Lost in Translation: The Failure of the International Reproductive Rights Norm

 Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.

CFAM has posted a three part series based on a new paper just published in the Ave Maria Law Review.

Part One: A Norm is Born

NEW YORK, September 13 (C-FAM) For decades, powerful countries and wealthy foundations conducted a campaign to create a global standard for abortion rights. Despite their efforts, the phrase “reproductive health” has been adopted, but not an international norm of reproductive rights. [CFAM Part 1]

Part 2: Reproductive Health Doesn’t Include Abortion . . . But It

NEW YORK, September 20 (C-FAM) The term “reproductive health” seeped without fanfare into UN language in 1972 when it was adopted by Jose Barzelatto, the inaugural head of WHO’s program on human reproduction.  Its first appearance in a UN document was a World Health Organization (WHO) report 20 years later by Barzelatto’s successor, Mahmoud Fathalla. His sprawling description of the term contained “fertility regulation,” which for WHO included “pregnancy interruption,” that is, abortion. [CFAM Part 2]

Part 3: No Norm, No Right

NEW YORK, September 27 (C-FAM) In 2006, the term “reproductive health” made it into a binding international law treaty for the first time, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While this was a victory for the reproductive rights movement, it produced mixed results.

Twenty-three nations opposed the term. After it was reluctantly included, fifteen made statements reminding the term’s proponents what they had assured them throughout the negotiations: that the term “reproductive health” did not include abortion or create any new rights. [CFAM-Part 3]



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