Abortion Access in Conflict

Since the passing of Roe vs. Wade, the United States has been placing abortion restrictions on its foreign aid. These restrictions impact thousands of girls and women raped in armed conflict who are routinely denied access to safe abortions.

Women and girls raped in war are considered “wounded and sick” and therefore are entitled to full medical care under the Geneva Conventions. For rape victims, this medical care includes abortion services. Our Abortion Access in Conflict campaign demands women and girls receive the necessary medical care they need.

GJC is fighting for the US to lift the abortion restrictions placed on all humanitarian aid for war victims and do so while explicitly referencing the rights of female war victims under the Geneva Conventions. We are fighting to ensure that abortions are provided on the ground in humanitarian medical settings around the world.


The Perils of the Inaccessibility to Reproductive Healthcare in Eastern Burma

A woman should never have to resort to using a fishing hook or dangerous medications as the only feasible options to terminating a pregnancy. Yet these dangerous tactics remain pandemic in eastern Burma where inaccessibility to proper healthcare and safe abortions threatens the livelihood of thousands of women. A recent report by Ibis Reproductive Health highlights the dire state that women on the Thai-Burma border are in. The fact that so many women in Burma turn to these fatal and unsafe method of pregnancy termination underscore the need for safe abortions.

Yet, despite this clear need, USAID silences any prospects for these women to enjoy a healthier future. The United States, being the largest donor of humanitarian aid, has an immense amount of influence on how aid is distributed. When Congress implemented the Helms Amendment in 1973, abortion restrictions were placed on foreign aid. Under “Helms” no USAID funding may be used to pay for abortion as a method of family planning. The amendment contains a provision that prohibits abortion speech, saying that the funds cannot be used to “motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” The Global Justice Center staunchly argues that these abortion restrictions are a violation of the rights of girls and women raped in armed conflict under international humanitarian law. This is because the Geneva Conventions recognize that women and girls raped in armed conflict, as “protected persons”, are classified as “wounded and sick” and are entitled to “receive to the fullest extent practicable and with the least possible delay, the medical care and attention required by their condition.” Therefore, depriving these girls and women of this care is unlawful and this injustice is the driving force behind the Global Justice Center’s August 12th campaign.

Focusing in on eastern Burmese women, it is clear that they do not have a credible institution to turn to when it comes to reproductive healthcare. In fact, reproductive healthcare in Burma is known to be the worst in the world.  The “Separated by Borders” report, released by Ibis Reproductive Health and the Global Health Access program exposes the crippling healthcare infrastructure in eastern Burma.  The GJC has long noted the terrible state of eastern Burmese women when it comes to accessibility to reproductive health care and abortion, especially during conflict. The Global Justice Center is using legal tools to work diligently to help lift the “no abortion” clause in U.S humanitarian aid to make this type of care more accessible so women in order to prevent prolonged suffering.

Based on the Ibis Reproductive Health Report, RH Reality Check author Anna Clark notes the life-threatening repercussions of depriving Burmese women of reproductive services including unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and death. Furthermore, 80 percent of women in eastern Burma have never used birth control due to the overall inaccessibility of contraceptives and the lack of legitimate healthcare.

Granting women in eastern Burma their rights, including access to reproductive healthcare will be a step in the right direction for Burma. Burmese women will not only be alleviated from suffering, but, they will also have the opportunity to become more active members of society. Utilizing the rule of law, the Global Justice Center works to dismantle the patriarchal structures inhibiting women’s rights to make sure that the prioritization of women’s health will be factored into the equation in the years to come.

To read more about this issue on RH Reality Check, click here and here.

To read the “Separated by Borders” report, click here.

To read more about the Global Justice Center’s August 12th Campaign, click here.

President Obama Urged to End U.S. Violation of the Rights of Rape Survivors in Armed Conflict

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—August 25, 2011

To coincide with the anniversary of the U.S. signing the Geneva Conventions, the Global Justice Center launched the global “August 12th”campaign to urge President Obama to immediately lift the “no abortion” restriction attached to all U.S. humanitarian aid for medical care given to girls and women raped and impregnated in armed conflict.

[NEW YORK, NY] – Thousands of girls and women raped and impregnated in armed conflict face additional suffering by being routinely denied abortions in humanitarian medical settings. The Geneva Conventions mandate “comprehensive” and “non-discriminatory” medical care to the wounded and sick during armed conflict and United Nations treaty bodies and courts characterize deliberate denial of abortion to impregnated rape victims as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Yet, the United States (the “U.S.”) attaches a “no abortion” prohibition to all U.S. humanitarian aid, including for war rape victims whose rights are guaranteed under the laws of war. Therefore, the Global Justice Center (the “GJC”) coordinated a consortium of over 3,000 leading legal, human rights, public health and humanitarian organizations and experts from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa, and Latin & South America to urge President Obama to immediately lift the “no abortion” restriction attached to all U.S. humanitarian aid. Click here to view the GJC’s letter to the President.

Amanitare's Letter to President Obama

Letter sent to President Obama by Amanitare as a part of the GJC's "August 12th Campaign" asking that he issue an Executive Order lifting US abortion restrictions on humanitarian aid.

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Reality Check, “Why Is The U.S. Waging War on Women Raped in War?”

Reality Check publishes an article titled "Why is the U.S. Waging War on Women Raped in War?" by Kristina Kallas and Akila Radhakrishnan - both GJC team members.

This article discusses the crises caused by rape as a weapon of war, and the lack of adequate response from the US. The article explains that though the 1973 Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act allows for abortion funding in cases of rape in armed conflict, it has been interpreted differently. Post-abortion care for unsafe abortions is not enough, and these women and girls are still being denied the right to safe abortion services.

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Women's Link Worldwide Letter to President Obama

Letter sent to President Obama by Women's Link Worldwide as a part of the GJC's "August 12th Campaign" asking that he issue an Executive Order lifting US abortion restrictions on humanitarian aid.

The letter was also signed by: Asociacion y lideres en Accion, Colombia; Catolicas por el derecho a decidir, Colombia; Rincon Perfetti Abogados y Consultores Internationales, Colombia; Fundacion Orientame, Colombia; International Federation of Women Lawyers, Uganda; Fundacion Colombia Diversa, Colombia; Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinario sobre las Mujeres; Fundacion para la Formacion de Lideres Afrocolombianos Afolider, Colombia; and Conferencia National de Organizaciones Afrocolombianas Cnoa, Colombia.

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Reproductive Rights Organizations Group Letter

Letter sent to President Obama by a group of Reproductive Rights organizations as a part of the GJC's "August 12th Campaign" asking that he issue an Executive Order lifting US abortion restrictions on humanitarian aid.

The letter was signed by: American Medical Women's Association; Center for Reproductive Rights; International Planned Parenthood Federation; Ipas; Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape; Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights; and Women on Waves.

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