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The U.S. spends at least twice as much per capita on healthcare than almost every other western industrialized country, but has some of the widest disparities in health outcomes. Racial disparities are particularly pronounced in reproductive and sexual health. Women of color fare worse than white women in every aspect of reproductive health. For example:
Poor health outcomes for women of color do not just reveal bad policy – they are evidence that the U.S. is failing to meet its human rights obligations to provide equal access to reproductive healthcare. CRR is raising this issue with human rights entities and experts at the United Nations, as well as on Capitol Hill, to push for recognition that the persistence of racial disparities in reproductive and sexual health is a human rights violation.
In 2008, CRR brought up racial disparities in reproductive and sexual health when the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviewed the United States’ compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. CRR submitted a shadow letter highlighting the ways in which U.S. policy exacerbates racial disparities, with particular reference to the policies that disproportionately burden access to health care for women of color. Additionally, CRR President Nancy Northup testified before the CERD Committee about the dramatic disparities in reproductive health between women of color and white women in the U.S. as evidence that these U.S. policies violate the human rights of women of color.
The CERD Committee recognized pervasive racial disparities in women’s sexual and reproductive health as a human rights concern and called on the U.S. to improve women’s access to reproductive and sexual healthcare, including contraception and sexuality education. Specifically, the Committee urged the U.S. to:
Building off of this success, CRR raised the issue of racial disparities during the U.N. Human Rights Council’s review of United States compliance with its human rights obligations in 2010-2011. The first-ever Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. encompassed not only the U.S.’s obligations under treaties it has ratified, but also its adherence to human rights principles articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter, among other things. Together with several sister organizations, CRR submitted a shadow report to the United Nations, and helped make sure that the issue was raised at “listening sessions” held by the federal government in the months leading up to the Human Rights Council’s review session. CRR was gratified that members of the Human Rights Council asked the U.S. government about racial disparities in reproductive and sexual health, and will continue to advocate at the international, federal and state levels to ensure that governments respect, protect, and fulfill the reproductive rights of women on a basis of equality.