1950s lives. It was such an empowering time. I had the abortion and felt no stigma or pain. Just the clarity that I was making the right decision for myself.

I think a lot of this clarity was because the specter of the dark days before Roe v. Wade—when a woman’s future was a game of chance—still felt very real, very palpable. I think it’s important to remember that. To remember so we never go back.

What has reproductive care meant to you? We want to hear your story!

Center for Reproductive Rights: War On Women Is Over, If You Want It

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 23:00
Center for Reproductive Rights: War On Women Is Over, If You Want It In honor of 42nd anniversary of historic Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, Center launches campaign inspired by Yoko Ono’s iconic “War is Over” campaign

01.22.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) On the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the historic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that recognized a woman's constitutional right to abortion, the Center for Reproductive Rights has launched a new campaign, “War on Women Is Over! If You Want It,” to educate and activate individuals on the profound threats to women’s freedom. 

Over the last four years, politicians across the U.S. have enacted 231 new restrictions on abortion. Now women are facing an unprecedented and dramatic loss of safe, legal abortion services due to these sham laws designed to eliminate access to reproductive health care—all under the pretext of protecting women’s health.

War on Women is Over! If You Want It” was inspired by the power and vision of Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s original 1970s “War Is Over” campaign, with permission from Yoko Ono.

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

“If the seven in 10 Americans who consistently support women's access to safe and legal abortion were to make their presence even more strongly known, we could end the cultural and political attacks on women's dignity, health and rights. 

“The war on women can be over, if we want it. But we have to want it, and we have to work for it.  

“We have to call on our elected leaders to advance measures that will restore access to basic health care for the millions of women who have had services taken away, not political measures that only deny more women critical care.”

To support the campaign, the Center for Reproductive Rights (@ReproRights) is urging individuals to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #WarOnWomen and call on Congress to promote genuinely pro-woman policies like the recently reintroduced Women’s Health Protection Act.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is the only global legal advocacy organization dedicated exclusively to the advancement and protection of reproductive rights as fundamental human rights in constitutional and international law. For more than 20 years, we’ve been on the front lines of the most important battles for the future of reproductive freedom across the globe.

 

Pro-Choice Champions in Congress Reintroduce Historic Women’s Health Protection Act

El Salvador Issues Pardon of Woman Wrongfully Imprisoned for Pregnancy Complications

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 23:00
El Salvador Issues Pardon of Woman Wrongfully Imprisoned for Pregnancy Complications After a failed vote last week, Salvadoran Congress approves pardon for woman serving a 30 year sentence as a result of country’s extreme abortion ban

01.22.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) After failing to do so last week, today El Salvador’s Congress has finally approved a pardon for “Guadalupe,” a Salvadoran rape survivor wrongfully imprisoned for homicide after suffering a pregnancy-related complication. The Congress approved the pardon by 43 votes, after both the Human Rights Congressional Committee and Supreme Court Committee resubmitted their recommendation for her release.

For more than 16 years, El Salvador has criminalized abortion in all circumstances--even when necessary to save a woman’s life—imposing harsh criminal penalties on both women and physicians.  The ban has also resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of countless women who have suffered pregnancy-related complications and miscarriages.

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

“Guadalupe’s release from prison is an important step toward justice for her and many other women whose human rights have been violated by El Salvador’s extreme anti-abortion laws, but more must be done.

“A woman who seeks essential health care has committed no crime, and she should neither fear imprisonment nor be required to seek a pardon for her actions.

“Today’s action by the Salvadoran government must be followed in short order by the release of every woman wrongfully imprisoned under this oppressive law and decisive action toward the decriminalization of abortion for all Salvadoran women.”

In December, a coalition of NGOs led by Agrupación Ciudadana and the Center, launched the “Las17” campaign calling for the release of “Guadalupe” and 16 other Salvadoran women who all suffered obstetric emergencies and were later convicted of homicide. “Las 17” are each currently serving 30-40 year sentences.

In November, 12 countries denounced the criminalization of abortion in El Salvador as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Salvadoran government has opted to postpone responding to the UPR recommendations until the next session in March 2015.

“El Salvador has finally heard the chorus of human rights advocates across the globe calling for the release of ‘Las 17,’” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “For decades, El Salvador has blatantly violated the fundamental human rights of these women and countless others. We stand with ‘Las 17,’ Agrupación Ciudadana and our global partners in this fight to seek justice for all Salvadoran women.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights has worked for more than 12 years to expose the consequences that the blanket abortion ban in El Salvador has on the lives of women. The Center and Agrupación Ciudadana co-authored the report Marginalized, Persecuted and Imprisoned: The Effects of El Salvador’s Total Criminalization of Abortion that documents the human rights consequences of the abortion ban, and includes the personal stories of five women who were unfairly prosecuted for illegal abortion after suffering obstetric emergencies without receiving medical attention. The report analyzes how El Salvador’s health, judicial and prison systems fail to guarantee women’s human rights.

