This week the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health Anand Grover presented a report to the General Assembly expounding on the right to reproductive health care for women; including abortion. In the introduction to the report Grover writes “The right to sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental part of the right to health. States must therefore ensure that this aspect of the right to health is fully realized.”
The focus is not just on abortion though, he stresses the right to contraceptives and family planning tools, access to reproductive health education. He also argues against the criminalization of certain behaviors during pregnancy such as drinking because they may prevent pregnant women from seeking proper health care for fear of being persecuted for such behaviors.
Though the report is not a binding document, member states do not HAVE to follow the recommendations made, it is a huge step in the right direction for women’s rights throughout the world. Some member nations are already on par and have few abortion restrictions and some have outright bans no matter the circumstance. This report will force a dialogue between the two ends of the spectrum and hopefully lead to lessened regulations in many countries.
It is interesting to note that this report came out in the midst of one of the strongest period of attacks against abortion rights in the U.S. since Roe vs. Wade. Mississippi voters are gearing up to vote on a personhood amendment which would grant legal personhood status to a fetus from the moment of fertilization which would ban all abortion in the state. It will likely also have severe implications on birth control access as many forms of birth control impact implantation, which occurs after fertilization. That limits two of the 4 areas of women’s sexual and reproductive health addressed in the report.
The report also shows that access to reproductive health education vital, yet all over the U.S. states are enforcing a lack of education by focusing on abstinence only sexual education programs. While the U.S. is advanced in many ways compared to other member states of the UN, it is clear by comparing our policies to the guidelines in this report that when it comes to women’s sexual and reproductive health we are seriously lagging. It is time to stop letting the religious beliefs of some dictate the policy’s of our country and ensure the women of the U.S. have access to full reproductive health and equality as is our right.