Download: A Ten-Year Retrospective: Reproductive Rights at the Start of the 21st Century


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During the first decade of the 21st century, emerging international legal standards provided broad support for reproductive health as a right essential to the freedom and self-determination of women, recognized maternal mortality as a human rights violation, and established public funding as an essential tool in securing access to reproductive health in practice.

But as the international legal foundations for reproductive rights grew increasingly robust, developments in the United States regrettably moved in the opposite direction. With its 2007 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court discarded decades of precedent requiring abortion restrictions to include a health exception, signaling that women’s health is no longer a paramount concern for the Court. Then, at the close of the decade, healthcare reform efforts sparked a vicious national debate about funding and insurance coverage for abortions, indicating that the United States may miss a critical opportunity to lead this growing international recognition of the centrality of reproductive rights to the freedom of women.

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