12 Countries Call on El Salvador to Decriminalize Abortion Marginalized, Persecuted, and Imprisoned: The Effects of El Salvador’s Total Criminalization of Abortion

Pro-Choice Champions in Congress Reintroduce Historic Women’s Health Protection Act

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 23:00
Pro-Choice Champions in Congress Reintroduce Historic Women’s Health Protection Act Legislation fights back against attacks on reproductive health care, protects access to safe and legal abortion in U.S.

01.21.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Renewing their commitment to the health and rights of women in the United States, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin and Representatives Judy Chu, Lois Frankel, and Marcia Fudge today will reintroduce the Women’s Health Protection Act—legislation designed to enforce and protect the right of every woman to decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy, regardless of where she lives.

Today’s introduction comes on the eve of the 42nd anniversary of the historic U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision recognizing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion and in the midst of anti-choice politicians in Congress aggressively advancing an extreme, unconstitutional federal abortion ban.

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

“Year after year, anti-choice politicians have passed underhanded laws to shut down clinics and block access to essential reproductive health care. It is critical for Congress to step in to protect the health, dignity, and rights of women across the nation by enacting the Women’s Health Protection Act.

“This historic legislation would put an end to this assault on women’s health and personal decisions. The Women’s Health Protection Act will ensure that every woman in America can exercise her constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion care without interference from the devious tactics of politicians bent on substituting their judgment for hers.

“We commend the champions of the Women’s Health Protection Act in Congress and stand with them as they advance legislation to stop the sham and truly support the health, rights, and lives of every woman in the U.S.”

The Women’s Health Protection Act was first introduced in the 113th Congress in November 2013—garnering 35 sponsors in the Senate and 133 in the House—and debated before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2014.

The Women’s Health Protection Act, which was a key part of significant push-back against legislative attacks on women’s reproductive rights in the last Congress, would prohibit states from imposing 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.

Tomorrow, in honor of the Roe v. Wade anniversary, the New York City Council is hosting a press conference and rally in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act—joining elected officials in Austin (TX),Houston (TX),San Francisco (CA) and Dane County (WI) to call for the bill’s passage.

The Women’s Health Protection Act would prohibit state and federal politicians from imposing a range of dangerous, anti-choice provisions, including:

  • Targeted restrictions of abortion providers (TRAP), including clinic shutdown laws that single out women’s reproductive health care providers with regulations that grossly exceed what is necessary to ensure high standards of patient safety and quality of care.

  • Bans on abortion prior to viability that violate women’s constitutional rights established by Roe v. Wade.

  • Restrictions on women’s access to medication abortion, such as requiring physicians to adhere to an outdated and less safe protocol when providing women with this safe and effective method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest weeks.

  • State-mandated medical procedures and protocols, such as compelling women to undergo forced ultrasounds for no medical reason and designed to shame women for their personal decisions.

For more than 20 years, the Center for Reproductive Rights has brought the full power of the U.S. Constitution and courts to bear to ensure that anti-choice politicians in the U.S. do not turn back the clock on reproductive rights. The Center’s legal efforts have helped block laws attacking women’s rights and health all across the nation, including recent injunctions against Texas’s far-reaching clinic shutdown law that would have left just a handful of abortion providers in the entire state, North Carolina’s demeaning forced ultrasound law, and extreme bans on abortion as early as six and 12 weeks of pregnancy in North Dakota and Arkansas, respectively.

 

Introduction of Women’s Health Protection Act is Critical Step in Safeguarding Reproductive Rights for All U.S. Women Senate Judiciary Committee To Hear Testimony On Historic Women's Health Protection Act Fighting Back: Reclaiming Reproductive Rights in the 113th Congress and Beyond 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 San Francisco Board of Supervisors Calls for Expanded Access to Safe, Legal Reproductive Health Care Dane County, Wisconsin Board of Supervisors Passes Resolution in Support of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law Federal Court Permanently Blocks Most Extreme Abortion Ban in the Country Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Arkansas 12-Week Abortion Ban as Unconstitutional

National Law Journal Features Pro Bono Attorney’s Work with CRR

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 15:55
National Law Journal Features Pro Bono Attorney’s Work with CRR

01.20.15 - Alex Lawrence is an attorney at Morrison & Foerster who works pro bono with the Center for Reproductive Rights. He has personally logged 650 hours fighting Texas HB2, a sham law that threatens abortion access for thousands of women in the state.

