198548 Abortion providers as human rights defenders

Monday, November 9, 2009: 3:00 PM

Cynthia Soohoo, JD , US Legal Program, Center for Reproductive Rights, New York, NY
Despite the safety and frequency of abortion in the United States, abortion providers experience conditions far more dangerous and difficult than other health professionals. Under international human rights law, human rights defenders are acknowledged for their special role in rights promotion and are entitled to protection from reprisal and harm for their work defending fundamental rights. Abortion providers defend women's rights to life, health and reproductive autonomy. An investigation was undertaken to better understand the nature, range and impact of current attacks on abortion providers. Approximate 90 providers and 30 women seeking abortions were interviewed in six states concerning obstacles providers face and impact on women's access to abortion. Providers reported barriers in four areas: 1) legal restrictions, particularly mandatory waiting periods and biased counseling; 2) regulation of abortion provision, including ambulatory surgical center requirements; 3) harassment, intimidation and fear of violence by protestors; and 4) persistent stigma in the local medical and general communities. The effect of these barriers was to contribute to the scarcity of abortion providers and create additional burdens on the resources of current providers. This caused delay or denial of abortion services to women. Results of the investigation indicate that actions need to be taken at all levels to recognize abortion providers as human rights defenders and secure their capacity to provide abortions. Policy recommendations include removing state restrictions on abortion access, ending regulatory discrimination against providers, strengthening law enforcement protection and response at local and federal levels, and providing opportunities to train new physicians.

Learning Objectives:
1.Describe the range of obstacles faced by abortion providers in the US. 2.Identify the impacts of those obstacles on providers, the availability of abortion and women’s experiences obtaining abortion. 3.Formulate recommendations for actions at the local, state, federal and international levels, using the human rights framework, to remedy violations of abortion providers’ rights.

Keywords: Abortion, Access to Health Care

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Director of the US legal program at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.