UN Human Rights Committee Establishes Right to Abortion as a Human Right
The Center for Reproductive Rights persuaded the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) to recognize that women have a human right to access safe and legal abortion. In a ruling that has been cited extensively as precedent in other national-level court decisions on abortion access, the UNHRC established that denying access to legal abortion violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to privacy, and the special protection of the rights of children.
When K.L. was 17 years old, she found out that she was pregnant and received a fetal anomaly diagnosis of anencephaly. Even though abortion is legal in Peru for therapeutic reasons, K.L. was illegally denied access to an abortion by the hospital director and was compelled to carry the pregnancy to term. The baby survived for four days after birth, and was breastfed by K.L. during that time.
Her case, brought before the UNHRC by the Center in partnership with the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM) and the Counseling Center for the Defense of Women’s Rights (DEMUS), alleged that K.L.’s pregnancy severely compromised her life by endangering her physical and psychological health. The complaint stated that the second half of her pregnancy, during which she desired but was denied an abortion, was a clear violation of international human rights standards.
On November 17, 2005, the UNHRC established that denying access to a legal abortion in such a case violated international standards prohibiting violence against women. The ruling stablished the right to special protection as a minor and the right to be free of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by state officials.
As a result of this ruling, Peru improved its legal and administrative policies on sexual violence. The case marked the first time an international human rights body has held a government accountable for failing to ensure access to legal abortion services.
Filing date: 11/08/02
Center Attorney(s): Luisa Cabal and Lilian Sepúlveda
Partners: CLADEM, DEMUS
Court Opinions & Orders
Shadow Letters & Reports
- Supplementary information on reproductive rights in Peru for the 46th session of the CESCR
- Interights: UN Human Rights Committee Decision in K.L. v. Peru
- A Tale of Extraordinary Courage: Interview with K.L.
- Argentina Decriminalizes Abortion in All Cases of Rape
- United Nations Calls on Perú to Expand Access to Legal Abortion
- Perú Takes Critical Step To Implement Historic United Nations Ruling On Denial of Access to Legal Abortion
- U.N. Committee Finds U.S. Is Falling Short in Tackling Racism in Reproductive Health Care
- The Center for Reproductive Rights Commends Mexico City for New Law Legalizing Abortion in First Trimester
- Center for Reproductive Rights Applauds Landmark Abortion Decision by European Court of Human Rights
- Inter-American Commission Issues Landmark Statement Declaring Nicaragua’s Abortion Ban Jeopardizes Women’s Human Rights
- Center For Reproductive Rights Condemns Passage Of Nicaragua’s Abortion Ban
- Center for Reproductive Rights Calls on U.S. to Keep It’s Promise to Protect Reproductive Rights
- Landmark Decision By Colombia’s Highest Court Liberalizes One Of The World’s Most Restrictive Abortion Laws
- U.S. Women Face Unprecedented Assault on Reproductive Rights, Center for Reproductive Rights Testifies Before Human Rights Committee
- Mexico Admits Responsibility for Denying Child Rape Victim’s Rights
- UN Human Rights Committee Makes Landmark Decision Establishing Women’s Right to Access to Legal Abortion
- Court Shuts Down Man Who Fakes Abortion Services in Louisiana
- International Human Rights Settlement Expected to Improve Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care in Peru
Center in the News