Celebrating the Center’s 20th Anniversary—and a Mission Renewed

Twenty years ago, the Center for Reproductive Rights laid a new cornerstone in the construction of a better future for women worldwide.

In the same year that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey opened the door to the kind of all-out assault on women’s rights that we have been seeing with increasing frequency and ferocity seemingly every day, the Center took on its mission to advance and defend reproductive freedom across the globe.

Our founders’ vision then remains our mission today: to bring about a world in which all women live without barriers to health, equality, dignity, and autonomy, free to make their own decisions about their reproductive health and future without coercion or discrimination. 

We head into our 20th anniversary year driven by great momentum. Dozens of countries worldwide have liberalized their abortion laws in recent decades. More governments are promoting contraception and family planning, and confronting the persistent but largely preventable problems that have kept maternal mortality rates appallingly high. And legal systems are condemning the discriminatory ill treatment of women and girls in one country after another.

The Center has played a crucial role in these developments, advocating women’s fundamental rights ferociously at the United Nations and among governmental bodies worldwide, and bringing the cases of women who have suffered terrible harm before international human rights courts and committees. Time and again, we have convinced these bodies not only to deliver justice on behalf of our clients but also to affirm that reproductive rights are, in fact, fundamental human rights for all.

In the United States, we aim to replicate that perspective and elevate reproductive rights above the political and cultural turmoil that has turned issues of women’s health and reproductive freedom into fodder for partisan bickering—and, too often, rolled back the great progress that the Center and our allies have worked tirelessly to secure. Across two decades, we’ve beaten back overreaching, invasive laws that require mandatory delays before abortions; that impose biased, ideological “counseling” and mandatory ultrasound viewings; that strip funding for reproductive health services; and that attempt to shutter doctors’ practices and choke off women’s rightful access to the full range of reproductive healthcare.

Despite a long legacy of landmark court victories, including several critical wins in the U.S. and worldwide in 2011 alone, our challenge looms ever larger. The opposition—well-organized and well-funded—has grown fiercer in its attacks against women and more cunning in its attempts to stifle the right to choose.

We must—and we will—fight back every bit as ferociously. We enter our 20th anniversary year looking forward to the decades to come, poised and prepared not only to redouble our efforts to defend reproductive rights, but also to lead the way toward a new era when reproductive freedom is no longer a matter of political debate and has instead become a defining—and well-guarded—feature of life for women everywhere.

Stay tuned—and join us as we march onward, into the next 20 years.