Alex’s work with the Center is profiled this month in the National Law Journal, which recently named him to its annual Pro Bono Hot List for his efforts with the Center.

Although the Texas case is far from decided, the team made national news this year when they secured a major victory in federal district court, as well as a U.S. Supreme Court order that prevented some of the law’s most harmful provisions from taking effect.

The Center’s senior counsel Stephanie Toti told NLJ, "We could not have achieved success in this case of great importance without the amazing efforts of Alex and his team."

According to the NLJ, it is the disingenuousness of laws like Texas HB2 that motivates Alex:

Lawrence said the "lack of honesty" in the public discussion about laws that restrict abortion access motivates him to fight to preserve women's access to abortion. "They say [the requirements are] for women's health when everyone knows exactly what's going on. It's a huge ruse," Lawrence said.

Alex has been involved with the Center’s work for more than a decade, having worked to fight additional abortion restrictions in Louisiana and Texas. He grew up in Tennessee, where his lawyer grandmother, Selma Cash Paty, spent years fighting to keep Chattanooga’s only abortion clinic open. The clinic eventually closed in 1993.

The full article is available on the National Law Journal site (registration required).

Nancy Northup to Speak at New York City Council Press Conference and Rally

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 23:00
Nancy Northup to Speak at New York City Council Press Conference and Rally

01.20.15 - The New York City Council will be hosting a press conference and rally commemorating the 42ndanniversary of Roe v. Wade and supporting the federal Women’s Health Protection Act on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 9:15AM.  Later that afternoon, the City Council will be voting on a resolution in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act.  

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, will be among the speakers at the City Council’s press conference and rally.

Details

New York City Council Press Conference and Rally: 

The Women’s Health Protection Act and the 42nd anniversary of Roe v Wade

Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 9.15AM

New York City Hall

City Hall Park, New York, NY 10007

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

"The City Council's action in support of the Women's Health Protection Act builds on New York City's leadership in guaranteeing and protecting women's rights and access to essential health care.

"As politicians in the new Congress line up to advance federal legislation attacking reproductive health care, even places that have previously been considered safe havens for reproductive rights face an increasingly serious threat.

"We commend the New York City Council for calling on Congress to ensure all women in this country have equal rights regardless of their zip code."

Background

The Women’s Health Protection Act—which was first introduced in the 113th Congress in November 2013 and debated before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2014— would prohibit states from imposing 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 Austin (TX), Houston (TX), San Francisco (CA) and Dane County (WI) have called for passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act as a way to stem the nationwide tide of restrictions choking off access to abortion services.

 

Salvadoran Woman Wrongfully Imprisoned for Pregnancy-Related Complications Denied Pardon

Sun, 01/18/2015 - 23:00
Salvadoran Woman Wrongfully Imprisoned for Pregnancy-Related Complications Denied Pardon

01.19.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) El Salvador’s Congress has denied freedom to “Guadalupe,” a rape survivor who became pregnant, suffered an obstetric emergency and was wrongfully convicted of and imprisoned for homicide—failing to approve her pardon on Friday by just one vote, despite the recommendation from both the Human Rights Congressional Committee and Supreme Court Committee that she be released.

El Salvador’s abortion ban is one of the strictest in the world, with the country repeatedly ignoring its international human rights obligations to ensure women’s reproductive health and rights. For more than 16 years, abortion in all circumstances has been criminalized, and countless women have been sentenced to years and even decades in prison under deplorable conditions—including many like “Guadalupe” who simply suffered obstetric emergencies.   Said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:   “The Salvadoran Congress has failed Guadalupe and the countless other Salvadoran women like her who have been cruelly and wrongly imprisoned at a time when they desperately needed critical health care.   “For too long, El Salvador’s absolute abortion ban has inflicted immeasurable harm on women and their families in violation of their fundamental human rights.   “We stand with Agrupación Ciudadana and our partners around the world in the face of this devastating news to continue shining a bright light on the Salvadoran government’s human rights violations.”   In December, a coalition of NGOs led by Agrupación Ciudadana and the Center, launched the “Las17” campaign calling for the release of “Guadalupe” and 16 other Salvadoran women who suffered obstetric emergencies and were all convicted for homicide. “Las17” are currently serving 30-40 year sentences.   The Center for Reproductive Rights has worked for more than 12 years to expose the consequences that the blanket abortion ban in El Salvador has on the lives of women. Recently, the Center and the Agrupación Ciudadana co-authored the report Marginalized, Persecuted and Imprisoned: The Effects of El Salvador’s Total Criminalization of Abortion that documents the human rights consequences of the abortion ban, and includes the personal stories of five women who were unfairly prosecuted for illegal abortion after suffering obstetric emergencies without receiving medical attention. The report analyzes how El Salvador’s health, judicial and prison systems fail to guarantee women’s human rights.​ Marginalized, Persecuted, and Imprisoned: The Effects of El Salvador’s Total Criminalization of Abortion

What a Sham

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 15:18
What a Sham An increasingly widespread brand of abortion regulations restricts women’s fundamental rights under the pretext of protecting their health.

