Of Counsel, Fall 2006
Message from our President Nancy Northup
In July, I was in Geneva when the United States faced the UN Human Rights Committee to defend America’s record on protecting and promoting civil rights and liberties. Needless to say, the Center has strong views about America’s backsliding on reproductive rights and we were in Geneva to make those views known. The experience was at once heartening—seeing the power and possibility of nations coming together to protect human rights across borders—and disturbing—witnessing the intransigence of the U.S. government in living up to its international commitments. Right now, the current debate over U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions highlights the importance of establishing—and respecting—international human rights standards. When it comes to reproductive rights, global and national level standards are becoming increasingly progressive, while the U.S. moves towards greater restrictions. In its report to the Human Rights Committee, the U.S. commended itself for the passage of anti-choice laws, including the so-called “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003,” the very law that has been struck down in three separate cases as violating women’s constitutional rights. Indeed, it is the law at issue in our Supreme Court case, Gonzales v. Carhart, to be argued on November 8. After its session last summer, the Human Rights Committee issued “concluding observations” about where the U.S. was moving forward on civil rights and liberties, and where it was falling short. Guess what? Virtually every positive development was from a Supreme Court decision upholding constitutional rights. That means that the most powerful lever for moving rights forward in the U.S. right now is the courts. Which is why they are under constant attack from the right wing.This is particularly important to remember now, as we prepare to go before the Supreme Court on November 8. It is shameful that what the U.S. government cites as progress in the arena of human rights is, in fact, a violation of women’s rights. But perhaps the next time the U.S. goes before the UN Human Rights Committee, we will have a favorable Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart that will be cited as progress. We are certainly working hard to make that happen. We thank you for your continued support as we prepare for this remarkable challenge.