Abortion Rights Are Human Rights

As I’ve written here before, when I talk about abortion I call it abortion care — because that’s what it is. Abortion is essential, effective medical care.

During the debate over health care reform, we often heard that health care is a basic human right. That’s true — and just as true is the fact that women have the basic human right to safe, legal abortion care. And that means all women, not just the ones with the resources to overcome medically unnecessary, demeaning and stigmatizing regulations.

I’m not the only one saying this. In fact, it’s the longstanding position of the United Nations. A report by the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA) called for new policies to address the barriers to reproductive health care that economically disadvantaged women face:

The fundamental human rights to life and to security of the person, as well as freedom from cruel and inhumane treatment, and from discrimination, among others, means that unnecessary restrictions on abortion should be removed and governments should provide access to safe abortion services.

And in its periodic review of member countries’ policieshuman rights to ensure compliance with the Geneva Convention, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Ireland and Chile revise their abortion laws to ensure access to more women. According to Think Progress, these two countries have some of the most restrictive abortion policies in the world:

When questioning Irish officials about the law, members of the human rights committee asked how forcing a pregnant woman at risk of suicide to be examined by three doctors before being allowed to proceed with an abortion could be “consistent with the obligation to protect her against mental torture.” They also pointed out that the harsh law “adversely affects vulnerable groups of women,” like the low-income women who may not be able to navigate the complicated medical requirements. Ultimately, their report concludes, Ireland’s laws are depriving women of their human rights.

Human Rights Watch also considers access to abortion care a fundamental human right:

Abortion is a highly emotional subject and one that excites deeply held opinions. However, equitable access to safe abortion services is first and foremost a human right. Where abortion is safe and legal, no one is forced to have one. Where abortion is illegal and unsafe, women are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term or suffer serious health consequences and even death. Approximately 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide are attributable to unsafe abortion-between 68,000 and 78,000 deaths annually.

Even the most diehard conservatives should agree that when it comes to defending the proposition that all of us are born with fundamental rights that no government can legitimately take from us, that question is settled. It’s in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. You might even say that questioning these rights and shifting them into the fray of politics is, well, unpatriotic!

It’s certainly offensive. Why are my rights as a woman less important than anyone else’s?

Human Rights Watch has an excellent Q&A on their website that itemizes the key components of understanding abortion as a human rights issue:

Why is abortion a human rights issue?
Right to life
Rights to health and health care
Rights to nondiscrimination and equality
Right to security of person
Right to liberty
Right to privacy
Right to information
Right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment
Right to decide the number and spacing of children
Right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress
Right to freedom of thought and religion

If you accept that human rights exist, and that they apply to all of us, you can’t pick and choose which rights you like and which you want to eliminate. Abortion rights are human rights, and no one should be denied their most basic human rights.

Originally published on Terry O’Neill’s Huffington Post blog on 01/08/2015.

6 responses to “Abortion Rights Are Human Rights

  1. I agree that Human Rights issues should be pressed on all around the world. I’m sure there are fundraisers that could be put together to help women in third world civilizations in need of care as well.

  2. Human Rights issues should be pressed around the world. Every woman should have the right to a safe passage to proper health care and aid to abortion at any length of term. Itis our right “We are the generation of women that are pursuing this global calamity.”

  3. Friends have asked me why I belong to NOW. I tell them initially it’s for my Mom. A Pioneer in Women of Courage and Independence. Mom was a 1st Lt. US Army, WWII. She was an OB/GYN Nurse until retiring in 1972. In her later 80s Mom told me of a day she spent with Eleanor Roosevelt! I had the great privilege to have had her in my life until just before her 93rd birthday. I understood my mother being outspoken and active for Women’s Rights, why the job a woman did as a man did should earn the same pay. I knew why Mom supported the ERA. What I didn’t understand was why my Mom, the woman who loved to work the delivery room, who was crazy for babies would be Pro Roe v. Wade! I asked. Mon said that as a result of illegal abortion her office was treating cases where young women’s reproductive organs were too far gone. In some cases they lost their lives. If legal the treatment would be performed by Board Certified Doctors in Sterile Conditions bringing the chances of infection or other problems down greatly. If this law is reversed, if we impose Prohibition, I’m sure we will get the same results as the Prohibition of Alcohol. Only instead of bootleggers and gangsters. We will revert to unlicensed doctors or worse performing less than skilled procedures in non sterile conditions. If my religious beliefs dictate abortion is wrong, I guess I better not have one. Do I get to force any Congressman eligible to have a Bris! Or are there no ends to those……!
    This, truly is a case of separation of church and state. The Pro-Fetus camp, because they will do Nothing for the baby. The Pro-Fetus (anti choice) are trying to force their moral and religious beliefs on others. This disturbs me. Three of my Grandparents and one great, great Grandparent came to America to escape the Pogroms of Eastern Europe. There was harsh reality when they got here but with drive and ambition they could make lives for themselves. They did. They built their Temples and practiced their religion. The Rabbi says “Life begins when the children move out and the dog dies.” Not being very observant, I believe Torah reads life begins at first breath. However in a Land of Laws for All regardless of age, race, sexual identity, religion or lack of religion, creed or National Origin, our Laws apply to All. With this Law the simple fact is, if your belief forbids this, don’t do it.
    I am still very angry that the ERA needs just a few votes to be Ratified and this hasn’t been done in over 50 years! This should be on the front page of the New York Times! Daily! Sincerely, a guy who reads your mail, Rob Isenberg

  4. Thank you for a measured and thoughtful presentation of abortion as a human right. Now, more than ever, the U.S. needs a new ERA amendment protecting females from anti-choice discrimination.

  5. Instead of having abortion be a matter of the woman’s choice to have one, why not have pregnancy be legal only when the woman gives her explicit and uncoerced consent to the use of her body by the embryo or fetus? Such a stipulation would be more in line with existing laws that protect women (at least on paper) from having their bodies used against their will by private parties.

  6. The Equal Rights Amendment would make it a Constitutional Law that protects all people from any and all existing laws that discriminate based on gender (Such as ALL anti-choice laws do). This would include reproductive healthcare, health insurance privacy, workplace discrimination, parental leave, and unequal pay. This law would not only protect women, but transgender individuals as well.

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