01.12.15 - “Why is there an RV in our parking lot?” Amy Hagstrom Miller, owner of Whole Woman’s Health, remembers thinking one morning as she looked out the window of her Austin, Texas, clinic.

This was last fall, not long after Texas HB2—a sweeping Texas law targeting abortion providers—took effect, forcing the closure of dozens of clinics across the state. The medically unwarranted and politically motivated restrictions had forced Hagstrom Miller to shutter three of the six clinics she operates. Thousands of women were newly stranded without access to safe, legal abortion care, and Hagstrom Miller—with the Center for Reproductive Rights at her side—was gearing up to combat the legislation in court.

It turned out the RV belonged to a family from the Dallas area—a married couple and their three children. With so many clinics closed, there was a wait of up to four weeks at the one closer to their home. The couple didn’t feel they could delay that long, so they did what they could—packed up their kids and made the three-hour trek to Austin in their RV.

Due to a state mandated waiting period, patients must be seen twice at the clinic in order to receive an abortion. The family spent the night in the clinic parking lot. Hagstrom Miller remembers the husband playing with his kids on the clinic lawn while his wife was inside. 

“Both of them had fulltime jobs, so making the trip was tough,” says Hagstrom Miller, “but it was really important to them to get the timely care they needed. Knowing that the reason they had to come all this way and make the sacrifices they were making was because of political maneuvering was incredibly frustrating. It feels crazy to close a clinic for no reason other than politics.”

But for the last few years this is exactly what has been happening across the United States as anti-choice state legislators, unable to overturn Roe v. Wade, have devised cunning ways to limit women’s access to abortion and force clinics to close. Because politicians can’t openly push these measures for what they actually are—anti-abortion, anti-woman—the restrictions are duplicitously trumpeted as protecting women’s health, despite the fact that abortion is one of medicine’s safest procedures.

Amy Hagstrom Miller notes that in ten years, only two patients out of thousands at her Austin clinic have required follow-up at care at a hospital. Neither stayed overnight.

“There is no health crisis HB2 is fixing,” she says of the Texas law that threatens to shut down 80 percent of the state’s clinics. “There have been 40 years of safe abortion in Texas. This law is a solution without a problem.”

It is precisely this sham that the Center for Reproductive Rights is mobilizing against in Texas and around the country. We have fought the underhanded provisions in courts at all levels—including at the U.S. Supreme Court last October, where we were granted an emergency order that stopped Texas from enforcing key provisions of HB2 and allowed a number of clinics to temporarily reopen. Last week, before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Center will continued its challenge to the restrictions with the goal of permanently overturning Texas’s destructive measure.

One of the anti-clinic provisions of HB2 requires that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. Although this regulation might sound harmless—even prudent—on its face, the fact is that admitting privileges have nothing to do with doctors’ qualifications and are largely a business arrangement. Because abortion patients so rarely require hospitalization, granting privileges to abortion providers is usually not financially advantageous to the hospital. As a result, many abortion providers have found it impossible to obtain these privileges.   

Another part of Texas’s sham law mandates that licensed abortion clinics transform into mini-hospitals known as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). The required renovations—which do nothing to improve safety—involve expanding hallway widths and ceiling heights, adding locker rooms and parking spaces, and upgrading HVAC systems. Retrofitting the existing facilities to meet ASC regulations can cost millions and force clinics to close.

Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose these types of restrictions because they are medically unnecessary and do nothing to promote women’s health. In many cases, the restrictions are simply obstacles to safe, basic care.

Although Texas had more than 40 licensed abortion clinics when HB2 was enacted, fewer than ten clinics open today could satisfy the law’s requirements. If the law is allowed to stand, nearly a million women will have to travel at least 150 miles to reach the nearest abortion provider. Particularly for low-income and immigrant women for whom transportation is a significant barrier, the law puts abortion care essentially out of reach.

Not only are these restrictions dishonest and discriminatory, they are also dangerous.

“When HB2 took effect, we saw the real impact of these onerous restrictions within a few days,” says Hagstrom Miller. She and her staff were alarmed—but not surprised—by an immediate spike in the number of inquiries from women asking about black market pills and do-it-yourself methods to induce abortion.

