2018 Gala

2018 Gala
Center for Reproductive Rights

Igniting Change Through the Power of Law

Tuesday, October 30, 2018  6:30 p.m.
Reception & Awards Presentation
The Appel Room at Frederick P. Rose Hall
Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC

Josephine Majani

Josephine Majani
Honoree

For a woman about to deliver a child, Kenya is among the most dangerous places on earth. Abuse and neglect in Kenya’s delivery and post-natal health system is systemic and widespread. Approximately 8,000 Kenyan women die from pregnancy-related complications every year.

In August 2013, Josephine Majani, a teacher, entered the Bungoma County Referral Hospital for an induced delivery of her third child. Though Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had recently directed public health care facilities to offer free maternity care, Ms. Majani had to share a bed with another expectant woman and was forced to buy her own induction medicine. While experiencing intense labor pains, she walked back and forth from the maternity ward to the delivery room searching for an available bed. On her last attempt, she collapsed, fell to the floor, and delivered her child. When she was discovered unconscious, two nurses slapped and verbally abused her for dirtying the floor and ordered her to walk back to the delivery room, carrying her own placenta.

Josephine Majani’s traumatic experience led her to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Center attorneys represented her, winning a groundbreaking decision against the hospital, County government, and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of Health. The court found that the neglect, physical and verbal abuse were violations of Ms. Majani’s human rights, a decision that affirms the government’s obligation to provide quality health services to all Kenyan women.

Since the decision, Ms. Majani has been outspoken about the need for maternal health care. She was a featured presenter at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights session in 2018 and at Kenya’s International Day of Maternal Health celebration. The Center has built upon Ms. Majani’s victory, ensuring compliance with Kenya’s constitutional protections for pregnant women.

Amanda Mellet & Siobhán Whelan

Amanda Mellet & Siobhán Whelan
Honorees

When Ireland enshrined one of the world’s most restrictive abortion bans into the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution in 1983, it confined thousands of women into the shadows. As a result of the restrictive law Irish women were forced to leave the country to access abortion care, even when a pregnancy was unviable or when their health was at risk. In a climate of stigma and hostility, medical providers could not make referrals or discuss patients’ options—even in cases of fatal fetal abnormality. Unable to communicate openly, women sought care by speaking in euphemisms, often traveling alone and at their own expense, to realize one of the most personal decisions any woman will ever make.

Amanda Mellet and Siobhán Whelan experienced firsthand the devastating impact of Ireland’s abortion ban. In 2010, pregnant with her second child, Ms. Whelan was informed by her doctors that her fetus suffered from a severe brain development disorder. A year later, Ms. Mellet was informed that her fetus had grave congenital heart defects. Both women were informed that these conditions were “incompatible with life,” and that either their pregnancies would not survive until term or their babies would be stillborn or die shortly after birth. When they made the heartbreaking decision to end their pregnancies they were told that because abortion was illegal they could not do so in Ireland. Neither received any counseling from the Irish health care system nor referrals for any services. Medical professionals spoke in vague euphemisms about their option “to travel.” As a result both made their own arrangements and flew to Liverpool in the UK where they were able to access safe and legal reproductive health care. Both women had to pay for the costs of travel and health care themselves – in Ms. Mellet’s case, relying on savings carefully set aside for the newborn. Their journeys were complicated by emotional duress and loneliness and fears that their behavior was somehow criminal. After the procedure, neither woman had enough time to recover and flew home bleeding, exhausted and overwrought from the emotional challenges of this alienating experience.

Ms. Mellet and Ms. Whelan returned to Ireland alert to a grave injustice and they began to advocate for legal change so that no other women would have to suffer in similar ways. The Center became involved when Ms. Mellet and Ms. Whelan boldly stood up to the establishment, sharing their very personal stories with our attorneys who brought their cases to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, one of the bodies that monitors compliance with international human rights treaties. In separate 2016 and 2017 decisions, the Committee ruled that both Amanda Mellet and Siobhán Whelan had been subject to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The Committee underlined that Ireland was obliged under international law to reform its abortion laws that were so out-of-step with international norms. On May 25, 2018, Ireland held a public referendum on the 8th Amendment. More than two-thirds of the electorate voted to repeal the 8th Amendment and Ms. Mellet and Ms. Whelan were celebrated as heroines for their fearless advocacy on behalf of Irish women. As a result of the referendum outcome Irish lawmakers can now reform Irish laws on abortion and the Irish Government has pledged to move swiftly to enact legislation enabling women to access safe and legal abortion care in Ireland.

