Coffee, Cupcakes, and Condoms was a huge hit at this year’s fourth annual Deis Impact Festival of Social Justice! First, I would like to applaud the ladies of Brandeis University Students for NARAL for putting together such an amazing event! They know what’s up and are more than well-informed and passionate about women’s reproductive health and rights. This event was jam-packed with intense and rich discussion surrounding the featured issue of women’s reproductive health and rights and effectively created a safe space where everyone could comfortably express their opinions on the issue.
I was personally deeply impacted by this event because it was new territory for me. Women’s reproductive health had somehow stayed outside my circle of interest and was pretty off my radar, which made it all the more impactful when I heard so many voices and opinions that showed just how important and expansive this issue is. Some highlights of the discussion included raising awareness about women’s health centers as not only places to get pregnancy tests, but also for regular checkups; expanding the understanding of what Planned Parenthood is beyond abortions, contraception, and liberal views; focusing on the positives and the progress made in this area; and educating and involving future generations, especially males, in this discussion.
By Brontte Hwang, ‘DEIS Impacter
Friday evening, students, professors, and faculty filled the room for “Coffee, Cupcakes and Condoms: Controversy in Reproductive Justice” sponsored by Brandeis Students for NARAL Pro-Choice. The event’s popularity spoke to a recognized need for continued activism for reproductive and sexual rights in the United States. Discussion ranged from unequal and inadequate sex education in schools to stigma surrounding and limited access to women’s clinics. Having multiple generations in the room was highly beneficial; the older women talked about their previous activism and concern that they would need to take the streets again.
Framing abortion as a human right in the United States has the potential to employ the normative power of the international human rights regime in favor of sexual and reproductive autonomy. Freedom of speech and political participation are no longer normatively contested human rights. However, women’s bodily autonomy has been left behind despite recognition of the human right to personal health and security (Donnelly 186). The United States claims to be a world leader in fundamental human rights but in actuality fails to follow through. Were abortion recognized as a human right, it would no longer be subject to state or federal challenges and would truly set international precedent for women’s bodily autonomy.
The current international women’s rights treaty is the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and Against Women and it’s Optional Protocol added in 2000. In 1980, the United States signed but did not ratify the Convention and does not allow inquiry or complaints by the Commission. Article 12 of the Convention states that, “states Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.” While the United Nations does not explicitly endorse abortion, NGOs highlight abortion as a facilitative right.
The Center for Reproductive Rights lists access to obstetric care, birth control, facts about reproductive health, and safe abortion as essential for women’s dignity, self-determination, and equality. Human Rights Watch argues that the right to an abortion is contained within freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, the right to decide the number and spacing of children, and right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress. Moreover, women of racial minority in the U.S. are far more likely to live in poverty, not have health insurance, become pregnant younger, and account for 67% of all abortions in the United States. Therefore, denying racial minorities their reproductive rights violate The International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which the U.S. has signed.
There is still a high level of resistance to inclusion of abortion as a human right. The EU Parliament voted against a measure in 2013 that would have recognized abortion as a human right. The UN Security Council refused to recognize abortion after rape as a right, even in wartime. Of course, many argue that abortion violates the right to life and religion. Pope Benedict has called abortion the opposite of a human right. Normalization of abortion of a human right has a very long way to come. Ultimately, it requires prioritization of the rights of the living over those with the potential for life. Most of all, abortion as a right must be accepted in tandem with an overarching recognition of women’s right to bodily autonomy. For now, NGOs have begun to shift the narrative surrounding abortion from a political debate to a fundamental right, the first step in a very long process in the birth of a human right.
By Amelia Katan, Brandeis student