While extremist politicians play with false science and sneaky maneuvering, we know this is no game. Women’s basic rights and safety hang in the balance, and the Center is intent on exposing these laws for the shams that they are, as well as promoting genuinely pro-woman policies such as the federal Women’s Health Protection Act.

A Walk in Her Shoes

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 11:50
A Walk in Her Shoes When anti-choice leaders push unconstitutional 20-week abortion bans, they ignore the woman standing at the center of the equation.

01.12.15 - Days shy of 20 weeks pregnant, Whitney went in for a routine ultrasound and her world came to a standstill. 

She could tell right away from the technician’s unsettling silence while zooming in and out on the screen that something was wrong. But it wouldn’t be until later in the day—after several urgent doctor appointments in two different towns—that Whitney and her husband, who also have a young son, would be given the devastating news. Due to severe abnormalities, the fetus was very unlikely to survive.

“We came home that night and I hugged my little boy so tightly, then I lay in bed touching my belly,” Whitney recalls.

Although still reeling from the news, Whitney and her family were forced to immediately start considering their course of action. In only four days, it would be illegal for Whitney to end her pregnancy in her home state of North Carolina, where an unconstitutional ban prohibits abortions after 20 weeks—unless the mother’s health is at risk.  

“This is when the state laws surrounding abortion began to truly impact us,” says Whitney. “I honestly couldn’t believe I was having to hear or face this bureaucracy at a time like this. It was the most miserable three days of reading about the diagnosis and consulting with the doctor and the genetic counselor. I had so much trouble sorting out what would be the best decision for all of us.”

Currently 12 states have 20-week bans like North Carolina’s. And right now, anti-choice politicians across the country are working feverishly to increase this number, despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy before viability.

On top of the state assaults, this week—on the first day of the new Congress—Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) reintroduced legislation in the House that aims to federally ban later abortion.

“Women do not need a new federal law criminalizing and controlling their health care decisions,” says Julie Gonen, director of federal policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Not only do these restrictions violate the constitution, they deny women the dignity of making their own decisions by placing these personal, private matters in the hands of politicians. For a woman facing this situation, no one else has walked in her shoes, no one knows better than she does what’s right for her and her family.”

Whitney and her husband eventually opted to leave their young son with Whitney’s mom and drive five hours to Atlanta, where there was a clinic that specialized in abortion due to fetal anomalies up to 24 weeks. Once they decided to end the pregnancy, Whitney was shocked at the degree to which she was on her own to coordinate her care—scheduling her own appointment, arranging to have her medical records transferred. 

“I felt like my OB/GYNs abandoned me at a time when I most needed them,” she says. “I was disappointed to learn that although doctors state they practice reproductive health care for women, they don’t truly do so if they are unable or unwilling to offer pregnancy termination when needed.”

While abortion later in pregnancy is very rare, the fact remains that for the individual women who face these circumstances, the ability to make these personal, private, complicated, and often very difficult decisions for themselves matters a great deal.

Restrictions that prevent doctors from working with women to provide the care they need jeopardize a woman’s health, future, and life—as well as the integrity of the medical system.

“Politicians who truly care about women’s health and well-being should focus on policies and laws that advance healthy pregnancies and address the very serious and real needs of women who seek later abortion services,” says Gonen. “The fact is that in the current climate, women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy face a catch-22 with restrictions, bans, and red tape making it nearly impossible to obtain abortion care earlier in pregnancy and illegal to get it later.”

The Center is currently working with policymakers and advocates around the country to craft and advance proactive measures such as Medicaid expansion, prenatal care for immigrant women, and public and private coverage for contraception. We also continue to promote the Women’s Health Protection Act, a piece of federal legislation that would put a firm stop to the crush of state-level attacks on women’s reproductive rights.

Report: Dramatic Increase in Attacks on Reproductive Rights

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 12:14
Report: Dramatic Increase in Attacks on Reproductive Rights

01.09.15 - Salon’s Jenny Kutner calls a new report released by the Guttmacher Institute charting legislative attacks on reproductive rights “foreboding.”  The report shows a dramatic uptick in the number of restrictions passed by state legislatures in the last four years.

Since the 2010 midterm elections, states have enacted 231 abortion restrictions out of 335 proposed measures. Just last year, 15 states adopted 26 new restrictions on abortion care, and, as Kutner points out, the state legislatures in anti-choice strongholds like Texas and North Dakota weren’t even in session.

The political landscape will provide little to no relief regarding this trend in 2015, Kutner notes:

GOP control over statehouses, governors’ mansions and Congress promises to bring renewed challenges to reproductive healthcare, likely in the form of increased TRAP laws meant to curb abortion access.

