International Policies

So Close, Yet So Far: Why Aren’t Reproductive Rights Considered Human Rights?

Women are humans; therefore women’s rights are human rights. Makes sense, right?

While this may be obvious to you and me, it’s rare that governments treat sexual and reproductive health and rights the same way as other human rights. It’s even rarer that they come out and say so.

EuroParliament

So recently, it was exciting to see the Estrela Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights reach the floor of European Parliament. The Estrela Report is a progressive non-binding resolution that recognized these rights are just as important as other human rights, and sought to address disparities in access to family planning, reproductive health, and abortion services across Europe.

The resolution is full of important recommendations; here are just a few of its strongest moments:

  • “Calls on the Member States to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services through a rights-based approach and without any discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin, housing status, migration status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, health or marital status.”
  • “Recommends that, as a human rights and public health concern, high-quality abortion services should be made legal, safe, and accessible to all within the public health systems of the Member States, including non-resident women, who often seek these services in other countries due to restrictive abortion laws in their country of origin, and to avoid clandestine abortions that seriously endanger women’s physical and mental health.”
  • “Stresses that the participation of young people, in cooperation with other stakeholders, such as parents, in the development, implementation and evaluation of the programmes is vital for comprehensive sexuality education to be effective …”
  • “Urges the EU to ensure that population dynamics and inclusive and sustainable development linkages, and SRHRs are a priority in shaping the post-2015 global development framework…”

Good stuff, right? Sadly, opponents in Parliament voted to send the resolution back to committee. Though many European nations allow women to access abortion services, more conservative countries such as Poland, Ireland, and Malta routinely deny women these basic rights and prohibit the procedure in most circumstances.

Despite its postponement, the resolution is an important moment in the journey towards universal sexual and reproductive health and rights. Many in the European Parliament recognized that reproductive rights should not be treated as separate from other human rights. Elections to the European Parliament will take place in 2014 and hopefully voters of all genders will remember this moment and push for leaders who fully support women and their rights.

The unquestionable social, economic, and political benefits of all human rights for all people is at the heart of development work. PAI and our European counterparts, collectively represented by EuroNGOs, are at the forefront of this fight by approaching our activism from a rights-based perspective. As the world’s developed nations work together to achieve universal human rights, we cannot forget the simple right of all women to control their own bodies.

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