The U.S.’s “cataclysmic retrogression on abortion has resulted in a wave of abortion bans across the country that every day undermines individuals’ rights to life, equality and health,” said Rachana Desai Martin, Chief Government and External Relations Officer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, at a recent hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“the Commission”).
The November 8 hearing was held to examine U.S. human rights violations resulting from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. The Commission, a regional human rights body, monitors human rights in the Americas.
Access to health care—including abortion—has been widely recognized as a human right, and the Center presented information on how the U.S. state abortion bans and restrictions are violating that right and leaving millions without access to care.
“The lack of access to reproductive health services. . . is a dangerous and deadly practice.” —Commission President Roberta Clarke
At the hearing, titled “Healthcare Denied: The Status of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the United States in the Wake of the Dobbs Decision,” Commissioner Julissa Mantilla Falcon, President Roberta Clarke, and Assistant Secretary General Jorge Meza heard testimony from legal and policy experts at the Center, a Center plaintiff denied abortion care, and the Center’s partners at Abortion Care Network and SisterSong–Reproductive Justice Collective for Women of Color.
Kiersten Hogan, a plaintiff in the Center’s lawsuit against the state of Texas, shared her devastating story of being denied abortion care after her water broke and her health and life were threatened. “Texas law caused me to be detained against my will for five days and to be treated like a criminal, all during the most traumatic and heartbreaking experience of my life. I was made to feel less than human,” Hogan told the Commission. “It is unfair that there is no mechanism to fully hold the state of Texas accountable for what happened to me.” (See the video clip highlighting her remarks below.)
Astrid Ackerman, Staff Attorney at the Center, noted in her testimony that the Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade “was the first time in its history that the Supreme Court took away a fundamental right.” Ackerman told the Commission that “states can now prohibit abortion at any point in pregnancy” and the “impact has been catastrophic—paving the way for a regime of forced birth and parenthood.”
“Texas law caused me to be detained against my will for five days and to be treated like a criminal, all during the most traumatic and heartbreaking experience of my life.” —Kiersten Hogan, a Center plaintiff denied abortion care
Commissioners Explore the Impact of the Abortion Bans
Commissioners’ questions focused particularly on the impact of abortion bans on racial and ethnic minorities, adolescents and immigrants, as well as on health care providers. Commissioners also recognized the bans as violating the rights to health and non-discrimination, and notably also the rights to life and to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
“The lack of access to reproductive health services. . . is a dangerous and deadly practice,” President Clarke said, noting that the right to abortion is not only a women’s rights issue, but also a human rights and social justice issue that exacerbates existing inequalities. Commissioner Mantilla Falcon noted that the right to abortion implicates not only the right to health, but also the rights to life and to autonomy—and one cannot speak about a democracy if there is still a group of people who cannot freely decide for themselves their own lives and autonomy.
Watch the video replay of the hearing on U.S. human rights:
About the IACHR Hearings
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), part of the Organization of American States (OAS), monitors, promotes and protects human rights in the Americas.
At IACHR hearings, cases, complaints, reports and concerns related to alleged human rights violations are presented.
The Center joined with 13 civil society organizations in requesting the Commission to hold a public hearing to examine the serious violations of human rights taking place in the U.S. since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs. The hearing was part of the IACHR’s 188th Period of Sessions held from October 30–November 10 in Washington, D.C.
“We’re grateful to the Commission for helping to expose the grave human rights violations currently being experienced in states throughout the U.S.,” said Karla Torres, the Center’s Senior Human Rights Counsel. “Abortion bans are causing immense harm, and the U.S. government must be reminded of its human rights obligations.”
Center Also Provides Testimony at Hearing on the Impact of Agrochemicals on Reproductive Health in Latin America
At another hearing, the Commission heard testimony from the Center and other legal and medical experts on the adverse impact of glyphosate and other agrochemicals—which are used widely in Latin America—on the reproductive health of women and children in the region. The hearing marked the first time the Commission addressed the harms of agrochemicals, which especially harm reproductive health, leading to increased rates of fertility disorders, miscarriages, low birth weight, premature birth, congenital malformations, infant mortality and other conditions.
The Center’s Cristina Rosero, Senior Legal Advisor, testified at the hearing along with Center partners from Brazil, Argentina and Colombia.
Watch the video replay of the hearing on agrochemicals:
More from the hearing:
Center plaintiff Kiersten Hogan on being denied abortion care:
- “Viajar para abortar, la nueva realidad en Estados Unidos,” Ruda, 11.10.23
- “Derogación del derecho constitucional al aborto: Funcionarios de EE.UU participarán en audiencias de la CIDH,” CNN, 11.09.23
- “EE.UU deberá responder por primera vez ante la CIDH,” DTV, 11.09.23
- “Audiencia clave sobre el aborto en EE.UU: ‘No hablamos de mujeres, hablamos de derechos humanos,”‘ Clarín, 11.08.23
- “Estados Unidos responde ante la Comisión Interamericana por la restricción del aborto,” Efeminista, 11.08.23
- “¿Qué alcance tiene el llamado sobre la salud reproductiva que hace la CIDH al Gobierno de EE. UU.?” France24, 11.08.23
- “El gobierno de Biden muestra su compromiso con la salud reproductiva ante la CIDH,” La Vanguardia, 11.08.23