In a recently released report from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), the advocacy group is appealing to the United Nations (UN) to formally recognize abortion-providers as "human rights defenders." In "Defending Human Rights," CRR presupposes that abortion is part of the accepted human rights framework and targets legal restrictions on abortion, funding restrictions on abortion and "failure to reduce abortion-related stigma" as "human rights violations."
CRR asserts that abortion providers should be recognized as "human rights defenders" because the targeting of abortion providers directly infringes on women’s fundamental human rights by restricting "women’s ability to realize their right to reproductive healthcare, including safe abortion."
According to the website of the UN Office of the High Commission on Human Rights, "human rights defender" is a term used to describe people who "individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights." To be a human rights defender, a person "can act to address any human right on behalf of individuals or groups" and "seek the promotion and protection of civil and political rights as well as the promotion, protection and realization of economic, social and cultural rights."
Critics point out that none of the binding UN human rights treaties mention abortion or "reproductive rights" and that CRR is using the non-binding recommendations of UN committees and a creative interpretation of existing human rights to claim that there is a global right to abortion.
CRR’s interpretation of international law attaches abortion to recognized and established human rights. In the paper, CRR asserts that the human rights to dignity, liberty and security "require that women have reproductive and sexual self-determination." This right to "reproductive autonomy" includes "women’s ability to control the number and spacing of their children," the rights to information, privacy and confidentiality. In addition, the right to health necessarily comprises the right to sexual and reproductive health, including "reproductive healthcare services" – which include abortion, according to CRR.
CRR charges that policy and legal measures to regulate abortion qualify as discrimination against abortion providers, who are acting as "human rights defenders." CRR cites mandatory delays and counseling laws as a human-rights-defender violation that "prohibits" the exercise of providers’ "rights to practice."
CRR also seeks to make governments portray abortion in a positive light, claiming that governments failure to address the "deeply rooted stigma" of abortion is tantamount to condoning and encouraging "the targeting of providers for harassment and legal restrictions on their work." CRR also charges that funding restrictions on abortion are discriminatory because they "single out one category of medically necessary services for elimination."
CRR’s recommendations include creating measures to increase the number of physicians performing abortions (including by teaching abortion in medical school), advocating the repeal of laws restricting abortion and repealing funding restrictions.
The report is just the latest attempt by CRR to get abortion-providers recognized as "human rights defenders." In 2008, CRR led the charge at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to get abortion-providers classified as defenders of human rights.