Posted on | March 26, 2012 by Lisa Correnti |
An inaugural conference on “Global Health, Gender and Human Rights” was recently held at American University Washington Center for Law (WCL) and co-sponsored by PAHO/WHO and Royal Norwegian Embassy in Guatemala, which promoted the use of international human rights treaties as tools to “improve health policies” including advancing legalized abortion under the guise of reducing maternal mortality.
WCL faculty, students, alumni and PAHO experts collaborated on six background papers; sexual and reproductive health, gender identities, tobacco use and exposure, disability, ageing, and access to medicines, all presented at the conference.
The background paper on Women and Adolescent Girls’ Health—Maternal Morbidity and Mortality was presented by Lilian Sepulveda, Deputy Director of the International Legal program for the abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). The paper focused on three areas of concerns to combat maternal mortality; emergency obstetric care and skilled birth attendants, contraception, and combating “unsafe abortion” by legalizing abortion.
While Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 laid out a process to reduce maternal mortality by three-fourths in developing countries by 2015, progress has been slowed due to abortion advocates emphasis on reducing the number of pregnancies through comprehensive reproductive rights and family planning — contraception and legalized abortion, and not on pre-natal and post-delivery maternal care.
The background paper provides the framework to advance reproductive rights and abortion by first establishing “that women and adolescent girls have rights to reproductive and sexual health” and second by using international and regional human rights treaties to enforce those rights.
Undeterred by the absence of the word “abortion” in international and regional instruments, abortion advocates invoke a “right to life, right to not to be subject to degrading treatment, and right to privacy,” to push the legalization of abortion in nations where it is restricted.
Despite the lack of explicit mention of abortion per se, some international and regional human rights may reinforce women’s rights to access safe and legal abortion. Because of high rates of maternal death caused by unsafe illegal abortions, human rights treaty bodies invoke the right to life, right to not to be subject to degrading treatment, and right to privacy, which implies the possibility to make decisions free from coercion, discrimination and violence, in connection with safe and legal abortion.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child addresses the adolescent girls’ rights to life and survival. The Committee of the CRC has expressed its concern over the differential impact of criminalization of abortion on adolescents, as well as their general lower levels of access to abortion services due to their age and lack of resources.
The background paper also notes that access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education including contraception, family planning and abortion without interference from parents or spouse is a right guaranteed to women and girls through human rights instruments.
Human rights instruments recognize that education has direct implications on the rights to life, health, education and non- discrimination. CEDAW, for example, states that States Parties must provide “access to information, education, and means that enables women to decide on the number and spacing of their children.” In relation to adolescent girls, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has indicated in its General Comment 22, “States Parties should provide adolescents with access to sexual and reproductive information, including on family planning and contraceptives…
The tactics presented at this conference are consistent with what occurred at the UN last week at the conference on the Status of Women (CSW). It was reported by C-FAM that the United States bullied countries to adopt heavy reproductive rights language in a resolution on maternal mortality.
It is shameful that the self-interest of abortion advocates continues to interfere with the alleviation of maternal mortality and morbidity for poor and marginalized women.