Center for Reproductive Rights Calls on President-Elect Obama to Restore U.S. as World Leader in Reproductive Rights

Center Sends Letter Outlining Three Key Steps toward Responsible Reproductive Health Policy

Today the Center for Reproductive Rights called on President-Elect Barack Obama to champion women's reproductive freedom and equality and restore America's leadership on these issues. In a three-page letter, the Center urged the President-Elect to adopt policies that would allow all women to get the safe and affordable reproductive health care they need. The Center also appealed to the new administration to join the growing number of countries and international courts recognizing that reproductive rights are central to a woman's right to human dignity, self-determination, equality, and health.

"With the election of Barack Obama, the Center for Reproductive Rights looks forward to an end to the Bush administration's relentless assault on women's reproductive health and rights. Over the past eight years, while there's been growing recognition of reproductive rights as human rights around the world, the United States has been moving backwards," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Now under an Obama administration, the U.S. can reverse the eight years of regressive policies and finally return to the stage as a world leader on women's reproductive health and human rights."

The Center contends in its letter that the government cannot meaningfully address the high rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections or eliminate the shameful racial disparities in reproductive health, without adopting policies that ensure a woman's constitutional rights and are guided by human rights principles. To that end, the Center asks that the new administration immediately take action in three key areas:

  1. Nominate federal judges who understand that reproductive health is a matter of fundamental rights;
  2. Enact U.S. policies driven by science and not ideology; and
  3. Promote reproductive health and rights at the United Nations and in foreign aid programs.

Nominate Federal Judges Committed to Supporting Established Constitutional Rights

Policy Recommendation

Ensure that nominees to the federal bench will affirm recognized constitutional rights, including a woman's right to choose an abortion.

Over the last 35 years since Roe v. Wade was decided, the anti-choice movement has successfully limited women's access to abortion in numerous ways, including bans on funding, restrictions on young women's access and state-imposed delays and biased counseling requirements. As it stands now, the legal underpinnings of the right to abortion have been severely weakened and only four of the nine Supreme Court Justices have expressed their support for Roe. In fact in 2007, by upholding the first-ever federal ban on abortion in the case Gonzalez v. Carhart, the Court signaled its willingness to further undermine constitutional protections for a woman's right to abortion and possibly to overturn Roe entirely. This is in sharp contrast to the global trend toward recognition of reproductive rights as human rights, including recent decisions from the Constitutional Court of Colombia, Mexico Supreme Court, the United Nations Human Rights Committee and European Court of Human Rights.

Promote Reproductive Health Policies Guided by Science, Not Ideology

Policy Recommendations

  1. Strike funding for abstinence-only programs in the proposed budgets for the Title V Maternal-Child Health Block grant and the Community-Based Abstinence-Education programs;
  2. Aappoint agency heads, particularly to Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FDA, who won't allow politics to trump science; and
  3. Direct the Secretary of HHS to instruct the FDA to ensure its over-the-counter policy for Plan B is based on medical evidence and not ideology.

The Bush administration's ideological agenda has been in complete disregard of objective scientific evidence and particularly troubling in the area of reproductive health. Despite numerous studies finding that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective, the federal government has spent over $1.3 billion to promote them. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has repeatedly refused to make the emergency contraceptive Plan B available without a prescription to women of all ages even though its own scientific review staff has recommended as much.

Promote Reproductive Health and Rights at the United Nations and in Foreign Aid Programs

Policy Recommendations

  1. Nominate U.N. representatives committed to living up to the U.S.'s prior commitments to promote and protect reproductive rights;
  2. Repeal the Global Gag Rule; and
  3. Restore funding to the United Nations Population Fund.

In the foreign policy realm, the Bush administration has adopted programs and polices that deny access to essential reproductive health care and impede progress in the recognition of reproductive rights as human rights. In 2001, Bush re-imposed the Global Gag Rule, banning U.S.-funded family planning groups based overseas from providing any abortion-related services. As a result, organizations that provide not only abortion, but contraception and HIV/AIDS prevention have been forced to close down, leaving countless women with no reproductive health care. In addition, to date, the Bush administration has blocked funding for the international development agency UNFPA, for seven consecutive years, amounting to approximately $235 million in lost U.S. support.

The Center's letter to President-Elect Obama and its Reproductive Rights Federal Policy Agenda are available online.

About the Center for Reproductive Rights

Founded in 1992 in New York City, the Center for Reproductive Rights is the only global legal advocacy organization dedicated to advancing women's reproductive health care as a basic human right. The Center works to ensure that women have access to comprehensive information on reproductive and sexual health, contraception, abortion, prenatal and obstetric care, and that women have access to these services free from discrimination. In the U.S., the Center's highly experienced litigators have helped millions of women and their families by securing Medicaid funding for abortions, striking abortion bans and other access restrictions and protecting teens' access to confidential reproductive health care services and information. In the last two years, we argued Gonzales v. Carhart before the U.S. Supreme Court and litigated over 20 cases on a range of reproductive rights issues.

Internationally, the Center has filed groundbreaking cases in the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American human rights system and before U.N. human rights bodies, and provided legal analysis and support in precedent-setting cases in national courts in Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. Our attorneys have partnered with women's rights advocates around the world, working in more than 50 countries on cases, fact-finding reports, legal publications, and law reform efforts. The Center is headquartered in New York City. For more information, please visit www.reproductiverights.org.