On Dec. 27, Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff enacted legislation, Provisional Measure (PM 557), that will require all pregnancies to be registered with the state, violating a woman’s right to privacy. Although Rousseff argues that PM 557 will help improve Brazil’s maternal mortality rates, this seems to be little more than an attempt to control and monitor women’s reproductive choices and identify women who are suspected of having an abortion, which is legal in Brazil only if a woman’s life is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape. Under the law, health care providers will be required to report all pregnancies — including women’s names to the National System of Registration, Vigilance and Monitoring Women’s Care during Pregnancy and Post Childbirth for the Prevention of Maternal Mortality.
Certainly, surveillance is an accepted part of public health law and can be necessary to track, monitor and isolate communicable diseases. But, pregnancy is not a communicable disease and pregnant women do not pose a health threat. Indeed, there is little in this law that will help pregnant women. Although it authorizes the federal government to provide transportation assistance for registered pregnant women to get to pre-natal and delivery care, the amount available – about US$27 might not cover the round trip costs for even one appointment, depending on where a woman lives. And the bill does not guarantee that women will have access to pre-natal care or transfers to facilities with health care providers trained in emergency obstetrical care. In fact, the majority of preventable maternal deaths occur in public hospitals, which are more likely to serve the poor, people living in rural areas, youths and minorities. Nothing in PM 557 will actually help reduce maternal mortality. All it will do is provide the state with another tool to keep women from obtaining abortions. And, it is unclear what will happen to women whose pregnancies end in miscarriages. Will miscarriages be investigated as suspected abortions? Read More
In response to the second anniversary of Haiti’s January 12, 2010 earthquake, this post begins a four-part weekly series that will examine the implications of ongoing efforts to establish U.N. accountability for allegedly causing Haiti’s deadly cholera epidemic in the months following the events of January 12, 2010. This first post was authored by O’Neill Institute Research Associate, J.P. Shuster.
On December 9, 2011, in conjunction with International Human Rights Day and the 63rd anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, several thousand Haitians assembled outside a U.N. peacekeeping base in the city of St. Marc, located sixty miles north of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, emphatically chanting “human rights belong to Haitians too.” The U.N. peacekeeping mission, known by its acronym MINUSTAH, had arrived in Haiti in 2004 to calm political turmoil surrounding the ouster of Haiti’s former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But the latest tumult arose from allegations that a Nepalese contingent of MINUSTAH had introduced a devastating strain of cholera into the Haitian population ten months after the earthquake by allowing human waste to flow from a poorly maintained septic tank at the battalion’s base in the town of Meille into a tributary of Haiti’s largest and most vital river, the Artibonite.
Prior to October 2010, Haiti had not documented a single case of cholera in over 100 years. However, suddenly, scores of people living in the Mirebalais region down river from Meille began experiencing vomiting and diarrhea so catastrophic that many died within hours of presenting symptoms. Two thousand people died in the first thirty days alone. At present, Haiti’s Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population has reported that the water-born disease has already infected roughly 515,000 people – about five percent of Haiti’s total population – and killed nearly 7,000 people since it was detected last year. Haiti, which is still very much dealing with the devastation of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake of January 2010, now also faces the largest active cholera epidemic in the world. Read More
The fight to make Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, more widely available continues despite Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius’ decision earlier this month to overrule the FDA’s recommendation that Plan B be made available over-the-counter (OTC) to women and girls of all ages. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) will reopen a lawsuit, Tummino v. Hamburg, originally filed in 2005 in response to the FDA’s denial of a citizen’s petition to make Plan B available OTC to women of all ages. According to the complaint filed by CRR at the time the FDA’s decision was “not supported by medical or scientific evidence.”
The battle over OTC access to Plan B has been contentious. In 2003, the FDA rejected an application to make Plan B available OTC, citing a lack of data on women under 16. In 2005, two FDA officials, Susan Wood and Frank Davidoff, resigned after the FDA announced that it was going to postpone the approval of OTC Plan B indefinitely. Finally, in 2006 and several rejections later, the FDA approved OTC Plan B but only for women 18 and older. In 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman, ordered the FDA to allow OTC sales of Plan B for women 17 and older and urged that the FDA lift any age restrictions. According to Korman, the FDA’s decisions regarding Plan B were, “arbitrary and capricious because they were not the result of reasoned and good faith decision-making.” In addition, Judge Korman ordered the FDA to rule on the citizen’s petition with regards to OTC Plan B for women and girls under the age of 17. Read More
Originally posted at Hunter of Justice on December 14, 2011.
The Center for Reproductive Rights announced Tuesday that it will reopen a lawsuit filed in 2005 in order to challenge unnecessary age restrictions on emergency contraceptives imposed last week by the Obama administration. The lawsuit – Tummino v. von Hamburg – was originally filed against the FDA. At a hearing on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman invited the Center to refile and expand the case in order to contest the action by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruling the FDA’s recent approval of “Plan B” contraceptives. Read More
This post was co-authored by Eric A. Friedman and Professor Lawrence O. Gostin.
At the end of October, the United States announced that it would cease funding UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, when the agency voted to accept the Palestinian application for full membership, which will make Palestine UNESCO’s 195th member. This immediately raised questions about US funding for other UN agencies in which the Palestinian Authority may seek membership. Under current US law, if the PA seeks full membership in the World Health Organization (WHO) – as reportedly it is interested in doing – the consequences for global health could be dire.
The 1990 and 1994 U.S. laws that led to the cut-off of funding for UNESCO, and could do the same for WHO, bar any U.S. contributions to the UN or any affiliated agency that grants full membership to an organization “without the internationally recognized attributes of statehood,” or to the UN or any specialized agency that grants full membership to the Palestinian Liberation Organization: Read More
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The views reflected in this blog are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.