From Latin America’s “Green Wave” to the U.S.’s regression on abortion rights, 2022 was a significant year for reproductive rights news. In these media highlights, Center leaders discuss the latest issues in reproductive rights, their accomplishments across the globe, and their recommendations for the future.
Here are a few of our media highlights from regions across the globe:
“Stop harassment of women, girls seeking abortion care,” Daily Nation, 02.04.22
- Evelyne Opondo, the Center’s senior regional director for Africa, wrote an op-ed in the Daily Nation on the need for the Kenyan government to align the penal code with the Kenyan Constitution, which “gave a framework for reproductive health, including abortion care as a fundamental human right.”
- In the op-ed, Opondo outlines the barriers to abortion care that Kenyan women, girls, and healthcare providers face regularly, arguing that these obstacles demonstrate an “outright failure to acknowledge that the 2010 Constitution redefined the legal context for accessing abortion care” and calling upon the Kenyan government to “seal loopholes that pave way for harassment and extortion of providers and patients seeking abortion care.”
- News Medical quoted Martin Onyango, the Center’s associate director of legal strategies for Africa, in an article about increased worldwide opposition to abortion following the repeal of Roe v. Wade in the U.S.
- “Opposition groups that operate across the continent—and particularly Sub-Saharan Africa—are led by church groups, they are transnational, traversing the US to Europe, Europe to Africa,” Onyango said. “The same tactics you see being deployed in the US and Europe are the same tactics being deployed in Sub-Saharan Africa, they work with the same groups—largely the evangelical church groups. They have morphed from just being a religious focus group, [there are] also professional groups within those religious groups that then use tactics like litigation to further restrict access to reproductive healthcare.”
“Human rights-based accountability for sexual and reproductive health and rights in humanitarian settings: Findings from a pilot study in northern Uganda,” PLOS Global Public Health Journal, 08.22.22
- Center staff members Grady Arnott, manager of legal research for global advocacy, and Beatrice Odallo, advocacy advisor for Africa, co-authored a scholarly article published in PLOS Global Public Health Journal. The article examines the methodology of a pilot program to improve the delivery of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services at one of Uganda’s largest refugee settlements.
- “Strengthening integrated humanitarian health systems to be more accountable to the needs and human rights of affected women and girls is critical for delivering transformative change and realizing SRHR in these complex contexts. Results from the community-led intervention demonstrate the feasibility and acceptability of embedding these designs in the refugee response infrastructure,” write the authors. “As more people are displaced and humanitarian crises become increasingly protracted, innovative strategies for the realization of SRHR are needed and should continue to be examined in future research.”
- Abortion remains largely restricted in the Philippines, with prison sentences up to six years for those who violate the law. These restrictive abortion laws fail to meet international law and policy standards—and fail to adhere to the new Abortion Care Guideline released by the World Health Organization (“WHO”) in March 2022. The Guideline puts forth a framework for ensuring effective, accessible and safe abortion care and provides legal and policy recommendations for ensuring equal access.
- In this op-ed, Jihan Jacob, the Center’s senior legal advisor for Asia, calls for the Philippines government to meet its constitutional obligation to the right to health and make quality abortion care accessible to all. “For Filipinos to fully exercise their human rights, they must be able to make free and informed decisions and have access to abortion care,” writes Jacob.
“Reproductive Rights, India,” Dawn, 10.23.22
- In this op-ed published in Dawn, Sara Malkani, the Center’s legal adviser for Asia, writes about the India supreme court’s ruling that unmarried women are entitled to an abortion under India’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. While abortion is criminalized in India, the MTP Act created exceptions to criminalization and set forth circumstances under which some abortions could be permitted.
“With the Surrogacy Act, the judiciary has the chance to expand scope of reproductive rights,” Indian Express, 10.27.22
- This op-ed, co-authored by the Center’s India Advocacy Adviser Brototi Dutta, calls upon the Indian judiciary to assess two recent acts through the framework of reproductive rights and justice. The acts, which came into force earlier this year, regulate the reproductive health care industry and stipulate who can access procedures such as in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy.
- The situation “raises stark questions of privilege, exploitation and work,” and “the Surrogacy and ART Acts have not adequately addressed or settled these and more questions,” write the authors. “The SC and Delhi HC now have the opportunity to assess the Acts through the framework of reproductive rights and justice, and extend recent constitutional jurisprudence on the right to privacy, reproductive autonomy, and recognition of non-traditional families.”
Latin America and the Caribbean
- Multiple news sources reported on the ruling by Colombia’s Constitutional Court to decriminalize abortion. Colombia is the third country in the region, following Argentina and Mexico, to take steps toward decriminalizing abortion. The lawsuit was brought by the Causa Justa movement, of which the Center is a member.
- Reuters quoted Nancy Northup, the Center’s president and CEO, who stated, “We hope that the next step for Colombia will be the total decriminalization of abortion, in order to protect women’s reproductive autonomy at all times.”
- The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal reported that Catalina Martínez Coral, the Center’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said from outside the courthouse, “Today, women in this country have won. This is a historic decision for Latin America and the Caribbean, and will serve as a beacon for the constitutional and supreme courts of the region.”
- Vice News and the Associated Press quoted Cristina Rosero, a senior legal advisor for the Center in Latin America and the Caribbean, on the importance of the ruling. Rosero told Vice, “We hope this decision dramatically changes the situation of women and girls in the country. Criminalization disproportionately affects women and girls in the most vulnerable positions, especially poor and young women. It creates deeper inequalities that already exist in society.”
