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UN experts urge US states to honor reproductive rights amid COVID-19 pandemic
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UN experts urge US states to honor reproductive rights amid COVID-19 pandemic

Members of the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls said Wednesday that certain US states are exploiting the COVID–19 pandemic to restrict abortion rights. The Working Group accused Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee of committing human rights violations by infringing on reproductive rights and endangering women’s health.

“We regret that the above-mentioned states, with a long history of restrictive practices against abortion, appear to be manipulating the crisis to severely restrict women’s reproductive rights,” said UN Working Group Vice Chair, Elizabeth Broderick.

All eight states had suspended non–medically necessary procedures under emergency pandemic orders, limiting access to sexual and reproductive health services. The Working Group challenged states’ abortion restrictions, arguing that abortion care is essential to health care.

“Abortion care constitutes essential health care and must remain available during the COVID-19 crisis. Restrictions on access to comprehensive reproductive health information and services, including abortion as well as contraception, constitute human rights violations and can cause irreversible harm, in particular to low-income women and those belonging to racial minorities and immigrant communities,” Broderick said.

The Working Group also expressed concern over USAID’s letter to the UN Secretary-General on May 18 seeking to remove provisions referring to “sexual and reproductive health and its derivatives” from the COVID–19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP).

Broderick warned that removing the terms from the HRP would have dire “consequences for women worldwide,” and would “seriously undermine” global efforts to aid women’s healthcare during the pandemic.

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