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GJC in the News

On Crimes Against Humanity, Protect the UN Sixth Committee’s Integrity With Action

Excerpt of Just Security op-ed co-authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Enthusiasm for negotiating and adopting a new global treaty on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity has been growing since the issuance of a model draft treaty 16 years ago, particularly after the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC) submitted a final set of draft articles to the General Assembly on Aug. 5, 2019. Although paragraph 42 of the ILC’s report recommended the “elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries on the basis of the draft articles,” progress on this important treaty has stalled in the U.N. General Assembly’s Sixth Committee. But there are ways the Sixth Committee, the U.N. General Assembly panel that considers legal issues, could make progress on the ILC’s draft text, thereby fulfilling its role within the U.N. system and increasing the likelihood that this critical treaty will be negotiated and adopted in the near future.

The Sixth Committee Deliberations over the Past Three Years

When the ILC’s text was introduced to the Sixth Committee in 2019, it was not the first time the idea of a new treaty had been floated at the General Assembly. The ILC had assiduously canvassed State reactions since beginning work on the topic in 2013, and the draft took into account extensive State comments. Thus, a significant majority of States in 2019 were willing to proceed quickly to a Diplomatic Conference to negotiate the treaty, which Austria offered to host. A handful of States demurred, however, asking for more time to study the draft, and an even smaller number opposed the treaty entirely. The result was a disappointing resolution “taking note” of the draft articles and promising to revisit them the following year. Austria, joined by 42 other States, expressed disappointment.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse. Strict limitations on working methods were imposed, causing the Sixth Committee to adopt a technical rollover resolution again simply “taking note” of the draft articles. This time Mexico, joined by 13 other States, voiced concerns that this ran the “risk . . . of getting caught in a cycle of consideration and postponement of the articles without concrete action, which could undermine the relationship between the General Assembly and the ILC."

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Reproductive Rights Are Under Attack. Climate Change Will Make It Worse.

Excerpt of Women's Media Center op-ed authored by GJC Legal Intern Dakota Porter.

In the wake of ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court quietly limited the EPA’s power to combat climate change with their decision in West Virginia v. EPA. The decision prevents a nationwide cap on carbon emissions, allowing states with extractive industries and massive carbon outputs to go under-regulated. So, just as the court has paved the way for states to deny essential reproductive health care, it has also cemented the country’s position as one of the biggest contributors to climate change in the world.

These two cases are more connected than you may think.

Climate change, and the inevitable mass migration it has already unleashed, heightens the need for sexual and reproductive health services — the crisis is linked to higher rates of infectious diseases, gender-based violence, and disability, which all influence reproductive outcomes. Unfortunately, in the wake of natural disasters, the availability of and access to such health services is sparse or absent. When drought, floods, hurricanes, or other disasters strike, climate change strains the government’s and the humanitarian sector’s abilities to provide resources like contraception and STI testing.

As our understanding of the relationship between climate change, migration, and reproductive rights grows, it’s time we demand action that takes these intersecting harms into account.

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Roe Is the Past, Human Rights Are the Future

Excerpt of The Nation op-ed authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

All of us in the abortion rights movement have long prepared for the day Roe v. Wade would be reversed. But nothing could fully brace us for the pain of reading Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion, which categorically declared that abortion is not a constitutional right. While we took to the streets to rage and mourn the destruction of our rights, we heard from feminist allies and partners around the world—some of whom had successfully fought deeply entrenched patriarchal forces to secure historic advances for abortion rights in their country and offered lessons for our struggle. There is an immense amount to learn from them, but there is one lesson in particular to embrace: We must place human rights at the center of our demands for unfettered access to abortion.

Since the Supreme Court decided Roe in 1973, the story of abortion access in the United States has been one of steady regression. In 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment to restrict the use of federal funds for abortion except in limited circumstances. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in Harris v. McRae, which found that that neither the federal government nor states were required to pay for abortion services—severely undercutting the realization of a constitutional right. Subsequent years saw Planned Parenthood v. Casey limit Roe through the imposition of the “undue burden” standard, Gonzales v. Carhart limit later abortions, and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra limit regulation of anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.” And just under 50 years after Roe, the court dealt its killing blow to abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

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Ireland and Latin America Can Inspire the US Abortion Fight

Excerpt of Bloomberg article quoting GJC Legal Director Dr. Christine Ryan.

High-profile cases can nuance the debate by making even those averse to terminations recognize that it can be necessary — but normalization is vital. As Christine Ryan of the Global Justice Center argues, most abortion cases are not extreme; legislating only for the exceptions risks leaving many people behind, and abortion outside normal reproductive healthcare. Another risk is that only those who elicit our compassion are seen as deserving of this freedom. “Women shouldn't need to make us cry to have their rights respected,” Ryan says.

Both in Latin America and in Ireland, language choices helped to break down taboos. Avoiding heavily charged words (including abortion), campaigns have focused on the voluntary interruption of pregnancy as a medical procedure. Ireland’s was notable for its emphasis on hope. Its “Together for Yes” campaign featured slogans like “Sometimes a private matter needs public support” and advertisements that called to mind unifying national events, encouraging voters to drive change. The Niñas No Madres campaign in Latin America sought to shield young girls by encouraging the girls to be seen as just that — children.

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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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