International Human Rights Committee Calls on United States to Protect Abortion Rights
The Human Rights Committee today called on the United States to take all necessary measures — at the federal, state, and local levels — to “provide legal, effective, safe and confidential access to abortion” in line with its international human rights obligations. The committee further recommended the US harmonize its laws and policies with World Health Organization guidelines, which call for the full decriminalization of abortion and that it be made available on request, without grounds-based or gestational restrictions.
The Committee is a body of independent experts that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the US ratified in 1992. All countries party to the ICCPR are periodically reviewed by the Committee; the US was last reviewed in 2014.
Today’s recommendations on abortion rights came as part of the Committee’s “concluding observations” following its October 17-18 review of US compliance with ICCPR. The Committee also issued recommendations on other issues where the committee observed that the US is falling short of its treaty obligations, including on mass incarceration, indigenous rights, Guantanamo Bay, gun violence, LGBTQ rights, and more.
Tess Graham, legal advisor with the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:
“The United States is in the midst of an urgent human rights crisis, and the Human Rights Committee is just the latest international institution to recognize it. Since the Dobbs ruling last year, human rights experts from across the international system have raised the alarm. Millions are living without access to abortion or maternity care, and conditions worsen by the day.
“The ICCPR protects some of our most fundamental human rights — the right to life, to non-discrimination, and to freedom from torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The abortion rights crisis imperils all of these rights. Numerous women have nearly died after being denied abortions in the last year; doctors fear prosecution for providing essential care. And fundamentally, millions of people have been robbed of their bodily autonomy by the tightening web of abortion restrictions. In short, the US is manifestly failing to uphold its obligations under the ICCPR.
“Many of today’s recommendations concern a post-Dobbs United States. But US abortion policy has never met human rights standards. Around the world, countries are bolstering abortion access while the US stands nearly alone in its regression. If the US wishes to end its pariah state status and become the leader on human rights it so often claims to be, abortion must be seen for what is: a fundamental human right.”