June 24, 2022

By Jill Christianson, UNA-NCA Board Chair

UNA-NCA statement on the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It is a human right to determine if, when, and how one starts, grows and builds a family.

Maternal health in the United States, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, took a blow from the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Too, the Supreme Court violated the United States binding legal obligations based on its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights treaty. It is widely recognized that the actions by the U.S. Supreme Court on abortion rights, will have global implications and immediate impacts across our nation as well as in our local communities. UN agencies have spoken out about the violation of human rights that this new Supreme Court decision invokes.

Local - As we live, work, and support our families in the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA), all of us are considering what this decision means for us and our neighbors within Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia - with a wary eye at the 20 states that have trigger laws banning abortions. In Washington DC, while there are plans to strengthen protections for maternal health and human rights, the U.S. Congress retains control over local legislation. While the 2022 Maryland legislature took actions to increase access during pregnancy to providers and insurance coverage, Governor Hogan maneuvered a hold on funding that was intended to train abortion providers. In Virginia, abortion is not protected by law; the balance of legislative power means there is even more riding on the 2023 election. The UNA-NCA Global Goals at Home outlines our regional health and well-being concerns of SDG 3.

Global – United Nations agencies are responding to the actions of the U.S. Supreme Court and human rights implications for those in the United States.

UN Women has stated that women have the right to “human rights and (to) make essential decisions, women need to be able to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to information, education and services.”

UNFPA, with its focus on family planning states that this decision imperils SDG 3 in the attainment of good health and well-being for all at all ages. It is the “…right of all couples and individuals to decide freely on the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have information and means to do so.” Further, meeting SDG 3 related to maternal health is at risk “for not being met if unsafe abortions continue.”

Human Rights Council Experts have addressed their deep concerns about the Supreme Court’s disregard for the legal treaty obligations that the United States has made. “What has happened in the United States today is a monumental setback for the rule of law and for gender equality. With the stroke of a pen and without sound legal reasoning, the U.S. Supreme Court has stripped women and girls in the United States of legal protections necessary to ensure their ability to live with dignity.”

The Supreme Court’s decision will have disproportionate impact on women and girls of color, youth, immigrant, and LGBT+ communities. UNA-NCA recognizes that the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a turning point for abortion rights, but does not negate that 8 out of 10 Americans support the legal right to abortion. It does negatively impact the future collective economic well-being as well as quality of life in our nation.

Internationally – Over the past couple of years we have seen positive progress on reproductive rights and access to abortion in Ireland, Argentina and Colombia. It is notable that these are strongly Catholic nations that have acted on behalf of human rights. At the same period of time, the world has taken note of the repression of women, abortion rights and human rights elsewhere, such as in Poland. In El Salvador, women continue to be jailed for miscarriages and stillbirths. The United States Supreme Court action has influence on the international community.

Promise Ahead – With UNA-NCA advocacy, together with organizations from across Washington DC, the Council of the District of Columbia is considering the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Act of 2022. Introduced by Council Member Robert White, enactment will spur the annual reporting of progress on gender equality across the Washington DC government. This effort, as an outgrowth of Cities for CEDAW, builds local government practices that are in line with the UN treaty on the rights of women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This treaty, adopted by the UN with considerable U.S. guidance in 1979, has yet to be ratified by the United States Senate. At UNA-NCA, we support this great progress within Washington DC, and are ready to support Fairfax and other local jurisdictions that support progress in gender equality.
Yes, women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights. This impacts ALL of us.

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