Global Justice Center Blog
NGO Letter - No Family Detention
Dear President Biden: The undersigned 383 organizations write to express our grave concern over reports that your administration is considering returning to the policy of family detention which has subjected hundreds of families to abusive, inhumane, and racially discriminatory practices. The long dark history of detaining families in Immigration and Custody Enforcement (ICE) facilities provides all the evidence necessary to show the U.S. government should never return to this inhumane practice. Directly impacted families, advocates, attorneys, whistleblowers, and medical and other experts have condemned this practice for years and fought to close down the facilities used to detain families. Your administration took the important and widely lauded step of ending the detention of families in ICE detention in late 2021. Reinstating a policy of detaining families in ICE or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody, even for short periods of time, would be a horrifying reversal of your past policies and commitments.
No version of family detention, whether referred to as a detention facility, short-term processing center, emergency family staging center, or by any other name, is acceptable. We call on you to stand by your commitment as President, to turn the page from the horrors of prior administrations and pursue humane policies that do not involve incarcerating families. The well-documented inherent problems with family detention leave no room for doubt that re-starting this policy in any form will inflict suffering on children and their parents–and should never again be considered a viable government policy. In fact, the detention of immigrant children, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, is prohibited in international law as it is not in their best interests.
2021-2026 Strategic Framework: Build Feminist Multilateral Institutions
The multilateral system has been a venue for great progress on issues of human rights. Institutions like the United Nations have enabled the creation of foundational frameworks for gender equality, and in turn, activists around the world have leveraged these systems in their own countries.
However, these systems were established with an inherently patriarchal understanding of diplomacy, law, and power, alienating many and contributing to a crisis of trust, credibility, and authority. A feminist approach seeks to dismantle the patriarchy underpinning these systems and rebuild them based on values of equality and non-discrimination.
Read more in our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan.
190+ Organizations Urge UN Special Rapporteurs to Act on Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court Decision
More than 190 organizations and individuals, including health practitioners and human rights experts, today sent a letter to United Nations experts in response to the United States Supreme Court decision that repealed the constitutional right to abortion.
The letter documents how abortion restrictions imposed in the wake of the court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization have deprived women, girls, and persons capable of pregnancy of their human rights to life, health, privacy, liberty, freedom from torture, and more.
It goes on to argue that the Dobbs ruling puts the United States in breach of obligations under several legally-binding international treaties it has ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention against Torture.
In addition to its call to action, the letter includes original research as well as testimony from physicians around the country. The full letter and list of signatories is here.
Dr. Christine Ryan, Legal Director at the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:
“The protections of Roe had long eroded before the court’s ruling, but Dobbs put to rest any doubt of the United States’ failure to meet its human rights obligations. Decades of binding treaties have firmly established abortion as a human right. Now that the violation of this right is clear to all, the international community has a responsibility to act to hold the U.S. accountable.”
Christina Hioureas, Partner at Foley Hoag and Chair of the firm’s United Nations Practice Group, the law firm acting for the coalition, issued the following statement:
“Dobbs is the nail in the coffin on reproductive freedom in the United States. The consequences of Dobbs is that women, girls and persons capable of pregnancy across the United States are being deprived of critical access to health care and autonomy over their bodies and their lives. Simply put, women and girls will die as a result of this decision. The criminalization of access to reproductive health implicates the United States’ obligations under international law and is, thus, a matter of grave concern for the international community as a whole.”
Payal Shah, Director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones at Physicians for Human Rights, issued the following statement:
“The Dobbs decision has placed a target on the backs of pregnant patients and health care providers. The criminalization of abortion in many U.S. states has resulted in health care workers being mandated to act in complicity with violations of their patients’ rights, or to face imprisonment, professional sanction, fines, or harassment. As clinicians in this letter and around the country have shared, laws criminalizing abortion care will increase health disparities and impact the provision of health care across many specializations, from emergency medical care to family medicine to oncology and rheumatology. These harms will be most profoundly felt by Black, Indigenous, and low-income women. The international community, including UN Special Rapporteurs, must condemn this egregious rollback of human rights and affirm the U.S.’ obligation to ensure abortion rights.”
Lauren Wranosky, Research and Program Associate at Pregnancy Justice, issued the following statement:
“The Dobbs decision abandoned the constitutional right to abortion, violated U.S. legal obligations under treaties such as ICCPR, and exposed the fact that Roe was never enough. Many will continue to be jailed, convicted, and sentenced to prison for having abortions, experiencing pregnancy losses, or giving birth to healthy babies. This destroys families, inflicts trauma, and targets the most vulnerable by replacing healthcare with criminalization. We know this humanitarian crisis will only get worse, and we demand that the U.S. government join international peers as a leader in securing reproductive justice for all.”
Annerieke Smaak Daniel, Women’s Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch, issued the following statement:
“Abortion is a form of health care needed more frequently by women of color, especially Black women, than white women in the US. Abortion restrictions compound economic, social, and geographic barriers to health care, including contraception, disproportionately impacting Black women’s ability to access the care we need. The US federal government is not meeting its human rights obligation to ensure access to abortion and to address and eliminate structural racism and discrimination in the US, and the impact on the health and rights of Black women is clear.”
Letter to UN Special Procedures on US Abortion Rights
Following the United States (US) Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022, people residing in the US who can become pregnant are facing a human rights crisis. This urgent appeal to United Nations (UN) mandate holders, supported by a coalition of 196 signatories, details these intensifying harms, discusses the ways in which Dobbs contravenes the US’ international obligations, and sets forth calls to action.
With the Dobbs decision, the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutionally protected right to access abortion, leaving the question of whether and how to regulate abortion to individual states. Approximately 22 million women and girls of reproductive age in the US now live in states where abortion access is heavily restricted, and often totally inaccessible.
The harms of the Dobbs decision detailed in this appeal include: the impact on women’s lives and health; the penalization of healthcare, including criminalization; threats to privacy from increased digital surveillance; infringement on freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief; and the disproportionate impact on marginalized populations.
By overturning the established constitutional protection for access to abortion and through the passage of state laws, the US is in violation of its obligations under international human rights law, codified in a number of human rights treaties to which it is a party or a signatory. These human rights obligations include, but are not limited to, the rights to: life; health; privacy; liberty and security of person; to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief; equality and non-discrimination; and to seek, receive, and impart information.
The signatories call on the UN mandate holders to take up their calls to action, which include communicating with the US regarding the human rights violations, requesting a visit to the US, convening a virtual stakeholder meeting with US civil society, calls for the US to comply with its obligations under international law, and calls for private companies to take a number of actions to protect reproductive rights.