“The Key Argument on Abortion That Changed Everything in Colombia,” The New York Times, 03.14.22
- In this New York Times op-ed, Catalina Martínez Coral, the Center’s senior regional director in Latin America and the Caribbean, discusses her experiences fighting for the decriminalization of abortion in Colombia as part of the Causa Justa movement.
- The Constitutional Court of Colombia issued a landmark ruling February 21 to decriminalize abortion up to 24 weeks of gestation, a move expected to have far-reaching impacts on the exercise of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the country.
“Chilean Activists Celebrate Apology in Forced Sterilization Case,” Al Jazeera, 06.01.22
- Al Jazeera reported on the apology by Chilean President Gabriel Boric to a woman who was forcibly sterilized after the birth of her son because she had HIV. The Center and its local partner, Vivo Positivo, represented “Francisca” at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. As a result, Chile agreed to end its forced sterilization practices and provide reparations to Francisca.
- Enid Muthoni Ndiga, the Center’s chief program officer, commented to Al Jazeera, “For the first time, the state is actively acknowledging its international obligation, and that Francisca’s rights, as with the rights of many other women, have been violated. This type of mechanism sets standards, not just for governments in other countries across the region, but also for other survivors to seek justice.”
“In Poland, ‘Women Are Paying A High Price For The Rule Of Law Crisis,'” France24, 02.17.22
- France24 reported on a top European court’s decision allowing the European Union to block funds to member states that don’t follow EU laws. Poland, which has regressed on human rights—including reproductive rights—in recent years, is at risk of losing EU funding because of the ruling. Leah Hoctor, the Center’s senior regional director for Europe, told France24, “It is extremely important that the European Union takes these kinds of measures to put as much pressure as possible on the Polish government and put an end to this very serious crisis of the rule of law.”
- This piece in the Independent reported on the call to action by the Center and other organizations for the international community to protect the SRHR of people fleeing the war in Ukraine. Leah Hoctor said: “It is imperative that European governments ensure that their humanitarian assistance prioritises the sexual and reproductive health and human rights of women and girls. Robust political will and financial support for sexual and reproductive health services is vital to address serious risks of harm to the health of women and girls and to ensure protection from gender-based violence.”
“European Countries Eye Abortion Reform Following Roe’s Repeal,” U.S. News & World Report, 07.21.22
- Following the overruling of Roe v. Wade in the U.S., several European countries are revisiting their own abortion policies. U.S. News quoted Leah Hoctor in an article exploring these policies.
- While Hoctor said abortion access in the U.K. is “not highly problematic” in general, its laws allow abortion only on specific social grounds. These laws “fail to allow pregnant women to make their own decisions about their pregnancies,” Hoctor said.
- Vice quoted Leah Hoctor in an article about the then-upcoming elections in Italy and the state of abortion rights in the country. Hoctor said that “the Italian authorities are failing to live up to their human rights obligations to guarantee access to abortion care in practice” and that “any moves to rollback entitlements to abortion care in Italy or to introduce new barriers would fly in the face of the overwhelming trend across the region towards the removal of legal and policy restrictions on abortion.”
“The Myth that America’s Abortion Laws Are More Permissive Than Europe’s,” The Atlantic, 07.22.22
- The Atlantic quoted Katherine Mayall, the Center’s director of strategic initiatives, in an article combating the idea that America’s abortion laws are more permissive than Europe’s. Mayall said that in Europe, “in practice, if somebody hits a gestational limit of 12 weeks, they’re still able to access abortion care, because the broad grounds after that limit option include things like mental health or the woman’s economic circumstances.”
“Global impacts of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and abortion regression in the United States,” Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 11.16.22
- In this scholarly article, six Center leaders—Risa Kaufman, Rebecca Brown, Catalina Martínez Coral, Jihan Jacob, Martin Onyango and Katrine Thomasen—explore the likely impacts of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson within the United States and elsewhere around the world.
- “The regressive and harmful decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming trend toward global progress on abortion rights and access,” write the authors. “As we anticipate the emboldening impact that the ruling may have on opposition forces around the world, it is critical that advocates emphasise the movement successes and legal and policy advances in abortion rights over the past 25 years.”
- This Forbes piece reports on the steps that its “100 Most Powerful Women” have taken to protect access to reproductive health care since the U.S. Supreme Court revoked the constitutional right to abortion. Center President and CEO Nancy Northup is quoted: “You need to do an assessment of where you have influence and power, and you need to use it,” Northup says. “The more that everyone is vocal, and using the expanse of their power to the extent they can, that is what’s going to turn this around.”
“The New Landscape of the Abortion Fight,” The New York Times, 12.10.22
- In this article, the New York Times reports on the continuing fight for abortion rights in the U.S. in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. President and CEO Nancy Northup is quoted: “We’re done with the conversation that went on for 50 years about whether Roe was rightly decided, about whether there’s a right to privacy,” she said, citing the amendment in Michigan which defines a right to reproductive freedom, “including the right to make all decisions about pregnancy and abortion.”
- “People living in these states are going to be used to the concept of reproductive freedom in their state law that nobody can argue with, because the language is there,” Northup said. “This now sets the new standard, and advocates and people who support reproductive autonomy in other states are going to say, ‘Well, why not my constitution?’