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GJC in the News

The Fight to Secure U.S. Abortion Rights Is Global

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine Op-Ed authored by GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello and GJC Legal Advisor Elean Sarver.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization stands to unleash devastating rollbacks on abortion across the United States, while also bringing domestic policy more in line with foreign policy. For decades, international aid restrictions have made abortion inaccessible abroad, resulting in significant harm—including death. While the forthcoming decision, and its catastrophic fallout, is not likely to have an immediate global impact, it will undercut efforts to remove these restrictions and embolden the anti-abortion lobby to further instrumentalize U.S. foreign policy to promote its ideology.

A central U.S global abortion restriction, the Helms Amendment has prohibited the use of foreign assistance for the performance of abortion “as a method of family planning” for nearly 50 years. The Helms Amendment has overridden national legislation in countries receiving aid and been over-implemented as a total ban on abortion, ignoring congressionally permitted exceptions in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. It’s also disregarded a clarification, known as the Leahy Amendment, that permits information and counseling about abortion.

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Abortion: Ireland’s past is America’s future

Excerpt of The Hill Op-Ed authored by GJC Legal Director Dr. Christine Ryan.

This month, four years ago, media from across the globe descended on the courtyard of Dublin Castle. They traveled to capture the scene of thousands of Irish people celebrating the results of the Irish abortion referendum. A landslide majority had “repealed the 8th” and voted to change the country’s constitution to enable legal recognition of abortion rights for the first time in the state’s history. Generations of families cheered and cried together while politicians from warring parties embraced. Viewers abroad marveled at the displays of pride, rapture, and even love.   

To understand why the referendum result in Ireland prompted such outpourings is to understand the full meaning of the right to abortion. On the one hand, the right ensures that women and pregnant people of reproductive age can terminate unwanted or unsafe pregnancies without legal sanction. On the other, it signifies state recognition that women are equal agents in their societies, deserving of respect for their life choices. The right upends the assumptions that coerce women into predefined gender roles and rejects the seemingly immortal ideologies that accord women a lesser status. It demands that society trust women and that the law affirms their dignity and autonomy.

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U.S. would lag behind global abortion access if Roe v. Wade is undone, advocates say

Excerpt of NPR article that mentions the Global Justice Center.

International rights groups warned the U.S. Supreme Court last year that possibly overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade case that made abortions legal in 1973 would put it behind the curve of other countries that have been expanding access to abortion care.

Human Rights Watch says there is an international trend toward expanding abortion access.

Argentina legalized abortion in 2020, while Mexico decriminalized the procedure in 2021.

Statistics also show that in Ecuador, El Salvador, South Africa and Romania, the more restrictive abortion legislation is, the higher incidences of women dying or contracting diseases after giving birth are, according to a September 2021 brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The brief was submitted by Human Rights Watch in partnership with Amnesty International and the Global Justice Center.

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Symposium in Pursuit of Intersectional Justice at the International Criminal Court: Group Three – Observations on Forced Pregnancy – Protecting Personal and Reproductive Autonomy

Excerpt of Opinio Juris article co-authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

In February 2021, nearly 20 years after the Rome Statute’s entry into force, the International Criminal Court (ICC) secured its first conviction for forced pregnancy as a war crime and a crime against humanity in the case against Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen. In that 2021 judgment, the Trial Chamber found that the enumeration of the crime in the Rome Statute protects the distinct legal interest of personal and reproductive autonomy.

The Global Justice Center, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, Amnesty International and Dr. Rosemary Grey submitted an amicus brief to the Appeals Chamber on the definition of this crime, addressing questions that were raised in Ongwen’s appeal brief. In addition, in February 2022, at the invitation of the Appeals Chamber, we presented oral observations to the Court as amici.

This post summarizes the arguments made in our amicus brief and oral submissions, and very briefly comments on related arguments about the crime of forced pregnancy made by the Prosecution, Defence and victims’ legal representatives in this case.

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Symposium in Pursuit of Intersectional Justice at the International Criminal Court: Ongwen amici curiae Submissions from a Feminist Collective of Lawyers and Scholars

Excerpt of Opinio Juris article co-authored by GJC Senior Legal Advisor Angela Mudukuti.

On 4 February 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s Trial Chamber IX found Dominic Ongwen, a former commander in the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), guilty of 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005. The 61 counts included 19 counts of sexual and gender-based crimes (SGBC) and notably among them charges of sexual crimes tried at the ICC for the first time, namely forced marriage as an inhumane act and forced pregnancy. On 6 May 2021, Trial Chamber IX sentenced Dominic Ongwen to 25 years of imprisonment. The Defence filed its appeal briefs against the conviction in July and against the sentence in August 2021. Between 14 and 18 February 2022, the Appeals Chamber (AC) held the appeal hearing.

Following the Defence’s appeal and prior to the AC hearing, on 25 October 2021, the AC  issued an order inviting “expressions of interest as amici curiae in judicial proceedings” with respect to the case against Dominic Ongwen. Particularly, the AC sought to receive observations from “qualified scholars and/or practitioners of criminal procedure and/ or international law, mental health law and/or neuroscience and law” on, inter alia, “sexual and gender-based crimes, especially the legal interpretation of the crimes of forced marriage, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy as well as the standards applicable to assessing evidence of sexual violence”. A group of feminist lawyers and scholars put their heads together to form what we will loosely call a Feminist Collective and submitted four separate amici briefs.  As an introduction to this symposium, this blog details the process and shares our personal reflections as members of the Collective.

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