By Marie Smith
Editor’s note. The following is excerpted from a post that appeared on the webpage of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues (PNCI).
The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice conducted a visit to the United States last week and denounced laws restricting and regulating abortion as discriminatory and interfering with “women’s reproductive rights”.
The Group railed against state laws on abortion, designed to protect women’s safety and provide for an informed and non-coerced decision, calling the laws “severe barriers” to women’s rights asserting:
“These take the form of unjustified medical procedures, such as compelling women to undergo ultrasounds or to endure groundless waiting periods, withholding of early pregnancy abortion medications, imposing burdensome conditions for the licensing of clinics, which have resulted in the closing of clinics across the country leaving women without geographical access to sexual and reproductive health services.” …
The Group promoted adoption of the Woman’s Health Protection Act which it declared “would prohibit states from enacting restrictions on reproductive health care providers that interfere with women’s personal decision making and block access to safe and legal abortion services; and to require all hospitals to provide these services and insurance schemes to provide coverage for abortions to which women have a right under US law.”
The Working Group–a Special Procedure under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council to advance non-discrimination against women–on its first country visit to the US called for “increased funding of clinics under the Title X Family Planning Program in order to expand coverage for low-income women who lack insurance in order for them to access preventive care, including sexual and reproductive health services…”
Opposition to conscientious objection and religious freedom was expressed in the strongest terms as the Group– sounding like pro-abortion activists and repeating pro-abortion arguments– proclaimed:
“We wish to recall, as independent United Nations human rights experts have consistently stressed, that freedom of religion cannot be used to justify discrimination against women, and therefore should not be regarded as a justification for denying women’s right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. We encourage steps to reconcile U.S. laws on religious or conscience-based refusals to provide reproductive health care with international human rights law and to prohibit refusal to provide sexual and reproductive health services on grounds of religious freedom, where such refusal will effectively deny women immediate access to the health care to which they are entitled under both international human rights law and US law.”
The delegation, comprised of members Eleonora Zielinska, Frances Raday, and Alda Facio, claimed that the “stigma attached to reproductive and sexual health care” leads to “violence, harassment and intimidation against those seeking or providing reproductive health care” and called on authorities to “investigate and prosecute violence or threats of violence.” …
Members of the Group were appointed by the Human Rights Council and include former “experts” who served on the treaty monitoring body for the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Not surprisingly, the Group strongly urged the US to ratify the CEDAW convention stating that the US is “one of only seven countries which have not ratified CEDAW” despite the fact that the “US government committed to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All of Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)” in 2010 and 2015, “in the framework of its Universal Periodic Review.”
The Group charged that it “is a myth that women already enjoy all these rights and protections under US law.”
According to the Group, opposition to CEDAW reflects “political resistance” that has also “consistently blocked efforts to pass an Equal Rights Amendment, which would entrench women’s right to equality in the US Constitution.”
It should be noted that CEDAW regularly instructs countries to remove pro-life laws, declaring that such laws are discriminatory since they only apply to women.
The Group used the visit to issue negative comments about the Republican candidates for president as it stated,”…our visit is particularly timely at a moment when the political rhetoric of some of the candidates for the Presidency in the upcoming elections has included unprecedented hostile stereotyping of women.”
In its conclusion, the Group asserted,
“The United States, which is a leading state in formulating international human rights standards, is allowing its women to lag behind international human rights standards. Although there is a wide diversity in state law and practice, which makes it impossible to give a comprehensive report, we could discern an overall picture of women’s missing rights.”
Radical US NGOs assisted the Group during its visit. The findings and conclusions will be developed and presented in a comprehensive report to the Human Rights Council in June 2016.