Josephine Majani

Josephine Majani


For a woman about to deliver a child, Kenya is among the most dangerous places on earth. Abuse and neglect in Kenya’s delivery and post-natal health system is systemic and widespread. Approximately 8,000 Kenyan women die from pregnancy-related complications every year.

In August 2013, Josephine Majani, a teacher, entered the Bungoma County Referral Hospital for an induced delivery of her third child. Though Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had recently directed public health care facilities to offer free maternity care, Ms. Majani had to share a bed with another expectant woman and was forced to buy her own induction medicine. While experiencing intense labor pains, she walked back and forth from the maternity ward to the delivery room searching for an available bed. On her last attempt, she collapsed, fell to the floor, and delivered her child. When she was discovered unconscious, two nurses slapped and verbally abused her for dirtying the floor and ordered her to walk back to the delivery room, carrying her own placenta.

Josephine Majani’s traumatic experience led her to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Center attorneys represented her, winning a groundbreaking decision against the hospital, County government, and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of Health. The court found that the neglect, physical and verbal abuse were violations of Ms. Majani’s human rights, a decision that affirms the government’s obligation to provide quality health services to all Kenyan women.

Since the decision, Ms. Majani has been outspoken about the need for maternal health care. She was a featured presenter at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights session in 2018 and at Kenya’s International Day of Maternal Health celebration. The Center has built upon Ms. Majani’s victory, ensuring compliance with Kenya’s constitutional protections for pregnant women.

Amanda Mellet and Siobhán Whelan

Amanda Mellet and Siobhán Whelan


When Ireland enshrined one of the world’s most restrictive abortion bans into the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution in 1983, it confined thousands of women into the shadows. As a result of the restrictive law Irish women were forced to leave the country to access abortion care, even when a pregnancy was unviable or when their health was at risk. In a climate of stigma and hostility, medical providers could not make referrals or discuss patients’ options—even in cases of fatal fetal abnormality. Unable to communicate openly, women sought care by speaking in euphemisms, often traveling alone and at their own expense, to realize one of the most personal decisions any woman will ever make.

Amanda Mellet and Siobhán Whelan experienced firsthand the devastating impact of Ireland’s abortion ban. In 2010, pregnant with her second child, Ms. Whelan was informed by her doctors that her fetus suffered from a severe brain development disorder. A year later, Ms. Mellet was informed that her fetus had grave congenital heart defects. Both women were informed that these conditions were “incompatible with life,” and that either their pregnancies would not survive until term or their babies would be stillborn or die shortly after birth. When they made the heartbreaking decision to end their pregnancies they were told that because abortion was illegal they could not do so in Ireland. Neither received any counseling from the Irish health care system nor referrals for any services. Medical professionals spoke in vague euphemisms about their option “to travel.” As a result both made their own arrangements and flew to Liverpool in the UK where they were able to access safe and legal reproductive health care. Both women had to pay for the costs of travel and health care themselves – in Ms. Mellet’s case, relying on savings carefully set aside for the newborn. Their journeys were complicated by emotional duress and loneliness and fears that their behavior was somehow criminal. After the procedure, neither woman had enough time to recover and flew home bleeding, exhausted and overwrought from the emotional challenges of this alienating experience.

Ms. Mellet and Ms. Whelan returned to Ireland alert to a grave injustice and they began to advocate for legal change so that no other women would have to suffer in similar ways. The Center became involved when Ms. Mellet and Ms. Whelan boldly stood up to the establishment, sharing their very personal stories with our attorneys who brought their cases to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, one of the bodies that monitors compliance with international human rights treaties. In separate 2016 and 2017 decisions, the Committee ruled that both Amanda Mellet and Siobhán Whelan had been subject to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The Committee underlined that Ireland was obliged under international law to reform its abortion laws that were so out-of-step with international norms. On May 25, 2018, Ireland held a public referendum on the 8th Amendment. More than two-thirds of the electorate voted to repeal the 8th Amendment and Ms. Mellet and Ms. Whelan were celebrated as heroines for their fearless advocacy on behalf of Irish women. As a result of the referendum outcome Irish lawmakers can now reform Irish laws on abortion and the Irish Government has pledged to move swiftly to enact legislation enabling women to access safe and legal abortion care in Ireland.

For further information, please contact Emily at 212-581-1400 or emily@asticproductions.com