The report also documents a dramatic increase in the number of states considered “hostile” (having four or five abortion restrictions) or “extremely hostile” (having six or more), as well as the proportion of women living in hostile states. Fifty-seven percent of women now live in states either hostile or extremely hostile.

At the Center for Reproductive Rights, we know this is what we are up against. That’s why we have mobilized unprecedented resources to fight in courtrooms and legislatures across the country, and why we continue to champion the federal Women’s Health Protection Act, which has the teeth to stop these endless state attacks in their tracks.

New York Times Calls Out U.S. on Blanket Abortion Bans

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 15:50
New York Times Calls Out U.S. on Blanket Abortion Bans

01.08.15 - In a recent opinion piece, the New York Times praises a new policy—passed in December as part of the federal spending bill—that will ease the longstanding and inhumane blanket ban on abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers. 

Until only a few weeks ago, U.S. law prevented Peace Corps volunteers—nearly two thirds of whom are female—from receiving any coverage for abortion care, even in cases of rape or life endangerment. The budgetary fix will now extend the same limited abortion coverage to Peace Corps volunteers that is available to all federal employees, women receiving health care assistance through Medicaid, and military servicewomen.

Although long overdue, the Peace Corps fix is a significant reproductive rights victory, and the Times urges President Obama to “follow up this laudable change with another one: getting rid of a similar blanket ban governing the use of American foreign aid.”

The “similar blanket ban” in question is a 40-year old U.S. policy known as the Helms Amendment. Since 1973, Helms has restricted the use of foreign aid to pay for abortions overseas, even in countries where abortion is legal.

The New York Times, along with a number of human rights groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, calls on the president to “set matters straight” by ceasing to implement Helms as an all-out ban.

Starting the Year Off Right

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 13:24
Starting the Year Off Right

01.06.15 - Watch this video from our President & CEO, Nancy Northup:

As the new year begins, our thoughts turn to our supporters like you—those who've made possibile everything the Center has achieved in the fight to defend women's reproductive freedom.

We're starting 2015 off right, keeping a vigilant watch on the new Congress, preparing for legal battles all across the U.S., and defending women's rights worldwide.

All of us at the Center are grateful to know that you have our back.

113th Congress Saw Significant Pushback Against Attacks on Reproductive Health

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 23:00
113th Congress Saw Significant Pushback Against Attacks on Reproductive Health Members countered relentless anti-choice efforts—from abortion bans to attacks on health care coverage—with Women’s Health Protection Act, other proactive measures

01.06.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) In the face of relentless attacks on women’s reproductive health and rights, members of the 113th Congress brought a renewed focus on policies that promote equitable access to health care, support women and families, and prevent politicians and employers from interfering with personal decision-making.

According to a new report issued today by the Center for Reproductive Rights, opponents of women’s reproductive freedom continued their efforts to restrict access to essential health care like abortion and contraception—but they were also met with bold new countermoves, from the Women’s Health Protection Act that would restore women’s access to safe and legal abortion to innovative advocacy campaigns focused on expanding health care coverage for reproductive health care.

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

“Over these last two years, we saw Members of Congress fight back against the seemingly never-ending attacks on women’s health and rights in an unprecedented and groundbreaking way.

“From the introduction of the historic Women’s Health Protection Act to finally providing critical abortion coverage to women in the Peace Corps, legislators and advocates refused to be bullied into only playing defense against policies that harm women and their families.

“We call on this new Congress to focus on policies that truly ensure personal health care decisions remain with women, their families, and physicians—not politicians or bosses.”

In November 2013, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin and Representatives Judy Chu, Lois Frankel, and Marcia Fudge introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act—an historic piece of legislation designed to enforce and protect the rights of every woman to obtain a full range of safe and legal reproductive health care and decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy, regardless of where she lives. The legislation garnered 35 sponsors in the Senate and 133 in the House, and was debated before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2014.

Furthermore, critical advances were made in expanding health care coverage for reproductive health care, including abortion. Last month, Congress included a budgetary fix in the omnibus federal funding bill that for the first time in more than 30 years, finally allows women serving in the Peace Corps equal health care coverage for abortion services in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. Additionally, reproductive justice, health, and rights organizations launched a bold new campaign, All* Above All, to build support for lifting bans on abortion coverage that disproportionally harm low-income women and communities of color.

