Reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy: History, Implications & Opposition

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This post was written by Brenna Gautam and Rebecca Reingold.

Image courtesy of Vox.

On January 23rd, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum reinstating the Mexico City Policy, also referred to as the “Global Gag Rule”: a restriction first introduced by Ronald Reagan that denies federal funding to NGOs that provide abortions, offer abortion counseling, or advocate for abortion rights in other countries. Arriving one day after the forty-third anniversary of Roe v. Wade and two days after women around the globe joined in Women’s March protests, this decision served as a cold, stark reminder of President Trump’s stance on reproductive health and rights abroad.

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Posted in Human Rights; Tagged: , , , , , , , , .


Informed Consent, Gendered Power Relations and the IACHR: the I.V. vs. Bolivia Case

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This post was written by Andrés Constantin. Andrés is an Adjunct Professor of law at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. Any questions or comments can be directed to aconstantin@utdt.edu.

The right to health requires respect for the will of the individual person with respect to his or her own well-being. To that effect, informed consent should be regarded as an essential aspect of the right to health. In its recent judgment in the I.V. vs. Bolivia case, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights concluded that medical interventions without the patient’s consent violated the rights to personal integrity, to personal freedom, to dignity and to private life.

The facts of the case concerned the sterilization to which Mrs. I.V. was subjected in a public hospital in Bolivia on July 1, 2000. The surgery was performed without the informed consent of I.V. and resulted in her permanent and forced sterilization.

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Stand Up, Speak Up, Speak Out: The Dignity of Protest

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[This blog was originally posted on January 20 through the IMAXI Cooperative. Since then, the millions of people at Women’s Marches across the United States — and the world — offer much reason for hope that a great many people will stand up and speak up for the rights of all of us when they are under threat. Our readiness to protest, to stand for dignity, will need to persist, for reasons that extend far beyond any particular policy objective….]

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Show up, dive in, stay at it,” implored President Obama in his recent farewell address. In a different context, Congressman John Lewis (the civil rights leader best known for his courage in leading a peaceful 1965 march for voting rights, during which he was severely beaten by state troopers as the march got underway in Selma, Alabama), who serves as a moral compass for so many, including myself, also recently spoke of the need to “stand up, speak up, and speak out.”

I expect that over the next several years, in the United States, many people will be in the streets, standing up and speaking up, as the next administration takes charge amid widespread fear that it will seek to roll back a sweeping array of human right and social justice advances. Yet probably far more people who deeply oppose what appears to lie ahead will not join the marches, rallies, and other avenues of peaceful protest. One reason: quite understandably, they may feel – as many of those who decide to march or otherwise make their voices heard might feel as well – that those in power in Washington will pay them no heed. What good is protesting, they may wonder, if when they speak truth to power, no one listens?

Yet with good reason, such protests have long been at the core of social justice movements – and are at the heart of what we need to do when justice is on the line in the days and years ahead. I believe we need to speak out whenever we see injustice – even when there appears little chance that those who hold office will heed our call. Here are reasons why.

* Affirming the dignity of the oppressed: Like so many, I have heard the passion in the voices of people who belong to routinely disparaged communities, yet who still have the courage to speak out. Most recently it was at a rally to affirm the rights of immigrants I attended as part of a national day of action for immigrant rights. It was the voice of a Latina woman. She will be threatened with deportation if the next president rolls back protections for immigrants who, like her, entered the United States as children without proper documents (one of the Dreamers protected as part of the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] program). She speaks out, insisting that in our country, justice will yet prevail. Her voice rings with determination and dignity, courage and conviction. She has, as we all have, the power to resist injustice. She has surely been told more than once that she does not count, that she is “illegal,” that she should keep quiet. Yet in standing tall, she declares that she does matter, that she is a person equal to every other person – and that no, no, she will not be silenced. Succeed or not in preserving DACA, this struggle for justice, her belief that she has the capacity – with all of us by her side – to make powerful forces bend to an almost sacred insistence on justice fills her with purpose. No doubt this not only lifts her spirits, but it also lights a flame within the core of her humanity that casts a light upon us all.

