United Nations Committee Examines U.S. Record On Torture

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Center for Reproductive Rights Raises Violations of Reproductive Rights for Immigrant Women and Women of Color
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(PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations Committee against Torture meets in Geneva this week to review the United States’ record on torture and human rights violations. The Center for Reproductive Rights is among 70 US civil society groups attending the review to raise critical issues, ranging from allegations of torture at Guantánamo Bay to conditions of immigration detention facilities.

Today the UN committee asked a high-level U.S. delegation questions regarding lack of sexual and reproductive health services for immigrant women in detention facilities and the shackling of pregnant women in custody. Prior to the review the Center submitted a joint letter with The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Women Enabled International to the UN Committee detailing how discrimination against immigrants, poor and rural women, and women and girls living with disabilities seeking reproductive health services  subjects them to torture or ill-treatment. 

Discriminatory state and federal policies are resulting in the denial of essential reproductive health care and other ill treatment of women. In Texas, for example, reproductive health funding was slashed by two-thirds in 2011, cutting off critical preventive services for millions of low-income women. In 2013 House Bill 2 (HB2) passed, leading to the closure of approximately half Texas’s safe, legal abortion clinics. These efforts together have had a particularly devastating impact on low-income Latinas and immigrant women living in the Rio Grande Valley and other medically underserved areas of the state.  

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

“All women deserve access to safe, legal, high-quality health care, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, or where they live.

“But for countless women in Texas and across the U.S., access has been choked off by politically motivated legislation that has shut down clinics and left millions of women to travel hundreds of miles just to seek the care they need.

“The Committee against Torture must hold the U.S. government accountable for allowing this reproductive health crisis to unfold on its watch.” 

UN human rights bodies have historically been critical of the United States for the discrimination immigrants experience when seeking affordable health care. In August, the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about policies barring immigrants from public health insurance and urged the U.S. to improve access to affordable coverage for all immigrants, especially women in need of reproductive health care. These recommendations echo ones made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee this past March urging the U.S. to amend laws that discriminate against immigrants in health coverage and access to reproductive health care.

In addition to the denial of essential reproductive health care for Texas Latinas, the Center for Reproductive Rights describes in the joint letter to the Committee against Torture abuses that frequently occur in immigration detention facilities, including shackling of pregnant women and denial of contraception and prenatal care, due to lack of proper oversight and binding policies.  

No woman in the U.S. should be denied essential reproductive health care and endure ill-treatment because of her gender, ethnicity, immigration status, or disability,” said Katrina Anderson, Senior Human Rights Counsel at the Center.  “The U.S. must be held accountable to fulfill all women’s human rights and take the concrete steps necessary to combat the many forms of discrimination that leave far too many women at risk of torture and cruel treatment.”

The Center has led the effort to hold states and the U.S. government accountable for failures to ensure reproductive rights for immigrants. In 2013, the Center and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health released Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley, a report documenting the devastating human toll on Latinas and their families in the Rio Grande Valley in the wake of Texas’s 2011 policy decisions to slash state funding for reproductive health services.