In addition to highlighting these proactive efforts, Fighting Back: Reclaiming Reproductive Rights in the 113th Congress and Beyond also details the sustained anti-choice efforts to restrict women’s reproductive freedoms, including:

  • Renewed efforts to pass an unconstitutional federal abortion ban at 20 weeks
  • Withholding abortion coverage from women and families enrolled in public programs, including prohibiting the District of Columbia from using its own locally-raised funds to cover abortion for low-income women.
  • Attempting to abolish abortion coverage in the private market
  • Shutting down the federal government in an attempt to roll back the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of women’s preventive health care, including copay-free contraception.
Introduction of Women’s Health Protection Act is Critical Step in Safeguarding Reproductive Rights for All U.S. Women Senate Judiciary Committee To Hear Testimony On Historic Women's Health Protection Act President Obama Signs Historic Funding Bill Granting Peace Corps Volunteers Long-Denied Abortion Coverage Senator Lindsey Graham Leads New Attack on Women’s Health and Rights Center for Reproductive Rights Calls on House Appropriations Committee to Lift Ban on D.C. Using Local Funds to Provide Abortion Coverage for Low-Income Women U.S. House Passes Bill Designed to Deny Millions of Women Reproductive Health Care Coverage Center for Reproductive Rights: Politicians in U.S. House Holding Women's Health Hostage

Our Top Five

Tue, 12/23/2014 - 13:41
Our Top Five

12.23.14 - In the face of ongoing, aggressive attacks on reproductive freedom in 2014, we continued to give our all to protect women’s fundamental rights—with big results.

Here are a few highlights:

1. Saving Mississippi’s lone clinic

It’s no secret that Mississippi politicians are on an obsessive mission to make the state “abortion free.” To that end, they have pushed a sham law under the pretext of protecting women—imposing medically unwarranted restrictions specifically designed to shutter Mississippi’s only remaining abortion provider. This July, we secured a key victory for the women of Mississippi when a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit blocked enforcement of these restrictions. This November, the full Fifth Circuit court let that decision stand, keeping abortion legal and accessible in the state.

2. Holding Brazil accountable

For the first time in history, a nation acknowledged responsibility and paid reparations in a maternal death case this year. This groundbreaking development came as the result of more than a decade of the Center’s unremitting advocacy in human rights bodies and international courts on behalf of Alyne da Silva Pimentel, a young Afro-Brazilian mother who died in childbirth in 2002 after being repeatedly denied adequate medical care. Brazil’s action sets the stage for promoting maternal health measures and accountability in countries around the globe, where nearly 300,000 women die unnecessarily each year from pregnancy-related complications.

3. Securing a major Supreme Court ruling

Texas has a knack for going big, and the state’s supersized omnibus bill, HB2, did not disappoint in this respect: the sweeping anti-choice legislation included provisions aimed to shut down virtually every clinic in the state. Fortunately, the Center can go big, too. We fought the provision which would shutter all but eight clinics and have already taken that fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—and the Court gave us what we asked for. As a result of that ruling, millions of women who would have been otherwise stranded without reproductive services now have access to essential care while our battle against the law continues.

4. Blocking the nation’s most extreme abortion bans

Apparently undeterred by the U.S. Constitution, anti-choice state legislators in both North Dakota and Arkansas attempted to push through laws that blatantly violate the guarantees of Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court decisions by banning pre-viability abortions. Arkansas’s law would ban abortions at 12 weeks with only narrow exceptions, and North Dakota’s ban—using the detection of a fetal heartbeat as a marker—would effectively ban abortion as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. The Center and our partners challenged these laws and successfully blocked both of them. The courts found the laws to be—yes—unconstitutional.

5. Advancing the historic Women’s Health Protection Act

This is happening. In the span of a year, the Women’s Health Protection Act—federal legislation that aims to put a stop to the state-level assaults on women’s reproductive health—evolved from an ambitious vision of hope to a powerful, concrete measure with 166 congressional cosponsors and more than 300,000 grassroots supporters. Following an energized advocacy day on Capitol Hill and a high-profile hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Act has generated a national conversation around the urgent need for policies that genuinely protect women’s health and rights rather than ones that simply pretend to.

Dominican Republic Decriminalizes Abortion in Limited Circumstances

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 23:00
Dominican Republic Decriminalizes Abortion in Limited Circumstances

12.22.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic signed the country’s amended Penal Code on Friday that will finally allow women access to safe abortion services in cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment and when the life of the pregnant woman is at risk—a momentous step toward expanding access to safe and legal abortion.

Last week, the Dominican Republic Chamber of Deputies reconvened to discuss amendments to the Penal Code after President Medina called on Congress to make the necessary changes to allow safe and legal abortion in limited circumstances, in line with international human rights standards.

The Dominican Republic becomes the 36th country to decriminalize abortion in certain circumstances in the last 20 years, ending the country’s absolute ban on abortion and the harsh penalties associated with it.

