204860 CEDAW at 30: National Implications of U.S. Ratification for Women's Rights and Reproductive Health

Monday, November 9, 2009: 5:15 PM

Dhrubajyoti Bhattacharya, JD, MPH, LLM , Department of Medical Humanities, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, IL

On the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”), the U.S. remains notably absent from the list of 185 countries that have ratified the treaty, which promotes access to family planning and pregnancy-related care. Currently, Senate Democrats and Republicans disagree as to the effect of ratification on U.S. laws and policies. This project assessed the merits of their arguments, and the influence of the CEDAW Committee in monitoring implementation and issuing decisions under its Optional Protocol (in response to individual claims against governments). Given the Democratic majority in Congress, the prospects of ratifying CEDAW make this analysis timely and relevant.


I reviewed the hearing records, existent laws and policies, the CEDAW Committee's comments on States Parties reports, and all (ten) decisions issued under the Optional Protocol.


I found that (1) Democrats and Republicans had mischaracterized or misinterpreted the healthcare provision, (2) the Committee has adopted positions that may influence its interpretation of the provision, and (3) the legal analyses under the Protocol may discredit the Committee's authority in translating broad mandates into specific policy directives.


Before favoring (or opposing) ratification, advocates should recognize (1) the precise legal obligations and ambiguity of the healthcare provision, and (2) the potential influence of the CEDAW Committee.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the session, participants will be able to (1) identify substantive obligations of the government upon ratification, and (2) assess whether ratification would further reproductive health for American women.

Learning Objectives:
(1) Identify substantive obligations of the government upon ratification, and (2) Assess whether ratification would further reproductive health for American women.

Keywords: Advocacy, Women's Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My primary area of research is on issues at the interface of international law, health policy, and women's health. I have been invited to present my research on CEDAW with respect to global health at the American Society of International Law and the Unite for Sight Conference at Yale in March 2009 and April 2009, respectively. This abstract is unique in that it focuses specifically on the legal, political, and social context of CEDAW with respect to women's health in the United States.
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.

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