UN Recommends Everyone Stop Telling Women What To Do With Their Bodies


The UN recently issued a report that declares that countries that restrict access to either abortion or contraception are violating a woman’s human rights. The report also declares it Officially Messed Up when a woman is prosecuted for taking illegal drugs or drinking during her pregnancy, because it’s her body and the state has no right to it. The Pope, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rick Perry now agree: The UN sucks.

The report, authored by Arnand Grover, reasons that because sexual and reproductive health are part of a woman’s overall health and people have a right to health, women therefore have a right to access to abortion and contraception.

Its logic isn’t complicated, but its implications may be. About a quarter of the world’s population of women live in countries where abortion is illegal or heavily restricted, and those restrictions are in place due to religious or moral beliefs. In issuing this report, the UN effectively challenges the morality of not only red state America’s zygote zealots, but also of the governments of The Philippines, Chile, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Malta, Nicaragua, or Uruguay, where abortion is completely outlawed in all cases (and Vatican City, but when’s the last time anyone’s been pregnant there? Pregnant with anything besides rage, I mean). Anticipating this, the report reads,

Public morality cannot serve as a justification for enactment or enforcement of laws that may result in human rights violations, including those intended to regulate sexual and reproductive conduct and decisionmaking. Although securing particular public health outcomes is a legitimate State aim, measures taken to achieve this must be both evidence-based and proportionate to ensure respect of human rights. When criminal laws and legal restrictions used to regulate public health are neither evidence-based nor proportionate, States should refrain from using them to regulate sexual and reproductive health, as they not only violate the right to health of affected individuals, but also contradict their own public health justification.

Paging Mississippi.

The report explains that women suffer when they’re denied access to birth control and safe abortion, that state interference in a woman’s decision is a violation.

Criminal prohibition of abortion is a very clear expression of State interference with a woman’s sexual and reproductive health because it restricts a woman’s control over her body, possibly subjecting her to unnecessary health risks. Criminal prohibition also requires women to continue unplanned pregnancies and give birth when it is not their choice to do so.

At this point, the UN Special Rapporteur dropped the mic and strutted offstage.

Other important points are brought up as well — that women who use illegal drugs or alcohol while pregnant should not be prosecuted for harm done to their fetus, for example, because criminalizing those acts will just de-incentivize women seeking the prenatal care they need. Sex education, the report contends, is also an important component of sexual health.

The report is well-argued, thoughtful, articulate, and dead the fuck on, which means it reads like a Utopian concept novella generated by a think tank consisting of Gloria Steinem, Eve Ensler, and NARAL. Countries aren’t actually required to do anything in response to the UN’s strong condemnation of restrictions of the female body and reproduction, either, and a report issued by an entity that’s pretty much the NPR Fresh Air of international organizations will likely fall on deaf ears. Rabid anti woman governments aren’t exactly known for their reason and logic.

It’s encouraging to know that in the future, “Roe versus world” may not accurately describe the fight to preserve abortion rights. Unfortunately, now it looks like the battle could more accurately be called “Roe versus choir invisible.”

UN Report says all states should provide access to safe abortion, contraception [Feministing]
UN states told they must legalise abortion [Guardian]
United Nations Official Document [UN]

Image via davidundderriese/Shutterstock.

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