Redefining Health: Center for Reproductive Rights and Anand Grover working together

Posted on | November 8, 2011 by Timothy Herrmann |

As covered previously, Special Rapporteur Anand Grover has been using his position to redefine the “right to health” as including access to abortion. His argument is two fold. First, unsafe abortion is a “leading cause” of maternal mortality and is more likely in countries where abortion is criminalized. Second, because unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality, and because criminalization is a contributing factor to unsafe abortion, access to abortion falls under the right to health. His ideas are not just his own, however.

In the following video, the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization that is instrumental internationally in litigating for the decriminalization of abortion, interviews Grover:

There are a few major problems with his train of thought:

1. Grover claims that 13% of all maternal deaths are the result of unsafe abortion. However, as Grover readily admits, not all of these abortions are unsafe because of criminalization, but because with abortion there is always the risk of very serious complications arising. In addition, Grover’s claim that 13% of all maternal deaths are caused by abortion is very controversial. The number comes from studies conducted by the WHO and has been called into question by many experts. His focus on unsafe abortion is also curious given that the WHO report expressly shows that the leading causes of maternal mortality are not unsafe abortion but hemorrhaging, eclampsia, and infection which are easily addressed by improved health care services, not abortion.

2. There is no doubt that unsafe abortion is killing women. The main disagreement is whether the solution is decriminalization and not better health care. For many countries and many people abortion is an extremely complicated moral dilemma. For many others, it is more than just a dilemma, it is robbing a human being of its existence. This is not an issue that can simply be converted into a right to health and then taken out of the hands of states and society at large. It is clear that this is Grover’s agenda and that this agenda is supported and influenced by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

3. The real harm being done here originates from the willingness of bureaucrats like Grover to myopically focus on abortion and ignore women’s health at large. Officials like Grover are more willing to fight for their ideology than to go to the heart of what is really at stake not only in women’s health but in the serious moral questions surrounding the extermination of human life. Existence is not something to be taken lightly, or to be hijacked by ideology.

Eventually, parties on both sides of the abortion debate must move beyond ideology. They must begin to look at abortion for what it is, rather than what they would like to define it to be in order to force others out of the conversation. Lives are at stake, both on the side of the mother and the child. It is a sad that ideology can blind us to this truth and make us willing to ignore it entirely.

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Turtle Bay and Beyond is a blog covering international law, policy and institutions. Our experts - at the UN, European Institutions, and elsewhere - explore an authentic understanding of international law, sovereignty, and the dignity of the human person. We expose those who would seek to impose a radical social vision that is contrary to these principles.

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