Image courtesy of IMAXI Cooperative.

And how much more impact she can have when tens, hundreds, thousands of people stand with her. It is no wonder that social justice movements are infused with insistent commitments to solidarity. That is why we stand together – those whose rights are under the greatest threat alongside those (like me) who have attained a certain level of privilege and who are not in immediate peril. When we stand in solidarity with immigrants, Muslims, and everyone else who may be directly harmed, told that they do not belong here, or that their lives don’t really matter – when we say, yes you belong, you are equal to everyone, you are as important as everyone – that message is itself of real value and consequence. Read More

Posted in Global Health, Human Rights, National Healthcare; Tagged: , , , , , , .


Reproductive Health & Zika in Venezuela

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This post was written by Andrés Constantin. Andrés is an adjunct professor of law at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. Any questions or comments can be directed to aconstantin@utdt.edu.

On February 5, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated that upholding women’s human rights is essential if the response to the Zika health emergency is to be effective adding that laws and policies that restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services in contravention of international standards must be repealed and concrete steps must be taken so that women have the information, support and services they require to exercise their rights to determine whether and when they become pregnant – noting that comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services include contraception, maternal healthcare and safe abortion services to the full extent of the law. She also added that “the advice of some governments to women to delay getting pregnant ignores the reality that many women and girls simply cannot exercise control over whether or when or under what circumstances they become pregnant, especially in an environment where sexual violence is so common.”

In Venezuela, the lack of access to contraceptives has risen to 90% in 2015. Moreover, Venezuela is a country with highly restrictive laws governing women’s reproductive rights which represent a serious problem to women that had an unintended pregnancy.

Under the Criminal Code, the performance of abortions is generally illegal in Venezuela. A person who provokes the abortion of a woman with her consent is subject to 12 to 30 months’ imprisonment. If the woman does not consent, the penalty is increased to 15 months’ to three years’ imprisonment. A woman who intentionally performs her own abortion or consents to its performance by another person is subject to six months’ to two years’ imprisonment. Harsher penalties are applied if the abortion results in the death of the woman or if it is performed by the husband of the woman or by a health professional.

Nonetheless, under the Criminal Code, an abortion may be legally performed by a health professional if necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. In that case, an abortion may be performed only with the written consent of the woman, her husband or her legal representative. The procedure must be carried out in a suitable environment, using all possible scientific resources.

In this context, it is clear that in Venezuela a woman that got pregnant has no access to safe abortion even in the case she was infected with the Zika virus posing a serious threat to its reproductive health and human rights.

Reproductive rights are fundamental human rights that have been recognized by international, regional, and national legal frameworks, standards, and agreements. In responding to Zika, and Venezuela must be accountable to their obligations to all affected women.

Posted in Uncategorized; Tagged: , , .


Is the “Best If Used By” Food Date Label the Best Buy to Prevent Food Waste?

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This post was written by Janelle Langan, a LL.M Global Health Law Graduate from Georgetown University Law Center. Any questions or comments about the post should be directed to jl2009@georgetown.edu.

As the recent holiday season comes to a close, it is clear that food is not only a traditional basic need but also a central fixation within our culture, where gatherings and celebrations amongst families and friends often revolve around a shared meal. Despite the necessity and cultural importance of food, it is alarming that a significant amount of the yearly food supply is wasted by consumers.

Food waste occurs when food, that otherwise could have been consumed, is discarded. The consequences of food waste include the: (1) unnecessary depletion of natural resources that are utilized in the food production process; (2) lost opportunity to assist those who live in food insecure households that struggle to access healthy as well as affordable food; and (3) acceleration of climate change from greenhouse gases created by wasted food that decomposes in landfills.

The most significant factor that causes household food waste is the confusion over open food date labeling, which consumers often mistakenly interpret as the date of spoilage. An open date label is placed on food products by manufacturers to communicate the estimated date of optimum quality for consumption. Additionally, open date labels are used to instruct retailers as to length of time that the product should be displayed for sale as determined by the manufacturer. Examples of these labels include terms such as “Use By”, “Sell By”, “Best If Used By”, and “Best If Used Before.”

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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.

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