Advancing Women's Human Rights Across the Globe

 

Of Counsel, Winter 2007
Message from our President Nancy Northup

Reproductive rights are human rights, and at the Center it is our job to give this principle teeth, to turn it into legal, enforceable reality.  In 2006, we saw the dramatic impact this principle has on women's lives when it is applied to law.

In May, Colombia's constitutional court declared that "Women's sexual and reproductive rights have been finally recognized as human rights...[and are] a basic foundation of any democratic State."  The impact:  the country's total abortion ban was found unconstitutional, and a threat to women's lives, health, and dignity.

In November, a landmark decision by the United Nations committee that monitors compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women established that women must provide their full—and informed—consent to be sterilized, and that failure to ensure that they do so violates their human rights.  The impact: the Hungarian government must pay restitution to a 27-year-old Roma woman who was sterilized against her will.  And we have a clear declaration in international law that a woman must be the decision-maker about her own fertility.

Also in November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—the primary body that monitors human rights in the Americas—issued a historic statement; its first ever on abortion.  Addressed to the Nicaraguan government, the statement said that the Commission is concerned that Nicaragua's complete ban would "endanger the protection of women's human rights," because such bans put women’s lives at risk, and jeopardize their physical and psychological integrity.  The impact: Nicaragua is called to task for violating women's rights, and governments considering abortion bans are put on notice.

We are proud of the role we played in these victories.  They illustrate that when the law recognizes reproductive rights as human rights, women's lives improve.  Unfortunately, the United States, once at the vanguard of protecting reproductive rights, is backsliding.  The impact: despite decades of proof that emergency contraception is safe for women of all ages, the government still forces the young women who most need EC to jump through hoops to get it.  And in November we were back in the Supreme Court, fighting a ban that would criminalize most second-trimester abortions and provides no exceptions for women's health.

Your support is invaluable as we await the Court's decision and more forward with our own mission: advancing women's human rights across the globe.

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