Reproductive Rights

New Report on Women Human Rights Defenders

In its new report, “Global Report on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders" the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition explores the factors that have increased the vulnerability of Women’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in recent years.Women Human Rights Defenders are defined as women working to promote human rights, anyone working to advance women’s human rights and individuals advancing LGBT or other gender/sexual rights.This publication identifies and describes five contexts and global phenomena contributing to the systematic barriers to the work and safety of WHRDs and the populations they advocate for around the world.More specifically, it examines the impact of fundamentalisms, militarization and situations of conflict, globalization and neoliberalism, crises of democracy and governance, and heteronormativity.The second section of the report looks at the specific gender-based violations against WHRDs (i.e. the use of sexual and domestic violence to silence activists or attacks that target WHRDs’ families) and violations with gendered consequences for WHRDs (i.e. the gendered treatment of WHRDs in prison or the discrediting of activists with added consequence of stepping outside of proscribed gender norms). The final chapter outlines appropriate and specific “strategies [that can and should be] implemented to protect WHRDs at risk, as well as strategies to address the structural challenges” that have been described earlier in the report.

Several Overbrook grantees, the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, Front Line Defenders, Peace Brigades Internationaland the Center for Reproductive Rights, have contributed to this document through the provision of recommendations and some of the 43 case studies that make up much of the report.A central goal of the report is to use feminist methodology to document the experiences of WHRDs and the challenges that face them through an analysis driven by the stories of many targeted activists.At the same time, this publication seeks to emphasize the critical need for more documentation of these violations and the difficulties procuring these stories of Women Human Rights Defenders due to the fear of reprisals.

The Overbrook Foundation is proud to be involved with organizations taking a deeper consideration of the particular vulnerabilities of WHRDs and the responses required to support them effectively. Not only do they consider the recommended immediate responses to specific violations, but also they also critically assess of systemic underlying causes that must be dismantled. By demonstrating that the challenges and violations truly cut across cultures, types of activism, contexts and region, this report exposes the structural and oppressive nature of these threats to WHRDs.

At the intersection of Overbrook’s support of organizations’ defending human rights defenders and of those protecting reproductive and LGBT rights, this report functions as an advocacy tool and a capacity tool for many of our grantees by outlining “the need for more systematic and collective approaches to surface the specific experiences of WHRDs and ensure appropriate responses to them.”At the report’s launch last week, one grantee, the Center for Reproductive Rights, articulated how valuable these stories, recommendations and frames will be for them once adapted to CRR’s particular cases and advocacy efforts.We are pleased that so many of our grantees have recognized the importance of including this gender lens and plan to continue integrating it into their approach to defending human rights defenders in both the international and the domestic arenas.

For those interested in these issues, please explore the coalition’s website and publications, and the links to our grantees’ websites found in this blog post.In addition to this particularly comprehensive report, the coalition and some of Overbrook’s grantees have also recently published “Ten Insights to Strengthen Responses for Women Human Rights Defenders at Risk”, a shorter report outlining specific recommendations to the International community for short- and long-term responses to risks faced by WHRDs.

Defending Women's Rights in Oklahoma

Another victory for one of our grantees, the Center for Reproductive Rights -- this time, in Oklahoma.  That's where a judge blocked a new law intended to reduce the number of abortions performed in the state.  Lawmakers passed the measure earlier this year, which would have prohibited doctors from prescribing drugs for off-label uses, including abortions.  Attorneys for Oklahoma argue the drugs should only be used in accordance with FDA guidelines.  But opponents contend drugs are often prescribed for uses other than those stated on their labels; and the bill puts vulnerable women at risk -- not to mention, undermines their constitutional rights.  The Center filed the lawsuit earlier this month, on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, an abortion rights group, and Nova Health Systems, an abortion provider. Yesterday's temporary injunction prevents the measure from going into law next month.

"We are extremely pleased that women in Oklahoma will continue to have access to treatment options for pregnancy terminations that have been widely recognized as safe and effective by medical experts and organizations around the world," said Michelle Movahed, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The Overbrook Foundation praises the Center for its ongoing commitment to protecting women's rights in the face of constant legal attacks.

To read the full press release on the Center for Reproductive Rights' website, click here.

Major Reproductive Rights Victory in Texas

A federal judge has blocked key parts of Texas' new abortion law, which would have been one of the strictest in the nation.  Overbrook Foundation grantee The Center for Reproductive Rights sued to overturn the measure, which Gov. Rick Perry (who's now leading the pack of Republican presidential nominees) called an "emergency item."  Earlier this summer, the Center filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Texas abortion providers, then requested a preliminary injunction.  The Center argued the law violated doctors' First Amendment rights by requiring them to deliver politically-motivated messages to female patients.  The measure would have forced doctors to show patients ultrasound images of the fetus before the abortion, and require patients to listen to the fetal heartbeat.  Patients could only opt out of seeing the images by signing a statement, declaring they had become pregnant through incest or sexual assault.   Yesterday, Judge Sam Sparks struck down both of these key provisions.  The ruling underscores the continuing need to fight for women's reproductive rights in states where they remain under attack.  For more details, click here.

Trust Texas Women

Some high-profile cases are chipping away at some of the strides made by Roe v. Wade – but the Center for Reproductive Rights, an Overbrook Foundation grantee, is stepping in to meet one such challenge.  A seminar at the Center’s national office earlier this month outlined some of the frightening ways in which pro-life legislation has been encroaching on reproductive rights.  The measure set to go into law later this year in Texas is one of the most restrictive in recent memory.

Starting this fall, a woman seeking an abortion will not be able to undergo the procedure before meeting certain requirements.  More specifically, the law will force a patient to receive an ultrasound, look at the images, and hear detailed information on the fetus.  And it doesn’t end there.  After the initial visit, the patient will have to wait 24 hours to receive the abortion (unless she traveled at least 100 miles to the abortion provider).  Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed the measure into law this past May, calling it an “emergency item.”  It places Texas on par with Oklahoma, in terms of having some of the most restrictive ultrasound laws in the nation.

But the Center isn’t letting the law take effect without calling for some emergency action of its own.  Last week, the Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the physicians and medical clinics affected by the measure.  It also unleashed its newest campaign: “Trust Texas Women.”  According to the campaign’s website, the suit calls the new law an attack on “physicians’ free-speech rights by requiring them to deliver ‘politically motivated’ messages” and “that the law could put doctors cross-wise with the wishes of their patients.”

Hopefully, the initiative – and impending lawsuit – will help restore a woman’s full right to choose, which measures like this are unfortunately trying to overturn.  Roe v. Wade entrusts women to be able to make decisions about their bodies for themselves; and politics shouldn’t get in the way of a doctor being able to provide much-needed services.

If you’d like to contribute to the Center’s campaign, or join Team Texas, click here.