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Press Releases

International Committee on Racial Discrimination Calls on US to Protect Abortion Rights

NEW YORK — The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today called on the United States to take all necessary measures — at the federal and state level — to provide safe, legal, and effective access to abortion in line with its international human rights obligations.

The recommendation came as part of the committee’s “concluding observations” following its review of US compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which the US ratified in 1994. For more on US obligations on reproductive rights under ICERD, see this factsheet.

The concluding observations specifically noted the recent Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, citing its “profound disparate impact on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of racial and ethnic minorities.”

The committee questioned the US government in Geneva on August 11 and 12. During this session, it raised US abortion restrictions numerous times. The members were particularly concerned about disproportionate access to safe abortion for Black, brown, and indigenous women, as well as the prosecution of those seeking abortions post-Dobbs.

Dr. Christine Ryan, legal director at the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“Make no mistake, the international community put the United States on notice today for the racist impacts of its recent regression on abortion rights. Even before the conservative majority on the Supreme Court overruled the constitutional right to abortion, they had dismantled abortion access for decades. Black, brown & indigenous women seeking abortion faced profound and disproportionate obstacles. After Dobbs, they’re facing nothing short of a gross and systemic human rights crisis.

“Today’s recommendation on abortion is well within the committee’s mandate. ICERD prohibits racial discrimination in access to healthcare and requires the elimination of laws that perpetuate racial discrimination. Abortion restrictions in the US violate these measures at every turn. Forced travel for abortion is more difficult for women of color. Coerced pregnancy is more dangerous. And criminalization will target them at higher rates.

“This is also a critical moment of international accountability for the United States. For too long, the US government has failed to fully implement the very human rights framework it helped create. The international community should take every opportunity to interrogate the state of human rights in the US and commit to reversing this damaging trend.”

USAID and State Department Urged to Take Steps to Implement Exceptions for Funding of Abortion Services Abroad

More than 100 international and domestic organizations today sent a letter to the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) urging them to end overly restrictive interpretations of law that block the use of foreign assistance funds for abortion services in any circumstance.

The Helms Amendment prohibits foreign assistance funding for abortion services as a “method of family planning.” This means abortion services can be funded in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. However, USAID and the State Department have never funded abortion services in these contexts.

Elena Sarver, legal advisor at the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“We’ve said it for years: the president can end a devastating human rights violation with the stroke of a pen. For too long, US presidents have failed to take action to implement exceptions that permit funding of abortion care abroad in certain cases. The Biden administration can take immediate action to change that now.

“As the world’s largest provider of humanitarian aid worldwide, the US is in a unique position to deliver healthcare to those who need it most. But as a result of its incorrect interpretation of the Helms Amendment, it is routinely denying critical abortion care to victims of rape, incest, and in cases of life endangerment. In order to live up to its stated commitment to reproductive rights, the Biden administration should clarify these exceptions and implement funding for abortion in these cases.”

International Court of Justice Rejects Procedural Objections From Myanmar in Genocide Case

NEW YORK — The International Court of Justice today issued a ruling that rejected “preliminary objections” raised by Myanmar in its genocide case. The case brought by The Gambia to hold Myanmar accountable for its 2017 genocide of the Rohingya will now move on to the merits phase.

Preliminary objections are typically filed to raise procedural issues. Among other things, Myanmar objected to the court’s jurisdiction as well as The Gambia’s standing to bring the case. For more on preliminary measures, see this recent Q&A on the case.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“Since its genocide of the Rohingya nearly five years ago, Myanmar’s military junta has done whatever it can to avoid or delay international accountability for its crimes. The court’s ruling today rejects Myanmar’s latest delay tactic, advancing this critical vehicle for justice.

“This court has rejected the military junta at every turn. In its hearings and order on provisional measures, the court already considered and rejected many of these procedural objections from Myanmar. In issuing provisional measures, the court also found that serious risks of genocide still existed for the Rohingya and ordered Myanmar to take steps to prevent genocide. The fact is, Myanmar violated the Genocide Convention and it can’t avoid accountability any longer.

“Since it seized power in a coup last February, the military junta’s violence and criminality has only deepened. Though we’ve seen strong condemnation and some bare accountability measures from the international community, the people of Myanmar continue to suffer under this brutal regime. And though this case is just one of many roads toward justice, its resolution would be a major step towards justice and a sustainable, democratic Myanmar.”

US Supreme Court Repeals Constitutional Right to Abortion

NEW YORK — The United States Supreme Court today repealed the constitutional right to abortion. The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization allows Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban to remain in place and explicitly overturns decades of precedent set by the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions that prevented states from banning abortions before viability.

Abortion is likely to become illegal immediately in roughly half of US states. Other states are expected to further limit abortion access, while some have taken steps to expand access in anticipation of the court’s ruling.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“Today will go down as one of the darkest days for human rights in American history. With the stroke of a pen, this court has barred millions from access to a medical service that the World Health Organization has deemed a ‘crucial part of healthcare.’ The repercussions for bodily autonomy and gender equality in the US will be devastating.

“Though decades of attacks have deeply eroded the protections of Roe, and safe abortion has for too long been inaccessible to many, today’s ruling puts the United States firmly in violation of its human rights obligations. Around the world, recognition of the right to abortion access is sweeping. Ireland, Colombia, Benin, and countless other countries have taken steps in recent years to expand abortion access. Make no mistake: the US is now a global pariah on abortion, and accordingly, gender equality.

“This is certainly the catastrophic day we all feared. But it is also a day we’ve long prepared for. While we fight state-by-state to secure abortions for anyone who needs them, there are actions President Biden and Congress can take now to protect the human right to abortion. With stakes this high, each day of inaction is an attack on every person now living in a country without bodily autonomy.”

US Supreme Court Reportedly Set to Repeal Constitutional Right to Abortion

NEW YORK — A majority opinion from the US Supreme Court that was leaked to the press shows a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the core legal precedent establishing the right to abortion in the United States.

The court has not yet issued its official ruling and abortion remains legal in the United States.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“If this leaked opinion is legitimate, it offers a preview of the catastrophic day reproductive rights activists have feared for decades. In just a few short weeks, this court is set to seize a human right from millions in America. This places the United States in violation of its human rights obligations and far out of step with global trends towards liberalizing abortion access.

“Let’s be clear: safe abortion is a fundamental human right and must be accessible to all pregnant people. Everyone from international human rights bodies to healthcare experts agree. And yet, abortion has been singled out, stigmatized, and targeted, including as a test run for broader assaults on human rights.

“The court’s ruling is still weeks away, but the time to act is now. President Biden and Congress must take all steps within their power to protect abortion access and expeditiously act to firmly enshrine this human right into law.”