U.N. Committee Denounces Romania for Denying Women Reproductive Health Care

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(PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (U.N. CESCR) has called on the Romanian government to revise its laws and policies to ensure access to reproductive health care for women and adolescents in the country. In its recommendations, issued on 28 November, the Committee stressed that in order to comply with its international human rights obligations, the Romanian government should adopt a national strategy on sexual and reproductive health and implement a comprehensive mandatory programme on sexual and reproductive health in schools to reduce teenage pregnancies.

Romania, a Member State of the European Union (EU), lags far behind the rest of the EU in advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescents and women. According to official statistical data, the maternal mortality rate in Romania is twice the EU average. The country has the highest number of live births among girls under 15 years of age. 

Commenting on the Committee’s observations Iustina Ionescu, human rights lawyer with the Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives said:

“These very worrying figures caught the government by surprise – the Romanian delegation was unable to answer questions on sexual and reproductive health posed by the Committee. It is time for the government to stop this attitude of simply ignoring the rights of women and girls in Romania.”

The U.N. CESCR also expressed concerns at the increasingly common practice of health professionals refusing to perform legal abortions based on personal and moral objections. Under the Medical Doctors Association’s Deontological Code, a doctor can refuse to provide health care assistance if it violates his or her moral values. This code is not legally binding and has obstructed women from accessing safe abortion services.   

Adriana Lamačková, Senior Legal Adviser for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights said:

“Women in Romania should be able to access affordable and legal abortion services, yet doctors’ personal views have been undermining that fundamental right for far too long.

“We commend the U.N. committee for holding the Romanian government accountable for its failures to ensure access to safe and legal reproductive health care.

“The Romanian government must now work quickly to adopt the necessary regulations and effective oversight to end these reproductive rights violations.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives, the Irish Family Planning Association, the Society for Sexual Education and Contraception, and the Global Justice Institute contributed to the Committee’s review process. The U.N. CESCR monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a treaty obliging states parties to ensure all individuals equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee’s findings pointed to deficiencies in Romania’s health care system that have a disproportionate effect on women and girls. The Committee also expressed concern regarding cases of discrimination against women living with HIV/AIDS in access to sexual and reproductive health, as well as the inadequacy of mother-to-child transmission prevention. The full Concluding Observations from the U.N. CESCR can be found here.