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

“No longer will women facing a pregnancy from rape or life-threatening complications be forced to live under a cloud of fear in the Dominican Republic.

“We commend President Medina and Congress for taking this historic step toward protecting and respecting women’s fundamental human rights to reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion.” 

The Dominican Republic Chamber of Deputies plans to draft a bill to regulate abortion in cases of rape, incest or fetal impairments to present during the next legislative term which begins on February 27, 2015.

The Dominican Republic’s absolute ban on abortion has led to more than 90,000 unsafe abortions occurring in the country each year. There are now only five countries left in Latin America—Chile, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua—that completely ban abortion with no explicit exceptions.

“Although the Dominican Republic has only allowed legal abortion in limited circumstances, it is still an important step forward for women’s rights in the country,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We must now work to hold the leadership of the Dominican Republic accountable and ensure this critical change is fully implemented and women are able to access the essential reproductive health care they need and deserve.”

According to a recent Center report, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress toward improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—one of the most comprehensive resources on abortion laws across the globe.

Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform

New Resource Provides State Policy Recommendations for Advancing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 23:00
New Resource Provides State Policy Recommendations for Advancing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Nearly 60 organizations release proactive vision to support women’s health in U.S.

12.22.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights—along with a broad array of nearly 60 women’s health organizations across the U.S.—is calling on state legislators across the country to move in a new direction by promoting policies which support reproductive health, rights, and justice in a new resource available today.

Moving in a New Direction: A Proactive State Policy Resource for Promoting Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice provides proactive policy solutions in the face of a spate of attacks on women’s health care services over the last several years. From expanding contraceptive access to addressing the maternal mortality crisis, the document is intended to serve as a resource for state legislators and advocates throughout the country as they promote proactive state policies to advance reproductive health in the United States.

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

“When our elected officials return to work next year, they should focus on advancing measures that truly support women’s health—and reversing the tide of laws that have trampled on women’s rights and blocked their access to health care. 

“After years of relentless attacks on reproductive health care, millions of women across the nation are now left with rapidly disappearing safe and legal options. 

“This new resource provides forward-thinking and innovative policies for state officials who want to put the lives and well-being of their constituents first. It’s time we move forward with a clear agenda to advance reproductive health, rights, and justice.”

Each section of the resource includes expert-endorsed policies that have been introduced in at least one state, along with in-depth case studies in areas such as expanding abortion access, implementing the Affordable Care Act, expanding contraception access, and supporting pregnant women’s rights.

Today’s resource comes on the heels of a report issued earlier this year which found that states with the highest number of abortion restrictions have the poorest health outcomes and least supportive policies for women and children.  The report—produced by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health— evaluated 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.

The Center’s commitment to proactive state policies is complemented 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.

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

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 23:00
Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law Forcing narrated ultrasounds on women seeking abortion care violates U.S. Constitution, court rules

12.22.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) In a unanimous decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has permanently blocked a 2011 North Carolina law that would force women to undergo a narrated ultrasound before receiving abortion care. Today’s ruling states that “the state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient.”

The law—which requires abortion providers to display the ultrasound and describe the images in detail to every woman before performing an abortion, even if the woman objects— was preliminarily blocked in October 2011 following a lawsuit filed on behalf of several North Carolina physicians and medical practices by the Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and the firm of O’Melveny & Myers.  The measure was later permanently struck down as unconstitutional by a federal district court in January 2014.

North Carolina’s coercive ultrasound law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians by forcing them to deliver politically motivated communications to a patient even over the patient’s objection.  Today’s ruling affirms that "transforming the physician into the mouthpiece of the state undermines the trust that is necessary for facilitating healthy doctor-patient relationships and, through them, successful treatment outcomes."

“We’re thrilled that the appellate court rejected this unconscionable attempt to intrude on the doctor-patient relationship,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Exam rooms are no place for propaganda and doctors should never be forced to serve as mouthpieces for politicians who wish to shame and demean women.”

“This law is about trying to shame a woman out of having an abortion, pure and simple,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the ACLU. “Politics don’t belong in the exam room, and a doctor shouldn’t have to humiliate a woman because some politicians disagree with her decision.”

“Today’s ruling marks another major victory for women and sends a message to lawmakers across the country:  it is unconstitutional for politicians to interfere in a woman’s personal medical decisions about abortion,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Politicians are not medical experts — but politicians have written this law with the ultimate goal of restricting access to safe, legal abortion.”

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

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

 

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

Federal Court Blocks Demeaning North Carolina Ultrasound Law Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law as Unconstitutional U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Review Unconstitutional Oklahoma Law Forcing Narrated Ultrasounds on Women Seeking Abortion

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